But That’s Not “Real” Depression by guest @MsBessieBell

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Ambro / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today please welcome author and editor Jessica Bell to the blog. Jessica has a powerful story about depression and the pattern it takes in her life. If you are having suicidal thoughts please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. 

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Sometimes I get told that I’m not “really” depressed because I am not suicidal, or because I haven’t been officially diagnosed as such, or because I’m not taking anti-depressants, or because I haven’t ever seen a therapist. “You’re not depressed,” they say. “You’re just feeling down. We all get down now and again. You’ll get over it.”

But you know what? I don’t just get over it. And I am not just “feeling down.”

To be honest, I don’t really care whether people think I’m “depressed,” or not. I don’t talk about it often. But I do know that it’s not something that is going to go away because there is a clear pattern. And I have struggled through this pattern every single month since puberty. That’s almost 20 years. That’s 20 years of intermittently hating myself, and my life, and wanting to throw everything away to start from scratch, because I somehow think that it’s the perfect solution. Shutting everything and everyone out is always the perfect solution. Right? Of course not. But I often think it is.

The pattern goes like this:

Happy Days

“I am so lucky. I have such a great job. I have time to write and do the things I love. I have a great home. Oh my goodness, look what a beautiful day it is! Doesn’t the air smell amazing? I could stand out on my balcony, under the sun, smelling the air with a silly smile on my face, with my eyes closed, for hours. Because I am just so happy! So happy! I love my life. I have everything I want. I am so so lucky!”

Normal Days

I get the things done I have to get done. I don’t smile. I don’t care. I am. I just am. I do the dishes. I cook (maybe). I tick things off my to-do list. I don’t feel it. I see it. My life, that is. Moving at a steady pace, as I somehow watch from above, it’s all happening as it’s meant to. Because I don’t feel. I don’t really care. What was it you just said? Oh, yes, of course. I’ll do it right away. I eat. I work. I eat. I watch TV. I go to bed. I read. I kiss my husband goodnight. I get through the day without feeling very much. Thank bloody goodness for that.

Shitty Days

I can’t lift my head off my pillow in the morning. Is it still night, or is it day? Just another half an hour and I’ll get up. Or not. It’s getting late. I really should get up. I get up. I make myself coffee. I stare at the kettle even once it’s finished boiling and consciously tell myself to snap out of my trance. I have a headache. Again. A strong one. It’s this stupid city. I’m sure of it. I need to get out of here. I need to live in a different country. Or maybe by the sea. Isolated. So I don’t have to talk to anyone. Maybe in the mountains. I could grow my own veggies and quit my job. Live off the land. What are you talking about? You can’t even stand doing the dishes! Snap out of it. Now. I hate my life. No. I am better than this. Just ride the wave. It’s coming. It’ll stay. Then it will go. But who cares? It’ll come again. That happy day will come again. Just get to work. I work. Sort of. Most of the day is spent staring and daydreaming of a better life.

The Really Bad Days

I jump in the shower first thing in the morning, despite usually showering at night. And I cry. So he doesn’t see. Then I can blame my red face on the hot water. I give myself a headache because I hold in the sound. I cry until I can’t distinguish my tears from the water. I get out of the shower and wrap the towel around me. I stand there. Dripping. Staring at my feet. Until I am almost dry. Then I force myself to get dressed. An equal amount of time is spent staring at my clothes. I just put my pyjamas back on.

Then I sit down to work. I push through it, somehow, trying to ignore the endless hollow tunnel that runs through my body, echoing the tears I shed in the shower. There’s a big ball of emptiness that tumbles through the tunnel. It divides into two. One part sits right below my ribs, and one part at the back of my throat. They both expand and expand until it hurts so badly that all I want to do is lie in bed with the light off, and the door shut, in silence, in darkness, so I can cry some more, so I can protect the balls of emptiness. Because suddenly I want to nurture them.

The trouble with the balls of emptiness is that they’re kind of addictive. I want them to go away, but at the same time, I want to succumb to the power they have over me. So I stop work early. And I give the balls of emptiness what they want: A bed. Solitude. Darkness. Silence. Now the balls of emptiness are in their element, where they thrive, and they start talking to me. They start saying things like, “If you just packed a bag, and jumped on a plane to anywhere tonight, you could pretend you never existed, and just become someone else, in another place, and start fresh.” And then I say, “But what about my family? They would be devastated. I can’t do that to them.” The balls of emptiness realize that I will not let them take over and they begin to ease the pressure. Just a bit. And I get out of bed, to make myself something to eat, because I realize I haven’t eaten anything all day and it’s already dinner time.

