After years of living with and learning about depression, I felt that it was important to both tell my story and create a website that would accomplish the following goals
So here we go . . .
It was the middle of the 1990’s and I was married with three young children and worked in radio sales and sales management. My wife, at the time, stayed home with the kids so I was the sole bread winner for the family. I started to feel very anxious and began to lose interest in my kids and family which didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. After several months of sadness and lethargy, I decided to visit my family doctor. After explaining my symptoms, he immediately asked me to fill out a Beck Test which is currently available online. Unlike another illness like diabetes, there is no scientific test that you can take to ascertain whether or not you are depressed. Once the test was completed, he told me that I was suffering from clinical depression. The symptoms of depression are . . .
I would have to take medication to help balance the serotonin levels in my brain. The stigma attached to taking anti – depressants is substantial and I balked at the idea. But when I couldn’t get out of bed for a three week period and could hardly down half a grilled cheese sandwich, I knew that I had no choice.
The feelings that you experience are essentially seeing the glass half empty at all times. There does not appear to be any hope that things will ever get better and the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train. Although I was never hospitalized, there were times that I can remember that all I would have to do is jerk the steering wheel on the car and it would all be over. The times of despair are challenging because you not only lose your positive energy and will to go on, but you begin to feel as if your life has no purpose. You start to ask yourself ” why am I here ” and would the world miss me if I was gone. And depression goes hand in hand with anxiety and so you become anxious about every little thing including the phone ringing or someone knocking on the door. You can take tranquilizers or what are really muscle relaxants that solve the problem temporarily, however, the side effects include depression and you can become addicted.
So began my journey into the world of medication to treat depression. After taking a month off work, the anti – depressants began to work and I started magically feeling better. That was coupled with cognitive therapy with my psychologist and support from family and friends. Unfortunately, the medication ( Paxil ) worked so well that it pushed me into a medication induced state of mania. The symptoms of mania are . . .
Mania is both dangerous and fun at the same time and the challenge is to realize the danger and address it. In the meantime, I did some things that were completely out of character. For example, I bought a pair of $ 250 running shoes and scuffed them on the way out of the store; so I threw them out and went in and bought a new pair. I met an Australian couple in Florida and met with them to discuss the purchase of a multi- million dollar condo unit – I had no money at the time. I stayed up all night and came up with some brilliant schemes that never came to fruition.
One day I received the phone call from my psychologist telling me that a new medication ( Lithium ) was being introduced to help cut out the highs. So, the Paxil lifted me up and the Lithium brought me down. Sound strange but absolutely necessary. The Lithium did it’s job and brought me back to normal, whatever that is.
I remember sitting with my psychologist, Dr. Lorrie Merriott (who is the consulting psychologist for the new website) and she asked me what helped you to get better. I said a combination of therapy, medication, support from family and friends. She said that I was missing one critical element – me. At the end of the day, you have to be able to have the intestinal fortitude to pull yourself out of the black hole of depression. And once you have gone through a depression, you become a stronger individual as my medical doctor told me. Adversity builds character.
And then 20 years passed. No medication, no depression, no mania. I even started a support group with a friend, Ben Michaud, to help people who suffered and it lasted for 15 years. I will never forget the day I got a call from one of our members informing me that he had a knife and was going to kill himself. I kept him on the phone and drove to his place, walked inside and asked for the knife which he surrendered to me. After which, I called 911 and breathed a sigh of relief.
In the fall of 2015, I was hospitalized with a bowel obstruction which required three surgeries and a temporary colostomy bag. After the surgeries, which were successful, I slipped into a depression in the Spring of 2016. Back to the doctor, back to the psychologist, back to the Paxil. And of course back to the mania. The summer of fun as I like to call it resulted in the break up of a 5 year relationship and a night spent in jail. So back to Lithium to bring balance to my life and here we are today.
Depression cost me a marriage, a 5 year relationship, almost my job, spending a night in jail and being finger printed, and a whole lot more. That’s the overview, the details are coming in future blogs.