Saturday, September 20, 2008

I Never Would Have Guessed it, but There is Hope.

I think I am becoming the person who always annoyed me. Let me explain.

It is coming up on the 7th "anniversary" of my having my first scheduled visit with Dr. X. "Officially" this MDE has been 7 years of chronic major depression as of August this year. Unofficially I'd say longer than that. Since at least 1999 I have been almost always depressed except for a one or two months. Before that I have had MDE's continuously off and on since I was 16 or 17. Between some I had one or two years of feeling good, but as the years have gone on there has been shorter and shorter times of feeling well/good between episodes.

This episode has been, by far, the worst. Not necessarily in terms of how bad the symptoms were, because in 1988 or 89 I had a 3 or 4 month depressive episode that was similar in terms of symptoms. It has been the sheer length AND severity of symptoms combined that until recently, completely enveloped me and stole me from my life.

As I approached 1 year in the MDE I couldn't believe the tenacity of my symptoms. Two years and I was completely overwhelmed, hopeless and distraught. Three years and I was certain I was going to kill myself, because I would always feel this way. 4, 5 and 6 years the same thing. Everyday felt like the only thing I could do was survive.

I would become so annoyed, and sometimes to the point of feeling enrage by the comment "Depression is a treatable illness". I felt like: Fuck you it is!! That's bullshit! What about the 10-20% of us who do not seem to respond to medications or other treatments.

No matter what I tried, or how hard I tried to get better, I seemed to sink further and further into the hell that was my depressed life. Honestly, I think the harder I struggled AGAINST it, the worse it got. I would repeat over and over to myself, "I am NOT this person. This is NOT me."

It is. It is me. I have a chronic mental illness. I can try all I want, but I cannot make it go away. That would be like wishing away heart disease, or diabetes, or whatever physical illness you can think of.

People often say "You are not your illness". I always found that trite and unhelpful. When you are depressed you are consumed with your illness. It makes you stop going out, stop eating, or eating to0 much. It jams its way between you and your partner. It takes over your thoughts and replaces them with often obsessive, violent and/or intricately detailed thoughts of exactly how you are going to kill yourself and make your hell end. Depression takes you away from your friends. It turns you into a pariah. It insists you never try anything, because you will fail. It tells you things are hopeless and that you will always feel this way.

When severely depressed you ARE your illness. It chains you to an agonizing life I would not wish on my worst enemy.

So, over the last 7 years I have obsessively read self help books, blogs, and any article I could find anywhere about depression; hoping I would find the secret to getting out of this way of living. I survived only because I had a pdoc who never gave up on me, who never once seemed overwhelmed, or discouraged. I am sure he must have been discouraged with my inability to make progress, or my lack of progress, but not once did he ever let me see that. He always provided(and provides me with hope). I so desperately needed hope, and the more I trusted him, the more I began to believe his hope was realistic.

So now I notice my mood is beginning to lift. Honestly, I am in shock that this is happening. I cannot believe I am changing before my eyes.

That's where I find myself becoming the person who always annoyed me. I am becoming the person that believes either that depression is treatable, or that it is self-limiting and eventually each episode ends. I am beginning to really believe (not just hope) that a combo of medications can be found for even the toughest of depressions. Oh my God....I am actually becoming optimistic...That, I absolutely am astounded by.

I am not well yet. In fact I am not certain I will ever return to the "well" I knew before. I am changed by my experiences with depression and anxiety. I am beginning to believe that, though my life will be different from well, it might be a better life. I cannot explain it, but it is as though the depression informed me, albeit in an extremely roundabout, and horrifying way, that my life needed changing. I'm not sure if the change is helping me, or the medicine, or my therapy. It is probably a combination of all of these.

Whatever it is. I hope it sticks around and I have hope that it will.


deepblue said...

what a powerful post. I'm glad that you are beginning to find hope. And I've learned so much from reading your blog. Thanks

Aqua said...

Thanks. It has been, and probably will continue to be a long and difficult journey...but this is the first time in the episode I have really felt hope. It is a strange feeling recognizing that it is possible.