I eat. I sit on the couch next to my dog. And I talk to her. Whisper in her ear how much I love her. And cry. And ask her why the fuck everything has to be so hopeless. Make it go away. And I cry even more into my dog’s fur. And she licks my tears away. And I realize, that if I left, I would miss my dog too much. My dog! Because the dog is the only being in this world who truly listens to me, and doesn’t judge, and gives me unconditional love. And then the dog does something that makes me smile. And I remind myself it’s a pattern, that I have to ride the wave. It’s a wave. It’s a pattern. It’s a wave. It’s a pattern. The happy day will come.

Then the happy day does come again. And I feel great. I feel blessed, and loved, and so lucky to have such a wonderful life. Again.

But the saddest thing is, there’s always a moment, during that happy day, when I realize the “happy” is just a part of the pattern. And maybe that’s not real either.

Imagine if people said, “You’re not happy. You’re just crazy.  We all get crazy now and again. You’ll get over it.”

I can’t imagine that going down very well.

I guess my point is this: You don’t know what goes on behind the scenes in other people’s lives. I certainly don’t make these feelings public at the times I am feeling them. Just keep an open mind. Someone is always struggling with something, be it depression, a terminally ill family member, or simply one of those bad hair days that makes the whole world feel like it’s conspiring against you. No matter what the problem, it means a great deal to the person experiencing it, and you have no right to say, “You’ll get over it.” Maybe they won’t. Ever.

Next time you think you are making assumptions about somebody, take a step back. Think. Listen. And try to be understanding.

 

Side note

Why I haven’t gotten help:

1. I don’t trust doctors. Doctors prescribed my mother Valium for a “back problem” which was caused by withdrawal symptoms of a similar drug in the first place. Then prescribed her more drugs to get rid of the side effects, because in those days, they didn’t know the truth about benzodiazepine withdrawal. There are always new and better drugs. And no-one ever really knows what kind of long-term effects they will have on people down the line until someone experiences it.

2. I believe that drugs for depression only temporarily soothe the problem, are way too addictive, and leave you in an even worse state when you stop taking them. My mother was addicted to Valium for 20 years. I saw, first hand, what those kinds of drugs do to people. Explaining the side effects of this would be a whole other post, but if you’re interested, you might like to read this.

3. I don’t need a therapist. I’ve taught myself how to ride the wave. And I am coping fine.

NOTE FROM RACHEL: Jessica asked me to let you all know that she’s reading your comments and is overwhelmed by the love and support. She’s currently at a book fair with limited wifi access, so she’ll return everyone’s comments when she returns home later in the week. Thanks for understanding! 

 

About the Author:
23JUNE13_Jessica Bell - smlJessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/ guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers’ Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:
Website | Retreat & workshop | Blog | Vine Leaves Literary Journal | Facebook | Twitter

About Rachel Thompson

Rachel Thompson is the author of the award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published and represented by Booktrope. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, bitrebels.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Rachel is the creator and founder of #MondayBlogs and #SexAbuseChat and an advocate for sexual abuse survivors. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.

Comments

  1. This is understand. I agree wholeheartedly about the drugs but I think sometimes people grab them because they’re the only thing offered, and if they seem to work, they become a talisman.
    Whatever this depression thing is, it’s not going to be solved by chemicals.

    • HI Vivienne — thanks for reading and commenting.

      IDK that there’s a ‘one size fits all’ treatment for depression, yet that’s what seems to be the standard of care. We’re not little boxes. Chemical imbalances do require correction, but there are many different treatment options, not only anti-depressants or even drug therapy.

      I encourage anyone who suffers from depression to research all the options and talk to their doctor to find something they’re comfortable with. xx

      • If you have a doctor you are both confident of and comfortable with, that’s a massive bonus.
        My recent experiences have reduced both those factors.
        Two years ago, on one of my bad days, in fact what seemed to be a complete breakdown, I came very close to walking under a train. My doctor sent me for blood tests to rule out anything else, and when the tests came back with raised calcium levels, he sent me for a retest. The levels had fallen again. What I know now is that there is almost never a reason for calcium levels to rise like that. But because I was too ill to think, to act, I didn’t follow up. We had a stressful year, and relocated and husband started a very different career. Symptoms persisted, varying from week to week, sending me back to the doc’s. She sent me for more blood tests, went on maternity leave and the doc I saw when the tests came back said, “Oh it’s *just* depression.” I argued. Eventually I was referred to a rheumatologist who spotted I had a congenital condition that affects not only my joints but also my nervous system (absence of proprioception). Later last year, following pain on the left flank, I was subject to more tests. High calcium again. Long story short, hyperparathyroidism. A little over a week ago, I had a tumour removed from my throat. Hyperparthyroidism kills, but it takes years and it removes every shred of joy and ease from your life. If I had listened to my original doctor, I would be taking anti-depressants that were going to do nothing to address the root cause of the symptoms.
        Not all depression originates in the same place and unfortunately, many doctors are keener to dole out pills than to seek the root of an individual’s distress. As you say, we’re not little boxes but there does seem to be that mentality. When I was first diagnosed with depression in my early twenties, the new generation of drugs like Prozac were being hailed as the cure-alls.

