I have struggled my entire life with Clinical Depression. It’s something that I didn’t know much about growing up other than that it was apparently a very bad thing to admit to and I should never talk about it. I remember once when I was a child, probably ten or eleven years old, I heaved a heavy sigh and said, “Oh, I’m so depressed.” I had barely uttered the final syllable before my mother snapped, “No you’re not and don’t ever say that again!” I just knew I wasn’t very happy, I didn’t feel loved, or worthy of being loved, and I felt hopeless.
Over the years there have been instances of more severe depression that have come and gone and then a little over a year ago, I began to really feel like I was losing control. I was exhausted from trying to be a positive upbeat person and trying to hide the expression that had a strangle hold on my life. Finally, I had nearly reached the end of my rope and I told my therapist I just didn’t know what else to do and I wished I would die.
With her support and encouragement I took three weeks off of work to participate in an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for Clinical Depression which is operated by my health care provider (which just happens to also be my employer). I went into the program absolutely miserable and feeling so desperate for something to happen. Something to help me get out of this place I was in and make me feel alive and healthy and happy. IOP wasn’t it. I found it incredibly unsatisfying. It was almost painful to sit through listening to all the other people, in my estimation, sounding pathetic and feeling sorry for themselves. We’d take turns talking about what we were feeling and why we might be feeling that way and then everyone else would offer suggestions about how we could handle things differently, as if anyone else could possibly understand what I was feeling! I hated it.
The doctors upped my dosage of Anti-Depressants suggesting that would help me feel better. I’d already been on them for four years so why wouldn’t it make me feel better? It didn’t. The only thing that helped me was being away from a job that I hated and in which, I felt completely trapped. As much as I hated IOP I was desperate for them to allow me to stay longer so I wouldn’t have to go back to work so soon. The irony was that even as I was hating IOP and internally criticizing everything about it, I was also getting better. I suppose it’s not fair to say that the increased dosage of drugs wasn’t helping. I was getting better but I don’t believe it was the drugs that helped. I returned to work, only working part time the first two weeks, with a renewed sense of self and determination not to go back to the way I was before starting the program. I was determined to find a new job as soon as I was able. (I’m sorry to say that a year later, I haven’t found something new. But in these tough economic times I don’t imagine that comes as much of a surprise. On the other hand, I have learned to be grateful for the work I do have. It may not be much of a job, but it’s a job, which is more than so many people today can say.) The one thing that was still nagging at me was the medication. I did not want to take the medication and I did not feel that it was beneficial to me, but rather was holding me back. I made the decision in May to wean myself from the medications (yes I was on two) and on October 31, 2008 I took my last anti-depressant.
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not criticizing medication in the least. I know that there are many people who benefit from the meds. My Brother feels that he can’t live without his medication and says that every time he stops taking it he makes bad choices and screws up his life. For some people Anti-Depressants are life savers, for me, not so much. For me they were more like a band-aid and did nothing to heal the source of the wound. They made it impossible for me to really feel anything and therefore impossible to process my feelings and move on. It’s been four and a half months since I stopped taking the medication and I can honestly say I’ve never felt better in my life.
In future posts I’ll delve more into my process and some of the things I’ve learned. I’ll get more in depth into what I think has helped me to become a happier person, the things that have challenged me and the things that have taught me that I’m OK just the way I am.