Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It all started when...

Late November, 2000, I noticed I wasn't feeling quite "right." Nothing new or special, traumatic or dramatic going on in my life. I was 33 years old, married, 3 years into my new career, had 2 cars in the garage and 2 dogs in the house. Living in our first home, both working full-time, we were fine financially, spiritually, physically.
I had depression as a teenager, and I recognized this new feeling as a familiar, old feeling. I sought help, therapy and psychiatric intervention, but by March, 2001, I was in the hospital. Unable to function at work or home, and unable to feel the joy that I cognitively recognized around me, I was hopeless.
I couldn't cry.
I couldn't laugh.
I couldn't sleep.
I couldn't cope.
I started some new meds and improved. I went back to work. I went back to the hospital, again, a few months later. I chose ECT treatments that summer, desperate to get back to me. Rebounding in the fall of 2001, my spouse announced, "I'm leaving." I guess I wasn't the same person anymore, but I will never really know...nothing more was said of the reasoning, just, "I'm leaving." Three months of painful, confusing, distant cohabitation later, the empty house was mine alone. Well, mine with my boy, Puck (black lab), still my faithful companion today.
It was December. In less than one year, this illness had totally turned my life inside-out and upside-down. Dreams of owning a small farm together, growing old together, sharing more and more joy together; they all died as I stepped into my empty living room that day, December 17, 2001.
It was a sentinel moment caused by depression.
Over the next several months, I returned to work, and then to the hospital, and then work, and then the hospital. In the spring of 2002, I made a decision to enter an 8-week inpatient program where I could receive the care I couldn't seem to provide for myself. Things like cooking, showering, and socializing had become overwhelming and foreign. I also entered this program to learn some new skills. I needed new coping skills to deal with myself, this illness, and others. And I got them! It was my first exposure to DBT.
sidenote: I was formerly a mental health practitioner (first career). I knew all about DBT and the corresponding stigmatizing diagnosis it was created to treat, Borderline Personality Disorder. During my mental health career, I used that same garbage-can diagnosis on patients who just "wouldn't get better," or who spoke-up a little too much, or who disagreed with their treatment plan too often. Now here I was, carrying this same diagnosis and pissed as hell about it! But it got me into this program, and I knew if I went back home alone, at that time, my depression would have killed me. In retrospect, I did have BPD traits, and learning DBT has improved the quality of my life immensely. The skills I learned are now an ingrained piece of my personality. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn them. Unfortunately, even with these shiny new skills, the black cloud of depression continued to blind my path.
It was while learning these new skills, in my fourth week of hospitalization, that I was fired. My job? I was a physical therapist in a hospital. I was terminated via letter, which arrived one week after my official last day of employment! It was the cruelest of all events, and it never would have happened if I had been in the hospital for breast cancer, or heart disease, or maybe even alcoholism! I immediately phoned my psychiatrist (a member of the hospital, my employer's, board of governers), and I learned that she knew nothing of this action. I spoke with my medical director who was also shocked and had not been consulted. In an apparent unilateral action, a member of the hospital's HR department had decided I was done. Long story short, I made multiple attempts to get my job back. Other professionals made attempts on my behalf. I complied with everything the HR rep requested I do in order to return to work, but it soon became clear that no matter how many hoops I lept through, she would find another one to place in front of me. It was grueling, exhausting, and demoralizing. I sued. I won. But I miss my department, my patients, my job.
While this scenario was playing itself out, the hospital apparently had another employee, with breast cancer, who was in the middle of a 2-year medical leave. Based on my experience, I firmly believe if I had any illness, other than mental illness, I would still be working at this hospital today.
to be continued...

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