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Confronting Depression for the First Time

Jerry Kennard Health Pro February 25, 2013
  • It’s a big step admitting you may be depressed. Nobody seeks out a mental illness and neither do they want the stigma or the stereotypes that could follow them around. Even so, enough people recognize that depression is very common and in order for things to improve professional help may be nee...

8 Comments
  • Donna-1
    Feb. 25, 2013

    In 1974, I was 16 -- smart, always had a guy on my arm, beautiful, had my own car -- and was so suicidal I almost pulled the trigger on my dad's little midnight special.  I called a suicide hotline frequently in those days.  But oddly enough, I didn't know I had depression.  Mainly a nagging sense that all was not right, that I was on the outside...

    RHMLucky777

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    In 1974, I was 16 -- smart, always had a guy on my arm, beautiful, had my own car -- and was so suicidal I almost pulled the trigger on my dad's little midnight special.  I called a suicide hotline frequently in those days.  But oddly enough, I didn't know I had depression.  Mainly a nagging sense that all was not right, that I was on the outside looking in and didn't belong, that all the joy had been taken out of life by something unseen and terrifying.  I also cried a lot.  My mother found me crying more than once and that led to my being taken to our family physician who named it: Depression, and treated it with a tricyclic antidepressant.  I still had no idea what depresion was doing to my life then or when and where it originated.  Kind of like someone with a brain tumor who is given an aspirin and told to get a good night's sleep.  I didn't know I had a ticking timebomb in my head, one that would take decades to defuse.

     

    I didn't TELL anyone I had depression, after the diagnosis.  Nor did my parents explain to me that while I was being treated for depression, my paternal grandfather was also in a psych ward for paranoid schizophrenia.  I'm sure they didn't know there was any link between our maladies.  Even by 1996 when I had ECT treatments, my parents didn't tell me that this grandfather had also had ECT back in the 70's.  Why all the hiding of information?

     

    Now that I look back, I can see my father was also deeply depressed, but not about to admit it or take any treatment.  It was (and is) still a shameful topic in my family even though all of us but my mom has been on antidepressants and anxiolytics at one time or another.  I am the only one who ended up hospitalized, like my grandfather.  He died of pneumonia in 5-point restraints after attacking a nurse, and that was after he had already attacked my grandmother with a knife.  But I didn't find that out until about 30 years later.

     

    Fortunately, I got help at an early age and kind of knew what symptoms to look for afterwards, when it came roaring back.

    • Jerry Kennard
      Health Pro
      Feb. 26, 2013

      I wonder what changes you've seen since the 70s, Donna. I started training in the 70s and meds were fairly primitive compared to today (some will say they still are). Plus I worked in some very large mental hospitals, all of which have now been closed down. At times I feel progress has been made and in other ways it feels like we're still treading water.

    • Donna-1
      Feb. 26, 2013

      I suppose "primitive" just means an earlier and not a necessarily less effective medication, because Imipramine helped me much more quickly and effectively in the 70's than the SSRI's did in the 90's.  In 2050 they will be saying our present medications were "primitive" I suppose.  The newest thing out is not necessarily the best thing out for everyone...

      RHMLucky777

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      I suppose "primitive" just means an earlier and not a necessarily less effective medication, because Imipramine helped me much more quickly and effectively in the 70's than the SSRI's did in the 90's.  In 2050 they will be saying our present medications were "primitive" I suppose.  The newest thing out is not necessarily the best thing out for everyone who is in treatment.  And primitive ECT may even have helped some patients.  Modern ECT did not help me one bit.  It might as well have been a shaman dancing around a fire.  For me, an antipsychotic paved the way to recovery from depression, and it was olanzapine.  But I tried many, many antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and antipsychotics before finding anything that worked.  And I have wondered if I was not just getting well "naturally" by that time, and my natural recovery just coincided with the use of olanzapine.

       

      I think psychiatric hospitals are necessary and that there are not nearly enough of them now, and that they are not being used to their best advantage.  No, I don't think a stay of a year or more is usually required, like they used to do.  But now most of the mental hospitals in the big metropolitan area where I have have been closed or down to just a few beds, and they only keep you 5 days at the most whether you are better or not.  I think every community should have ample psych beds and psychiatric professionals.  The last time I was in such a hospital, I waited 6 hours in an ER while they were trying to find ANY psychiatric beds available in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.  Finally, I walked out and drove myself home and did the best I could by myself.  They threatened to have the police come pick me up for leaving the ER, but my psychiatrist basically told them what to do with themselves and they backed off.  Even if the police had picked me up, where would they have taken me?  To jail?  For what reason?  I was not a danger to myself or others.  Stupid.

       

      I have not seen much difference in stigma, either.  I mean, maybe there is more open protest when stigma appears in a public format but the public is still just as misinformed about what schizophrenia is, what bipolar disorder is, what DID is, and probably about what depression is, too.  People may hear the words more often, but there is still gross miseducation about the reality of the symptoms, treatment options, and prognoses.

