Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 19 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, September 17, 2015

A bit of a Rant

I don't have depression as a result of a character defect. It is not because I am weak, ineffectual, or not participating appropriately in life. I don't have depression because I don't know how to manage my free time. I don't have depression because I am working too little or too much. I don't have depression because I don't know every cognitive behavioral therapy technique in the book. I don't have depression because I am not using "my skills" effectively enough to combat it. I don't have depression because I'm not attending enough meetings. It is not because I'm too smart or not smart enough. I don't have depression because I'm not attending the right therapeutic group. I can be doing all of these things "correctly" and still have depression. It is not the result of a character defect.

I have depression. Specifically, I have Major Depression, Recurrent, Severe without Psychotic Features. The ICD-9 billing code is 296.33. It is an illness of my brain. It comes and goes, varies in severity, but basically remains a chronic condition I do my best to deal with on a regular basis. Right now my depression is particularly virulent and treatment resistant. That doesn't mean I'm at fault.

Sometimes treatment simply doesn't work. This is true for many chronic conditions. Cancer patients sometimes fill their bodies with pure poison, yet the cancer persists. People with diabetes sometimes eat exactly the right food and still require insulin to maintain healthy stability. Despite rest and medications, those with MS still have days where they find it difficult to move. And my treatment resistant depression can wage battle with 20+ ECT treatments, 2 hospitalizations, and multiple medication changes yet leave me sad, depleted, and debilitated. That doesn't mean I've done something wrong, or not well enough, or that I need to attend more groups.

I'm tired. I'm tired of this illness and it's debilitating impact on my life. Of course I want to be well again! But I'm not. Not yet. And therein lies the problem. I'm especially tired of the judgments and stigma which surround me when I don't feel better as quickly as those around me think I should. I'm tired of attending groups others think I should attend simply because they have no other solution.

I'm frustrated with remedial group instruction to do this and do that, as if that's not something I've already considered or tried! For example, obviously if 20+ ECT treatments didn't work then keeping a written schedule in a day planner is certainly the solution! I don't blame the group leaders. Perhaps they're frustrated, too. They're doing the best they can with what they know, but a day planner? Really? Would you suggest the same as a cure to a cancer patient?

Would you tell a fatigued MS patient to just get up and get going? Acting opposite to your emotion is always the way to go! Maybe. I do my best forcing myself to move, but to be told to do so by a smiley-faced group leader with no clue as to what depression feels like is more than a bit invalidating. I'm tired of being invalidated. I'm tired of the dismissive messages that I'm not doing enough, not trying hard enough, not acting in a way which will cure my depression.

Don't get me wrong. I'm willing to put in the effort. I'm daily doing what I can do. But I have depression. It is an illness. I hate it. It totally fucks up my life, and I'd do anything to get rid of it. But please understand my resistance to another happy, remedial group. I'm tired of happy, remedial groups which suggest I'm just not doing enough. I'm doing enough, and I'm still sick. I'm willing to do my part. I'm willing to continue working to mitigate this damn illness. More than anything I want my life back. Forgive me if I don't agree my way back must necessarily go through your time management group.


Kai said...

Very true. As someone once said: Opinions are like a**holes, everyone's got one.

Keep doing what feels right to you, I know exactly what you mean.

Unknown said... harsh as the judgement we get from "outsiders" it is never as bad as that which we pass on ourselves, I can read your pain, I can feel your pain and I can share your pain. I just wish I could erase it from all of us that live under this cloud. I wish I could explain it with some kind of clarity. Having it seems the only way to halfway understand it and I would never wish that on anyone.
I so want peace for you. Your down time seems so long to me and I can only imagine what it feels to you.
Find one little bit of calm and grab hold of it. Plant it and let it grow. Gather another little piece tomorrow and then the next the next the next.
Blessings and peace on you, one day at a time, ez does it......monos en theos...james

Tricia said...

Amen sister! Ditto ALL of that. I'm tired of the stigma, of knowing more than my support group leaders, of my psychiatrist not being at all inventive (but rather, having pretty much given up), of getting stupid suggestions from therapists such as to wear bright colors, or make a mask displaying my inner emotions and my outer emotions on the other side of the mask. My depression of 30-plus years is way past all that bullshit, and I've already tried nearly every trick in the book, including every behavior modification I can make on my own (such as getting up each day, forcing myself to keep the household functioning, being a productive member of society, eating well, exercising, etc. ).

I have the same gripes. And feel very protective of myself against people that know less than me, and especially those who pass judgment.

Etta, I'd rather you be pissed than struggling with every breath. I think getting angry may actually be a good sign. I've been concerned about you since your last post. You've been struggling so. It was sweet that readers offered to bear your pain for a day. Your pain resonates with people. Well, I hope you're feeling maybe a teeny bit better. Please keep hanging in there.

Binky Toes said...

"I do my best forcing myself to move, but to be told to do so by a smiley-faced group leader with no clue as to what depression feels like is more than a bit invalidating."

