I called it being homesick when I was in third grade. My father said I cried at school because I just wanted to be at home. My mother took me to the pediatrician who was kind and talked to me about “it” while I lay on the examining table. I remember his soft voice and how he took his finger and wiped the tear that rolled down my cheek. I never got the label “school phobic” because I never saw the kind of doctor who would use that term. I saw my first therapist while in college, but again, nobody called “it” by name. I finally saw a good therapist when I was in my 30s.
Eventually “it” was called by the real name— Major Depressive Disorder. This was in the early days of Prozac, and I’m convinced the meds saved my life. Eventually, I realized that the Big D runs in the family. Knowing that explained a lot about my grandmother and my mother … my older sister and myself.
I believe that at some level, my parents knew that something wasn’t right, but it was easier to be in denial. I have had recurring episodes all my life, and I am now in my early 50s. I have never been hospitalized, but I probably should have been. My last episode was over a year ago and was particularly brutal—- MDD— melancholic type. I spent a month living on the other side of the state with friends—- a clinical social worker and spouse. They helped me find a new doctor who fixed my medication regime, and they helped me get a new therapist.
I’m highly educated and have been able to keep my job in academia, but there were certainly times when I wasn’t sure i would. I would like to talk openly about my experience as someone who suffers from depression, but I feel to do so would result in consequences at work. I hate that. I want to tell my story, but I can’t afford to lose my job. It’s hard to stop the stigma when you are afraid.
Treatment changed my life. My current psychiatrist told me that there is no reason I will should ever have an episode as bad as the last one. I hold that statement in my heart when I get anxious because I realize I’m dancing on the edge of the “black hole.” Taking care of myself means I have to monitor my thoughts and feelings—- and go for help if things go downhill. It’s a constant struggle, but I sit in gratitude that I can now say I am well. Depression will always be with me, but I am not my disease. Depression does not define me anymore. In the past few months, I’ve felt motivated and positive. This is what getting treatment meant for me. This place I am in today … in this moment … this place is called WELL.