Mental Health Interview Series Pt. 1: Depression
I met Jiggy a few years ago through my fiance Jesse. She's 24 years old and describes herself as a storyteller, self-awareness coach, and emotional intelligence advocate. She devotes herself to motivating people to be authentic, vulnerable badasses! If you like what you read below and you want to hear more, she speaks in detail about some of her experiences in one of her recent Freestyle Motivation videos on her YouTube channel.
Jiggy is very open about her mental health and uses her unique and heartbreaking experiences to connect with those around her. I asked Jiggy to share her thoughts and feelings about her depression and here's what she said.
What does depression look like for you?
My depression comes and goes in waves. Sometimes, the tides are high, sometimes it's just another steady day. When the tides are high, I don't want to wake up, I don't want to get out of bed, I want to stay asleep, I'm constantly tired and never feel like I've gotten enough sleep, I want to sit in the dark, I don't want to talk to anyone, I'd rather spend hours and hours on social media or play games, lots of negative self-talk, lots of "I feel like a pathetic loser without a purpose".
Does your depression come in phases, or is it constant?
Both. I compare my depression to a body of water a lot. So, as I've mentioned before, sometimes the tides are high, but, other days, the flow is constant. It's chillin. It's still sort of there... as water moves.
When did you first know that you were suffering from depression?
I've always known, whether I knew the term 'depression' or not. I've always known there was something off about me. I just thought I was an angry, emotional human. I didn't really learn about the TERM depression until college though. I think. Fun fact: Out of the hundreds of random clubs that Penn State has (we even have a tea club and a quidditch team), there is only ONE club dedicated to mental health.
What is the biggest daily challenge you face as a result of your depression?
I'm tired. ALL of the time. For a while I thought there was something wrong with my sleeping schedule or maybe I just don't get quality sleep. No - turns out it's my depression. I'm tired, I'm sleepy, not very energetic, ALL of the time. Which is so hard because I NEED to go to the gym, I NEED to walk my dog, I'm an entrepreneur so I NEED to be self-motivated to get work done.
Have you been able to identify any triggers?
A plateau in progress of any kind - as an athlete, as an entrepreneur. If I don't notice changes in my strength, my endurance, or my physique. But, I've noticed that it's definitely more harsh with my business. If I don't feel that I was productive that day, and the next day, and the next day, I will looooooose it. Going back to that, "I'm a pathetic loser" state.
In what way(s) has depression most affected your life?
I almost died. Ummmmmm yea. So, going back to people telling me I'm being pessimistic and my feelings being minimized, it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. At one point, I did believe that my depression was a choice and that, by making that choice, I was already choosing to harm myself. My depression was at its lowest point after I had lost my apartment to a fire incident back in July 2010. I had to live in 2 different shelters, then move in to a Days Inn in Long Island City, then they moved us to a studio apartment in Brooklyn. In that studio apartment, it was pretty dark, but, I also felt dark on the inside. If I could illustrate my depression in that moment.. It's that everything seemed dark. My mind, my heart, my chest, my entire.... insides. I spent every day and night in that apartment screaming and crying into my pillow and asking God why He was making me go through so much. That time was especially hard because that fire happened right after my mom had survived a heart attack. At the moment when I felt like it was my responsibility to take care of my mother, I felt completely helpless.
My Sophomore year in college, I was going through so many things all at once and my recent diagnosis with Type 1 Diabetes made things 100x worse. I knew how to end my life if I wanted to. With diabetes, you could die by not treating a high blood sugar for a long time or not treating a low blood sugar and falling into a diabetic coma. There was this one day when I was just staring at my syringe and vial of insulin. Um.... yea. But, needless to say, I mean, I'm here and alive today.
I'm sorry - my response to this question is all over the place!
How do you feel when your disorder brings you to your lowest point?
I go into this state of "I'm a pathetic loser and I ain't sh*t". That's literally what I tell myself in my head over and over and over and over again. Sometimes I say it out loud and my girlfriend has to stop me and look me in my eyes and yell "NO! STOP IT!" We both understand that I have bad days with my depression, and, when it's really bad, we know to not let me sit with those lies by the Enemy. Enemy, being the devil.
Is your depression the result of an event in your past, or is the cause unknown to you?
Depression is all I've known. I really can't remember when I didn't have depression. I believe it's a result of everything that's happened all of my life, especially during my college years.
How, if at all, has your depression affected those around you?
As I got older, I've learned that depression is an emotional rollercoaster and I needed to acknowledge that and own up to that. So, I know that it's not easy being my friend. Over the years, people have learned about me and how I function, so, if I ever excuse myself out of hanging out or if my energy seems low, they know how to understand why. I only surround myself with people with high level of empathy and love, SO THAT it doesn't negatively affect or inconvenience anyone who doesn't understand how to handle being friends with someone with depression.
What do you think is the most common misconception(s) about depression?
