I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and told I would need medication and therapy.
Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is also known as Clinical Depression and Unipolar Depression, most commonly. The Mayo Clinic provides a decent definition, which I have included for you here…
“Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may have trouble doing normal day-to-day activities, and sometimes you may feel as if life isn’t worth living. More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness and you can’t simply “snap out” of it.Depression may require long-term treatment. But don’t get discouraged. Most people with depression feel better with medication, psychological counseling or both.” The Mayo Clinic
Those of you who know me, know that I am NOT most people, which, in this case, is unfortunate. As it turns out most “[p]atients with major depression respond to antidepressant treatment, but 10%–30% of them do not improve or show a partial response coupled with functional impairment, poor quality of life, suicide ideation and attempts, self-injurious behavior, and a high relapse rate” (Khalid Saad Al-Harbi). They refer to this as Treatment-Resistant Depression, and I fall into that 10 to 30 percentile. Even more unfortunate, we discovered I fell into this category by going through 10+ years of trying different treatments and medications which were mostly unsuccessful.
Depression has affected every aspect of my life. Every relationship, every job, every decision, every everything. It is an ongoing battle of puppetmaster and puppet over my emotions, mostly in my subconscious, and it is constant.
When I was first diagnosed I had no concept of how much depression would affect the rest of my life. It was hard to live with because the symptoms were hard to live with. I was overwhelmingly sad, crying all the time, I had very low self-esteem, I was generally unhappy and moody. I was angry that I ‘needed’ to take a pill to ‘be happy’ and I didn’t understand why my brain couldn’t work like everybody else’s.
Medications were having little effect so my ‘cocktail’ changed frequently. I called it The Medication Game. It gave me little faith in the science behind psychiatry, as it was largely a trial and error process. In college, I started smoking pot and that helped smooth out the rough edges of my emotions better than any pills I was prescribed. Add a few beers and I was actually having a good time! I had a solid group of friends, people who felt more like family for awhile, and I seemed to thrive in the collegiate atmosphere.
I had slips and falls, smaller episodes where rifts were carved, youthful follies exacerbated by depressive hypersensitivity. Harder drugs and increases in erratic behavior/emotions saw the friends thought to be family drift. I was spiraling, spinning out of control, there were few left to even notice when I crashed and burned.
My parents picked up my pieces and took me home. They had to watch their broken, bruised, battered, confused and misused child isolate herself in a bedroom in their house and detox. They had to listen as I cried myself to sleep and woke up crying too. They had to endure my mood swings; the anger, the pain and the desire to die. I didn’t feel it as much then as I do now, but I carry a very deep guilt for everything my parents have gone through on my behalf.
Two rounds of intensive outpatient treatment where they try very hard to convince you that your life is worth living and you can cope with the demons. Group therapy with strangers, Monday through Friday, seven to three. They give you a psychiatrist and attempt to stabilize and manage your meds. Their doctor added a new medication for every symptom I mentioned without ever taking any of them away. This led to my body shutting down, but nobody put 2+2 together. My dad took me to every medical doctor you can imagine, I had every test done including an endoscopy and colonoscopy. Every test was negative, there was nothing wrong with me. Except I had lost 14 pounds in as many days and I could not keep anything down, not even water. Nobody could help me.
I checked myself into the psychiatric unit at the hospital, I had nowhere else to turn. It was my parents idea, they didn’t know what else to do, they were afraid for my life. I consented. It was a horrifying experience. If I wasn’t convinced that there were parts of me that were irreparably broken before, it took only one night there to convince me forevermore. However, they immediately detoxed me, with the exception of sedation, and within 24 hours I started feeling better. I stopped vomiting, slowly I was able to keep small amounts of food down. Four days later, I was released.
The psychiatrist who could have killed me by vastly over medicating me is the same doctor who signed my release papers. He also wrote my new prescriptions that day, that by some miracle became the ‘right’ combination, the combination that put me in partial remission. I lived in partial remission for about three years, which compared to not-in-partial-remission is like living in a good dream.
Then slowly, or maybe suddenly – it’s hard to say, really – I could feel myself slipping. Like an internal comfort gauge ‘SYSTEM FAILURE,’ alarms going off. Breathing started getting a little more difficult, like rather than gas, the air had become liquid. Tears were threatening to spill with little provocation and my anxiety over ‘losing it’ at inappropriate times was increasing. Old habits of desiring isolation began taking footholds in my new routine. I contacted my doctor immediately, thinking a little tweak of the meds would set me back on track. It did the opposite. It was like quicksand, except even when I tried to remain calm I just kept sinking.
To Be Continued…