        • Hi Vivienne,

          Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experiences. Your story just goes to show that we really need to do our research and do what we think is best.

          Cheers,
          Jessica

        • Vivienne,

          That is the first time I’ve heard of that condition! I’ve had so many doctor’s tell me they will give me a “Happy Pill” and I will feel better. It was infuriating, frustrating, and disheartening. It turns out I had Lupus, Fibromyalgia, and RA, the Trifecta of pain and fatigue. Frankly, that would make anyone depressed. It took over a decade to figure out that these were my issues, and I still find resistance from doctors even after diagnosis. I moved to MI two years ago, and I still haven’t found an acceptable Rheumatologist. Thank you, for sharing your story. People need to be validated for how they feel and know that things aren’t always as simple as taking a “Happy Pill”.

  2. I won’t even try to convince anyone reading this how close to home what Ms Bell says hits (or “hit” to be more accurate). It’s a hell you have to endure. The worst part is that you can’t afford to let others in on how you feel ALL the time. They can’t cope, and it’s understandable. However, I must counter in a very strong voice Ms Bell’s stance on therapy and medication. Having an unfortunate (dreadful) experience with her mother is not reason enough to just discount the help a person suffering from depression can get. I was on an anti-depressant for six months only, and when I started feeling better with myself, I joined group therapy. I’ve been going for three years, and I feel more empowered than ever. I can now see that what I was before was a walking shadow. It was unfair to me; it was a crime against my daughter. No, do not discount the help you can get. There is a way out, and if you’re not walking this life alone, you ought to try your damnedest to find it; coping is not enough.

    • Thank you, MM for reading and sharing. So many people suffer from depression and I’ve lost a few friends, too, who wouldn’t reach out for help. I’m so glad you did — for you and for your girl.

      It’s not easy to admit we need help — we rarely recognize it in ourselves. Thanks for sharing how you’ve dealt with it. xx

    • Hi MM,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing. I appreciate your concern, but I am comfortable with my choices and I know that they are the best for me. I probably experience a really bad day about once a month, and considering that I know I can cope, and am not at all suicidal, I don’t want to subject myself to the possible side effects of drugs. My body is actually very sensitive to drugs and chemical intake in general, so I prefer to steer clear as much as possible.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  3. I, too, have ridden this wave my entire life. I thought I was coping fine until t
    the period of five years when I couldn’t get out of bed.
    I also mistrusted psychoactive drugs. I had tried many of them
    and none of them made a difference. But during that bad time,
    I realised if I didn’t do something different, I wasn’t going
    to make it. It took a long while and several changes of doctors, but I finally found
    one that helps. I’d like to suggest you reconsider your stance on this. Depression meds have come
    a long way. They don’t fix eveything, but they make even the super shitty times more bearable.

    • Thanks for sharing, Katherine. Depression is so hard to manage, I know from personal experience myself.

      xx

    • Hi Katherine,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing. As I said above to MM, I am comfortable with my choices and I know that they are the best for me. But thank you for expression your concern.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  4. I agree with MM. Coping is admirable and I applaud you for not just folding it up altogether. However, what you described saddened me that I felt compelled to comment. I share many of your fears about doctors and medication too. In fact, I almost always advocate for “it’s all about self- discipline.” That’s not always the right approach, I’ve discovered. But don’t give up consideration of treatment entirely. It can work. Your apprehensions and suspicions should actually serve you well in evaluating any treatment and making the necessary adjustments. Good luck, no matter what path you choose!

    • Thanks for commenting, Michael. Depression is difficult, no question. My approach has been meds and therapy — but there’s definitely no one-size-fits-all when it comes to any type of mental health issue. I’m thankful you shared your story, just as Jessica has.

      good luck!

    • Hi Michael,

      Thank you so much for reading and expressing your concern, but as I said to MM above, I am very comfortable with my choices. But thank you, I do appreciate you chiming in.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  5. Kele Lampe says:

    I tried to post this from my phone, but it looks like it didn’t take. I’ve also “ridden that wave” for my entire life. I never found a therapist I thought was smarter than I am or able to suggest anything I hadn’t already tried. Being hospitalized several times totally put me off doctors. I had tried every medication out there and none of them worked. I had accepted that this was just the way my life would look, that some days would be good and some shitty, and I had to breathe and get through it. Then I hit a super shitty period of five years. Five years I couldn’t get out of bed, but lay there staring at the walls. Every day. I couldn’t leave the house. I couldn’t get dressed. And just breathing to get through the day didn’t hack it any more. After the first few months, I knew if I didn’t change something, I wasn’t going to make it. So I decided to try medication. It WAS NOT EASY. It took changing doctors several times and trying many, many medications and combinations of medications (which was what most of the rest of the five years was about, but I felt like I was doing something, so I held on). Finally I found a medication that works, and I cannot describe the difference it makes in my life. Yeah, the shitty days still happen, and yeah, some days I still have to get through. But it’s easier. And I have far fewer of them. Anyway, I urge you to reconsider your stance on this. Medication has come a long way in the last 30 years. Anti-depressants are not the same as Valium. I have found the side effects to be minimal (that’s part of finding the right one). I also thought they just gave a person a veneer of happiness, but that’s not it at all. If I had another chronic illness–diabetes or high-blood pressure–that required medication, I wouldn’t hesitate to take it, and I think it’s terrible and sad that chronic brain conditions have such a stigma attached that even the people who could benefit from treatment don’t seek it.

    • Thanks for sharing, Kele. I too took a long time to give in to taking anti-depressants — and I knew quite a bit about how they worked from having been a Big Pharma rep. Still, it took me awhile to starting taking one and wow, it’s like the skies cleared from gray to blue overnight.

      Not to argue with Jessica (I admire her courage in sharing her story tremendously), AD’s aren’t addictive in a traditional way (like drugs like heroin or Vicodin can be); in fact, they’re classified as addictive. They correct a chemical imbalance. Depression is a chemical ‘disease,’ no different than high blood pressure requires meds, too — in addition to lifestyle changes (diet, exercise, etc.).

      However, those of us affected by depression travel this journey alone and we each have to do what works for us. I’m honored she’s sharing her story — depression needs to be discussed!

    • Hi Kele,

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your experiences. I appreciate your concern, but as I said to MM above, I am comfortable with my choices and I know that they are the best for me. It’s very hard to express in a single post my entire history, so I have just stated the basics. It’s a lot more than just my mother’s history that has put me off drugs, it’s actually how ALL drugs make me feel. My body is very sensitive to them and I feel healthier not taking them. I can’t even smell household cleaning products without getting a migraine or feeling dizzy afterward. My body just doesn’t mix well with chemicals.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  6. Wow, so much truth in this post. I too have never taken an antidepressant, or been diagnosed with depression from a professional, but I have been there. I now continue to check my thinking based on Dr .Caroline Leafs brain research and though I get down and feel depression pulling me in, it hasn’t take hold for a while now … nearly 2 years. Xx

    • Glad you’re doing well, Michelle! that’s awesome. I’m also glad you can recognize it and use whatever tools you’ve learned. so much of it is learning how to deal — whether that’s through brain research or meds or therapy — we all have to do what works best for us.

    • Hi Michelle,

      I’m happy to hear that. Let’s hope you can continue to keep it under control, too.

      Best wishes,
      Jessica

  7. Hi Everyone,

    Sorry I didn’t comment any earlier, but I’ve had a really busy day. Thank you all so so much for reading, and sharing your stories with me, too. I really appreciate that.

    I would like to point out that my bad days are not that frequent. I imagine I get a really bad bout once every month. So I really do not want to take medication for that when I know that can get through it on my own. That’s the choice I’ve made, and I am happy with that choice. Having depression, for me, is just another part of my character and I have accepted that. It has not gotten to a point where it has prevented me from living my life. I am thankful for that. Because it means that I can cope.

    Again, thank you for commenting. I wish you all the very very best!

    ~Jessica

    • Thanks for commenting and clarifying, Jessica. I should also mention that I’m also a believer in alternative therapies — vitamins, minerals, exercise, and such. I have a wonderful naturopathic physician who has had good results with her clients using oils, supplements, and therapy. I encourage anyone who is struggling to follow their gut — if you are anti-drug, there is hope. You may just need to research to learn more.

      Thanks Jessica! I love your healthy perspective. #hugs

  8. I won’t argue about your struggles with depression, it’s a hard time. But I am sad about the commentary on medication. I take Paxil, and it’s not at all like Valium. It doesn’t “soothe” my condition, it keeps my head together so I can deal with issues and keep from sinking into that place where I want to hurt myself or end my life. I still cope with the ups and downs but medication is one of those life saving coping mechanisms. Also my psychiatrist and my therapist are separate. Therapists often can’t prescribe medication anyway, and I absolutely love mine because of how she’s helped me adjust to being a functional adult. Just my thoughts…

    • Thanks for sharing, Corey. I too take an anti-depressant — I started after having PPD with my daughter 14 years ago and have been on and off since then. When I have gone off them, I don’t last 6 months before I can’t get out of bed or start obsessing over little things (and big things). It keeps me functional, as you say.

