A History of Mental Illness: Can't Get Up

This is a series about my history of mental illness.  Please read the introduction for more information.

Funny how as I am writing about mental illness, a particularly bad depressive episode occurs.  A story for another day. Back to where we left off..

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Some research suggests that half of all patients with generalized anxiety disorder (or GAD) have a comorbidity of at least one depressive disorder (see Lieberman, 2009).  Some researchers even suggest that GAD may be a risk factor for other psychiatric disorders.  Thus, it’s easy to see why I developed major depression in high school.

Despite my hypervigilance when it came to school work, I would have episodes where I just could not do homework.  I would stare at it for hours and feel these overwhelming feelings of worthlessness.  Despite all my best efforts, I would never succeed at my goals in life – I would tell myself – I am too much of a loser to do much more than fail.  I felt so tired all the time.  I could sleep an afternoon away and still feel exhausted.  I would read for hours on end.  It was my one escape from the thoughts of worthlessness and despair.

Sadly, as is common with GAD, my major depression turned into psychotic major depression.  Remember that cycle of obsessive repenting?  I soon convinced myself that I had committed some major sin—either in this life or in the Pre-mortal existence—that led to these feelings of despair.  And, despite all my best attempts at being a good Mormon girl, I would never be forgiven.  I also felt an inordinate amount of guilt for my siblings’ misbehaviors. I thought that if I had done something, or been a better person, they would stop making mistakes.  I also felt that all my parent’s financial struggles were the result of something I had done.  Clearly, if they had not given birth to me they would have been better off. I was the plague of the family and needed to remove myself as soon as I could.

Yet, I couldn’t picture suicide.  Suicide ideation, in my opinion, was for those who sought attention and I did not want people to think poorly of me.  I would just fantasize about disappearing, somewhere.  Of course, this is the same thing.  I didn’t plan it out, but I did think about how easier it would be if I developed an unknown and incurable disease, or if I was hit by a car, or if I died in a fire, etc.  I think that if I hadn’t feared other’s opinions so much, I would have made a plan.

Around this time, I started hearing things.  I would hear people inside the house, or footsteps on the stairs, and smell smoke at random times.  The vicious cycle of fear would start again.

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Lieberman, J. A. & Stein, M. B. (2009). Anxiety With Comorbid Depression: The Rule Rather than the Exception. Retrieved from http://www.cmellc.com/images/pdf/cme_supplements/PsychTimes/0904Reporter.pdf

See also Aina, Y. & Susman, J. L. (2006). Understanding Comorbidity With Depression and Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from http://www.jaoa.org/content/106/5_suppl_2/S9.full.pdf

Continue on to Part Five.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “A History of Mental Illness: Can't Get Up

  1. ” I soon convinced myself that I had committed some major sin—either in this life or in the Pre-mortal existence—that led to these feelings of despair. And, despite all my best attempts at being a good Mormon girl, I would never be forgiven.”

    My gosh Amber, I had those same feelings. I was incredibly depressed as a teen, and I now attribute a lot of it to my hyper-religious state of mind. I don’t know if I had an actual mental disorder, but I definitely had problematic thinking patterns.

  2. Hi Amber. I just read you mental health series. Thank you for sharing all of this. I am certain it will help people. At this time when you are getting ready to have another baby it’s such a wonderful thing to be paying such close attention to yourself.. Mom’s give and give. I’m glad you are taking time to see who you are in the midst of the family sandwich.

    My heart is with you.

  3. Pingback: A History of Mental Illness: Panic | Making the Moments Count