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.)