Do you feel depressed? Has it been a slow build that now has reached the point of having to do something about it? Let me tell you about my journey with depression and what it is like to live in recovery.
It was 8 years ago, I was sitting in my living room and I received a message from my daughter’s theatre teacher about a situation with another child in the class. I had reached my breaking point. I got up, walked out the back door, and into the back of our home where there are 40 acres of newly cleared trees. I felt numb, I did not know where I was going, I just needed to get away.
Up until this time, I had depressive symptoms but since I was a mental health professional, I knew what I had to do - eat well, exercise, sleep and show gratitude in my life. This may work for some, but for me - adding stress of a new job in leadership, my inability to set boundaries and say no to things like - being the board president of the community theatre, and my only child now having conflict due to my position on the board - well, that was IT for me. I have a family history of depression, so it is not surprising that I was provided the inability to cope with a strong physical need to sleep all the time. In therapy, I learned that I was the queen of disassociation which I honed as a child. I disassociate by throwing myself into projects and work so that I do not have to feel my feelings. I put all others’ needs ahead of my own due to the programming that I received as a child. I then chose a profession as a social worker - the professional fixer of all problems. I am a true codependent personality (also in recovery); add moving into management - it is like codependency on crack - but that is another blog post.
“Kim, what about recovery?” you ask. My husband had concern, since sitting on the couch reading an email, and then heading out the back door without a word was an odd occurrence. He found me in the “back 40.” I looked at him and said, “I can’t do this anymore, I think I need help.” So, I made an appointment with my primary care provider. She provided me with a depression screen and spoiler alert -I was depressed. At that time, moderate to severe depression but I was not suicidal or homicidal - so, some good news. She asked me if I needed something that would help with my depression and also give me a kick in the ass. I said, “ Yes please,” as my constant state of lethargy was wearing thin. Surrendering, I started on my first antidepressant - Effexor XR. This was a big deal, as I had been resistant to taking medications up until this point. Nothing else was working; I was in therapy but to me it was clear I needed reinforcements. I started on the medication and disliked the side effects greatly. I took it for about 2 weeks and then stopped. I shared this with my friend and she scolded me, “You did not even give it a chance - what would you say to a client if they were in your position?” “Fine. You are right.” Reluctantly, I started taking the medication again. It is interesting how antidepressants work - it is a slow influencer of the brain. After a while, you realize that you are more happy than angry (in my case) and I felt like my true self. I then started sharing that I wish I had started on medication much sooner. It is not an immediate impact (at least not for me); much like a slow change from dark to light.
My life continued on with lots of great experiences and some stressful ones. I had a friend die from cancer, transitioned out of an organization where I worked for 19 years, and started my own business. I am living a great life. In 2017, I decided to wean off my antidepressant (because that is what one does when they feel great), and was off the medication from March until August 2018. At that time, I felt the bitch within me coming back. I felt irritable, cursing a lot more often and having less tolerance for situations and people in general. I did not like this version of me, so back on the medication I went.
This is recovery for me. It may look differently for others. People take antidepressants, people choose not to and are able to manage their symptoms with alternative methods. The correct treatment is the treatment that works for you. PLEASE - if you are feeling depressed, go see your primary care provider - have them screen you. There are effective medications and great therapies out there. Depression is not a character flaw, you can not “will” it away. Do not let time go by where you can feel joy rather than despair. Talk to someone who understands what it is like to be in the hole and not know how, nor have the energy, to get out. Treatment is the way out. Go get some.