So true! For me, situations like that have led to feeling like a failure with no hope. I mean, having to listen to that person in the first place indicates that I'm already feeling like a hopeless failure, and then to have that lumped on is torture.

According to their logic and my reality, I will never get better if I can't get out of bed. They think I'm depressed because I'm overweight and sedentary. NO. When I was first diagnosed, I was thin and had been active for a long time. Ridiculous. It's not about getting a buzz from walking around the block. You've struck a nerve, obviously.

Great post. Thanks for writing it.

etta said...

Oh, I'm so pleased to have struck a nerve with this post. That means I'm not alone! You guys understand. You feel the same way. Our similar experiences tell me I'm not the only one sitting in these groups feeling invalidated. And I HATE feeling invalidated! Thank you all for the support! I so need it right now. You fill me with gratitude and hope.

Anonymous said...

That's what's scarey. No cure. Nothing we do matters. We're helpless and ignorant to help you. Help is shallow and insulting. Comfort, trust and peace. Wanting to surround you with love and beauty not to change you but to console you somehow. Not to add to your pain but to dissolve it. So sorry.

People even blame people for their cancer and diseases. Pretending we have control we never had. Positivity, blame and management.

Being with you, trying to be kind and share the suffering. Sorry for adding to it. Acceptance doesn't come easily.

etta said...

I don't blame people for trying their best to fix things, but some things aren't immediately fixable and sometimes efforts to do so end up feeling invalidating. What matters...what makes a difference is acknowledging the pain. Acknowledging the struggle goes a long way. Being with me without trying to fix it. Saying "I'm sorry you're feeling so bad," is simple and effective and loving and kind.

Anonymous said...

I don't agree with the starting point of this post of your. And because I need defense: I am struggling with depression, too. If I understand correctly, you were not depressed as a child? I was. Also, differently than you, I am VERY curious about the reasons and roots for MY depressions, as well as for some other people I know.
How do you know you/we do not have depression because of this and/or that??! I do believe there is not a single cause - we are results of unique genes and individual personal history and experience that have been forming us into what we are, and most of them (if not all) are pure pure coincidences. Nobody deserves to be prone to depression, but when one is, one has to learn how to live with that, how to battle that. Understanding what made us weak can help us avoid getting weaker even that total healing is not possible.
Speaking for myself, I do not know the exact reasons, however I identified several factors that made me more prone to sadness. I try to listen to myself what makes me feel good and what not,I try to avoid situations that tend to drag me down. And when I am down,I am even more vigilant to preserve any energy I have. The worst is trying to explain how I feel to some people, dealing with their well-minded but just hurtful/offensive/awful advises and opinion - not there fault, they just don't have a clue and are insensitive and lacking empathy intelligence wisdom insights... I learned to detect people and conversations like that, and avoid them or cut them short. I learned to dismiss advice that I know would not work for me - because I know myself well by now. But still I know I could and should do more to protect myself from episodes of depression. So I do try to stay open and try new things - things that seem to me to have enough of potential to make it worth the effort to try them out. It is very strange, with age I do know myself and my disease better, so it gets easier with time because of that, on the other hand it gets tougher because I am less optimistic and simply full of wounds and defeats, weaker and older after every battle even if the battle is won - and all the battles have been won otherwise I would not be alive.
Staying as strong as you can as long as you can, but don't feel guilty of having this disease - it is just a result of unfortunate coincidences in life, not because anyone would deserve it or want it...

etta said...

@ Anonymous: Hmmmm...This post is about my depression, which is a biological illness of my brain. I have no opinion about, nor do I deny there are other types of situational depressions. Depression can have a multitude of causes and there are many situations which may make one more vulnerable to an episode or relapse. If you follow my blog, you know I am an advocate for healthy, grateful, positive living. Doing anything and everything we can do to protect ourselves from relapses is not only imperative but is, in fact, our responsibility to do. We agree on that. BTW: I had severe depression and a near fatal suicide attempt as a teenager, but I'm not sure why that's important here.

Gill said...

Hi Etta, sorry you are poorly again.. I totally understand what you are saying... I am once again in the bad place.... To be honest I would like an hospital admission, but, as I have said before, there is a process here in the UK and I am currently under the care of the crisis team.. After almost 20 years of dealing with this illness I will no longer attend these happy clappy groups... . They drive me bonkers.... Not a fecking clue some of them..
Last week I shaved my hair off, which gave me some much needed relief at the time... So now I am constantly wearing a stupid hat which I hate doing.... I really don't suit hats, but it's better than looking like a boiled egg I suppose. Hope your pooch is ok and is able to offer you a little comfort. My two Boston Terriers Dorothy and Benson are the only things I can tolerate and don't get irritated with when I'm like this... Hugs Gill xxx

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the answer.
No, the starting age is not important, I only wanted to say we have completely different depressions (my illness started even earlier but it seems more persistent, you have better and longer functioning periods, but I do not experience as deep dips as you... ) Like with cancer, many different faces and forms of the illness have the same label, although might have hardly anything in common beside general definition. Still, I just don't think there is a clear separation between biological and situational depressions - it's a spectrum, imho... I regularly read your blog and I sincerely root for you, however it keeps baffling me that you are so categorically sure your illness is just "biological", therefore in your case it is just genetics??? How can you be so sure about that? I am not trying to attack your position, I just would like to understand because it might help me to understand myself or at least to understand the way some people around me think about this. I used to comment on that but ages ago, you are obviously not looking for causes in your case, period. And you have all the rights not to. Thanks for sharing your world and your experience with us, your readers. Good luck with everything <3

etta said...

