How did you realize you were depressed?
November 9, 2012 7:58 AM   Subscribe

How did you realize you were depressed? What convinced you to seek treatment?

On a bad day, I will sleep past noon and wake up convinced that I have alienated and estranged everyone I love, that I have squandered every opportunity I've been given and regret every decision I've made, that I am qualified to do nothing of value and too immature and lazy to fix myself, or some variation on these themes. I will not feel sad in any conventional sense, but just empty, bleak, alone, and stuck: an unfeeling background state that pervades everything. I've never had the urge to hurt myself, but on a really bad day I do want to disappear. I want to withdraw into total aloneness, shrink my world to no bigger than my bed and maybe even to a point so small that it could blink out of existence without anyone noticing. It's pretty messed up! Worst is knowing that all these thoughts and feelings are diseased, disordered, and untrue, even as they occur.

On a good day, these unfeelings are there, but they are further away. I can get things done, and I feel pretty normal. I might be well enough to read truly horrifying accounts of depression by William Styron or David Foster Wallace, start to doubt whether I've ever been that ill at all, and wonder if I am just malingering and trying to wrap exaggerated suffering in medical legitimacy. (These thoughts do not—cannot—occur on a bad day).

I've had a string of good days lately, and I have an appointment to see a psychiatrist soon. I've been managing this for a few years now, and I think I've followed all the standard advice, escalating from vitamins and exercise to CBT and now maybe to medication as needed. I will share everything I've shared here with my doctors. But I am interested in your experience. What made you realize you were depressed? Were you doubtful on your good days? What convinced you to seek or escalate treatment? I am surprised the question has not been asked here before, and I hope it will be useful to others like me.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
If you have to ask, you probably are.
posted by downing street memo at 8:10 AM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

For me it was a combination of family history and moods like you described above, plus anxiety. The family history part made me feel like I was waiting for the other shoe to drop - my parent was diagnosed as X age, when will it happen to me? And as you said above, knowing your world isn't really collapsing around you even though you feel that way was a big red flag that it was time to talk to my doctor. Once on medication, I was surprised at how the anxiety disappeared. I had been so used to it being there, I mostly stopped noticing it.

Do I feel doubtful on bad days? Sure. But I just remind myself that means the treatment is working.
posted by youngergirl44 at 8:11 AM on November 9, 2012

Probably held out longer than I should have but when I knew LD50 doses of easily available drugs.
posted by handbanana at 8:16 AM on November 9, 2012

Not until I read about Dysthymia in Psych 101, and then suddenly everything made sense.

I say this a lot: Depression is a parasite, like a tapeworm that lives in your head. It doesn't want you to get treatment because it wants to keep living there and you mistake its voice for your own. If you had a medical condition, like a broken leg, would you limp around on it because it might be "just" a fracture? Would a doctor laugh at you for showing up with "just" a fracture? (And if they did, wouldn't you just find a new doctor rather than going "Well, obviously I'm unworthy of medical treatment, guess I'll just limp forever"?).
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:43 AM on November 9, 2012 [29 favorites]

I never had a moment of realization that yes, this was actual depression, a condition, something I would need to manage most likely throughout my life. Talking therapy though is what really introduced me to the depressive nature of my thinking: how it dwelt on the universal (casting things as about "everything", "nothing", and "everyone"), the persistent ("always", "never", "constantly") and the catastrophic (fixating on death, disaster, worst case scenarios, absolute alone-ness... it's an awesome playlist of favorites).

I do not have major depression and I have never had a suicidal thought or a serious problem getting out of bed so I am intimately acquainted with denial of depression (mine was mostly of the "I'm just a realist and reality sucks!" variety). But I can say without doubt that if you asked anyone who knows me intimately they would assert without hesitation that my depression was a real condition and that its basic presence was something outside my control (I can manage it by my behavior but I can't make it not be there just by choosing to cheer up or think differently). In fact more than a couple people understood this long before I would accept it.

