I was 15 when I started seeing a counselor. My grandma had just died and my parents thought I was having a hard time dealing with it. I was. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and saw my therapist until I was about 17. At that point my therapist discharged me, telling us that I was “mentally stable.” I never thought I was actually unstable; never suicidal, homicidal or violent. Just depressed.
When I turned 18, I was diagnosed with cancer. About the time we shaved my head I realized that I was depressed again. I talked to my regular doctor and he prescribed me anti-depressants. I didn’t want to go back to therapy, because I knew what was wrong with me and my therapist couldn’t relate. I wasn’t comfortable with support groups, because I was 18 and they were 80. The pills helped for a while.
The problem with pills was that I am not good about taking them everyday. This means that when I forget to take it, it doesn’t work as well as it is supposed to.
I tried a few different kinds of anti-depressants over a few years; Effexor, Welbutrin, Amitriptyline, Celexa and Zoloft. Most of which I have the same problems with; if I have to take them twice a day I tend to forget to take them at least one of the doses, if once a day then they are too strong and I experience side effects.
None of the side effects have been extreme. Typically they just make me severely emotional, give me headaches, or affect my appetite. They are just bad enough to affect my everyday life. Because of this, and wanting to start a family, I chose to stop taking the drugs when I was in my early 20’s.
This has not always been easy. I have dealt with the suicide of my dad, the breakdown of my marriage, other deaths in the family and of friends, being laid off and all of the other things that life throws at you. I have struggled to keep it together. But I have kept it together.
It helps that I recognize when I am getting depressed. After dealing with this for more than half of my life, I recognize the difference between being sad, or having a bad day and actually sinking into depression. I have a solid group of supporters, friends and family, that I can turn to. I seek out things that I know make me happy, like writing. I make a point to leave my house, be outside, or visit with someone. I try to keep my conversations upbeat and about happy things. I am open to those that I am close to about how I am feeling. I smile, even if I don’t feel like it.
It is not a cure. I still battle depression. I have days that I don’t want to leave the house, that I don’t even want to get dressed. I let myself have one of these days, once in a while. Sometimes, it even helps me feel better. But I won’t let myself do it for more than a day. This helps me to feel like I am maintaining control. Even if it is a false sense of control.
No matter how bad I am feeling, or how bad my day is, or how long I have been battling the current round of depression, I know that I will keep fighting. I will win this battle, even if it lasts the rest of my life.