You Really Learn the Hard Way

“If you are chronically down, it is a lifelong fight to keep from sinking. ”
—Elizabeth Wurtzel, Prozac Nation

I was first diagnosed with clinical depression a little after I turned 20 years old. What I thought was some kind of virus/infection with high fever and weakness unleashed one of the worse things I’ve had to deal with in my life. When you’re depressed (sick, not just sad) and you don’t know what’s happening to you, it’s one of the most frustrating feelings in the world. My depression was accompanied by severe anxiety which basically meant I was in a state of fear ALL DAY LONG. Try living like that for 2-3 weeks. There’s no rest, there’s no peace, nobody knows what’s wrong with you and you think you’re going to die.

After many urgent care visits to several doctors to treat the physical symptoms, the person who actually nailed it was my endocrinologist. I was already being treated for thyroid disease, was able to schedule an appointment, and when she examined me she said my body was fine but she was going to refer me to psychiatry right away because I needed first and foremost medication to calm down. She put me bromazepam, I slept for 2 weeks waking up only to eat and take my meds, and started my road to recovery through therapy. And that’s how it all began. It’s been 18 years and depression has become a part of my life. Sometimes it wins, sometimes I win… we learned to live with each other.

What’s interesting is that it took me 18 years to actually understand and accept the fact that this is probably something I’ll never get rid of and I’m OK with that. My current psychiatrist told me that unless they come up with some kind of vaccine, my type of depression will always require treatment to some extent; and by treatment I mean medication. Remission is a word I can’t really use in my depression vocabulary; years of mishaps and quitting treatment before its time make me prone to recurrence — take meds, feel good, quit meds, feel bad, etc. I wrote about this a while ago, how the doctor told me that in order to control my diabetes, I have to pay attention to my depression… nothing new there. Metformin, Fluoxetine, Bupropion — That’s my cocktail.

Remission is a word I can’t really use in my depression vocabulary; years of mishaps and quitting treatment before its time make me prone to recurrence.

The month of March was a challenging one for many reasons. I got so obsessed with it all, I slipped and didn’t take my meds for a few weeks. I knew I was under a lot of stress that was normal-ish, and then I felt myself falling back into that big black hole, so familiar, so scary. This time it was different because I didn’t let it take over, I recognized it for what it was and I got rid of my old thoughts of “oh, this is normal for me.” NO! It isn’t normal. After 18 years of living with depression I can finally see its ugly face showing up and I’m able to smash it before it comes through the door. And that is progress.

Like I said, it’s a constant struggle, and it will always be. But I’m fine with that.

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5 thoughts on “You Really Learn the Hard Way

  1. Hey Pretty!

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m glad you made it through March. And I hope you realize what a bright light you shine on my world (and the world of many other people). Thank you for being you and thank you for having the courage to write this.

    With love.

  2. Thank you for this! You wrote this very well and now I know I can do it. At my Dr. this week and we are changing my meds…I have slid back into the abyss. Thank you for giving me hope that I will be able to face it and understand what my “normal” is again. Thank you for hte hope! Peace

  3. May I ditto everything that Mr. Mike Lawson said above?

    Depression is a scary thing to live with, and even scarier to talk about.

    My psychiatrist once said that I’d reached a point where I could probably stop taking my meds – that once I’d crossed some sort of time threshold that my depression was unlikely to recur. I told him that I’d rather continue to take my meds if that meant I never had to go back to where I was when I first saw him. I didn’t even want to entertain the possibility of it happening again.

    It’s a maintenance drug for me now, too. Just like your cocktail.

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