After a long and losing battle with depression, I am going to a short-term (10 day) partial hospitalization program at McLean Hospital near Boston. I need advice on how to convince myself that there’s hope for me and get into the kind of frame of mind that will allow me to benefit from this kind of program, despite its short length and limitations.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I have struggled with depression since early adolescence, but felt like I was on the road to managing it and leading a healthy, happy life until a serious breakdown about 9 years ago, when I was 26.
I desperately want to live life differently and get better, and that’s what’s given me the ability to plug along over the last decade or so, trying new therapists, new doctors, new medications, and all kinds of lifestyle maintenance and changes (i.e. diet, exercise, supplements).
I’ve taken all the classes of anti-depressants, drugs for bipolar disorder, atypical anti-psychotics, thyroid supplements, stimulants, drugs old-fashioned and cutting-edge, 21 sessions of ECT. Mostly, they didn’t help. When it did, the effect soon wore off.
I was tested for everything: diabetes, vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, adrenal problems. Fancy doctors from various sorts of prestigious institutions tried looking at the problem from all kinds of angles, applying new diagnoses that might shed new light and help me get better, including bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, but the new diagnostic lenses and alternative approaches didn’t yield any results.
While much of the McLean program will have a diagnostic bent, it’s also supposed to have a therapeutic element, insofar as these 10 days will be a time-out and a potential physiological and psychological reboot.
I don’t know how much of the program's benefits depend on my ability to try to maintain a attitude that is at least open-minded (if not outright positive). But if there’s any chance at all that being able to feel less despair will improve my chance to get more out of the program, I desperately need to do so. I’m also afraid of getting written off as having a negative attitude by the program staff.
The trouble is that after years of encouraging myself, trying to maintain a positive attitude, and trying to get better, I can’t bring myself to believe that something else is possible. In another Askme on depression, a user here once wrote about how depression “ruins you inside,” and that’s a pretty accurate way of describing the effect this has had on me.
Not long after the breakdown, I picked up Andrew Solomon’s The Noonday Demon, hoping to find some insights into what I was suffering. It terrified me so much I couldn’t finish it: the book was replete was stories of people who had struggled with depression for years and whose lives were lunar landscapes of pain and failure. Nine years later, I have become one of those people.
Hope seems fundamentally irrational, and I feel like an idiot trying to improve my situation despite all the evidence that shows that I can't be helped. I know that McLean doesn't have access to some kind of special magic potion, and I don’t know what kind of new information they could get that might help provide a new diagnostic or treatment angle to my condition.
Psychiatry treats despair and hopelessness as if they were irrational, or symptoms of an illness, but right now they feel pretty damn logical, insofar as it no longer seems logical to believe I can live differently. Yet somehow I need to muster the ability to believe that this can help me. I don’t know how to do that.
I am very grateful for your ideas and feedback as to how to increase my chances of benefiting from this program and giving myself an opportunity to get better.