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This Is What Treatment-Resistant Depression Looks Like


You look at a photo and think of me in my various forms. I’m the family member who loves you unconditionally and will never turn you away in your times of need. I am the friend. I’m there for you in your happiest times and in your darkest times. I’m a spouse and you’re the love of my life. The person I choose to stand next to until the end of time. I’m your co-worker. We work together when things are rough, we encourage each other, are proud of each other for our accomplishments and provide guidance when needed. I’m all of these things, but the person behind the photo is someone who also has anxiety, PTSD and treatment-resistant depression. This is the piece of me I try my hardest to never let you see.

I try to hide the debilitating depression, the heart racing, shaky, fidgety, crying, panicky anxiety. I hide the truth behind my flashbacks. I don’t want you to learn of the times I was sexually assaulted. You don’t need to know I wake up screaming from having another nightmare. You don’t know I can’t eat because I’m just too anxious or sad to eat that day. I don’t see me unhappy. Sometimes I can’t bring myself to get up and brush my teeth or take my medications, let alone get out of bed, but you don’t know that. You’ll never see the 12 medications and seven vitamins I take daily to just get by. I try to keep to myself that I have treatment-resistant depression. My body struggles to metabolize medications the way someone with depression or anxiety may process.

Treatment-resistant depression is defined as, “major depressive disorder that does not respond to at least two antidepressants.” For me, antidepressants are just the start of it. You have to attack my illness from any and all angles. My lineup currently involves: SSRIs, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants, SARIs, antihypertensives and a beta blocker. These are taken multiple times a day, along with my various vitamins. At this point, I’ve tried at least 20 different medications, in different combinations, with the hope of stabilizing my mood. Meds are just the start of it, though. Included is once to twice weekly therapy appointments and bi-weekly psychiatry appointments. I’ve been suicidal and hospitalized to keep myself safe, twice. You encourage me because I talk about the classes I take to make sure I’m getting exercise in (since that’s supposed to help). I stay social so I don’t alienate myself, and I eat a healthy diet. Another part you miss out on is that I’ve eliminated caffeine and am trying to get adequate sleep (but not too much). My list goes on, but these are some of the things I have to focus on every day in order to maintain myself just at baseline.

My baseline now includes me using my coping skills daily to help me through every type of situation and in each piece of me that I live within. I am a better coworker because I have learned to be empathetic when someone is having a bad day or appears to be struggling. I am a better family member by knowing how to hold my head high and find the silver lining in every day. I promise myself to always do one thing daily to put a smile on your face to remind you why, through all of my tribulations, you chose me and continue to love me. I am resilient through all of the trials of medications, by learning the best coping skills for me. I’m learning to love myself and others more fiercely, through practicing self care daily to remind myself why my life is worth loving.

Most of these things stay behind the picture because I want you to see me as the person who loves you unconditionally, is there to stand by you in the good times and the bad, will be with you because she loves you for the rest of your life and can work and support you during any situation. I am all of those things, but I am also the person behind the picture. I am both. I am me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via contributor