      Therapy is also great — therapists aren’t licensed physicians as psychiatrists are, so if meds are needed, it’s good to have that option.

      thanks again for sharing, honey. xx

    • Hi Corey,

      Thanks for sharing, and please don’t be sad about my choices. I have made these choices because I know they are the best for me. Nobody knows my mind and body as well as I do. If taking medication is good for you, then you should totally keep taking it. Everyone needs to do what they think is best for them. :)

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  9. See, this kind of thing drives me crazy. Why do people judge? Unless we’ve walked in someone else’s shoes, we have no idea what that person has gone through. We have no clue. And there are so many suffering like this.

    I can appreciate the fear of doctors and medication. That’s a real concern. Diagnosing and medicating is a touchy. It’s a tried a tested situation that done improperly can be disastrous. Yet, we need the validation and treatment.

    It is our environment that is making us sick. Chemicals are being sprayed in our atmosphere and food that are making us toxic which is affecting us both physically and mentally. And they play a major role in depression.

    I am a big believer in complementary medicine. We have to be treated on an individual basis. TCM and Homeopathy have been very successful in going after the root cause of the symptom. I speak from personal experience.

    I wish you all the best Jessica. Hang in there. I have every confidence that you will find the help and support that you need. And thanks Rachel for being such a lovely host. :)

    • thank you, Karen, for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

      It’s definitely an individual thing — we all walk our own path and sometimes depression can shape who we are, and not even in a negative way. I know I learned SO much more about myself once I was diagnosed and entered into regular therapy sessions. It really helped me understand how childhood trauma (in my case, sexual abuse) had a huge impact on my brain and how I deal with stressful situations.

      I’m so glad Jessica is coping and able to look at her depression objectively. It’s her path, and I’m thrilled she’s so open to share.

    • Hi Karen,

      Thank you so much for your thoughts. You say, “It is our environment that is making us sick. Chemicals are being sprayed in our atmosphere and food that are making us toxic which is affecting us both physically and mentally. And they play a major role in depression.” I couldn’t agree more. I know very well, first hand, as I seem to be a lot more sensitive to chemicals than the average person. One sniff of bleach, or petrol, and I risk being crippled in bed with a migraine. But everyone is different, and we all just need to do what is best for our own bodies.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  10. Thanks for sharing your story, Jessica and I can totally relate to riding the wave. For years I ran the full spectrum from the really happy days to the really, really bad ones. I tried therapy, meds, etc and nothing seemed to help but then, I stumbled upon a book about Buddhism. After years of practice, I have learned to allow myself to let go and observe the waves. This is not to say that I have beat the demons but instead, learned to just let them be and run their course. I believe I will always have those shitty days but I now find I spend more time in what I call, the gray zone. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not but I try not to give it any additional energy. Hang in there, you sound like one very strong lady and for the record, I cry on my dog, too. They are the perfect listeners. Best to you. xx

  11. its nice to know that many of us aren’t alone in this pain we suffer with every day.

  12. Wow you have described my life. The really weird thing is that now I can recognise the event that triggered my wave. I think that before hand there were little “pin pricks” as I call them that were stored up but they were all brought to a head when I was abused at school by a Catholic Church Brother from the order that ran the school. Three or so years ago when I saw him on the front page of my local newspaper here in Australia I had to see a counsellor and she helped me realise that my life cycles relate directly to that. I have had a number of sessions with her and we had the first stage of the court case a few weeks ago and I’m starting to have more better days. So thank you Jessica for describing it perfectly. I get no support from my children’s mother in fact she mocks me and encourages the children to do so so I do hope that you don’t experience that.

    • Gosh, that’s terrible, Patrick. The amount of ignorance out there is astounding to me. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through this, but I hope in some way it’s healing. Parental alienation is sad and IMHO, immature. I hope you can work through it with your kids and they can have compassion for what you’ve experienced.

      Thanks for opening up and sharing. hugs!

      • Thanks Rachel and Jessica. I appreciate your support and the way you both work to get this out into the community.

    • Hi Patrick,

      Gosh, I am so sorry you have to go through this. I hope you find someone close to you that you can share this with. I feel so sad that you are so alone.

      You take care,
      Jessica

  13. I don’t get depressed. Some of my family members have suffered from severe depression so you have my empathy. I understand your feeling about drugs. I do. Every class works via a different mechanism. There is no one size fits all. But I also have a brother in law, a psychiatrist, who is amazing with drugs – he lectures to physicians and clinicians all over the States about the judicious and proper use of drugs. The results he’s achieved can be astounding – not always, there are some people for whom drugs do not work, but if someone can’t get out of bed or is suicidal or basically nonfunctional…. Well, sometimes a person has to do something.
    I wish you well.

    • Thanks for sharing, Julia. I do believe that we can have ‘better living through pharmaceuticals’ lol — depending on the drug, of course. My own experiences with the meds are that it definitely takes a clinician who understands and knows not only the side effects but also the mechanism of action of each drug — and can tailor a therapy for each patient. It took me about 4 meds to finally end up on Cymbalta — it works well at a low dose with minimal side effects — for ME. For others, not so much.

