Thursday, October 13, 2011

You, Me, We

For the most part, this blog is about playing pretend. Which is all well and good, but real life is out there no matter how far and fast you run. So let's talk about something real for a minute. Hi, my name is Katie...and I struggle with depression.

Things started going downhill in May of 2009, but it wasn't until August of the same year that I realized I had a real problem. That was the first time impulsively I attempted suicide. Over the ensuing eight months, I kept a journal that, in hindsight, chronicles my deteriorating mental health in terrible clarity. I experienced everything from euphoria to panic attacks to cutting and at least one other suicidal episode before I finally got myself in to see a doctor.

My friends and family did everything right. They supported and cared for me, and encouraged me to get help. In the end, though, the decision had to be my own. You see, depression is a horrible, insidious, isolating monster. Not only does it tear you down from the inside, it also convinces you that it's all in your head. I don't feel bad all the time, so maybe it's not real, or What if I'm just doing it for attention?

It's not all in your head. It's not your fault. You are not alone. And, there is help.

Depression and anxiety are real disorders, and they are frighteningly common. It took my doctor about 30 seconds to tell me on no uncertain terms that I was depressed, and she put me on a low-dose antidepressant to pull me out of the danger zone. And you know what? It worked. Within three days, my coworkers were commenting on how happy I seemed. My parents could tell the difference almost immediately. It was wonderful.

Unfortunately, despite so many wonderful advances in modern medicine, there's still a secrecy and shame about mental health--in some cases, an actual stigma. I had a run-in with a coworker once, about a month after I first saw my doctor, where he decided it would be a good idea to lecture me about how he's "really anti-drug on things like that." I ended up telling him where to shove it, but if he had come at me like that prior to being put on medication? Dis. As. Ter. My friend Jackie put it best when she said:

Mental illness is not a stigma. Depression in particular is not a stigma. As I tell my patients with depression (especially those with Dysthymia) you have to think about it like you would diabetes. Diabetes is chronic. There are days when things will be really good and your blood sugar will be within the perfect range. And then there are days where it will be like riding a rollercoaster without a harness. Most diabetes is due to your body not processing a chemical correctly, in this case insulin. Most depression is caused by your body not processing a chemical correctly, in that case serotonin. Now diabetics aren't shunned away from like Quasimodo...why should people with depression be treated poorly? The answer is they shouldn't.

Having depression or anxiety does not make you less of a person, and asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. Don't let your own mind or anyone else tell you otherwise. It's hard. The one thing you need to do--take responsibility for your own mental health--is the one thing you feel least equipped to do, and it can seem impossible at times. And unfortunately, it's not an instantaneous fix. There is no magic pill that will solve all your problems. I'm one of the lucky ones in that the first thing my doctor tried did work, and worked well, but I've had to change things over time to get back to where I was before I got sick. My doctor and I have worked together for over a year now to perfect a combination of things that works for me, so that I can manage my mental health and function as a whole, content person. There are still issues--I feel wonderful, but I'm struggling with weight gain as a side effect of my medication, for example. But every step is progress, and it's always worth it.

On the whole, I suppose I'm sharing this for several reasons. Me? I'm nothing special. But I made it, and if I can, so can you. And when it was worst for me, it really helped to know that I wasn't the only one. And because every time I say something about my own experience with depression, it seems like someone else comes out of the woodwork--either they struggle with it as well, or they know someone who does...and it helps to be able to talk about it. And so I talk about it, because we are not alone.


  1. great story Katie ! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for writing about this, Katie. I think this is a topic that is still very much a "taboo" thing in our country. It's one of those things that people just think you should be able to "get over", but you do need to want and seek help and support. And because it's so taboo, many people are ashamed to seek out help - it took me and my sister almost a year to convince our mother to seek counseling for her depression after our father walked out on her, and then she not only had counseling she also found a divorce support group - and she still keeps in touch with some members of that group.

    I've had to deal with bouts of major depression in my own life, though I've never been clinically diagnosed, I know my depression was real - the first episode of major depression was severe enough that I reached a point where, while I wasn't really thinking specifically of suicide, I though things would be so much easier if I just wasn't alive anymore. That's when I sought help. The sense of a support system I had at those various times definitely affected my ability to work through my depression.

    Anyway, again, thank you.

  3. (((HUGS))) You are awesome! I'm so glad you're my friend.

  4. Katie, you are a brave and a wonderful and a magical person and I am so proud to call you my sister. :-*

  5. Here here! I'm so glad you got treated and that you're doing well now. I hope things will continue to be good for you! *hugs*

  6. I admire you for being able to post this. Also a sufferer I know exactly what you are talking about. I was diagnosed after my deployment and fought it afraid that would be admitting I was crazy. Took me a long time to re-work how I thought about it and accept the medication and help.

  7. Very well said, Katie. It's horrible when you have feelings that seem to come from nowhere and you can't shake off. Or sometimes they come in disguise, and you begin to try and come up with explanations and reasons that put the blame on someone else or yourself. It can go downhill fast. As a nurse, I know it's really important to realize the biological causes of depression, the chemical imbalances that can cause these mood changes of feeling sad or worthless.

    Sometimes you really do need pills to stop making you feel sad. You'll also need something to make you feel happy -- whether it's sewing gorgeous dresses or something else. For me, thinking about the big questions when I was at my worst, I turned to faith in Christ, showing a God who has also suffered. For a time, it seemed like half my good friends were clinically depressed -- I learned a lot about life and what I was going through because of them. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how Christ related to people, living alongside them, pointing the way to hope, and demonstrating the love of God that lasts no matter what.

    "I came that they might have life, and that more abundantly," John 10:10 (The gospel of John in the Bible is just luminous, and I read it when I can’t read anything else. (“A light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot put it out.” John 1:5)

    Many many blessings on you and all those who are suffering,

    Deborah Bates

  8. Great post! I'm sorry you suffer from depression... It gallops in my family and I have the anxiety portion of it. Thanks for you honesty! Hugs!!!

  9. This is a very well written post Katie. Some people don't seem to understand mental health and can, as you stated very elequently, cause harm that I'm sure was not intended.
    I thank God that depression is "out" and more and more people realize just how their words can affect those who do have it. And I also believe the stigma of depression is fading fast, thank God, and people are not afraid to let others know if they suffer from it.
    Keep going - you're on the right track!

  10. Thank you for sharing this. I just sought treatment for my own depression a few days ago and your post really resonated with me.