Karen: Managing Depression and Learning to Live Again

A woman shares her story of recovering from depression and abuse, and learning how to live again.

I believe I have lived with depression most of my life. Many traumatic events happened during my childhood. From many very painful earaches to the loss of three of my grandparents; from the loss of John F. Kennedy to two operations, I experienced many stressors. All of those things happened to me before I reached the age of 8.

So, when my favorite cousin committed suicide when I was 13, I went into a deep depression. I know this now because I remember one day when I was 16, feeling that a great black cloud had been lifted from me. At the time, I did not evaluate what that feeling meant. It seems that hindsight gave me a better understanding of myself.

I worked for almost eight years for an attorney. I experienced another person who committed suicide in 1988. This drove me to a psychiatrist who put me on my first round of psych meds, saying that I had depression. I was injured on the job and eventually was asked to leave. I felt discarded. I was unable to work.

I went through two violent relationships. My boyfriend would hit me. I finally had enough of him and removed him from my home. Then I met my Vietnam veteran husband who divorced me in 1995. During our relationship, I survived at least three times when he tried to kill me. Before he left, we had a child—a girl. She was the person I needed to live for. 

When he left me I was devastated. I went into an extreme depression. I went on heavy psych meds, which left me pretty much out of it. My daughter was also deeply affected by our “loss.” She went through an angry, rebellious stage.

I was rediagnosed as manic depressive in 1996. I continued on a barrage of meds. I felt that I was being ostracized from society until 2002. It was then that a supported employment person, a very beautiful person in every sense of the word, showed me that I had worth. She helped me get my first job since my discharge in 1994. I started to feel the beginnings of healing! I had thought for the longest time that my mental illness would not allow me to do anything constructive ever again. Through a great mental health organization, I relearned to live. The agency was wonderfully supportive. I grew. I was no longer the person I had been; I was the strong, resilient person I had become.

I still had growing to do. In 2006 I was trained as a certified peer support specialist (CPSS). I learned the true meaning of recovery. It isn’t dependent upon how much money you make or what you do for a living. It doesn’t mean that you will do all of the things that you used to do before your diagnosis. Recovery means that you work each day to become a little better. Surely there are pitfalls and stumbling blocks, but that is life. “That’s life,” is what I tell people who say “bad” things happen to them all of the time. I explain that there are always going to be negatives. Just look for the positives. I have worked as a CPSS for most of the time since 2007 (when I graduated as a CPSS). I get the privilege of helping people in crisis find hope. Through my career, I find the meaning of recovery for me and the people I serve. I continue to flourish.

Last Updated: 12/22/2015