A woman who has major depressive disorder decides to go back onto her medication:
This is her story:
Today, I decided to go back on anti-depressants. This is a battle I’ve waged for years; do I really need them, do they really help, are the side effects worth it, am I just a loser who can’t deal with life’s vagaries.
Last weekend I drafted a post that contained the line, I feel like a bucket brimming with tears, and the slightest, inevitable tremble of the earth makes them overflow. It’s an inelegant metaphor, but worse, it’s a pretty clear symptom that things are not going well. It’s partly a bad birthday, partly the break-up, partly some harsh health news. It’s mostly, if I’m honest, cyclical, recurrent, my noonday demon.
“Grief is depression in proportion to circumstance; depression is grief out of proportion to circumstance.”
— Andrew Solomon
This is a family tradition; at the cousins’ table at last weekend’s wedding, we raised a toast to Lexapro and discussed having a candy bowl of all our meds on the coffee table of the rental house we’ll share at the next wedding. It’s funny, but it isn’t. Undiagnosed and untreated depression, manifested as alcoholism and other self-destructive behavior, blackens the family history like soot after a fire. Not everyone, not all the time, but too many, too often.
For me, it begins with a lack of resilience. My normal ability to adapt diminishes and diminishes until I can’t remember that I ever had it. Then, despite the pride I take in being self-aware, I start to judge my good life unworthy and tell myself that my unhappiness, my deep profound malaise that rips the joy out of each moment and shows me only the glaring photo-negative of each happy event, is actually the only sane and measured response to a terrible world and my own failures to strive against the terribleness. That’s the most insidious part, for me; my beautiful brain turns against me, whispering that I am correct in my assessment of my own awfulness and that I deserve to feel bereft, that my sadness is borne from clearly seeing the world and my own bottom-rung place in it. That the life that stretches before me will always be this bleak and hopeless, and that it’s my fault, and that I’m forever lost.
I mostly retain enough self-awareness to know how first-world self-pitying this sounds to anyone but me, but knowing that doesn’t combat my secret belief that it’s true.
My first episode of depression hit me during my fourth year of college. I was living by myself, and working two jobs, and so sad and overwhelmed that I began skipping classes to sleep and sleep, until I got so far behind that I saw no option but to quit. The rueful backstory here is that my parents had already yanked me out of my beloved city and school once, for financial reasons, and I had fought bitterly to return to the life I thought was rightfully mine. And then I ruined it. No one, myself included, ever thought my actions might be aberrant because I was ill; I was just a failure who fucked it all up.
“…a part of depression is that it touches cognition. That you are having a breakdown does not mean that your life isn’t a mess. If there are issues you have successfully skirted or avoided for years, they come cropping back up and stare you full in the face, and one aspect of depression is a deep knowledge that the comforting doctors who assure you that your judgment is bad are wrong. You are in touch with the real terribleness of your life. You can accept rationally that later, after the medication sets in, you will be better able to deal with the terribleness, but you will not be free of it. When you are depressed, the past and future are absorbed entirely by the present moment, as in the world of a three-year-old. You cannot remember a time when you felt better, at least not clearly; and you certainly cannot imagine a future time when you will feel better.”
— Andrew Solomon (The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression)
I’ve tried and tried to write about the beginnings of this last trough, when my sister’s boyfriend was shot and nearly killed on our front porch in 2006. Well, I have succeeded in writing about it–the awful terror and despair of the days and weeks that surrounded the event, and my subsequent PTSD and years of broken sleep and terrible anger–but I’ve failed to write about it in a way that is useful. It’s simply too raw and ugly still, and there is no happy ending, only pain and permanent disability and broken hearts. The long-term effects led to my worst low ever, eventually, and to an appointment with a psychiatrist where I wept uncontrollably and confessed that I was afraid to leave my house and afraid to stay home alone and at the bitter end of my ability to conceal how bad things were. I was scared that I would die, that I was broken in a way that could never be put right.
Medicine was a revelation, a silver bullet that lifted me up and out in weeks. I’d gone so far as to get a prescription for anti-depressants before, but never taken them. Once I started, within six months I’d launched a new business, gotten a promotion, found a new place to live, and started dating again.
And then in January I quit. I felt good, I was falling in love, I was emphatically not a person who would be on meds for the rest of her life. I wanted to be the plucky heroine of my own story who’d had some lows and left them behind. I didn’t want my dates to see the pill bottles. I didn’t want to be damaged goods.
But I don’t want to be mired in black sadness and self-doubt any more either. I’ve met so many people lately who are doing amazing things with their lives, and I’ve lost so much time already. I write this to remind myself that I have more to offer the world than I’ve been able to give, that the drum of failure and hopelessness inside my head can change its beat. I get a flash every once in a while of what my life could mean, of what I could accomplish with the talents and abilities I have, and I need to hold on to those images and walk toward them. If I have to pause in my march each day to wash down some false pharmaceutical courage, it’s a small price to pay.