The idea that depressive episodes are just a fluke or something you could overcome by "willpower" if you just buckled down and got serious is of course a very attractive one. Who wouldn't rather have a less serious problem requiring less drastic, intrusive intervention?

It keeps coming back. When you're in the depths of it you know you can't just "be positive" your way out of it (you can barely examine it outside the subjective experience at all). When you are more on top of it you can objectively examine your history and realize that it has resulted in real costs (missed opportunities, damaged relationships, diminished satisfaction and joy in everyday experiences).

With respect nobody familiar with depression could read your first paragraph and doubt that you suffered from real depression that merits professional intervention. I hope (and I'll admit this is something of an issue for me) that you will not limit your exploration of treatment to medication but consider the possibility of supporting this with therapy.
posted by nanojath at 8:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [8 favorites]

Wanting to disappear sticks out to me. During your initial consultation, a question around subject will be asked in some form, not about hurting yourself but about just not being around anymore. Thinking about that, helped it sink in for me.

I wish you way more than luck.
posted by ACEness at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

My partner pointed it out in a gentle, understanding way. He told me my behavior had changed dramatically over a certain period of time and encouraged me to seek help. He's been there before himself and knowing that he suffered from depression made it less of a "You're different and need to change" and more of a "I know this because I've been there before and there are steps you can take to manage this" situation.
posted by futureisunwritten at 9:24 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Self-diagnosis is tricky. Abnormal Psych 101 classes are filled with students who discover a new ailment they "totally have" every week. While I happened to self-diagnos and be correct five years later when I finally talked to my doctor about it is inconsequential, however. I found a treatment that really worked for me about a year ago and I wish that I did 16 years ago.

Start working with someone. Maybe the treatment you work out involves something as simple as exercise. Maybe it is meds. Either way, starting that process of discovery is best started sooner than later.
posted by munchingzombie at 9:33 AM on November 9, 2012

Your description of your feelings about yourself - the regret, the self-reproof, the belief that you can do nothing of value - echoes my own.

I'm with nanojath. No one moment confirmed my depression. Instead, I came to realize that a healthy mind doesn't dwell on its own apocalyptic moral failure. Healthy people don't snarl at themselves out of self-hatred. My parents agreed that I wasn't well. They helped me accept that willpower alone wouldn't cure me. I still don't have insurance, so I haven't gotten therapy or medication, but I plan to get both soon. Even a proper medical diagnosis would be great.

My good days are rare. I had a very good day after finishing The Gift. When my bad feelings returned a day later, I realized that all the imagination in the world wasn't going to stop my brain from having its revenge on me. I decided to get help as soon as I could afford it.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:37 AM on November 9, 2012

You are depressed. Make an appointment.
posted by oceanjesse at 9:46 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think there's this idea out there that one must be traditionally sad and/or want to self-harm in order to be legitimately depressed.

I think a depressed mind can shape itself to go around those obvious alarm bells in some of the ways you describe, because depression hates change more than almost anything else.
posted by gnomeloaf at 9:46 AM on November 9, 2012

When overwhelming shame, about anything, everything, and nothing was making me hide inside my house any time I didn't have to be working or buying groceries.
posted by thelastcamel at 9:55 AM on November 9, 2012

Your first paragraph is the definition of depression. The fact that you have days when you don't feel like that only means you're suffering from a particular kind of depression.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Whether it was nature or (lack there of) nurture (I grew up in a very dysfunctional/mentally abusive home with a lot of PTSD triggers), I've been depressed, dysthymic, and double depressed my entire life. Yes, children can show severe despression. I was suicidal (literally praying to God not to have me wake up) and some half assed attempts in life. By 19 I sought professional help which due to a lovely social worker who told me to lie to my parents in order to get their insurance coverage info (the place was $3k a day), I wound up being involuntarily committed for 2.5 days. That wonderful experience set me back hard. I was terrified of ever seeking help in any form ever again.

