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This Type of Therapy Gave Me Hope for Recovery From Treatment-Resistant Depression

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Depression: an all-consuming pit of darkness. A black haze over your eyes that colors your vision. A chest-crushing, soul-rending, hopeless, helpless feeling. A place where there is no future; there is only the deep emptiness of now. 

This is what is clinically classified as severe to extremely severe depression. This is what I’ve lived with for the last 17 years. 

In 2017, I did 21 days of meditation and I found a spark of light in this dark place — hope. Hope of recovery. Hope for the future. Hope that, beneath the surface tar of depression, bubbles joy and life, the indomitable “I.”

I find this jovial self every now and then — during meditation, during romantic comedy movies, while writing — but it doesn’t stick around for long. The moment I stop doing that enjoyable activity, the haze cuts out the light and I’m left in darkness again.

Writing about all of this is depressing, but it’s merely a reflection of what I’ve been through.

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been used to treat depression for years, being approved by the FDA in 2008. My country has allowed free access to this for people with treatment-resistant depression. I’ve recently completed 20 sessions in 28 days. 

I went in there with depression scores of 58/84 (which is severe-to-extremely-severe-depression), and anxiety scores of 90/100 (classified as extremely severe —the highest rating you can get).

When I left, my depression score was 26/84 (the mental health nurse had to recalculate my scores because she thought she’d gotten it wrong), which is right on the cusp of mild and moderate depression. And my anxiety score was 58/100, which is the high end of moderate. 

So, that’s quite a drastic change from severe to mild/moderate depression. But, how does it affect me? Well, the pit of darkness is no longer an endless abyss. In fact, I’d describe it as a 5-foot deep well. Every now and then — for the first time in 17 years — when I feel the haze of depression closing in, I’ve been able to decide whether or not to remain in that well or to grab onto the wall and heave myself up and out.

Out into the sunshine. Out into the fresh breeze. Out with the wildlife and flowers. Out where most people spend their every day.

I fundamentally disagree (because I will never invalidate someone’s experience), but I finally understand what people mean when they say, “depression is a choice.” The people who say this have never been to the dark depths that those with serious depression have been to. They’ve never experienced the haze that blinds you to the light. They’ve never experienced the tar that coats your soul, stopping your essence from shining through and making your day bright. They don’t understand that there are some things that are true, even if you’ve never experienced it (we know space exists, but that doesn’t mean we’ve all been to space).

I count myself as lucky to have entered the void, and then come out again. I can look back and recognize my struggle and can relate my experience to others in a (hopefully) helpful way. And most days, I have the energy to free myself from depression. Some of the time, it’s a struggle just to see the sunlight, but that’s OK. I can actually see the sun now.

And I know things will only get better.

Photo by Ryan Chia on Unsplash

Originally published: March 19, 2019
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