Updated: Oct 31
Ever wondered if you are depressed but in denial? Depression was one word that I could not accept because my mind was programmed not to be since I served the military, and we are strong people. My family always told me I was strong for serving my country and deploying to places like Iraq and Afghanistan, something they will never get to experience. Every time I came home on leave, I got praised and told I was always appreciated for doing what I did. Little did they know about what I went through and the aftermath of what I became after leaving the military.
As a child, I always knew I wanted to join the Air Force. I thought the uniform looked really neat and that military members are tough. I knew they fought wars and looked up to them. I was very happy that I joined the military, had a purpose in life and made my family proud. While enlisted, I deployed to Prince Sultan AB in Saudi Arabia where I had a blast. I loved doing my job and hanging out with member from all different bases. It was great to hang out after work and make lifetime friends. We kept in touch and were stationed together in our future assignments. My deployment to Iraq was quite a different experience from Prince Sultan AB. We experienced incoming mortar attacks at all times, day, and night. Nightly attacks were quite an experience. Some looked like fireworks, and some we louder than thunder. I knew this is what I signed up for and kept reminding myself that everyone else and I are in this together. We stayed strong for each other. After returning to my home base, I actually missed being in Iraq, something my family and friends wouldn’t understand. It wasn’t until my deployment to Afghanistan… I actually experienced depression. I enjoyed meeting new people, both US Air Force and US Army, and working with another branch gave me a whole new perspective of my purpose in the military. This is when I started questioning my purpose and life itself. After my yearlong deployment, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. Through it all, I still smiled, listen to others, and showed love to those who I loved. Little did everyone know that I was crying inside. It wasn’t pride that kept me hiding my true thoughts and feelings. It was the stigma of seeking mental health treatment that I was ashamed of and as a result, I became depressed. Throughout therapy, I learned of eleven common symptoms of depression that I was experiencing. Although I was in denial, my symptoms proved it to be true. In no particular order, here is a list of symptoms that I experienced.
Feeling Sad, Hopeless and Helpless
There were times throughout my deployment and after when I felt so sad and isolated myself from family and close friends. I was very moody to where no one wanted to be around me. I’d be happy and sad at the same time. A lot of times I felt like I was just taking up space in this world. I was scared of the unknown and that I will never get out of depression. I felt so far gone and thought that therapy wouldn’t help at all. After I hung up my uniform, I lost my identity and felt I had no purpose in life anymore.
When things are going well, I felt guilty about things that I could have done better, things that I shouldn’t have said, and apologizing for things that wasn’t my fault. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be happy. Instead of being grateful that I gained experiences that others may never have the in their lifetime, I always found a reason to feel down. This guilty feeling went on for years but through therapy, group sessions and coaching, I was able to get back on track with my life.
No interest or pleasure in things you used to like
After I left the military, my depression got worse to where I lost interest in activities and events that I used to enjoy. Prior to my traumatic deployments, I enjoyed going to family gatherings, hanging out with friends, going to the movies along with all the fun events there are. My depression has affected me to where I enjoyed being alone, in my dark room, not being bothered. I just wanted peace and quiet.
Anger and irritability
Prior to my negative experiences, I was a social butterfly, made friends easily and had patience for all types of situations and people. Once I became depressed, I was told I had a short fuse and seemed very irritable. I was easily annoyed and have numerous outbursts for situations that weren’t so bad.
Feeling tired or lack of energy
Depression really took a toll on me both mentally and physically. I felt fatigued and exhausted where I was too tired to do daily tasks. I had trouble getting up for work, difficulty preparing meals, and doing their hobbies. Instead, they spend a lot of time laying in a dark room, resting, or sleeping.
While feeling fatigued, run down and tired are results of depression, I also experienced trouble falling, staying, and lack of sleep. Often times I felt tired even though I got enough sleep. People like myself end up staying up all night or even wake up earlier than needed, which causes me to feel extra exhausted.
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions
Depression often interfered with my cognitive abilities to where I had difficulties concentrating in personal or professional matters, remembering events, and missing appointments. It was hard for me to sit and watch TV. I had difficulties making simple yes or no questions. I missed numerous medical appointments because I felt mentally drained which made me forgetful.
Lack of appetite or Overeating
While deployed to Afghanistan, my weight plummeted due to my lack of appetite. I was very depressed and did not have the appetite to keep me strong and healthy. It was like my mind took over, I was always sad, hurt and wished I had better days. After leaving the military, things took a turn for the worst where I started overeating causing my unpleasant weight gain. I turned to food for comfort when I was really down and feeling lonely. Being depressed made it harder for me to do any type of exercise, instead, I felt more tired and just went to sleep.
Aches, pains, and physical symptoms
While my depression was mentally draining me, I experienced a number of physical symptoms where treatment helped for a short period of time. These include migraines, bad body aches to where I’d start crying, and pain that doctors couldn’t diagnose. I have daily migraines to where I had trouble functioning at work, driving, and getting tasks done. I felt more pain thinking I was already in pain.
Mind racing, trouble turning off the brain
During the day, I was occupied with work and caring for my children. When bedtime comes around, the circus in my mind starts. One thought led to another, thoughts spiraling from years ago resurfaced now and my mind is racing to where I start sweating and fidgety. My thoughts were coming from all directions and uncontrollable.
Thoughts of suicide or death
Suicidal thoughts happened when my mind spun out of control especially when I felt overwhelmed. It becomes too much to handle where thoughts of death would be the only way to escape and get out of this mess. I was exhausted, tired of trying, tired of feeling tired, and feeling there is no way out.
1. Bring Up Your Concerns with Your Loved One
2. Help Your Loved One Get Treatment for Depression
3. Support Your Loved One in Their Day-to-Day Routine
4. Look for Signs That Treatment Is Working
5. Be Alert to Signs That Treatment Is Not Working
6. Make a Plan for Recognizing a Relapse
There are plenty of free resources are out there to help you find treatment and get support for your loved one or for yourself as a caregiver.
SAMHSA has a treatment locator for various types of mental health issues, as well as a free, confidential, 24/7 hotline for treatment referrals. You can reach their hotline at 800-622-HELP (4357).
This lifeline is comprised of a national network of crisis centers that offer confidential, 24/7 support geared toward suicide prevention. You can reach this lifeline at 800-273-8255.
NAMI has support groups for patients, family members, and caregivers, as well as crisis support and an online chat. You can call the NAMI HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. You can also reach them by email (email@example.com), or you can text their crisis support team 24/7 at 741741 for free support with a trained crisis counselor.