But then I had a breakdown, my fiane left me because of it, I wound up back home (to the abuse) and then had a second breakdown. I moved out of the house and still found myself depressed. I wanted to be better to finally I found a fabulous (no sarcasm) therapist who I saw for 2 years. So half of the work was done--got a lot of parent issues behind me but there was still this "stuff" which had no rhyme or reason so I went on meds. Tried a few, hated a few, had bad side effects from one, and found a solution. Was on for a year, things got better, I got off of them.

Unfortunately, no one realized with that history that I was extremely high risk for post partum issues. After the birth of my son I went from severe post partum anxiety, depression, moodieness, and just pure hate to the point I was looking at 4 divorce lawyers to extreme depression where I couldn't have any pleasure in taking care of our son.

And that's what did it for me. Not saving the marriage, and hell, not even feeling better for me. I did it for him. I wanted to enjoy his laugh and every moment and I did NOT want him to see a mom who was sad, crying, angry, and just a mess. I went on Prozac and I'm on now for 2 years straight. It's helped tremendously. I can clearly tell you that 95% of my double depression (you know, severe depression like you described) is gone. I have boughts rarely but I can clearly tell the difference between healthy and medicated and unmedicated, depressed. I do not want to feel that way nor to have our son see me that way.

So I'm medicated. People who judge that can suck it.

Just note, I am not saying woo hoo I'm cured, perfect, and no longer depressed. Not true. I have boughts. I have anxiety at times. I have moodiness. What I am saying, however, is being on meds made a livable difference in my life which I do recommend to others. You will still feel depression and guinea pig trial and error of meds and therapists SUCK. Just keep trying and know that we are always here to listen. You are not alone (and knowing that is what always helped me not follow through on the suicide attempts. Chat rooms on the internet definately saved my life a few times).

Wishing you the best. It's ok.
posted by stormpooper at 10:08 AM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]

For what it's worth, the Styron didn't match my experience. I don't know if it's because his was more severe or what, but food for thought.
posted by rhizome at 10:19 AM on November 9, 2012

If you have friends they can certainly tell. This is at least partially a calibration problem. It's pretty much impossible to know from the inside whether you're a person with unimpaired perception who just happens to be the Worst Person, or an average normal person with skewed perception.

That's why you're doing the right thing by seeking help!
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 10:24 AM on November 9, 2012

Realising that I'm no longer doing things that make me happy, like making plans with friends, or eating well, and instead am hibernating in my room with the Internet. Knowing that treatment can be as temporary as I wanted helped me consider medication. That's been 3 months now, and although I feel better I'm going to start CBT too as I want to have the tools to avoid this in the future.
posted by ellieBOA at 10:33 AM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your post is full of common cognitive distortions. Depressed people often show "splitting" in their thought patterns. Your pattern of thinking "Oh, I'm depressed but not depressed enough for it to matter" is also a distortion.
posted by deathpanels at 10:34 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was a self harmer when I was younger from the ages of 13-18. During these times I was sent to a psychologist by my parents. They were worried as hell about me. I just wanted to be left alone. I was put on medication at age 16 and was on an anti depressant until I was 21. I was depressed almost everyday even though I had no reason to be.

I then realized that I felt worse on the medication. I took myself off it without telling anyone but my boyfriend. The first week was the most horrible week of my life. They tell you when you first start and when you are first taken off medication that there is a risk for suicide. Mostly because people who had felt suicidal didn't have enough energy and motivation to do it. On the medication that is a huge risk! I stopped cold turkey..looking back it was a stupid stupid idea. But the thought came to me, "Do I want to be on this medication the rest of my life?"

