Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Depression profile #3: ME!

Hi friends! In the comments on my last post Gypsy asked me some good questions that I thought I'd try to answer here. Here is what she (or she could be a he . . .) said:

Laura, I have read some of your posts about your depression. I am happy that you are writing about this subject because many LDS women are afraid about not looking perfect and admitting to themselves that they can't live up to the perceived expectations. I personally have struggled with a mental disorder for the past 10 years, but I have struggled with emotional issues for a good part of my life. But this post isn't about me. I wanted to ask you about the measures you are taking to combat the disorder. How long do you think you have had this depression? What drugs have you taken. . . I may be able to help you in your quest to find the right drug. I have taken almost all of them. YAYA!

Okay Gypsy, here are your answers! I gotta warn you, though. I have never been able to give a short answer in my life.

#1 & #3: I do A LOT of things to combat my depression. I try to exercise almost everyday--I usually skip Sunday (keep that Sabbath day holy!) and miss one or two days during the week. I take an antidepressant. I just switched from Lexapro to Cymbalta a week ago. I'll let you all know how that is in a few weeks when the medicine has a had a chance to kick in. I occasionally go to therapy so that I can sort the effective behaviors from the ineffective ones. I'm part of a playgroup and a book club so that I don't get too lonely. I attend Church and try to pray, read my scriptures, and attend the temple so that I can receive the Lord's guidance and His uplifting spirit. My depression affects every facet of my life so I do a lot of things to fight it.

#2: How long a person has been depressed is always a tricky question. I wasn't formally diagnosed until about four months after I gave birth to my first baby. The depression, however, had started sometime during the pregnancy and I just hadn't realized it. I called it postpartum depression and hoped it was merely a blip in my otherwise seriously, so blessed life. I took Lexapro for about three months and quit, thinking that I was cured.

I started the slow descent back down only a couple of months after I went off the drugs. Exercise, writing, and developing meaningful relationships all helped stave off the bad days. But the bad days were really bad. When I got pregnant with my second baby I started to perk up. My body seems to produce hormones better when I'm pregnant so for the first couple trimesters I felt quite buoyant. Unfortunately, during the third trimester of my second pregnancy I began to feel like, well, crap. So I started thinking of myself as someone with perinatal depression. My OB put me back on Lexapro when my baby was three weeks old and strongly urged me to get a therapist. I found one but we didn't really get along so I quit seeing her after a few sessions.

I quit my medicine the second time, under my doctor's supervision, after six months. I was still hoping the PPD was just a minor detour. My emotional state quickly deteriorated again. This time I joined a gym and found a new therapist. I figured/hoped that maybe the depression was being caused by some underlying anxiety issues that got triggered by the stress of having babies. Which some of it was. But a lot of it wasn't.

I then got pregnant for the third time and, thanks in part to my therapist who provided essential support during my pregnancy, started taking my drugs during the last few weeks before delivery. I had some anxiety and trouble sleeping after the baby was born but nothing like the crazies that I had with my first and second babies.

Which brings me to now. My baby just turned one and I am on a new drug. I also still see my therapist occasionally and I am only now coming to terms with the chronic nature of this illness. It boggles my mind, and kind of scares me, that I am going to have to deal with this issue for the rest of my life. Of course, when I am being honest with myself I admit that I went through depressed phases as a teenager so I've already been dealing with it for quite some time. Bizarrely, that thought gives me hope.

I hope that covers it all in a relatively succinct manner, Gypsy. Oh and by the way, if you or any other reader would like to share your story (in a completely confidential and anonymous way) on my blog I would love it. If you are interested please email me at lolapalooza AT hotmail DOT com. Please put "depression profile" in the subject line so I know you are not a spammer! I honestly believe that the more we talk about all this the better it will get.


Elizabeth-W said...

I'll be curious to see how the cymbalta works out, too.
I'm horrible. Sunday is one day I almost always exercise because I have time to--church isn't until 3pm. I watch an episode of Little House on the Prairie, so that is sort of like church, huh? Huh? Right??? :)

jendoop said...

Thanks for sharing, hopefully the more we talk about depression the more the 'crazy' stereotype will be dispelled.
Keep up all you're doing to be well. Exercise is the best thing that helps me.

Unknown said...

Depression needs to be seen more like an unfit neurotransmitter response, much as obesity is unfit muscle response or insulin response. I say this, because right now, it sounds like a mental inherent deficiency, rather than something that can be either weakened or corrected.

I just recently realized I was dealing with depression. I have recently gone back to school to finish my doctorate, but as much as I enjoy my subject, I just could not concentrate. Life has been the pits for a few years, and I had just accepted that. Now I see that being depressed is another issue entirely - and has little to do with success in work, or dating or anything else.