My Depression Does Not Define Me | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

My Depression Does Not Define Me

By Lauren Telander

I lived with depression for six years before seeking treatment. Denial is a powerful thing. And my depression came on gradually. It started in eighth grade. By the time I reached my sophomore year of college, my depression had completely taken over my life. I had reached rock bottom.

Depression was a completely surreal experience. I always felt like crying, but I didn’t know why. I always tried to hold it in, because usually once I started crying, I was unable to stop for hours. I remember one night, while crying in my bed, the thought came to me that this was probably not normal behavior; but, I still couldn’t stop.

 I felt like everyone hated me, even strangers I simply walked past. And sometimes I hated them too, for the judgment I assumed they were passing on me. I was constantly in my own head. I barely ever talked to anyone, but had a stream of self-criticism running through head at all times to keep me company.

During this time, I truly lost who I was. I didn’t have an identity or personality anymore. I never laughed or smiled. And after a while, I just became numb to the world around me. It was easier to shut down and not feel anything, than feel the pain and sadness. I became a zombie. I didn’t care about anyone, even myself. I quit every activity I was involved in. I went to class and went back to my room. I did my homework then watched TV until I fell asleep. That was my entire life.

I finally sought help the middle of my sophomore year, when my parents bribed me into seeing one of the school’s therapists. Even still, I didn’t start medication until my junior year, and starting medication didn’t deliver the quick fix I was hoping for, either. It took another full year and trying four different antidepressants to finally find one that helped. My senior year of college was when I finally started to live again.

Up until my senior year, when I started the right medication, however, I was still in pain. I was hurting and was desperate for any sort of relief from my emotional pain that never seemed to end. I found several different ways to quickly bring about brief periods of relief, but they all ended up hurting me worse and dragging me further down in the end.

I first tried food. Starting my freshmen year of college, I had periods of binging and then restriction and purging. I developed an eating disorder.

I tried self-harm. Cutting brought me a physical pain that distracted me from my emotional pain. The physical pain was more tolerable than my emotions.

I tried binge drinking. There was a point in my life where I realized the only time I felt happy was when I was drunk.

I tried boys. I thought that maybe getting external validation from boys would prove that I was worth something, and so make me happy. It didn’t. I let go of my self-respect. I let myself be objectified and disrespected and used and taken advantage of. I may have felt wanted and pretty for a moment, but afterwards I only felt even worse.

It is now the August after I graduated college. I spent the last two months in treatment for my eating disorder and am happily in recovery from that. My continued medication and therapy have kept my depression at bay; however, I know it will be with me my whole life. I have new, healthy coping strategies. I have re-built my social network; I made friends my senior year that I know will be life-long. I have an identity again. I laugh all the time, some would say an obnoxious amount. I am finally experiencing happiness.

If I’m being honest, I am still terrified by the thought of slipping back into depression. But I believe I’ve been through the worst and am on the other side. I survived. And now I’ve had a taste of what it’s like to live a happy life and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. So I will keep recovery as a priority.

 I know I will always be a person living with depression, but more importantly, I am Lauren. 


You Are Not Alone graphic

Share your story, message, poem, quote, photo or video of hope, struggle or recovery. By sharing your experience, you can let others know that they are not alone.

NAMI HelpLine is available M-F, 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET. Call 800-950-6264,
text “helpline” to 62640, or chat online. In a crisis, call or text 988 (24/7).