If given medication I'd talk to a doctor or psychiatrist about how long you should be on it. I took years for me to get into the mindset of when I feel crappy or blah that I do have a reason to be here just as much as everyone else. Just put a smile on your face. Fake it till you make it.
posted by Autumn89 at 10:40 AM on November 9, 2012

I suffered what I recognised as a period of depression in 2001 (from watching a teen soap!), but didn't seek medical help which I justified on the grounds that I didn't want it on my medical record (hindsight says this was not entirely rational). It is likely I had had periods of depression prior to that but didn't recognise them. I got over the 2001 period but it was pretty tough. I went through another period of stress/work related depression around 2008-9, luckily I was with a partner which helped a lot and she also helped me realise what has happening. I was able to reaise fairly late in the episode that some outside help might be useful. It was still not an easy thing to recognise but simply taking action to address the problem was quite beneficial and then there was the actual assistance; drugs, counselling, whatever. I think I would be able to recognise a future episode more easily but I won't be able to say for sure until it happens. Basically, getting to the point where you recognise stuff is pretty hard, getting to there and being equipped to be able to make a conscious decision to ask for help is harder still, but it is worthwhile.

Like any illness it is a good idea to seek medical attention and if your doctor doesn't think you warrant attention then s/he can tell you so (but probably you do warrant attention), but depression can be life threatening and it can seriously reduce the quality of your life and chances are you can do something about it. You owe it to yourself to see if you can do something.
posted by biffa at 10:54 AM on November 9, 2012

For me it was when somebody I know was describing her depression and I thought to myself "Hey, wait a second... that's exactly how I feel sometimes." I had always thought being depressed made you feel sad, and realizing that it was more of an empty numbness was a moment of epiphany for me.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 10:57 AM on November 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'd known I was depressed for years, but held onto it in this kind of romanticized idea that it was what made me who and what I am and that without it I would somehow be nothing.

I decided to get serious about treatment (rather than just doing some work out of a CBT book) after a minor earthquake. I felt the apartment shake a little bit, I knew it was an earthquake, and I felt this amazing sense of relief. I thought, "good. This is how it ends. Finally." and I was glad because the roof was going to fall on me and I'd be dead.

And then, I wasn't dead. It was a minor quake, it was over and I had to keep living my life. And I thought about that moment, and about how quickly I'd decided I was glad it was over. And I thought, "Something is wrong. I don't have to live this way."

I've never told anybody about that until now.
posted by gauche at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

Because I was finally in a relationship that was falling apart, and there was no way I could blame him for why I was feeling so horrible. I had to admit that the Bad Thoughts were coming from Inside The House (of my brain). And I didn't want to lose this guy. So I started therapy. It's been a year, and things are improving. No meds, but I just started with the fish oil and other supplements recommended by the writer of Chemistry of Joy. (Along with meditation, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.)

I've been depressed since I was 12, with varying degrees. [Edit: actually, if I'm being honest, earlier than that.] I'm now 45. Don't waste time like I did!

But definitely, the main reason I didn't get help is that I always either blamed feeling sad on circumstances, people, or just feeling like I "wasn't that bad" most of the time. I've had few times of actual suicide ideation--for me it's almost always been a pervasive desire to disappear or vague fantasies about jumping off high places (which I never actually got even close to doing anything about) or walking into the northern forest and just ... keeping on going.

It's a horrible way to live. But I'm living it. Working at it.
posted by RedEmma at 11:48 AM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, seriously. Are you me? Because I just created an account two days ago and if it were not for the week-long waiting period, I would have already posted the exact same question. It's all ready to go in draft form on my computer.

I am seeing an NP this afternoon to discuss meds, I will leave after I finish answering your question. Here's what lead me to do so:

A year ago, my mom died. Six months after that my boyfriend of three years called me up and broke up with me.

It's been six months after the breakup, a year after the death. At first I thought I could handle things. I'm in grad school, I go to church, have an internship, I work part-time at a job I really enjoy and have really great friends. I see a grief counselor too. But right now, I feel stuck, like I can't get away from my own thoughts. It's torture to be inside my own mind. I feel like I am not living in reality; in my world, everyone thinks I'm stupid and ugly, and my friends don't care about my problems and don't really care about me because they don't actually like me; they're just being nice. In my world, my ex-boyfriend is infinitely happier without me. He looks at me as a fat, ugly, disgusting waste of time, and no one else will ever want to be with me again because I am too undesirable. I deserve to be alone.

