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.