May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month I will share my own experience with depression. This is the beginning of the journey which would eventually lead me to qualifying for Social Security Disability benefits because of my depression.
Prior to the spring semester of 1995, I had been able to manage any symptoms I had of depression. They had not interfered with my daily activities to the point that it was really noticeable. That all changed the semester I was working to complete my practicum, or internship, in school counseling.
I kept a journal throughout the process, but did not really take notice of what I was experiencing until it became very apparent that I needed more help than just talk therapy. Even as I reached that point, I was in denial and resistant to taking medication. My writing makes it clear that I had preconceived ideas of people that were on antidepressants. I was definitely impacted by the stigma that existed then, and still exists to this day.
Below are excerpts from my journal. My words from then do a much better job of explaining what I was experiencing than my words today could.
Damn this PMS! Why the hell has it been hitting me so hard?!
(One of my tasks for my practicum was to co-lead two junior high school support groups. I was finding this very stressful and tried unsuccessfully to lessen my role in those groups.)
I really don’t think I can finish my practicum this semester. I am so freaking burned out that I can’t do anything other than lay around and watch TV. When I think of things I have to do – I just feel overwhelmed and out of my league. I am at a point now, though, that I could very easily stay home all day & not worry about getting too far behind in my practicum.
What the hell is my problem?! I am going through such mood swings. I could cry if you asked me to, or I could break into a rage in a moment’s notice. Today I told Jan how good it might feel to put my hand through a glass door or window. Tonight I beat on the pillow again. I told someone today that I am barely making it day by day. I can hardly see two days ahead. I almost believe that someone is taking days away from me. I am considering “oversleeping” tomorrow & only show up for one group.
I blew it this time! I didn’t go to Edison [Jr. High] this morning & I didn’t call until 9:45.
When I didn’t get up for 1st period, I thought how easy that was and I would just miss 2nd, too. I didn’t even stop to consider the consequences. I just didn’t think!
It is so scary to think that I have finally reached this point. I had to really work to stay in bed this morning, too. Robbin [friend] had called me and so I was up. I just didn’t care. I’ve been saying for a while how I could do this very easily. Well, I finally did it. Now look what has happened. I didn’t even get out of bed until 1 pm.
Dr. Miazga [graduate school advisor] didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. But just hearing it made it even scarier for me. I really have lost it. I saw it coming, but I couldn’t & didn’t do anything about it. I let it slip too far this time.
Carrie [therapist] suggested that I see a doctor to get an antidepressant. Just the thought of that makes me feel “weak.” I know that I have been through a lot, but I would think I could handle it. Obviously, though, I proved today that I couldn’t.
For the most part I don’t consider myself a depressed person, but I guess I really am. Just thinking over things I have told some others and seeing my activity pattern, I can see where I could be mildly depressed.
As I laid here trying to get to sleep, I thought of my inner child. When I imagine her, she is lying down with her face covered in the ground. She is hardly moving. She appears to be so low that it will take a lot to make her happy again.
That is such a scary vision. I don’t think I have ever seen her that low. Just as I never saw myself as low as I did yesterday. I have some heavy duty work to do that this point. I pray that the good Lord will be there by my side to help me through this difficult time. I know he will be, but I pray that I will remember that.
I just reread all of this journal. Scary stuff. Reading it makes it all the more serious. This didn’t happen overnight, and it won’t be back to “normal” overnight either. I’ve got to get that little girl inside to smile again, though.
I went to see Dr. Forlano today. It is official; I have been prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant. It is really a strange feeling. All growing up, we only took medicine if we were “dying.” I can just imagine telling Mother that I am on Zoloft. She would probably say, “You don’t need that. Things can’t be that bad.”
It was kind of a sobering moment when I actually took the pills in my hand at the office. It was sort of like it was another burden. I look at them in my hand & wonder how something so small will work for me. I almost feel like everyone will know. I know that that’s not true, but I sort of feel that way.
I am so glad that I did not know what struggles were to come. But, I am also glad that I took that step to begin medication along with talk therapy. The combination of the two would keep me alive in my future episodes.
In my next post I’ll take you into 1996 and the more obvious outward symptoms of my depression.
“Never deprive someone of hope; it might be all they have.”
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.