Sure, I have energy to get things done, to go to school and devote time to my internship. But I don't particularly care about those things. I'm just floating, just passing time until I can come home and partake in my all-time favorite activity, which is sitting in front of the TV in my pajamas until it's time to go to bed. Of course I don't let myself forget how ugly and pathetic I am while doing do.

While I am driving, I secretly hope a truck or drunk driver will slam into me and kill me. I'm an organ donor, so at least someone deserving can have a life because mine is too stupid and pointless to continue. I imagine who would go to my funeral and if anyone would really cry or care that much at all. When I do everyday tasks like go to the grocery store, I find myself extremely irritated at everyone around me. They're walking too slow, they're in my way, and I just want to scream at them to get away from me. I deeply resent the cashier for asking me how I'm doing. I don't want to make eye contact or small talk with anyone. I fantasize about locking myself in my room and sleeping for the next year, maybe getting up once a week to feed the cat. I think of how wonderful it would be to not feel, to not be cognizant, to not have to function in society.

Decisions are hard to make. I get overwhelmed easily. I cried today when I went to my internship and opened my email and realized they wanted me to drop something off somewhere. I found myself tearing up again when I went to drop it off and couldn't find the building.

And most of all, I feel that there is just something not right. The sun is not as warm, life is simply devoid of something. I feel like I'm slipping down a black hole, falling further and further from what is real and true. The world seems to be headed forward, and I am stuck in this sorry place, with no energy to strangle the thoughts that plague my mind every minute of the day.

In short, I know I am depressed because I cannot tolerate another day inside my own head.
posted by thank you silence at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2012 [6 favorites]

I did a lot of crying, had a lot of sleepless nights, sat around like a bump on a log. But I was convinced that I just had a bad case of what I call "the blues".

Then one night, I'm in bed, finishing another crying jag. Staring at the ceiling. I start thinking about how easy it would be if I just didn't wake up the next morning, if I just wasn't around anymore to mess things up. How would I go about arranging that? I asked myself.

At that moment, a voice in the back of my head--a voice that's been there as long as I can remember, a voice that represents to me my gut instincts, and has guided me in so many good ways for years--that voice shouted, "Aw, HELL, no!"

I got up and called my employee assistance program at once. Saw a therapist within forty-eight hours.
posted by magstheaxe at 1:14 PM on November 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

My depression first manifested as debilitating anxiety and panic attacks, and I didn't even realize what was going on at first. I posted this AskMe where everyone made fun of my typos, and when I reread it, knowing I don't need to read Strunk and White again (man that still pisses me off) and realizing that the hysteria in that AskMe meant that something was kind

Then I was working on something with a friend and sent him a spreadsheet, and asked him to point out the mistakes. He said he didn't see anything. I insisted. He still said he didn't see anything. I was so, so upset because I really felt like something was wrong with it and I felt like I couldn't trust my own mind. I decided I couldn't live that way and I wouldn't, and made an appointment with a therapist.

It took well over a year to start to feel better (after a diagnosis of anxiety and depression, and medication, and therapy), although I'm sure a lot of people I knew didn't know anything was wrong. I don't remember most of 2009. I don't think there's such a thing as "too soon." Get help as soon as you can.
posted by sweetkid at 1:50 PM on November 9, 2012

I grew up with a mother that thought seeking help for issues of any type was a horrible, weak thing to do, or at least that's the message I internalized.

I quit grad school to seek relief. That worked for a bit, but then I panicked. My fiancée was busy taking finals and wasn't available much. When she was available and I made suggestions for our future, she told her parents about them and then repeated what they said: I was trying to drag her down with me.