The point of my blog is to educate people that clinical depression is a biological ILLNESS caused by chemical imbalances within the brain. All clinical depression is biological, and may have various causes, just as all cancer is biological, and may have various causes, and all diabetes is biological, and may have various causes. When I say biological, I am referring to depression the ILLNESS--NOT depression the
FEELING. Biological is not synonymous with genetic, although mental illness does run in my family.

Situational depression is generally defined as a short-term form of depression which occurs in the aftermath of traumatic changes in life, such as divorce, death, loss of job, etc... From Web MD: "Unlike major depression, however, it doesn't involve as many of the physical and emotional symptoms of clinical depression (such as changes in sleep, appetite and energy) or high levels of severity (such as suicidal thinking or behavior)." This, situational depression, is the feeling of depression most everyone is familiar with.

I have clinical depression, which certainly can be brought on by various events in my life, such as my current Achilles injury, which is why I am vigilant about taking care of my physical and emotional health at all times. Unfortunately, once I start going down I am usually not lucky enough to have a short-term, situational response. I usually end up with a full blown relapse, as has happened this time. So it is not that I am not interested in the causes of my depression. Sometimes there are reasons for my slide into the abyss--like a torn Achilles. But often I can be taking perfect care of myself and be free of stress yet still end up with a depression relapse. Just as a cancer patient may take perfect care of herself and still end up with a tumor. They are both illnesses with biological causes which sometimes are out of our control. That's what I want people to understand.

Anonymous said...

Etta, I'm new to depression blogs but not new to depression. Thank you for writing! I've battled this damn disease with moderate success for over 30 years. No one who has experienced multiple "major depressive episodes" can make light of their situation, but your case is worse than mine and reminds me to be thankful! I've often said that my life would have been too easy if only my brain chemistry had been better...As you say, avoiding the crashes is the ticket. Once we are in its grasp, we are in trouble. I'm a fan of Cognitive Therapy to a large degree, but there's that line about "believing that it's beyond your control" that just doesn't work for me. Anyone who has ever truly been in the grips of major depression knows that at that moment it is in control. The trick (I guess) is believing that the moment will pass and things will get better AND then we can try to keep it AWAY! I'm limping my way out of a bad stretch, and I'm disappointed to have been here but came to an analogy of sorts that may help me a bit. I have friends with MS who are doing well battling that dreadful disease. They have made lifestyle changes and modifications and lead active lives, but they have bad stretches--nothing they can do except limp through it and know better days are ahead. That is our boat too. I do laugh at the day planner suggestion--PLEASE!! Rant away! Please keep writing,and I truly hope you find your way to better days SOON!

Nathalie said...

These comments are very interesting and I feel for everyone who suffers with this destructive illness called depression and the power it can have to make some people feel that their only means to stop their pain is to take their own life.I have suffered for at least 37 years from severe clinical depression on a recurring basis which is also treatment resistent. Etta I just want to say how much I empathise with you and I want to acknowledge how hard you are working towards your recovery. You demonstrate great courage and perseverance in your running. You do the same in working towards your recovery from severe clinical depression. I understand how frustrating it can be when well intentioned professional mental health staff behave and advise /comment in a way you find unhelpful. I was, until I retired a support worker in a mental health team and I loved my job. I felt I could relate, empathise and understand our 'service users' particularly well as a result of my own experience. However it did mean that whenever I had an episode of depressive illness myself, I was unavailable for those I was supporting, thereby affecting the reliability of my support. I still think people appreciated having support from someone who had 'been there'. Wishing you all my support in your recovery, wish I could take away your pain
in your running

Unknown said...

I stumbled across your blog today and your rant, fit my current mood perfectly! I have been doing this dance for 15 years and im so sick of it, i do everything anyone suggests in the hopes that this might be the one thing that pushes my arse out the other side of the "tunnel". Ive had countless drugs, ECT, therapy, the group sessions (never again), and still my whole life is centered around this illness, im not sure 'frustrated' really covers it. What led me to seek out anything that could offer me a bit of comfort today was my sister in law, who has been telling anyone who will listen that i have been FAKING depression this whole time!! I mean seriously. Anyway my point is thank you for your rant, you just helped and made my day.