Patient Blogs | Depression
I'm Not Alone: Why Connecting With Others Is Crucial
photo of holding hands in support group

When I first started writing about my depression in 2015, I was scared about what others would think of me. I wrote as a cathartic release, to get the swarming thoughts out of my head and onto a page.

I had never talked about my depression openly to others besides my family and psychiatrist. I shared my first post on Facebook and I thought, “Would my friends judge me?” And then just as quickly, “But wouldn’t at least one of them know how I feel?”

Deep down, I knew that putting my words into the world was important.I somehow knew that someone would need to hear them.

This instinct was affirmed by the responses that came flooding in after my first post. Other people were sharing their depression experiences with me. With my writing, they had realized they weren’t alone. That was the first time I realized that connecting with others who also had depression brought along two beautiful feelings: solidarity and hope.

I kept writing.

When I began treatment at an outpatient center for the first time in 2018, it was also the first time I was in a room with people who experienced just as much emotional dysregulation as I did. It was an especially strange feeling on the first day to be in a setting where I felt so vulnerable and exposed. Of course, it was awkward and uncomfortable to walk into a room full of strangers. My anxiety prickled in my brain. I felt nervous, like maybe I shouldn’t be there. Like people were looking at me and thinking, “I wonder what mental illness SHE has.”

But as I sat down at the long tables, facing 12 new people, all there for the same reason I was, some of my anxiety melted with the realization that we are all here – in pain – together. They know how horrible I feel. They know how much depression takes from you. Maybe they also carry the weight of the world on their shoulders. Maybe they know what it’s like to cry so hard and for so long you want to vomit. Maybe they are yearning for a change, for peace, for stability in their life. Just like me.

I filled out my little check-in sheet that morning – questions that asked me to rate my emotions on a scale of 1 to 100, and to share something from yesterday that I was proud of. And as I continued through the day of icebreakers, DBT skill lessons, mindfulness sessions, art therapy projects (my favorite), and situational games, I felt more and more comforted.

How beautiful it was to have people around me that I related to in a way that I hadn’t with others before.

I felt safe, among the boxes of markers and fidget spinners, among thesoft rugs, the dim lamps, and imperfect (but beautiful nonetheless) art from previous patients that hung on the wall, smudged with glitter and clay. Soon my art would hang there too, and I would leave the center after 6 weeks with newer coping skills and new friendships in my heart,  and my head held a bit higher.

How beautiful it was to not feel so alone.

 

 

 

Photo Credit: AJ_Watt/ E+ via Getty Images

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Kristen Luft

Kristen Luft

Diagnosed since 2013

Kristen Luft is a UNC Chapel Hill graduate who has been living with depression since 2013. She is currently a marketing professional in North Carolina. Kristen is also a mental health advocate and writer, sharing her story to offer hope that we can all live full lives in recovery. When she's not working or writing, you can find her reading or spending time with her loved ones and dogs. Connect with Kristen on Instagram.

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