I felt completely worthless at that point. When a co-worker showed interest in me (had been happening for a while, but I wasn't going for it) after this latest hit, I made a monumentally stupid decision and went with it. I immediately told the fiancée, and broke up with her, as I didn't feel like it was fair to put her through more of my sadness. I had a panic attack and finally sought help. I tried to make a go of it with my co-worker (I had a messed up view that I owed her somehow; it's corny, but I felt like I had besmirched her honor and had to stick with her. Hell; she was older than me and knew that I was engaged, so she wasn't exactly pristine in this)

10 years later and I'm still trying to forgive myself for a lot of stuff: for not seeking help sooner, for not being a more independent young person, for treating someone I loved so poorly. I've been on medication for dysthymia and OCD ever since, but by the time I figured out that my moods weren't normal, my ex-fiancée well and truly hated me.
posted by fredmounts at 1:58 PM on November 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're basically describing my emotional life from about ages 9-20. I never got help and covered reasonably well so no one ever really knew what it was like in my head.

At 20, additional external life stressors piled on and something in me snapped and I found myself with a razor blade at my wrists. And that's when I finally gave up and reached out for help, and now while I still struggle with dysthymia and always will, my life is so much better. I didn't have to feel the way I did all that time, or struggle with whether I really deserved help, or whatever! I just didn't. And it saddens me to think of past me hurting that much, all alone and without help or knowledge that it truly could be better.

You don't have to feel this way all day six days out of seven or whatever, and you don't have to wait until external things topple your (exellent-sounding!) self-care regimen and getting help is the only choice, and maybe then it's an emergency.

That you're asking these questions is good. You're hurting, and it's worth exploring what you can do about that. You don't have to commit to any particular treatment plan forever, and you don't have to commit to any doctor you don't like. Just take a step or two, and see where it takes you. It's not all kittens and rainbows on the other side of where you are, but it can be indescribably better than where you are now.
posted by Stacey at 2:17 PM on November 9, 2012

I was depressed waaay before I "knew" I was depressed. Strings of very sympathetic school social workers probably knew I was depressed, or at least that I was temperamentally difficult and rather self-focused. So, I was given help rather than asking for it (and believe me, talk therapy makes an awesome excuse to skip gym class).

Am I doubtful on my good days? Quite the opposite, actually. On my bad days I do succumb to that rhetoric about "malingering" and "snap out of it" and it mostly just results in sleeping too late and getting little done at work and eating a box of Kraft Dinner in front of the telly at the end of the day. But on my good days, I know something's working. Be it the security I've developed with my therapist, fancy brain chemicals from exercise, drugs, or fish oil/vitamin D, or a renewed openness to being wrong about my initial assessment of the world, SOMETHING is working. I'm not enough of a scientist to isolate factors in this experiment, so I just keep doing it all.

Recently, I've escalated treatment because I'm at the end of an advanced degree program, and the closer I get to the end, the more my legs seem trapped in concrete, and the more I shoot myself in the foot over little things (this would seem improbable since they are protected by concrete, but that's the way the metaphor crumbles). I'm hoping to eventually substitute a wildly pervasive regimen of jogging and interpretive dance for the drugs, but right now having that kick in the norepinephrine receptors is pretty necessary.
posted by katya.lysander at 2:40 PM on November 9, 2012

First of all, good on you for coming clean with yourself that your life is worth questioning for, and thank you for asking this question. I wish you nothing but the best days.

I realized that I needed help when I felt helpless to my own thoughts, wanted to disassociate from everything around me, combined with a senseless rage to anything on which I could fixate my thoughts, thoroughly discrediting (to myself) my relationships and accomplishments, upbringing and sense of self, eventually leading to and including attempts at ending my own life.

Somewhat of a prolonged ego-death and teenage angst. What a long 7 years, from middle school through dropping out of college.

Looking back, my friends, when they were there, might have cared enough to notice, but were not equipped nor prepared to help.

I sought and received talk therapy while in college, developed a better sense of self, and dropped the therapy when I felt sufficient enough to survive. I never sought medication, even though recommended to me by psychiatrists, due to concern that I would lose my sense of self. Can't really recommend doing what I did/am doing.

