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Overcoming Depression for Survivors of Childhood Abuse

Incest survivors must take action against depression
Incest survivors must take action against depression.

Well, here we go. Depression sneaks up on a person and zaps your energy… your will power. It drains you, and isolates you, and changes you dramatically. All I wanted to do was to sleep and never wake up. And everyday functioning like getting up and taking a morning shower became so hard to do. Loss of appetite (for me, never a good sign but it happens). Everything hurt on my body- my skin, my muscles, my stomach, my head aches, everything was painful inside my mind. My body inside and out hurt. I didn't care to go outside and sit in the sun or do anything. I didn't care to be alive. I wore black all the time – partly subconscious – but partly because I felt black inside, like my heart was black and all color had gone from my life. I was so lost inside my depression.

What’s so insidious about this is the fact that it seems to happen to you without you noticing it. Now your friends and family members, they see it fairly quickly – the changes in you – but for myself, I didn't have a clue I was depressed. I had to be told I was depressed, and the sign posts for depression and all that had to be shown to me. I then accepted it and thought: “OK, now just don't be depressed and that would fix it, right?” Wrong. I didn't know how to fight something that I couldn't really see or touch or understand that well. I began to personify my depression in writings so that I could grab a hold of this enemy and fight back.

I wrote about a thief coming into my home to steal from me, and it was taking my most precious possessions. I wanted to fight this enemy in my home, and I wanted to fight to keep what was so precious to me. Personifying this allowed me to comprehend – on a deeper, broader scale – not only what I was up against as an enemy, but how precious these things were that I was losing. It gave me energy to fight and to overcome my depression.

My goals to fight depression.

I talked a little bit mean to myself in my head at first, and said: “GET UP! Take A Bath.” Every single day I had made many goals to accomplish. First main goal was to get up out of bed and clean myself up. I have hygiene standards to maintain, and I made a list and I had to finish the list every morning in a timely fashion. Then fix breakfast for the kids and get them up and going, and teeth brushed dressed and all- you know what I am talking about.

Next goal was my routine. We all have routines, and mine was sorely neglected, so I determined to get back into my routine and to take back my life. To take the burden off of the people around me who were pulling my weight while I floundered in depression and get back into the swing of things. Which – for most people – includes going to work and doing a good job and smiling when you don't feel like it. Listening to other peoples crap when you don't even care about your own crap, and so on. I just found the resolve to do it and I did it! I had to do it to get back to the happy person I could be.

Another goal was to stop feeling sorry for myself and to stop wallowing in self-pity. This was critical because self-pity actually fuels depression, so I really needed to put an end to it. And when I felt my thoughts turning to poor pitiful me, woe is me, I told myself to STOP IT! I was in a battle for my life and I needed to think clearly and positively.

I wrote a lot – imagine that – and found music to be a great comfort. I worked hard at convincing myself that my life was not that bad and the things I didn't like I could work on changing, so that I would not feel hopelessness. I made lists of things I was not happy about, and made lists of things I could change and things I couldn't change. I worked on improving my attitude.

I am not a victim any more. I am an incest survivor and my life was not victimizing me. I had to straighten out my thoughts again with a counselor. Thinking positively, walking in the morning sun, and letting myself feel good, artistic expression… all these things seemed to make it easier and – after a period of time – I was free.

A poem I wrote about depression/anxiety:

A Bad Scene

Seratonin, Seratonin

Racing through my brain.

Chest hurts, heart pounding

Everywhere pain, pain, pain.

Little worries begin to wound

Big worries traumatize

Anxiety floods me ...
I'm paralyzed.

Help Me! I scream

This is a bad scene.

Tears, Fears, Drowning

Writhing in agony

Doc helps me, drugs me

Relief is temporary.

Stop this train "Anxiety"

Stop the pain haunting me.

Touch me, soothe me

Save me, Dear God, Save me.

Peace ... rejoice in peace.

As this wave passes.

I hate feeling this way

It's a lonely life.

The Phoenix 3/18/98

Another poem I wrote in same time frame.

Perma Frost

My heart is frozen in perma frost

In the longest, darkest night

Was there once warmth & light

Love and laughter but fleeting memories

Abandoned, alone my feelings are lost

To the dark frozen tundra of perma frost

The Phoenix 6/17/98

As survivors of childhood abuse, you must seek help with depression. It can be temporary and in most cases I truly believe that you can get past your depression. You will need a plan of action.

For example my plan of action included all of the following:

  1. A support system, not enablers.
  2. Rigorous exercise- work out hard to release natural endorphins. A steady brisk walk can produce this if you push yourself.
  3. Get into nature, be near a stream or a lake, or take a walk in a park, or go to the ocean. Get out of the house and into nature. It was very soothing to me to walk in a peaceful park and feel the air around me, hear the breezes and feel the wind on my skin and lifting up my hair. I began to feel lighter in my spirit. Sit in your back yard and just breathe, if that’s all you can get to.
  4. Setting daily goals I had to complete. Nothing crazy, ok, just getting back to normal. Get up, get showered, get dressed, fix your hair, fix your makeup.
  5. Take care of your hygiene.
  6. Eat for healthy normal reasons… don’t starve, or binge, or do emotional eating.
  7. Expose yourself to art, the library, the museum. Just allow yourself to experience the arts because it can often times move your heart and bring stuff out.
  8. Create art yourself- paint, write, sing, dance, make pottery, draw something that you can use to express what is inside of you. And if you are anything similar to me, you have tons inside you to express.
  9. Seek out your higher power. And please don’t make your situation worse by joining a cult, or becoming an atheist, or becoming a religious fanatic. Fanaticism is a kind of insanity that builds you up in a few areas but really does much more harm than good.
  10. Resume your normal activities and responsibilities as quickly as you can.
  11. Control your thoughts when you start feeling the pity party mantras begin. Think positive, be positive, and it will make your fight with depression easier.
  12. Personify your depression, give it a face or a character or make it into something that you would have no problems facing down if it confronted you in real life.

Remember, you may be an incest survivor, BUT you are not alone. I willingly walk back into the darkness to grab you by your hand and to pull you out into the light. I hug you, and I cry with you, and I hurt with you, and then we let it all go… let it go away and out of you, and your heart will have room for joy!

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, you will rise up again whole and renewed!

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