      My own experience is that many people have the blues — it’s a natural cycle or rhythm of being human. It’s how bad it gets that dictates when to take action. Sometimes we can’t see that in ourselves. I’m grateful Jessica can and is sharing her story. Depression isn’t something people normally discuss openly, which is too bad. We need more information to decide what’s best for us!

    • Hi Julia,

      Thanks for commenting. It sounds like your brother in law has a very rewarding job. And I agree with Rachel. There needs to be more information about our choices out there.

      Cheers,
      Jessica

  14. Vicki Addesso says:

    I have suffered from depression, anxiety disorder, and OCD for as long as I can remember – although for a very long time I didn’t know I had these “mental illnesses,” it was just who I was, just me. I admire people who open up about their psychological states, their emotions, their problems, and their lives in general. To share something that is so painful, and that can be considered “shameful,” is brave and so very very very generous. It helps to read about other people’s depression, to know that it is much more common than we realize, to learn how another copes, and find comfort in knowing we are not alone. It wasn’t until I turned forty that I began to see a psychiatrist, and after resisting for several months, I did try medication. For me, it worked. I am on a relatively low does of Prozac now for thirteen years. I am fortunate in that it worked – my mood swings, my anxiety, my depression, and my OCD have become so much more manageable. I did in the past have thoughts of suicide (and I do have a relative who attempted suicide and another who committed suicide) but those thoughts have left; they are a vague memory, and I am able to examine them now and understand. I do believe I have a chemical imbalance and the drug I take corrects that. Having said that, I do know that medication is not for everyone – some people manage with therapy, others like Jessica can manage to find a balance, a way to cope. Also, medications are powerful, and finding the correct medication and the correct dosage is not always easy. Some people cannot take medications due to debilitating side effects. I have also been fortunate in that I have no adverse side effect and do not feel “drugged” or that my personality have changed. I just feel better able to face my depression, anxiety and OCD issues in ways that keep it all under control. They are still a part of who I am – but now, they do not take over my life. I have heard “snap out of it, just get over it, don’t be such a weakling” more times than you can imagine. And after I began taking my medication I was embarrassed to tell people because I even thought of myself as weak – too lazy or sick or spoiled to pick myself up by the bootstraps. Then I realize I had an illness, and like someone with diabetes or high blood pressure or asthma my body was not able to achieve the chemical balance it needed to be healthy. Anyway, I am rambling. Thank you Jessica for sharing your story. And I look forward to discovering your fiction and poetry.

    • Thank you for sharing, Vicki. Isn’t is amazing (and shocking) how everyone else knows what we’re feeling or experiencing? I love how total strangers are experts on us.

      I too agree, that the stigma has changed significantly in the media about depression — but when it’s US, and we’re the ones dealing with it, it can be incredibly difficult to understand all that is going on with us. Intervention by a physician accustomed to treating depression is crucial. and there are even therapists who specialize in OCD, depression, anxiety, as well as different types of treatments (like EMDR). My own doctor said that depression and anxiety are a symptom of something deeper — for me it was chemical (there’s no question serotonin levels were very low, likely affected by pregnancy hormones), as well as underlying issues from when I was a child.

      Each of us has to walk our own path and hopefully, can reach out for help. thanks again, beautiful!

    • Thanks so much, Vicki, for sharing your story, too. I am very glad that you have found a way of coping that works for you. And you are right, drugs affect different people in so many different ways. I know that I am very sensitive to chemicals, which is another reason I try to steer clear as much as possible.

      Take care,
      Jessica

  15. I’m sick unto death of people who say there’s no such thing as depression. I take Prozac. I would stay in bed all the time without it. I see a psychiatrist regularly. She and I decide together what I need and what I will take. God bless you.

    Love,
    Janie

    • I know, right? If we only had a better attitude, we’d be fine. Or take a vitamin (though I do feel low levels of Vitamin B can cause depression). Ultimately, we have to do what’s right for us. Thank you for sharing, Janie

    • Hi Janie,

      Thank you for sharing. I’m glad you have someone you can trust to decide how to treat your depression.

      You take care,
      Jessica

  16. I’ve been struggling with depression for my entire life. I’d tried therapy and medication in the past and hated it, so decided I would never go back. I thought I could manage it on my own—and for a long time, I did. Then, a close friend passed away suddenly and I felt myself spiraling way out of control. I knew that, if I didn’t get help, I wouldn’t be able to get out of bed (or worse, and I didn’t want to get even remotely near that point). So, I got help. I’m now in therapy, on Prozac, and considering taking a very low dose of Ativan to help me sleep at night (because now I have anxiety on top of everything else).

    I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong to go without professional help, but I know that I needed it. I strongly encourage anyone to reach out if you’re starting to feel like you can’t manage on your own. There’s no shame in it. You may have to switch doctors and medications several times before you find the one, but you’re worth it.

