Depression first hit me when I was seventeen, about three months before graduating high school. I went to a close-knit, all-girls Catholic high school, and it was suddenly dawning on me that the structured life I knew was ending. I loved running track and soon that would be over. I don’t deal well with change of any kind. Without warning, I suddenly had crying jags, couldn’t eat, and had trouble sleeping. Graduation Day was the saddest day of my life so far. We were moving so there was no chance I would go to college with anyone I knew.
I lost touch with my boyfriend and most of my friends because they went away to school. College was the loneliest time of my life because I went to a community college where everyone came and went on their own. There were no activities that interested me. I missed the structure of a high school day. I worked part-time as a cashier, but I had anxiety because I couldn’t do simple math in my head. I was afraid to drive so I hadn’t gotten my license. I just went through the motions for several years, not enjoying anything.
When I was twenty-two, I got a manager that was impossible to please. He insulted all the employees, made me get his coffee and was completely unpleasant to be around. I asked for Christmas Eve off and an assistant manager approved it. When the manager found out, he called me at home and told me I had to come in because he hadn’t approved it. I quit eating, I cried every night and my dad would sit up with me, and often went to work on less than four hours of sleep. I quit reading, which I loved. I began to look for a new job but that was an added stress. My parents got worried because my depression worsened as the new year began. I was listless and felt I had no purpose. They called Forest Hospital in Des Plaines and made an appointment for me. I was terrified about therapy, but I was desperate.
I started a new job and found that I had lost a lot of weight. I was so depressed about learning a whole new industry as I knew nothing about mortgages. I went to my first appointment and confessed all my fears and explained the job situation that led to severe depression. He diagnosed me with depression and generalized anxiety disorder and said a lot of it is probably genetic. He prescribed a low dose of Effexor for it and some Ambien to help me sleep.
Effexor takes a few weeks before anything really changes, but at least I could sleep. I just went through the motions of the day and prayed for it to end and dreaded the next day. The doctor tried to teach me deep breathing, but to this day, I have found it only causes me to hyperventilate. The Effexor gradually began to work and I began to do well sorting mail. I was offered a promotion to another position. I began training under the man who would eventually become my husband. He was very patient and I began to like the new position. I continued to attend therapy every few weeks. I even learned to drive.
It seems whenever there has been a major change in life since then, I fell into depression. Sometimes it would happen when something about my job changed, such as when our company moved or we got a manager who was difficult. I ended up hospitalized once and found that everyone there was suffering depression for a variety of reasons. I realized I didn’t care for group therapy and much preferred individual counseling. My husband, even though he didn’t understand my condition, was supportive. I tried all different medications, but found Effexor to be the most helpful. I realized I couldn’t have children without going off my medication completely, but I truly needed it to function. It was a painful but necessary decision. We traveled a lot instead.
I threw myself into baseball and cheered for the Chicago Cubs, learning to keep score and collecting autographs. I loved going to Wrigley Field and enjoyed the sights and sounds around me. I found that when baseball season ended and there was only football, which I hated, my depression often returned with a vengeance. Sometimes my medication would increase during those months.
I still struggle with depression, but I’m not afraid to seek medical help. In the off-season, I read baseball books and watch baseball movies and count the days until spring training. I look at it less as something wrong with me; it’s just part of who I am. I learned to treat myself to things, to put myself first and just do the best I can.