My Journey With Depression

My Journey With Depression

Depression is something that affects many people in the United States every year, and I am no exception.

I am a statistic.

(Read more, as I understand this may be a trigger for some. I hope you read ahead if this is not a sensitive topic for you, as it was difficult to come clean.)

I’ve been going to therapy and counseling for at least five years now, sparked by my best friend’s suicide my freshman year of high school. I bounced around to a few different therapists, as it took me a while to find one that worked for me. At the time, my grief was overwhelming and I wanted nothing more than to make it go away. I didn’t want to draw pictures of my house and family like the one therapist wanted me to (lady, do I look seven? I want to talk about how to keep myself from downing a dozen pills like my best friend did.) I finally found a therapist that I really clicked with, pretty quickly, and she has been my go-to for about the last four and a half years.

Throughout the rest of high school, I struggled with my depression. Well, I struggled a lot with physical illnesses, which were terrible triggers for my depression. I had depressive episodes that seemed to creep around every corner, and they would hit me when I least expected them (or when I least wanted them to). The hardest part for me was seeing how happy everyone else was, and I thought that’s where I should have been too. I know others suffered, but they didn’t make it as apparent as I felt my depression was.

College was a bit of a different story. It was much easier to see my therapist, as I had my own car and her office is literally ten feet off of campus, probably less than three hundred feet from the music building. I went in a little more often than I had in high school, and I definitely needed it. I had quite a few relationship problems in the first few months, including getting out of an unhealthy one and a particularly devastating breakup with a good friend. I was also struggling a little bit to find my place in college, but that quickly became less of a problem.

But the depressive episodes continued. Though they seemed to just be another part of my daily life, I knew they were unhealthy. I made enough progress by the end of the school year, however, that my therapist and I agreed to just come back in on an as-need basis. I pretty much took the summer off from therapy, but I wound up back in her office quite often last fall.

I had sunken into the worst of my depressive episodes over the summer, mainly spurred by isolation and a jerk of a co-worker. I had no idea what to do, and I felt emptier than I had ever felt before. Even though marching band was fun, I still felt like I didn’t quite belong; I felt like I had to fake my happiness to be accepted by others, and it was hard to wear that face every day.

Especially hard for me were comments following Robin Williams’ death. I thought it would have been a great time for me to have open discussions with friends and family about my own depression, but I was shut down before I could even start. A good friend said something along the lines of “I just don’t understand depression. Like you’re just… unhappy? I get unhappy too. But then I get happy again. How can you be so sad that you kill yourself?”

That shut me up pretty quickly.

In fact, even today, I’ve opened up a little bit but still often refer to my medicine as ‘anxiety meds’ instead of an antidepressant, for the fear of the stigma attached.

Last fall semester, I finally made a choice for myself that was about five years coming: an antidepressant. I had been in a funk since the summer, sad and isolated and empty and… meh. Nothing could help, not my therapy, not my friends, not running, not academics. Everything felt totally worthless and meaningless. It got so bad that my procrastination escalated to a point I had never seen before, which led to anxiety and several panic attacks.

I was in the midst of my worst depressive episode ever.

I was referred to a psychiatrist’s assistant, and I had almost an hour-long appointment with her. I talked about my personal history with depression and anxiety, all my previous medical problems, my home life, my spirituality, my life at school. It was like the most draining interview I’ve ever had. When it was all said and done, I officially had a diagnosis on paper for the first time: Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).

We started immediately on a medication at half-dose (after my terrible luck with medications in the past). After a week, we bumped up to the full dose. And that Friday was probably the worst day of my life.

I feel emptier than ever before. I felt numb. I didn’t want to die, but I simply didn’t want to exist anymore. It was what should have been the most terrifying experience of my life, but instead I felt… nothing. I knew something was wrong, so I went to the counseling center on campus since I couldn’t get in touch with my doctor about what to do with my medication. I was two minutes late to a rehearsal (the day before a concert, nonetheless) but my director never questioned me about it. It was like he knew there was a damn good reason I was late.

I struggled through two concert ensemble rehearsals and dragged myself down to the football field for the last marching band rehearsal of the season. It was so difficult because I was just so detached from everything that was going on around me. Honestly, it was probably dangerous with the speed everyone around me was moving. Even when we did our post-rehearsal Barituba huddle, I didn’t feel a thing. I was surrounded by all these people who cared, and I couldn’t do anything.

Finally, as I was gathering my things to go home, I felt my phone ringing in my bag. I answered, and my doctor told me to immediately stop taking the medication. If the thoughts I was having were to persist, I was to get taken to the emergency room.