    • Thank you for sharing, Elizabeth. So glad you found a regimen that works for you. It can be so scary and debilitating. I call it ‘the gray descending’ and I know when it happens now. I too take meds and find them extremely beneficial just to function. I understand so much more through therapy the how’s and why’s of it — and that learning has helped me so much.

      I have friends who, like Jessica, choose to cope on their own. I do worry about them though — I lost one to suicide because he self-medicated with alcohol, and one night, when he was deeply down (and sober), shot himself. It’s so sad and such a waste.

    • Hi Elizabeth,

      Thank you so much for sharing. This may not be the case, but I urge you to consider the fact that taking the Prozac is making you anxious, as you could be in a constant state of withdrawal if your body has become accustomed to your dose. I’m NOT saying this is definitely what is happening to you, but I do hope you explore the possibility with your doctor.

      You take care,
      Jessica

  17. Jessica, I have to say I am in awe of your courage: you are riding the wave of your depression on your terms. No one is in any position to judge you. Everyone has a different path that works for them, and what works for one may not work for another. If it were possible, I would give you a hug through the computer. As it is, I’m sending love and light and healing energy for every day, whether they are good or bad.

    Love,
    Caroline

  18. I have depression, it runs in my family. It’s a clear serotonin imbalance and is just as ‘bad’ as an insulin imbalance. I completely have the same feelings and thoughts, and have had the “It’s all in your head” speech from a doctor.

    My advice, as if you need it? Don’t let your observations of how awful Valium is keep you from getting help. I totally agree with how awful and overprescribed Valium is. You can’t let one drug keep you from trying something that will work for you. Will the first anti-depressant work? Maybe, maybe not. Different bodies need different things. There are good doctors with good medicines out there and I really hate it that someone is suffering by not taking advantage.

    • Hi Laura,

      Thanks for voicing your concern, but as I said in various comments above in reply to other people’s concern, it’s a lot more than me not just wanting to try drugs. I am generally very sensitive to drugs and chemicals, and I know that my choices, and the way I have decided to cope with this, are the best for me. It is different for everyone. But thanks again for your concern!

      Best,
      Jessica

  19. Laura F. McCloskey says:

    Perhaps I wrote my response in the wrong place and did not really respond properly. If you need to delete my post, please do so.

    • Thanks, Laura. I appreciate you sharing — it’s long for this forum, so I have it if you would, at some point, like to rewrite a blog post maybe? Then you won’t feel rushed or pressed to fit it into such a small area.

      Think about it. Thanks again and big hugs,
      Rachel

  20. Hi Rachel!

    I really like this post. I choose to tell you more about my appreciation for your work by email. Check it.

    Regards!

    Marc

  21. Jessica, this is a brave and selfless post that will help lots of people deal more effectively with their own depression. Although you probably see me as a chirpy optimist, I’ve had bouts of depression in the past (there’s a bit of it in my family background, though it appears to have skipped my parents’ generation.) The most recent time I did resort to Prozac – the only time I’ve had drug therapy for it – because at the time I had a small daughter and without the drugs I’d have been immobilised. That bout was triggered by successive waves of devastating health news, first my own diagnosis with rheumatoid arthritis, followed by a debilitating bout of pneumonia for two months, and then my daughter’s diagnosis with Type 1 diabetes at the age of 3. I think that particular depression was caused by a physical imbalance as I’d been through so much physical and emotional trauma, and the doctor advised it as being a way of redressing the chemical balance in my body until I got back to normal. I was relieved to be come off the Prozac after about 6 months, by which time we’d got the physical issues under control, and I was very glad to be done with the medication. Mind you, I think also there may have been a placebo effect, as the doctor said it would take a few weeks to take effect, and I felt a difference after a couple of days. (He gave a wry smile when I reported that!)

    But I think my situation was a whole different ball game from your monthly cycle of depression, and it sounds like you’ve really got that sussed, even though you’re unable to stop it happening. One thing I’ve found really helpful, post-Prozac, to keep depression at bay is a simple daily procedure that takes moments online via the free service http://www.moodscope.com. It’s especially helpful for those who don’t have such a regular cycle of depression,because it helps keep track of mood changes and also is a constant reminder that depression does eventually lift. I hope it might help you too. Worth a look, maybe.

    And finally (proving I am still really a chirpy optimist!), I’d like to say that your depressive days, your sensitivity and your fragility may be one of the reasons why you are such a creative and original writer with the power to affect others so strongly with your work. I don’t think that would be possible for a 24/7 Pollyanna type. Maybe that thought will be a small comfort when you are next feeling low. Thank you so much for sharing your experience, and Rachel, thank you too for posting this candid, moving article.

