In 1985, I began a long journey with clinical depression. I didn’t know it was that for 5 years and then it was labeled only depression. The change is so gradual during a depression episode that you believe you will wake up and all of it will have disappeared. With clinical depression, the episode only gets worse. In 1976 I realized that I was an alcoholic because I was fortunate to have had a father who progressed much further into the disease. But depression had been the skeleton in the closet in our family. Alcoholism is out there—here I am–deal with it. But depression lingers and lurks in the hidden shadows of life. I have had such a hard time accepting my depression. Any new fad to pretend it isn’t really there, I jump on and support 110%.
I know that depression medication is over-prescribed and over-consumed. In 2013, I stopped taking my anti-depressant after a 20 year usage. I got my dreams back—even though I didn’t remember most of them. And I had a roaring appetite for food and sex. I am celibate so the sexual feelings were fun. And I would have acted on them but I didn’t see a handy partner. But the food—everything and anything. I gained 4 pounds in these 2 months. I was 20 pounds overweight to begin with so I didn’t need a weight gain.
But the hard part was that for 2 months I rarely slept more than 2 hours at a time. I was like a newborn baby on demand feeding sleeping 2 hours here and 2 hours there. I wanted to try to wait it out and see if a fairly normal sleep pattern happened. It didn’t.
Also I was living (?) with a low level of continual anxiety. it felt like I had to hurry up all the time before “it” happened. What it was I don’t know. But the anxiety is trying on the soul. I was also thinking about the worthlessness, the uselessness, the what is the use a great deal of the time. My enemy is the loss of hope and it is a battle I will fight with everything in me.
So I have decided to return to a low dosage—50 mg—of my anti-depressant. After 3 days, I slept 5 hours last night. And I understand that, for me, dealing with my depression medically is a mixed bag. I prefer to have a more normal sleep pattern.
I now accept that I have more than depression. I have chronic depression. I suffer each step or stage of the descent into hell as described by the DSM.
One of my favorite mental health sites is Psych Central. The following are the symptoms of major depression episode as written by the Psych Central staff.
“A person who suffers from a major depressive episode must either have a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for at least a 2 week period. This mood must represent a change from the person’s normal mood; social, occupational, educational or other important functioning must also be negatively impaired by the change in mood. A major depressive episode is also characterized by the presence of 5 or more of these symptoms:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feeling sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). (In children and adolescents, this may be characterized as an irritable mood.)
- Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day
- Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
- Insomnia (inability to sleep) or hypersomnia (sleeping too much) nearly every day
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
- Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide”
“A major depressive episode also is generally not diagnosed when the same symptoms could be attributed to Bereavement (normal feelings of sadness after the loss of a loved one).”
For me, Kathy Berman, when I hit the recurrent thoughts of death—suicide—I know I am allowing the disease to dominate and control me. With the medication I take back control over how much this disease will dominate me. I think I am going to not just take the medication for long periods without checking to see if the symptoms intensify. Depression is a killer and I know I need constant vigilance.