Dealing with Major Depression

I’ve been dealing with major depression my entire adult life. In high school I fought my parents to let me see a therapist, and when I finally saw one before my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with major depression, OCD, and social anxiety disorder. Senior year was tough — I made excuses to friends as to why I was busy every Tuesday afternoon because I was embarrassed to say I was in therapy. I confided in a few close friends who were supportive, but frankly I was relieved to leave my hometown for a college in a different part of the country. I thought things would change, and that my depression would disappear because I was finally away from my hometown baggage. I was wrong.

I saw a school counselor my freshman year at college, but I was too distracted by the newness of it all to really focus on my mental health. The summer after freshman year, my depression returned in full force. Upon returning to school for the first semester of my sophomore year, I was unable to recognize that my depression had completely incapacitated me. I attempted suicide soon after the semester began — the only reason I survived is because my friends realized there was something wrong with me that night. Afterwards, I dropped out of school and returned home to get the help I so desperately needed.

I went through four different therapists and five different medications before I found the combination that worked for me, and when that happened it was not like magic, it wasn’t like a beam of sunlight breaking through the clouds. It was like trudging up a mountain pass, swamped in mud and ice with an 80-pound weight around my neck. But finally I reached the peak, and started down an easier path. There are still many days that I force myself uphill again, but now my pack is a little lighter, I have the tools to make the going a little easier, and I know that I have loved ones who have and will continue to carry me on days when I just can’t walk anymore. I always start hiking again the next morning. And I’m proud of myself.

—Cates Holderness