Jennifer Pace is a retired ballerina and roller girl who has real-girl struggles to maintain her fitness and nutrition routine — even as she considers becoming a certified personal trainer. She has a B.S. in Genetics from the University of Kansas and currently works as a research scientist in developmental biology. Jen enjoys travel, food and drink, reading and cuddling her numerous pets. Today, for Love Yo’Self Week, she’s sharing her story about depression and finding herself and a healthier body image along the way.
Finding Self-Love in a Hopeless Place by Jennifer Pace
Hopeless. Empty. Numb. How could I possibly love myself when that’s how I felt every day of my life? Living with depression is one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do in my life. Recognizing the problem and dealing with it may have been even harder. Those of us who have experienced symptoms of depression firsthand know that treatment is sometimes easier said than done.
First, you have to recognize that what you are experiencing is not the normal “down in the dumps/not feeling well/just a bad day” sort of emotion. Next, you have to admit to yourself that what you’re experiencing might be depression — and take a deep breath. How will I handle this? Should I see a therapist? Take medication? What about the stigma?
I hated myself: the denial, the frustration, the physical and mental pain, the helplessness, the anger at my body for screwing me over. I tried halfheartedly to see a therapist, to exercise, to “just snap out of it.” I lived with depression for months before I decided I loved my self and my life too much not to seek serious treatment.
One day back in September 2012, during the long and arduous process of renovating my house, I snapped at my parents for no good reason. A bright and very stereotypical light bulb flipped on somewhere in the depths of a sea of apathy. I couldn’t continue to live this way. I had hurt my parents, and I was hurting myself.
I finally booked an appointment with my regular doctor and painfully, and not without a little embarrassment, discussed my symptoms. I was put on a regimen of SSRIs (serotonin reuptake inhibitors), which treat chemical imbalances in the brain. The first type of medication didn’t work. The second worked but caused weight gain — something that certainly didn’t improve my general outlook. The third medication caused such severe symptoms that I was forced to call my doctor and admit that they had made me suicidal.
Treating depression with medication is not so cut and dry. Each medication affects each individual in what can be a drastically different manner. The process, for me, was terrifying and exhausting, but I never quit trying. It took four attempts, but finally I found something to control my chemical imbalance, and a weight lifted off of my chest. I could breathe again. Things mattered. I felt … normal. I have been successfully controlling my depression ever since.
Resources to Get Help for Depression
If you think you may be suffering from depression, please consider these resources. I’m not a doctor or therapist. But these are my personal suggestions for the resources I found helpful.
- Try your employer’s Employee Assistant Program (EAP) if it’s offered.
- Seek IMMEDIATE help at the emergency room if you are suicidal.
- See your primary care physician and talk about options.
- Do your research. Start here.
- Talk to a therapist, clergyman, school counselor or someone else you trust.
- Take care of your body. Exercise. Eat healthy whole foods.
- Remember that you are loved, and to love yourself.
I could have given up. I could have let this disease swallow me and lived in a black hole for the rest of my life; or worse, I could have chosen to not live at all. Life is hard and sometimes scary and sometimes sad — even once my head had returned to “normal.”
But life is worth living, and I deserve to live a long, healthy life full of love and beauty and adventure. And so do you. —Jennifer Pace