Sure, I have bad days. On the good days, I am lost in the awesomeness that is life, and while there may be realizations of crud, dread and banality, they are statements, not a series of repetitive thoughts that escalate into symphonies of despair. I realized that I would rather be alive to enjoy myself with the people I love, than to ever put them through misery of providing them with the most negative part of their lives. There are people I haven't met yet or know about, that I will be able to relate to. There is a future, there is positive possibility, and I am to be an active part of it.
posted by Giggilituffin at 5:38 PM on November 9, 2012

How did I realize? Out of the blue I broke down and told my husband about all my suicide fantasies. I had never admitted they existed until I heard myself telling him.

How did you feel while writing this question?

And also, in my case, I had good days in between the bad ones, but in hindsight I see they weren't really good, because they happened often enough for me to reaffirm the idea that treatment would be an overreaction, and they lasted enough for me to forget the seriousness of the issue. In the beginning, even after I started therapy, I always thought I didn't really have depression.

I have been in treatment (meds+therapy) for almost a year and now I can very clearly see that I was severely depressed. And now I find myself telling you all the things I was told, but I know it won't click until it clicks! I feel quite powerless!
posted by Tarumba at 12:03 AM on November 10, 2012

Mine came out of nowhere. I was in a difficult, workload-heavy postgrad program but keeping my head above water and doing well. All at home was normal, no stressors. Then slowly, it became harder and harder to function - and I mean small things like getting dressed, preparing food etc. Going out of the house was too much to contemplate. So many times I got showered and dressed and it had taken all this effort and then as I stood at the front door, panicked and stayed inside. This happened so many times I could no longer continue my course.

When that finally happened I couldn't get out of bed in the morning. I just felt like someone had wrung me out and there was nothing left. I remember feeling very stupid, like I was having trouble with word retrieval and it was getting in the way of my speech. I could no longer form full sentences without struggling. My word choices were more simple, and I couldn't concentrate on anything for long. I stopped eating much of anything, and lost 30lbs in 6 weeks. Because my system reacted to this extreme deprivation, my hair started falling out in clumps. I cried every day, thinking about what a failure I am and all the horrific things people have said and done to me and how I can never right them, and a better person would have reacted differently - with more esteem and confidence. How a more intelligent person could navigate this so my failures are all my fault for being stupid and lazy and oblivious. I deserve this because I am a horrible, awful person the world would be better without, all I do is fuck other people's lives and plans up and irritate them with my stupidity. I derserve every cruel, unkind thought and action anyone has ever performed against me and more, because I am truly worthless.

I'd been hiding all this pretty well as my boyfriend was out of the house most of the time working crazy hours. But when I stopped eating he noticed, and when I started to lose so much weight my clothes were hanging off me and I was refusing meals, he got worried. And after another month of doing nothing but lying in bed hating and feeling raw guilt over existing, I finally mustered the energy to go to the doctor. It wasn't easy. I booked an afternoon appointment and it took three and a half hours to eat and dress myself.

(When I arrived he told me to 'look on the bright side' and talk to my parents. When I told him I'm estranged from them and they don't care for me and started crying, he simply called his secretary in to remove me from his office).

My second trip was to a different doctor and more useful. He prescribed me prozac and therapy. The prozac alone was like night and day - I felt awake and could think again!
I'm not saying antidepressants are enough to change your personality, and they don't, any more than one pint of beer would. But it was so much better after I started them I really wished I'd done it earlier. They gave me the energy to function so I could address my issues.

I too read a lot of DFW, and I'm here to tell you that I could have written everything you wrote, word for word, during my worst times. I say your pain is bad enough to get help for. And yes I doubted my depression too, early on, which is why it escalated so badly.

I'm thinking of you and hoping for you to get better. Not one of us deserves to feel these things. Please call the emergency services if you feel you might put yourself in danger. My heartfelt best.
posted by everydayanewday at 1:46 AM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Old thread but I'll add my experience.

It's in my family so I had quite a bit of awareness. I knew it was a possibility and was proactive with many non medical ways of managing my mood. (exercise, diet etc) My problems started after a moved to where winter was really winter and my customary winter sport which I had done for years (snowboarding) was not accessible. Over a couple of winters I got what I called mid-winter blahs.

