The first several posts of this blog have been devoted to my husband's stroke. Now it's time to introduce myself and my own therapy (of which there has been only a small amount).
I have dealt with depression since I was a teenager. However, I wasn't diagnosed until 2005. I had given birth to my 4th child in 6 years and I was exhausted. I remember clearly having a meltdown with my husband - I told him I couldn't handle all the demands of my life any more and I was probably accusing him of not helping me enough and not being sensitive enough to my feelings, blah, blah, blah. Then I left to go to a meeting. Instead of fighting back, my husband simply let me leave and then called up a good friend that we've known since college, who also happens to be an MD. Al spilled all of my issues to Dr. P., who candidly said, "She's depressed, bro." Al promptly made an appointment with our family Doc who concurred that I was indeed suffering from depression. (Dr. P wasn't our family Doc at the time, but he is now.)
It was a mystery to me as to how I could suffer from depression, but I always knew something was "wrong" with me. I have a very blessed life - I'm married to my best friend, we have 4 amazing kids, and I truly love being a wife and a mom. We have a great, supportive Christian community that we are involved, and in general, our life is very fulfilling. How does someone who is so blessed get depressed?
I've discovered over the past 6 years that there are a lot of causes for depression, and it seems I have a little bit of each. First of all, I grew up in a home with a father who was angry almost all of the time. In retrospect, I'm quite sure he was suffering from depression, too, and probably still battles it on a regular basis. My mother was always very even keel, but our family didn't talk about "deep" things very much. So I battled with the natural emotions of adolescence, and I didn't have a way to talk through them. I kept them in and thought that I was abnormal for feeling sadness and mood swings. Well, maybe I didn't keep them in as well as I thought, since I have a distinct memory of crying while I was doing the dishes, and my dad asking me, "What the hell are you crying about???" (Disclaimer: my dad is a great guy and I love him; he just didn't know how to respond to girl emotions.) So between normal teenage angst and living in a home with depression, depression got into my system.
I am also a vicious perfectionist. But I'm also kind of a slacker, so I let myself down a lot! When I went off to college, I didn't really have a vision for what I wanted to do with my life, so I was a mediocre student at best. And then I felt guilty for not pursuing a high-powered career.
To be honest, all I ever really wanted to do with my life was to be a wife and a mom. In 1996, the first part of that dream came true when I married my best friend, Al. In 1999, the other part came true with the birth of my first baby. How, then, could I still be depressed???
Having 4 kids in 6 years is a little stressful on the body, as well as the mind, since I was a stay-at-home mom with 4 young'uns, ages 5 and under. So, as much as I loved my kids and my home and being the wife & mom I always wanted to be, there was constant stress on my body and mind for 6 years straight. The way Dr. P described it to me was that my brain really was fried, for lack of a better term. Chronic stress = brain frittata = lack of ability to deal with normal stuff of life = depression. Hey, my doc could explain it better, but that's because he went to med school for 8 years and I didn't. To make a long story short, I was very much relieved that I actually had depression and that I wasn't just failing at life.
Since having been formally diagnosed with depression, I have tried a few different antidepressants. The first and best was Zoloft. It worked wonders, but I quickly gained 20-30 lbs., which I have yet to lose! After 6 months, I went off the Zoloft, hit rock bottom, and then tried again with Wellbutrin (didn't do anything), Lexapro (curbed my appetite, but made my moods kind of flat - not much up and down), and finally Effexor XR, which is what I am taking now and have been for a few years. It does the trick and has probably led to a little more weight gain - I am now about 50 lbs. overweight and I really need to get on track with the weight loss thing - BUT, it's better than being chronically depressed and suicidal, right?
Even with all of the possible causes of my depression - family history, perfectionism, chronic stress, etc. - I have always known that I myself needed to work on one thing to get better: my thought life. Clearly, perfectionism involves a lot of skewed self-talk like, "I have to be perfect," "People won't love me if I'm not perfect," "If I can't do something perfectly, then I have failed at it." etc. So, I know that I need to teach myself positive (and truthful) self-talk.
About 2 years ago, I started seeing a Christian therapist so that I could talk through some of my thought life with her and try to develop better thought patterns. However, I stopped going when my husband had his stroke, due to sheer lack of time and ability to get away.
Oddly enough, I haven't experienced much depression since Al's stroke. I know for a fact that it was due to a LOT of grace from the Lord, and probably lack of time to actually become depressed. Oh, sure, I've had my moments of anger, grief, frustration, sadness, etc. and yes, some depression, but not nearly as much as I've experienced in the past. There will be many more posts to flesh out all of my depression and anxiety issues, but this is the start.
This might sum up where I am at the moment:
(Credit goes to whomever posted this on Facebook - wish I'd come up with it myself!)