Sharing Our Story – Karen N. Sanders
Back when I was a young child, in the 1960’s, mental illness was simply not talked about, so I had no words to describe the way I remember feeling as early as age 5. Looking back, I can see that I had classic signs of depression and anxiety even then.
Some of my issues were exacerbated by a mother who sometimes drank to excess, had an unpredictable temper, and who I now realize was probably depressed herself. She could be very loving at times, and at other times ridicule me for something I could not help, like the way I walked (I have scoliosis). I never knew just what might set her off, so I was often walking on eggshells.
I was 13 when the first thoughts of suicide entered my head. I had gone from a very sheltered elementary school to HS. We did not have a junior high back then. My anxiety went into overdrive as I learned to negotiate dealing with many different teachers and what seemed like huge buildings at the time. Thank goodness I had band and choir. They helped keep me somewhat focused and gave me the will to keep going when all I wanted to do was give up. It was probably fortunate that I never had the means, nor the nerve to harm myself at that time. But, the depression and anxiety were ever present and the thought of just wanting to end it all was always in the back of my mind. I was never diagnosed or treated. I thought the way I felt was “normal”
Things improved while I was in college. Away from the unpredictable situation with my mother, my depression and anxiety got better. I was majoring in music, I had friends, and I started dating for the first time. I was better, for a while. After losing my mom (who had stopped drinking and who I finally had a wonderful relationship with) died when I was 31, I crashed like a rock. The depression that I had dealt with so long could no longer be ignored. I became suicidal and finally sought therapy. Thanks to some good therapists and medication (Thank GOD for SSRI’s!) I finally got to see what a real “normal” looked and felt like. I went back to school, got a counseling degree, and worked in public mental health until I had to retire when I became disabled.
I still get depressed occasionally. I have to take my medicine and use the skills I learned in therapy such as assertiveness, positive thinking, and keeping things in perspective to keep my depression at bay. It really does get better. I am thankful that young people now have the words to describe their feelings and that there is help available for them.
Karen N. Sanders, M.Ed, LPC (retired).