I never got to that point. I drove home (very carefully and very slowly) and sat on the couch with my mom until it was time to go to bed. When I woke up the next morning, I was okay. Not great, not good, but okay. Surviving.

I’ve been struggling with my medications since then. Some have helped with the symptoms but ruined my sleep patterns. I’ve lost fifteen pounds in about two months, which is odd considering I hadn’t lost any weight in the four months before that (even with marching band season in there). I took medication that ruined my sleep patterns and didn’t really help at all. I’ve dealt with issues with my psychiatrist and a terrible experience at one office, so I’m trying to find another before something goes wrong. It might even be at the point here shortly where I have to get off medication altogether. It’s been a roller coaster of annoyance and sadness and meh-ness, but I’ve survived.

I’ve survived.

And that’s all I can ask for.

3 comments

  1. Emily M. says:

    It takes forever to get on the right medicine. I was on one for “stomach problems” for 4 years, but then my doctor saw my intentionally left cuts on my arm and decided that I needed something for depression. No one believed that I have depression. My mom told me that I’m too happy to be depressed. Mark got freaked out by my depression because I would get paranoid that something was at the window and my depressive thoughts eventually drove him away. I attempted suicide with the sleeping medicine my doctor gave me because all I could do at night was stare at the wall. They switched me to another pill and I was better… For 2 weeks. Then I stopped talking to everyone, couldn’t focus on anything, etc. I attempted suicide again. My family doctor doesn’t know about the attempts. She put me on the strongest dosage that the pill would allow and added another on, but the other pill gave me strange thoughts and dreams so I stopped taking it. She finally decided to direct me to a psychiatrist. I don’t how depression happens, but I hate when people say things like “but you have so much to be happy about!” and the Robin William’s talk was upsetting to me to. They called him selfish. They have no right to judge someone. They don’t know what was going on in his head. I’ve attempted suicide 3 times, but ended up puking up the pills I took after thinking about my mom. I’ve self harmed for a over 2 years and have not cut for maybe 4 months as of now. Having depression is super duper hard and people don’t understand. I wish they would understand. If you ever need to talk, just FB message me or text me or something! I hope things get better for you!

  2. Emily says:

    We barely know each other but I just had to respond: this sounds so much like what’s been happening to me for the past seven years. I have Major Depressive Disorder, too. I found myself nodding to even the smallest details, like bouncing around from therapist to therapist and having a bad experience with meds and calling them anything but what they are, which is antidepressants. I bet a lot of people like us go through these things.

    I’m on Zoloft now and I have a decent therapist, so things have been better for about a month now, but I’ve noticed that if I go even a day or two without my medicine, I feel numb and overwhelmed at the same time. Part of me worries that this is just how I am now, but part of me doesn’t care if I have to medicate myself. It’s worth it to feel like a person.

    I also wanted to share a weird trick that works for me (I think I saw this on Buzzfeed, don’t judge). When I’m feeling really disconnected from people or numb, I think about little things. Not like “stop and smell the roses” but like, SMALL things. Like apples — how weird is it that apples exist? We take them for granted, but have you ever actually considered how different they are from a lot of other fruit? Or I stare at the patterns in the hardwood floor in my house and try to see animal faces. Or I wonder where earthworms are during winter. Do they hibernate? Or I try to guess things, like how many hairs my dog has on her body. I know that probably sounds wacky, but doing little mental things like that has helped me feel something besides…nothing.

    I’m at IUP too, so if there’s anything I can ever do to help, let me know.

  3. Jillian says:

    honey I’m right there with you. I have depression and GAD and have since high school. I’ll go so long where all I want to do is sleep and I lose interest in my friends, family, school work and hobbies. After my closest (and at the time only) friend died it was unbearable and I was having nightmares every night so that I was afraid to sleep when before sleep was my only comfort, my only escape from the horribleness of just living. I felt like I had no way out and started to have fantasies about cutting myself (though I never actually did it). I felt crazy because I felt addicted to something I had never done. Every time I tried to think about something else the same thought would butt in out of nowhere saying that if I just opened my skin and let the blood flow then all bad in me would bleed out and I’d be okay. It took 6 months of me going to therapy twice every single week to be able to make those thoughts go away. And it’s still hard. I still have panic attacks, and when I’m so much as an hour late on my meds even though I can’t, other people can tell. Once in a blue moon something totally arbitrary and trivial will go wrong and the voice will come back telling me to bleed the depression away. It’s only through a loving and understanding group of loved ones that I’ve survived, and it’s only through God that I feel human again. I’m having my first good week for months right now and I just want you to know that this isn’t over. It isn’t the end. And if you ever need me any time of day or night I’m right here for you. I love you sweetie!

Leave a Reply