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rollinsk (@rollinsk)

Is depression permanent?

Depression & Anxiety | Last Active: Sep 8, 2021 | Replies (84)

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I was just taking part in a conversation about this in a group for people like me who are dealing with severe pain from neuropathy. Some of the people in that group might want to share their experience with depression. Hank @jesfactsmon will, I hope, join me here.

I went to an appointment with my pcp in 2002, and told him that what I was feeling could be depression, but I wanted to rule out any possible organic problems that could be causing me to feel tired all the time, feeling hopeless, becoming unable to function in my job. He prescribed Celexa (I think) that day, and we started doing a variety of tests, one being a sleep study, when I found that I had sleep apnea. After not very many nights with a cpap machine, I started feeling better. I was really sleep deprived, so I slept more than 12 hours a day for a month.

Over the next few years I found and dealt with several other physical problems, and I'd feel better for a while, but it didn't last. At an appointment in 2004, I asked my doctor if there was something cheaper than Celexa, and he said, "Sure. Prozac is cheap." That took me by surprise. I told him, that's an antidepressant! I hadn't understood that the Celexa I was taking was an antidepressant. So, Prozac it was. From then until late 2005, I tried a bunch of antidepressants, but nothing helped until I got to Wellbutrin.

Unfortunately, by that point even I could see that I was deeply depressed, and I made several suicide attempts by OD. My doctor had told me that if I ever needed to talk, just go to his office – no appointment necessary – and in November of '05, I drove the 50 miles to town and sat in his waiting room until he was done seeing patients. I told him how seriously depressed I was and that I had OD'd several times. My wife was with me, and she had no clue what I'd been going through. On his orders, I admitted myself to a facility that was 130 miles from home. We lived in a remote village of fewer than 250 people, 130 miles to any stores.

I stayed there for 6 weeks, though the norm is 3 days. I knew that if I left I'd be dead within hours.

I was in a deep, dark hole from '05 to '07. It took 3 years of therapy, discovery, medications to climb out, and around 5 more years to be safe. I wish it weren't so, but I still have times when my brain tells me that suicide is a rational solution for the way I feel.

So – I seem to take the long way around, getting to my point for writing – is depression permanent?

Doctors like to say that it's a treatable disease. But that doesn't really answer the question. Treatment can look very different to me than it does to you.

I think that part of the answer lies in understanding the cause of my depression. Some people are depressed during the rainy winter months, which is a form of depression called seasonal affective disorder. When the sun comes out and the first spring flowers bloom, depression lifts.

The main label the psychiatrist put on me after I got out of lockdown was Major Depressive Disorder, along with a few other disorders. That's a long term, chronic form of depression. Starting in January of '06, I met weekly with a psychologist, and for several months, I saw the psychiatrist weekly, as well. I was pretty far gone.

I have come to terms with the likelihood that I'll live with major depression the rest of my life, which means managing medications and having therapy. In the past 14 years, I've had 13 therapists. Not by choice, but because the town where I now live isn't big enough to keep therapists because they can make so much more money almost anywhere else. Add to that the fact that I have to find someone who accepts Medicare.

So, why are any of us depressed? I believe that finding the answer to that question will be important as to whether or not it will be permanent. But even knowing that it might be permanent doesn't mean that there's no hope. Over the past 14 years, I've taken time off from therapy two times. I felt that I was at a stable, safe place, and was OK just taking my meds. Then, when I found myself headed back toward that hole, a therapist would be available.

As @gingerw said, it takes hard work. And the process of finding the right antidepressant can be long and frustrating, and I know too well the feeling of wanting to give up. That kind of goes with the territory. And that's why groups like this can be literal lifesavers if we stay connected.

@rollinsk, and others, know today that you're not alone.

Jim. (I'll try not to write such long messages. But no guarantee.)

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Replies to "I was just taking part in a conversation about this in a group for people like..."

@jimhd Hi Jim, thanks for fleshing out what your history has been with depression. Since I mostly only participate in the neuropathy discussions, where you have mentioned only tangentially that you live with it, I didn't have a full picture. I lived with a form of depression from about age 9 or 10 until about 35 (I am 68 now), but I don't feel I have depression any longer so obviously yours is very different than mine. Mine was what I would call a personality issue or disorder. I am not certain there was not some physical component to it, but I think I did not have clinical depression. Let me say right here that I do not know anything about depression other than my own experience, never talked about it at length with anyone who had it, and am coming at it here as only a wide-eyed novice.

My question about your situation, which developed from a post you wrote the other day is how your depression developed? When did you first become aware of something being wrong? Were your childhood, youth and early adulthood okay? Did this seem to happen to you suddenly, or at least over some sort of time frame, where you were "okay" and then eventually you were not anymore? From this I would just like to understand whether there was a physical change in your makeup that brought this on, or whether it all started as a purely psychological problem, and when you think it all began, and what may have triggered it (if there is such a thing as a trigger for depression). I don't know why my personality was so screwed up early in life, it just was. I do know what I did to get rid of it, and it was not drugs at all, and no therapist except my wife, who could have been a therapist, she is pretty talented that way, a natural counselor. It also involved a lot of self introspection, what my wife called "The Work". Maybe I can talk about that another time.

So that is what I wonder about you Jim, i.e. did you have an identifiable depresion-free period in your earlier life and then the Big "D" started, or did you always deal with it in some form, and how much is physical only, etc. I understand that you may or may not have answers to these questions. You always seem pretty open to talking about yourself but I only ask for whatever you feel comfortable revealing. I have never looked back at my own situation much in recent years and I guess I would like to understand better just what did really happen to me and how did I get depressed and then get undepressed. Okay, I will leave it there for now. Best, Hank