25 Faces: Liz Dolan
I’m so excited to be launching this 25 Faces campaign to introduce you to those nearest and dearest to my heart. First up, is my best friend, Liz, and PS today is HER 25th birthday!
Liz and I have known each other since we were 3 years old and, as Liz would say, we’ve been to hell and back in a handbasket. Liz is the closest thing I’ve got to a sister and as such, we’ve been the best of friends, the worst of enemies, and ultimately know every intimate detail of the other’s life. Even my parents call her their other daughter.
You know all those best friend quotes out there? Whenever I read those I immediately think of Liz (and I hope she immediately thinks of me). We find it funny that we’re such good friends given that we’re polar opposites, but as they say, opposites attract.
I asked Liz if she wanted to be included in my 25 faces campaign because of her longtime struggle with depression. She’s been fighting the battle for years and her ability to stay strong, fight through the lows, and openly discuss this struggle is amazing.
Kate: How old were you when you started feeling depressed?
Liz: Like most people, I was 13. So about the time most kids are going through puberty, when it’s “normal”. I didn’t realize it until about a year later. I have my mom to thank for catching it so early. I am (as you may have been able to guess at this point) quite independent and so when I started having what we later discovered were panic attacks, she recognized what was going on. She also has depression and has been managing it for years.
K: What do you feel?
L: It feels like you are literally swallowed in sadness. Things you enjoy and you know will make you happy seem so much more difficult. Friends aren’t inviting you out as you are, they want the happy funny person you used to be… The way you are now is cause for concern or, if done for long enough, is obnoxious… So now instead of getting excited about going out with a friend, you now feel required to get up out of the nest you’ve created out of blankets and pillows, find clothes that are socially acceptable and that allow you to look in the mirror at yourself without vomiting, put on makeup (that you just know looks hideous), twist your lips into something resembling a smile, and be charming. It doesn’t matter what the choice is, you feel like you’re making the wrong one and you are hopeless. You play devils advocate if someone tries to cheer you up. You can only see the bad in things. You actually get mad at yourself for feeling this way without reason which makes you dive deeper into self loathing. Author of the blog Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh gave the best description I’ve ever heard: “Trying to use willpower to overcome the apathetic sort of sadness that accompanies depression is like a person with no arms trying to punch themselves until their hands grow back”. It’s comical but true.
K: How are you able to stay in positive and strong?
L: Even though it’s super hard to think this way, I have to constantly remember a few key things:
- This too shall pass. No horrible situation lasts forever, especially if you are in a position to change things.
- No matter the situation, I’ve been in worse. I can genuinely say, in just about any aspect of my life, I’ve survived worse and it’s brought me here. I can totally handle this!
- I am loved. This ones pretty self explanatory…
- Don’t take things personally. This one is a constant struggle, but a necessary one. People are mean and will lash out at whoever will listen. Often, it has nothing to do with you, but something else going on … and misery does love company but don’t let that get you down.
K: What’s your advice to others who are feeling thoughts of depression?
L: Having depression doesn’t make you weak. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. You were born with it and have to deal with it. If you are born with poor eyesight, you know you don’t have to live your whole life seeing things blurry; you go to the doctor and get glasses or contacts to correct the problem. The same principle applies to a mental health issue such as depression. Even knowing why you feel the way you do, makes things more manageable. As much as I hate going to the doctor and taking medications, the depression is so much worse than admitting I need help. I know how bad I feel when I DON’T take my meds, so why would I unnecessarily put myself through that?
K: How is life going for you now?
L: Growing up, I never really planned for the “what ifs” of being a grownup. I don’t know why, but I never thought I would be a functional adult. So the whole “starting a business, holding down a 40 hour a week position managing a coffee stand, owning a dog and living in my own apartment by myself” is kind of a surprise. I am very proud of myself and my accomplishments. When I start feeling low about something in my life, I try to remember where I am versus where I could be, and it puts things in perspective.