  • Judy
    Feb. 25, 2013

    Hi, Jerry.  What you say here is so true.  I remember the first time I got help.  I was a nervous wreck about it but it was a relief in so many ways.  First of all, I think talking to someone you don't know is often easier because you're looking for somebody to be objective, as well as compassionate, and you have nothing to lose with a person...

    RHMLucky777

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    Hi, Jerry.  What you say here is so true.  I remember the first time I got help.  I was a nervous wreck about it but it was a relief in so many ways.  First of all, I think talking to someone you don't know is often easier because you're looking for somebody to be objective, as well as compassionate, and you have nothing to lose with a person you don't know.  I know sometimes I find myself saying things to strangers I am with for a short time that I would never talk about with someone I know, but the anonymity thing kind of helps.  Relief also came for me in being able to put how I felt into words, to experience what it was like for somebody to actually listen to me without judgment.  That is one of the most freeing experiences in the world.  I know that not all therapists are great and that's why it's important not to write therapy off if you have a bad experience with it.  The chemistry you have with the person is also very important - it's developing a relationship that can repair the damage.  Of course, I'm talking in reference to depression that is not solely biological or genetic, but I have a feeling that even if that's the case, there's also a family or relationship dynamic going on there, too.

     

    Well, listen to me without a Ph.D! Anyway, I think your post should be encouraging to somebody who is considering getting help for their depression. Ignoring it doesn't usually work for long.

    • Jerry Kennard
      Health Pro
      Feb. 25, 2013
      Thanks Judy. Can you recall whether you sought help for depression on your first visit? Just curious whether you were confident in your own feelings at that stage or whether you went with a range of symptoms, as is sometimes the case initially.
    • Judy
      Feb. 25, 2013

      Yes, I did look for help on my first visit - I happened to know a person who was working on her psychology Ph.D. and asked her if she knew of anyone I could see (this was way back in 1968!) because by that point, I knew I was really depressed.  I didn't want to live, I had no energy, I was angry all the time and feeling trapped because I was still living...

      RHMLucky777

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      Yes, I did look for help on my first visit - I happened to know a person who was working on her psychology Ph.D. and asked her if she knew of anyone I could see (this was way back in 1968!) because by that point, I knew I was really depressed.  I didn't want to live, I had no energy, I was angry all the time and feeling trapped because I was still living at home with my parents, which I found unbearable but couldn't afford to move out on my own.

       

      Six years later, I had postpartum depression and it took me about nine months (ironically) to finally decide that I wasn't getting any better, so I went to a GP, who put me on Elavil and that did the trick, only needed to take it for a few months.

       

      Eight years after that, I felt a gradual decline in my mood and my youngest son was having some problems (we didn't know he was autistic at that time), so got into a parent group and the more we talked, the more I realized that I was living on autopilot and had NOT really dealt with my childhood as I thought I had.  I think this triggered another depression and I've pretty much been in therapy ever since.  The first therapist I had actually made things worse, but I didn't know any better, just thought it was me being "bad."  By luck, I happened to find the therapist I have now and while you might say I've been at it a long time, I've continued to heal.  She supported me when I hated myself the most and I don't think I could have gotten to the point I'm at now without her - although she will say it's my hard work, but I would give her at least equal credit!

       

      That's probably way more than you wanted to know!

    • Crystal
      Feb. 25, 2013
      Judy, your story sounds very similar to my. I have suffered depression since my late teens. I got married at18. Young but not so young back then. I was in love but it also got me out of the house. Depression and isolation stayed with me until I had kids. The only time I felt the best in the world was when I was pregnant x4. Depression came back each and every...
      RHMLucky777
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      Judy, your story sounds very similar to my. I have suffered depression since my late teens. I got married at18. Young but not so young back then. I was in love but it also got me out of the house. Depression and isolation stayed with me until I had kids. The only time I felt the best in the world was when I was pregnant x4. Depression came back each and every time. It's interesting that you say you were on auto pilot. Raising all my children I was definetly on auto pilot. My needs or dealing with my childhood were not important even though they effected me. I ran as fast as I could until I would crash and do it all over again. My husband was like a fifth kid so he was no help at all. Tried every antidepressant under the sun. Nothing worked. In and out of therapy to no avail. My depression just stays and now you can add Bipolar into the mix with all the craziness that comes with. Luckily at least I didn't have that when I was raising my kids. Things could certainly have been a lot worse. I say this because ever since my dx 6 yrs ago, I have lacked stability for any length of period of time. The focus here is on depression but I will say I recognize the Bipolar came a few yrs before dx.
    • Jerry Kennard
      Health Pro
      Feb. 26, 2013

      Not at all! I'm always keen to hear and learn from others (plus I'm nosey).

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