When I Realized My Depression Wasn't Just Situational
I am a survivor, above all else. That is really all I know.
Life doesn’t always turn out as we planned, start out how we wanted or follow the course we wish it had. Our only choice is to continue onward, and so we trod down the winding road, following the twists and turns, doing our best to navigate. Along the way, life will throw in some unexpected speed bumps, but somehow you manage to maneuver over those, too. My curves and bumps included surviving a traumatic childhood including four foster homes before the age of 18 months, domestic abuse, long-term sexual abuse, watching and trying to protect my mom from physical abuse, followed by six long years watching her die slowly and painfully of cancer all before I turned 19.
It is astonishing to know how debilitating depression or any mental illness can be. How it can affect your every thought with a negative impact or render you unable to make even the most simple of decisions. How it can envelop you in an unimaginably heavy blanket of sadness and sorrow. How it can diminish your sleep, eating habits and even your sex life. How it drains you of your interest in activities and hobbies you once enjoyed. Depression can convince you that you are not only worthless, but helpless to do anything about it. How it can impose a cloud so dismal the thoughts of suicide occur and on occasion prevail. How it can cause not only a lack of motivation and daily exhaustion but a multitude of physical ailments. How it can cause you the inability to focus or remember details often making it difficult to maintain a job. How it will cause you to withdraw from your friends and family because you feel unworthy of their love and affections. How it can bring about an acute fear of being judged; of the stigma that surrounds mental illness.
I had no idea until my late teens that most people did not feel sad or want to die by suicide on a regular basis. For me that was all I knew, and consequently, I blamed these negative emotions on all the traumatic situations I had experienced. Of course I am indignant; I was sexually assaulted as a child thereby creating my own reasons for my actions. I had seen numerous therapists over the years, from social workers to $200 an hour psychiatrists, whom all seemed to hold the same opinion that I was sad and depressed because of the things that were happening and had occurred, which nowadays I believe they would call situational depression. The answers back then were highly limited to a diverse array of talk therapies, which I was not fond of, so I quickly learned to say what was needing to be heard, thereby being “cured” or “fixed” numerous times, the proof being the giant bill I was saddled with which collaborates their statements.
January of this year, I finally broke down enough to warrant a day trip to the hospital, where I finally had access to a psychiatrist without a nine month waiting list. One hour with her and many of the questions I had pondered over the years finally had an answer…borderline personality disorder (BPD), dysthymia (persistent depressive disorder), accompanied by bouts of major depressive disorder and the cherry on the top being the chronic suicidal ideations. Turns out not everyone wants to end their life, and that my depth of sadness and distress was not only situational but in fact, an actual illness. It now had a label, which provided some type of answer for not only me, but for those around me who had dealt with the periods of my mental un-healthiness. I felt no anger or concern that I had been diagnosed with a mental health problem, instead a felt a sense of relief. For the first time in my life, my emotions were both recognized and validated. My actions, although not excusable, were not entirely random and without cause.
So my battle against BPD and depression officially started and I succumbed to my doctors wishes to try medication. Now at this point, I would love to tell you that the first medicine I tried gave me no side effects and worked wonders and that I am taking cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy classes which have given me all the tools I need to lead a productive and fulfilled life.
However, that would be complete and utter bullshit. The cold hard truth is I went through four antidepressants, two antipsychotics (which are commonly prescribed for BPD), two seizures from the SSRI’s and experienced multiple side effects, from nausea and headaches to blurry vision and the infamous brain zaps, and everything in between. After five months of riding a roller coaster that I desperately wanted to jump off, I think I may have found a combination of meds that are showing some promise.
Fighting whatever challenge you have is going to take most of your emotional and physical energy, especially at the beginning. You may be prescribed meds or you might be better off with some type of therapy, or perhaps a combination of the two. Each case is so individual my only advice would be to do your best to ride out the side effects, be informed and don’t be afraid to tell your doctor if it is not working so you can try something else. It truly is a game of hit and miss. You will have ups, you will have downs, but after some time you may notice a glimmer of light, something that has been so foreign to you for so long, you may not even recognize it when it first appears. Never stop looking…. it is there for all of us.