Contributor: Ingrid Vasquez. Ingrid is a freelance writer based out of Texas. She has contributed to Fox News and Cosmopolitan.com. I interviewed her over email after seeing one of her articles online about depression. You can start a conversation with her, too, at email@example.com, or at @byingridvasquez on Twitter.
Mollie: How did your depression begin?
Ingrid: In high school I was a happy student. I wasn’t the popular kid, but I had a tight group of friends who I could depend on for anything. My life at home, though, wasn’t the best.
From a young age my parents never had the greatest relationship. It was a “stay together for the kids” type of thing. Also, we had money problems. I have memories of being told I was going to have to eat everything at school because we might not have enough money for food at home, but at the time it felt normal. In a way I’m blessed to say I was never truly made aware of everything we were going through because my parents would figure it out for my two siblings and me one way or another. I guess you could call this being sheltered.
But because of this, moving away from home was terrifying. It wasn’t that I missed home (as my family believed). I just couldn’t adapt to change and the things that were supposed to be so natural to me weren’t. I started to become afraid to talk to people.
I began my first semester of school just going through the motions. I wasn’t comfortable enough to leave my dorm room. I managed to go to all my classes but I couldn’t study. I went from being an A and B kid to being put on academic probation.
What truly became the breaking point was when I began feeling like everyone around me was looking at me all the time. I felt like each person that walked by me as I was walking to class was talking about me. Even if I sat in the back of the room I felt like people were somehow talking about me.
I stayed in contact with my friends from back home but depended on the workers in the school cafeteria to be my “social contact of the day” because they were literally the only person I would talk to. I don’t have many memories of speaking with my professors.
Mollie: How did this finally start to turn around?
Ingrid: Eventually, I decided to start therapy. I’m not sure what finally made me seek it out. I think at one point I was just walking by the building and decided to go in. However, once I began, I got very attached to it. I hated that it was only once a week because in my eyes, these were the only people who I could speak with and who wouldn’t judge me.
I got clinically diagnosed and was advised to take pills but decided on a different approach. Each week I attended my individual therapy session, two group sessions, and a yoga and meditation session.
The moment I felt a switch was one day late in my first semester when I was walking to my dorm listening to Andy Grammer’s “Keep Your Head Up”. Somehow, listening to those lyrics and someone literally saying “keep your head up” made me feel like someone had pulled a switch in my mind. I had a sort of out-of-body experience where I said, “What am I doing?”
After that, I continued going to therapy for two more years. I got steadily healthier. I started making friends, which helped, too.
Mollie: Are you still depressed?
Ingrid: While today I can tell you that I am not depressed, I like to refer to depression as a disease sort of like alcoholism. You’re going to have your relapses and boy have I had mine. But I can talk to people now, even though I’m still incredibly reserved.
I am in recovery.
Mollie: Is spiritual practice part of your recovery?
Ingrid: Yes. I still meditate twice a day for twenty minutes each time, as I did during my college years. From time to time I use incense cones during my meditation sessions, too. I’m also experimenting with healing stones.
Mollie: How do you feel during your meditation sessions?
Ingrid: It might be odd to say, but I feel out-of-body. I’m able to let go of everything else and just concentrate on me.
Mollie: How important is it to your mental health to keep up this practice?
Ingrid: People often say “go pamper yourself” and see that as a trip to the spa or going on a shopping spree. Those things are nice and can make any person happy, but meditation is a form of pampering yourself that is not only affordable, but truly your own thing.
Mollie: What do you recommend other people who are suffering with depression or anxiety do first? What is the number one thing that they can do for themselves, if they only feel able to do one thing?
Ingrid: I believe it starts off with therapy. I knew nothing about meditation, yoga, expressing my emotions, or anything else that could help without going to a source that didn’t necessarily have the answers, but could lead me in that direction. It is with that process that you’ll find your best form of medicine.
I understand therapy is such a tricky and scary thing for some people and don’t want to necessarily say that nothing else can be done without trying it, but I do feel strongly about its importance.
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One of the difficulties Ingrid and I have as Mexican Americans is that in our culture(s) depression was not something you talked about. It took me until I was 22 to realize that I suffered from depression, but it took me about another several years to seek help. I was diagnosed with clinical depression, went the medication route which for me was the best thing because it gave me the boost I needed to find other ways that would help me cope.
As a Roman Catholic with strong beliefs in the power of prayer, I was able to channel my faith to help me cope and slowly pull myself out of depression. I also did the therapy/counseling like Ingrid. But I also incorporated a change in diet, exercise (fast walking at least 15 minutes a day), music, and hobbies that I love. I also (like Ingrid) write but personal blogs.
Another big thing is getting enough sleep and just realizing slowly that there are things in our surroundings that we cannot control, so that losing sleep and over worrying does absolutely nothing but cloud your brain.
Finally, realizing that you have to live your life and not worry so much about what others say and think you should do.
Like Ingrid says, the depression sneaks upon me too but I have the ways to shake it off now. One of the biggest things for me is that I share with people my struggles with depression and it helps.
Hang in there, Ingrid!
Hi Yolanda, Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I am glad to hear that you are able to overcome most of your depression, most of the time. And I’m glad you find help in your spiritual beliefs. I do, too. We are all doing the very best we can. Much love to you and Ingrid.