I also found my moods would go up and down with my monthly cycle. Then a couple of winters ago things just sort of went really down. At first I didn't really notice, my mind did lots of convincing to just wait it out. I gained weight. I realize I was eating to try to change my mood. Normal things started to become hard, like going to the grocery store. I didn't like leaving my couch, it was my comfort spot.

The last straw was when I found myself finding it super difficult to even motivate myself to have a shower. I also continuously had dark thoughts. Wasn't suicidal but I thought about dying a lot and how it would all just be easier if I would just go away. Something clicked and I went 'wait, this is really wrong. Nothing in my life is bad enough that I should be thinking things like this."

I went to my doctor. Laid it all out and said I'm pretty sure I'm depressed. He started me on a low dose and said we would adjust as necessary. Even though he told me it could take a number of weeks to see a change within a week I was feeling so different. It was like my brain just clicked the on button.

"Woo, here I am again. Yay." The mind is interesting. Right now I can't even make myself think those dark thoughts. It seems so foreign and strange. I still get down, but it's normal down. One of the things I was concerned about with taking pills that they would somehow artifically fake my moods. It's not like that at all. I just feel regular now.

I't's been a couple of years now and I've debated about going off them because they are such a low dose. Maybe they jumpstarted my brain into working better? I decided not too, at least for now. I just treat them like a 'brain vitamin' of sorts and take them along with my other daily vitamins.
posted by Jalliah at 10:07 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had no idea I was depressed. I legitimately believed I was an 11-year-old who deserved to die for all the 'pain' I had inflicted upon the world. I would beat myself in front of my parents for 'not punishing me hard enough,' and thought constantly of how much happier the world would be without me.

My father thought I was trying to manipulate him to gain sympathy or avoid punishment; my mother thought I might be mentally ill - as it turned out, I was, and I began seeing a therapist that year, which helped immeasurably.

I don't say this to romanticize depression or 'one-up' anyone - your depression, in fact, could be much worse than mine - but simply to make the point that you can be in very deep before you (or a loved one) realizes it.

I think you'd be best to seek help in the form of a licensed psychiatrist (an M.D.) - they're much better suited to make an accurate judgment of your condition than us strangers on the internet. I'd set up appointments with at least four different ones in your area. Let them evaluate your case, and see if they think your issues are significant enough for them to take you on as a client; simultaneously, think about who you're comfortable with, who you find to be a good listener, etc. Don't write off the entire field of psychiatry after one invalidating experience (there are many crappy psychiatrists out there - that doesn't mean psychiatry as a whole is useless). Also, don't be dissuaded by the costliness of an M.D. - if you find the right one, it will save you many years of paying for an unhelpful therapist, or the cost of preventable hospitalizations (and all self-harm is preventable).
posted by sidi hamet at 3:26 PM on November 10, 2012

Also, I think it will be useful for you to go and seek out a psychiatrist before you have the 'aha' moment. Think of Ghostride the Whip's analogy of depression as a parasite (it is a very good one) - as soon as you have that 'aha' moment, your depression will try its damnedest to convince you out of seeing a psychiatrist; it might succeed.

By the sounds of it - you sleep in very late, which indicates you probably don't have a job or any social obligations, so perhaps your depression has already done a good job of isolating you. Isolation is the ideal environment for depression: it wants to remove people who could correct your misconceptions about yourself.

I think your black-and-white thinking is also a real red flag - "aliented everyone," "squandered every opportunity," "regret any decision," "unqualified to do anything." You've already identified that these things are objectively impossible - and that's wonderful! You're right on the money. Keep at it.

P.S. - Upon review, sorry for not noticing you had already set one appointment with a psychiatrist. Phenomenal! Set three more, like I said^ - you need to set up these fail-safes so your depression can't take advantage of the negative experiences you do have. Best of luck.
posted by sidi hamet at 3:34 PM on November 10, 2012

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