I used to work as a planning engineer at a big construction company. I am a pure vegetarian. I didn’t like the non-vegegarian food near me, so I used to stay away from all the people who used to eat non-veg food. We all stayed in a company provided guest house, and they were the majority.
My roommate there tortured me physically where we were staying, and mentally at our workplace, on a daily basis. Since I was inexperienced and rather new to the industry, he used to bully me and downgrade me by calling me a clerk even though I was a Senior Engineer there. I wanted to report the physical torture to my superiors, but my roommate threatened that he would have people torture my family if I did.
In the same office I fell in love with a girl I worked with. I told her that I was being bullied, but she thought I was joking. My roommate’s bullying caused me to leave my job and kept me from having a healthy relationship with the girl I loved. He was telling her bad things about me, and I didn’t want to tell her everything he had been doing to me. I had thoughts of committing suicide and sometimes I even thought about killing him. These thoughts would run over and over in my dreams like nightmares.
Because of him, I am depressed, I lost my job, and I lost the girl I love. I want to report him to the police. I want to kill myself. I can’t sleep from all the nightmares. I don’t know who to talk to because I am afraid and embarrassed. Please help me if you have been through something like this.
All the shattered hearts and broken promises that I thought I was angry about all seem so irrelevant now. I know that separating is probably the best thing for both of us, but it’s killing me. I no longer care about whether I pass or fail in school. I no longer care about graphic design. None of that matters without him.
How could I have been so blind? So stupid? I got so lost in the things that he had done to me that I forgot about the girl he brought to life. I may not be able to prevent the pain he causes me now and again, but I am in control of MY actions, and my actions have been deplorable.
This isn’t me. I don’t retaliate. I forgive, and I move on. When did I lose sight of that girl? His mistakes should have never been repeated no matter how much I wanted him to understand. He’s a man. He will never understand the emotions of a woman. I sure don’t understand the emotions of a man.
It’s probably too late for us. I simply hope someone else can learn from our mistakes. Forgiveness is a wonderful thing, and by forgiving your spouse you can make a stand. You can say that you will not allow the darkness to destroy what you both have built, even if you have to build the walls on your own.
The happiness in our eyes has been gone for quite a while. Once they told the world a story of a love that few would ever experience. Somewhere along the way, we forgot how lucky we were to have found each other. I wish I had been better at showing him how truly grateful I was to have him here. And while many might say that I should use these lessons for the next guy, I know, without a single doubt, that there will be no other for me. The attention that I was seeking from others never managed to replace what I was desperately in need of from him. And because of my foolishness, there will always be a break in his heart that won’t heal, and that I am responsible for. No matter how many times I assure him that I never followed through, he will always believe I did. Maybe that’s even worse. He will spend the rest of his life hoping that my words are true but never truly believing.
Dear God, what have I done? I ruined the only thing that was truly pure and beautiful in my life out of pure spite. My life has never had any light in it until he came along. The day I met him, everything sprang to life. The grass was greener; the sky was bluer. Exactly when did I lose sight of that? Was it the first time he slapped me? Was it the day he broke my tailbone? I seem to recall a spark up until the moment that I felt that a single promise from him had become necessary – that no matter how our fights ended, if something ever happened to me that he would not panic and kill our children as well. Anything that was left after that died the moment I pleaded for my own life.
I know this relationship isn’t healthy. I’m fully capable of taking a step back and screaming to the girl before me, “For God’s sake, run!” But I stand by a decision I made one night in our Blessing home: if I intended to love him, then I was going to love him to the end, whether it be tragic or happily ever after. It looks like tragedy is the theme of this play, but at least the heroes in question have lost only their souls and not their lives.
“If you scream or fight I will kill you.”
“If you tell anyone what happened, I will know, and I will come find you and kill you. I will kill your whole family. And I will make sure you suffer. Don’t you dare tell anyone.”
Those words have haunted me for a little over 5 years now. Over and over in my head those words have played like a broken record. Don’t scream, don’t fight, don’t tell anyone. Or I will kill you.
And that is all I can get myself to write down. That is as far as it will go.
I am still silent after all of these years. Some of my really close friends and my mother knows what happened but I can’t break the silence of details. I can’t tell anyone what really happened that night. Even after all these years.
I am in another state. Far far away where he can’t ever find me. But he still has control over me. He still knows that those few words can do all of this to me.
And I am still silent.