    • Debbie, thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! It’s funny, isn’t it, how the suffering of depression is not actually noticeable on many people. And we’re not trying to “hide” it either. I think the chirpy positive attitude in public is even more genuine (if that’s possible) than most, because we really appreciate being able to feel that joy. Sounds like you’ve had your share of hard times. Thank you so much for sharing that! xoxo

    • Of course, and I’m so glad Jessica shared her story and you and so many others are sharing theirs. We are NOT alone — none of us. What we are is human.

      I’ve been around people to know that everyone has the blues — some worse than others — and we tend to find treatments that work for us (drug, therapy, herbal, light, diet, exercise), whatever it is. Those who don’t ask for help of any kind (or acknowledge their depression) end up self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, work, etc. Working through it is essential, but so is learning ourselves.

      thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights!

  22. Emma Nielsen says:

    Too little is understood about depression and anxiety and well, psychological problems as a rule. If we all turned bright green with pink polka dots when we got mentally ill, then others would be far more understanding of our situation. It’s easy to see a broken leg when it’s in a cast. It’s not so easy to see a broken mind – that’s how it feels to ride those ups and downs, especially when you have others, who don’t KNOW how you feel, telling you that you will just get over it. It makes you feel worse to have an outsider dismiss your situation with a line that uncaring. I have been there and I know that at some point, I’ll be bacl there again – I am allergic to antidepressants (thankfully) and over here a therapist is almost impossible to get an appointment with. I have been lucky enough to have had the help of a stress coach who gave me some amazing tips to help me cope with the really bad days, when just getting one foot in front of the other is like an uphill struggle. That’s what it’s about… sometimes it’s not a cure you need, but more of a coping mechanism that breaks you free of the chains of believing that shutting everyone and everyyhing out will help, that the world would be better off without you. My life has beclme easier after being able to talk to my family and my husband and have the help I need to get through the lows. Thankyou for being strong enough to write about your situation – people like you help to shed light on the reality of depression so that others without such troubles can finally understand.

  23. You’ve captured the good, bad and indifferent days perfectly. I’ve been “riding the wave” for years, myself. I’ve always found it so annoying when people try to cheer me up. Or worse… tell me there was nothing wrong with me. Medication has been helpful in keeping me able to function, but it also tends to make me feel “flat”. It takes away the lows but reduces the highs. You are a brave woman for going it alone.

  24. Jessica, I know some of what you go through too well. I’m private about it. When I was a teen, I took antidepressants. It wasn’t a an ideal solution then, which is why I won’t take any now. I did go to therapy as a teen, which I think helped me through a terrible situation and helped me make better decisions about relationships. But I don’t go now. My adult life is up and down. I’ve learned to realize that some of it is memory and not much to do with my present life. I live with it and move out of the hard times.

    I hope you keep finding your way out and find peace.

  25. Jessica–Thanks for your honest sharing. Your story could very well be my story–except for the medication part. In my case, depression and anxiety are partly caused by my Lyme disease. Antibiotics, of all things, helped tremendously. Nevertheless I still struggle.

    Hoping more and more of your days are happy–or at least normal!

    Laura Hedgecock
    http://www.TreasureChestofMemories.com

  26. Jessica,

    Thank you for validating what so many struggle with alone. I have depression and anxiety. For years my doctors kept pushing a “Happy Pill” insisting that was all I needed to feel better. I have tried seven different kinds of antidepressants and all of them failed miserably. After a decade of doctors, a week long hospital stay, and a massive flare of pain, I finally found a doctor who listened. I was diagnosed with Lupus shortly thereafter. After a few more tests, I also found out I have Fibromyalgia. Another doctor more recently has added RA. That takes A LOT more than a “Happy Pill” to correct.

    Another thing I would like to add, artists, writers, and generally creative people, tend toward the melancholy. I have learned to accept the depression as a part of who I am. It gives depth to my work. The only part of the cycle I don’t like is the Grey Apathy simply because it is the least creative part of the cycle. I feel for my husband, who deals with my mercurial moods daily. He takes it in stride, and I am thankful for his love and support.

    Finally, the online support is fantastic. Having people like you who have the courage to tell their stories let’s others know they aren’t alone.

    Best of luck to you! May you have more happy days than dark days, but know you are loved either way.

  27. Great post and explanation of the cycles some of us go through. What is more commonly written about is the drop in the hole and stay there depression, which is considered the ‘real’ thing. I’ve had that but now am more in this cycle that you describe. I’ve been through it enough that I know I can survive it without intervention, although while I’m in the worst, it can be difficult to believe. I love how you describe your interaction with your dog. I find my animals to be the best medicine.

    Everyone has to make their own choices about medications and doctors. The same decision is not right for everyone. I’ve had nightmare experiences with doctors, therapists and medications. They caused much more trauma than the depression itself. But I’m glad that those services and medicines are available and help so many people.

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