First, I want to thank you for Depression Stories. No matter how much you learn about mental illness, or how much you may know intellectually that countless others are suffering from the same things, the nature of depression is so isolating, that when you read a first-hand account, that familiarity is striking. You read it, and you recognize the parts of yourself that feel shameful, weak, and self-inflicted, when really they are medical. It allows for a brief moment of clarity in what typically feels gray, muddled, and hopeless.
Here is my story.
I've felt insecure and worthless for as far back as I can remember. Sometimes a therapist will ask me, "What happened to you to make you feel this way?" There is not one thing. The feeling of being not good enough was always present, and I cannot recall an early impetus for that deep, core feeling of "not good enough." For the longest time I just assumed that this was my personality: shy, insecure, secretly desperate for validation but never, ever willing to admit that fact. It became integrated into my sense of humor – self-deprecating jokes! The therapy came when my depression started affecting my relationship, the medication came when it left me too incapacitated to go to work.
I was worried about the medication changing the core of who I was. My therapist gave me this analogy: "You are climbing up a hill with a backpack full of bricks. The medication isn't going to change who you are – you are still going to have the same struggles, and you'll still be climbing the hill. But it will be easier to deal with. The backpack won't be so heavy."
My doctor advised that it would take about a two week period for the Celexa to work. At the one week mark, I was saddled with an ugly clarity. I was coming out of the fog just enough to see a little more clearly, but not enough to really feel any happier. What I saw hit me like a ton of bricks: Everything in my life was being negatively affected by my depression, and had been for years. The arguments with my boyfriend, my poor performance at work, my inability to enjoy my nights out – depression. My failed internship interview at the magazine I had longed to work for all through college – depression. My loneliness throughout high school – depression. Everywhere I looked throughout my past I could see missed opportunities and moments where I had gotten in my own way. The things that I loved and cherished now were marred where my depression had raked its claws. It was devastating.
My medication limbo passed as the Celexa fully kicked in, but my therapist had been right: I clearly still had some struggles to work through. I still do today. I've cycled through different therapists and different medications, and I've made a lot of progress. But I'm still climbing the hill - the fear and the self-loathing are still there, and I am still incapacitated by them in many ways (sometimes new ways even crop up). No pill or professional can change that for me.
But like anything else, you can learn to manage it; you learn to cope. I am an expert at knowing my own depression, at anticipating it, detecting when something is off, at dealing with it. Sometimes I wonder if it might be more useful to be an expert at playing guitar or writing code, but this is my skill – figuring out how to effectively live while being depressed.