I don’t know where to begin. Too much has happened in my life, it even seems unreal to me at times. My coping mechanisms are different than most people because I have Dissociative Identity Disorder, or DID for short. I will try to be as clear as I can about the events while protecting myself from the grief.
The first trauma – I was sexually abused by an older brother from ages of 5 until 9. That is when my DID began. When I was 9 years old, my mom committed suicide. Her suicide had 2 lasting effects on my life- 1st, it sent my abuser away to live in another state and 2nd, it formed a wall inside of me that will always and forever prevent me from taking my own life.
My twin brother and I went to live with our paternal grandparents. It was not always easy there. I don’t think or believe the same as the rest of my relatives, so while not exactly worthy of outright hate, I was not worthy of unconditional love either. I tried to earn love and respect by getting good grades in school, but that only seemed to alienate me further. My grandparents were hard working farmers and completely illiterate. I would keep my mouth shut, so my “book learnin” wasn’t quite so obvious.
It wasn’t that they didn’t care, I think they just didn’t know how to respond to me. They felt uncomfortable with me. I loved them anyway.
My dad was a truck driver. He drove “cross country,” so he wasn’t home much. Once, he was gone for 2 years. I used to sit on Grandma’s front porch and wait for him, hope in my heart for the slim chance of him coming home. When he did arrive, he would flood my twin brother with gifts and stories. I would get a hug and a pat on the head. I wanted to sit on his lap, to hear the stories, to ride in the “big rig” with him like my twin. I still don’t understand how being a girl made me unequal. I needed him to love me the way he loved my brother, but that would never be the case.
After I was married, he came to my house looking for my twin. He had not yet met my newborn son. I begged him to come in. I would make coffee, we could wait together for my brother to come home. He stood at the door and said he would come back when my brother was home. I shut the door, slid down to the floor and cried. Why was I so unlovable? Why was I not worth an hour of his time? After that, I decided that I was done begging for his attention. I had my own issues to worry about.
My husband was abusive. I left him when my son was 6 yrs old. I moved in with someone I met online, a terrible decision because he was not good for me or my son. I left him too, and quickly found myself living in my dad’s basement.
I went to college, earned all A’s and a degree, and met a wonderful man. He does not abuse me in any way, and I finally felt loved for the first time ever.
My son was 15 by then. He had undiagnosed autism and an IQ of only 72, but we tried so very hard to create a safe and loving home for him. Sometimes it was really difficult, he was rebellious towards my boyfriend, never wanting to listen to him. I cringed every time I heard him say, “You’re not my dad.” We worked to try to make things better.
When my son was 19 years old, he came home from school one day and told me he had met a wonderful girl and wanted to date her. The problem was she was only 14. Her parents were divorced. I spoke with her mom, and she was alright with the situation. I never heard from the girl’s father, figuring I would get the chance at some point because he welcomed my son over to his place once or twice.
It was early morning on a Friday. I went to check on my son. There was no answer when I knocked on his door. I open his door a crack. It smelled like old socks because he never cleans it, but he was not in bed. His backpack was gone. I figured he must have gotten himself off to the school bus by himself, unusual, but I was happy about it. I spent the day dreaming of the wedding I hoped to be planning with my boyfriend soon.
When my boyfriend arrived home, I realized that my son was not home from school yet. I told myself he was probably at his girlfriend’s house having dinner, so I had my boyfriend call over there. At first, my boyfriend was silent, then he stood up and turned on the TV. There on the news, was a picture of my son and his girlfriend. The caption on the picture said, “Man, 19, kills 14 year old girlfriend’s father.”
In that moment, I lost everything that I had ever held dear, my hopes and dreams gone, blasted away in pain, regret and remorse. What did I do wrong? How could I not know that was going to happen? I blame myself every single day …if only I knew what was happening, if only I would have done things differently …if only …IF FUCKING ONLY!!
That was 8 months ago. I have not been able to touch my only child. He does not emote very well, never has. He will go to trial in the spring. The best I can even hope for is that they will put him into a mental institution instead of a prison …but how likely is that? I don’t know. I know if you are capable of doing something like that, you need to be kept away from society. He had never been violent before, and has not been violent since. He waited for the police, admitted his guilt. He cooperated and did not flee.
My son was nearly strangled to death already. It is a painful reality that he will not do well with the rest of the prison population. He cannot read people’s emotions, and does not understand when someone is being sarcastic. His mental age is 14, and he is easy to manipulate.
My boyfriend is still with me, thankfully. My twin still talks to me, but my dad and grandparents passed away before all this happened. The rest of my family speaks ill of me because of my “different” ways of thinking. My community hates me because I am the mother of a murderer. I feel completely and utterly alone.
I am not suicidal, I won’t take that road, even after all of this, but I am not actively living now either. So, where does that leave me? I don’t know, but I don’t like it.