Monday, December 20, 2010

Getting In Touch With Depression, Part Two

To catch up with this two-part series, read part one.

My first diagnosis of depression came while I was in college.  It took me a while, though, before I started seeing the pattern.

A Therapist? Medication?  I'll Take Both

I called my mom today, again, crying.  It's just so hard, y'know?  I work my butt off each day and can't seem to pull the A's I so desperately want.  I suck.  Majorly.  I'm in this class where I am required to write 3 papers this semester.  Three huge papers.  I can't write--the proof is in the mark-ups of my returned papers.  I can't believe I told myself I could come here to BYU and succeed.  Everyone is smarter than I am.  Most have completed AP courses prior to attending, I most definitely did not.  I am having even more panic attacks--episodes in which my breathing shallows and I feel like I'm going to suffocate.  I can't compete anymore; I'll never win.

As a college student, my mother intervened and convinced me to make an appointment with a therapist.  I decided that I would, the next semester.  Over the course of our many meetings, my therapist explained to me the inconsistencies with my thought processes and my personal conduct.  "Obviously," she explained, "you are an excellent student who is exerting herself to the point of anxiety.  In fact, I'm sure we can look back through your personal history and see many types of anxiety attacks.  My dear, you suffer from the treatable condition of anxiety, with a touch of depression."  She helped me focus on my strengths and taught me relaxation methods to make it through classes, exams, and, most importantly, finals.  I deferred medication at that point because our sessions were so successful that it didn't seem necessary.

Fast forward to 2 years later.  I was pregnant with Andrew and having the same symptoms.  My husband convinced me to talk with my doctor about my evident depression; I concurred.  The next appointment I brought it up and my doctor immediately prescribed medication.  I resisted taking it, though I had it filled immediately, thinking that if only I were a stronger person I could do without it.  Once again, a loved one intervened--my husband--and encouraged me to try the medicine.  I did.  The difference was amazing.  At this point, we couldn't afford a therapist so I stuck with the medication and felt much more...sane.

After trying both, I believe that therapy and medication are optimal for me as I have the benefits of the SSRI's increasing seratonin levels, and a therapist teaching me different coping methods.  I have also found alternative forms of medicine--changing my diet and exercising--to be beneficial.

An Ongoing Conclusion

I feel more level lately.  My moods aren't nearly as severe and I am laughing so much more than I have in the past year.  Ben has noticed the difference as well.  I no longer freak out when he's home, because I'm scared of him leaving, and have started cooking dinners regularly and exercising again.  However, I am scared.  Afraid of seeking into those depressive depths again.  I wonder if I'll be able to get out the next time.

Contrary to popular belief, depression isn't constant.  It usually kicks in during times of great stress and change,  but if left untreated it can result in very long episodes.   I didn't learn this until recently, when I became more self-aware.

After years of debilitating anxiety and untimely bouts with depression, I can look back and differentiate between what was real and what was imagined.  In my teens, I have vivid memories of severe panic attacks accompanied by draining depression.  My parents supposed my symptoms were related to my obsessive perfectionism.  What I thought was pregnancy related depression with Andrew in reality was my anxiety kicking into over-drive and bringing depression along for the ride.  The same thing with my supposed Postpartum depression.

In November (last month), with the guidance of my husband, I came to the conclusion that I was once again experiencing severe anxiety and depression.   The ruthless nature of this mental illness has kept me down.  Really down.

Unfortunately, our finances cannot allow a doctor's visit this month.  This has forced me to review the sessions with my therapist I had as a college student and figure out ways to at least control the symptoms.  I have incorporated a good fitness routine into my day and this really has made a slight, but important difference.

I am lucky to have a marvelous and in-tune husband as well as supportive friends.  (Including all of you.) Depression and anxiety are hard to live with.  But we are lucky to live in a time of modern medicine and excellent therapists. For that I am grateful.


  1. It has been really hard for me to come to grips with the understanding that I needed medication to balance out my other coping mechanisms. Even now, as the day dawns bright, I sometimes worry that my newfound well being is false. But if we can stick together, reminding each other, nudging and nurturing as mothers and friends, I think it can make a difference. Hugs to you always! xo

  2. I think you are awesome.

    And that you should come up to Idaho and we'll have a sleepover and watch chick flicks, eat treats, and let the kids destroy the house.

    Good for you for exercising. I haven't done that in ages and I feel like a fat lout. Come visit and you can get me off my lazy bum.

  3. Sometimes it's little differences, the little changes that shift our world.

  4. Medication and therapy is definitely more effective than each individually. Funny enough, I have only done therapy, not medication, but I honestly haven't needed it.

    I have a blog friend who has A LOT of mental health issues. She talks about how unmanageable her life is, on her blog, and while she does medication, refuses to engage in therapy. She used to ask for my advice, but at this point, I just wish her the best. I know therapy would help her tremendously, but if someone doesn't want to engage, there's no point.

  5. I started having panic attacks after a friend of mine was killed in a car crash in high school. I still have them, mostly alone at night while everyone's asleep, and they are terrible, sometimes crushing. To have those on top of the other stressors you've coped with indicates one thing: you are strong. So strong. You're staring the beast in the face right now, and it won't win. You will.

  6. I'm so grateful that you have a wonderful husband who recognizes when you need help and then pushes you (gently, lovingly) toward health. I hope the slight difference grows and you're able to feel the peace and clarity you're searching for.

  7. Exercising makes such a difference on mood - and I'm glad you are seeing the benefits. Have you ever tried anything natural - my brother suffers from depression and he uses natural vitamins and stuff to balance his mood, along with exercise. I think what he uses is called Sam-E - You can even get it at Wal-Mart.

    Lean on your husband and your family and friends for support. Thinking of you xoxox

  8. You are amazing and so in tune with yourself. I appreciate so much everything you wrote. I do not understand everything about depression at all and so what you wrote was very helpful for me.

    I'm grateful you have a husband who is such a help and encourages you to get whatever help you need.


  9. I have suffered from anxiety and depression and have learned when I'm sinking. My doctor says that by the time I walk into her office for meds, I'm already there and should've seen her 3 months prior.

    As a practical matter, can you simply call your physician that prescribed the meds before and ask for a refill to avoid the doctor's visit expense? Just a thought.

  10. I've been considering therapy as well. I'm scared though.

  11. I think you're really brave for posting about this, and I have to tell you that I'm learning a lot. I only struggled with depression once, but I know so many people who do have it that it's really helpful to me to read these and try to understand a little better what their struggle is like.

  12. Amber,

    I am so glad you have a husband who supports you completely, recognizing when to step in. It is awesome for you to step out of your comfort zone to educate people about depression. I truly believe this post will help others especially if they are indecisive about seeking assistance.

  13. I struggle in so many of the same ways, and have tried different ways of coping. I've learned what is likely to trigger an episode, which foods are dangerous, and which habits lead to the slippery slope. Sometimes, I'm almost grateful for the self-awareness that depression has lead me to. I'm not sure I would have progresses as much as I have without it.

    So glad you're getting the help and support you need!


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