Where do I even start?!?! I think a misconception I can relate most closely to my depression is when people would tell me that I'm being pessimistic, being too negative. It means that my reality, and my feelings towards my reality, aren't legitimate, that depression is a choice, and, therefore, the significance of my depression is minimized.
Also, depression doesn't need to be diagnosed by a doctor - honestly. Furthermore, it shouldn't be taken seriously ONCE it is diagnosed - it should ALWAYS be taken seriously. I knew I had depression all of my life, I didn't need a doctor to tell me that. I was diagnosed with depression my Senior year of college only because I went in to check if I had mono lol and being diagnosed by a doctor only made me feel worse!
Sometimes it’s hard for people to know how to help someone experiencing depression – do you have any advice for these people?
The thing about depression is that............ I hate to say this, but, they can't really be... "helped"... exactly. Like, you can't take depression away from someone. You might be able to help them feel better in that moment, but, it is up to the person to receive the help. Especially, with depression, it's up to the person to push themselves every single day to feel better. Isn't it weird how humans believe we are so worthy of happiness (and we are), yet some of us have to work SO hard to EARN happiness? Weird.
Anyways, something one of my best friends and I have started doing is asking each other "How are your spoons today?" We learned about the spoon theory from our coworker who also has depression. My friend and I tend to usually ask the question to acknowledge that we notice something off about one another and we want to do a check-in. That best friend is a volunteer for a local women's resource center hotline, so, she pours A LOT of energy into helping others with some of the craziest situations. Now that I think of it, wow, I'm so lucky to have a friend who is so skilled at observing the emotional state of others.
A common belief that many people have is that depression is just weakness or an inability to deal with life’s challenges. What is your response to that?
Cash me outside.
No, seriously lol I've mentioned this above in one of the previous questions. If anyone thinks they think I'm weak and want to hold themselves at a high authority over me just because I have depression, LET'S FIND OUTTT AND SEE! (Bodak Yellow by Cardi B).
Has anyone ever treated you differently because of your depression?
Walked all over me. Or tried.
Have you ever tried any type of therapy for your depression and if so, was it a positive or negative experience?
The doctor gave me medicine to try. After taking it for 2 days, I said, "f*ck this." I didn't want to be on yet another medication for an illness (because I was officially diagnosed long after my diabetes diagnosis). It just so happened that I was visiting Korea for the first time in 10 years after my depression diagnosis, and, that, honestly, changed EVERYTHING for me. That's when I knew - it is possible to overcome depression without pills. So, now, I look for experiences as treatment.
How do you think your depression has changed over time?
As a strong follower of Jesus, I know that the battles only get more and more challenging the more and more I overcome and succeed. So, my depression gets worse and worse over time. The tides become higher and more random. However, I also know that I've become stronger and know that I'll get through it once again.
Do you think your depression has held you back in life, or prevented you from doing something you wanted to?
I used to LET it hold me back in life and prevent me from doing things. Nowadays, I've accepted depression as a part of me just as I've accepted being diabetic as a part of me. I see both illnesses as another way to connect with other humans, as another way to inspire and help other people.
What are the symptoms that you think may be representative of depression, for those who have not been diagnosed but may believe they are at risk?
Tired all the time, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in things that's usually exciting.
In what ways, if any, have you learned to cope with your depression?
I own that shit and be a boss with it.
I stopped feeling bad for myself that I had depression and I stopped apologizing to others for my depression. I used to think that my "pessimistic/negative" energy would be inconvenient for others until I've learned and practiced methods of having a healthier self-talk. I don't ever use my depression as an excuse, I use it as a reality. I don't apologize for my depression, I help others understand what my depression is and how it's affecting my performance. When the tides are high, I constantly remind myself that I've been through it before and I'll get through it again. I constantly remind myself that I am NOT a pathetic loser, I force myself to talk to friends, I force myself to do things that make me happy (because when I have depression I lose interest in doing things I usually love - like many others might).
What is your proudest accomplishment that you’ve achieved despite your depression?
I'm still alive. Still striving. Still got energy left to help others. Still got a girlfriend. My dog is still alive. My cat is still alive. The world hasn't ended. Did I mention, I'm still alive?
What do you want people to know about depression?
My depression does not mean that I'm weak. If you think I'm weak, we can take this outside right now.
My depression is not me asking anyone to feel bad for me or that I need my hand held at all times.
My depression is a legitimate state of being, it is not my choice to be depressed.
My depression doesn't mean I'm crying all the time.
I want to thank Jiggy for answering my questions with such honesty, vulnerability and authenticity. As someone who has never suffered from depression, her answers were equally eye-opening as they were heartbreaking. It's imperative for us to see Jiggy as a model, using her hardships and life's lessons to bring comfort, love and strength to those around her.
You can learn more about Jiggy, her venture out of the 9-5 routine and into the entrepreneurial world, and her services as a self-awareness coach and motivational speaker at her website, Facebook, and Instagram!
Check out the blog next week to read part II of the mental health awareness interview series.