For years, I suffered from terrible depression. As a teenager, I realized I needed help. I was becoming more and more dysfunctional and thoughts of dying were quickly becoming my only source of relief.
I was proud of myself for admitting I had a problem and seeking help. I thought I was embarking on a road to healing, but instead I found myself trapped in a nightmare that lasted over a decade with a dozen or so medications that didn’t work and therapists who were unequipped to deal with my deepening depression.
After about 12 years of trying every medication on the market, and ending up on the highest dose allowable on each before admitting they weren’t working, I had had enough of all the medications. Frustrated and exhausted, I decided to try one last psychiatrist who had been given a lot of press for being unconventional. For the first time in forever, I felt a glimmer of hope, that he would have some sort of new answer that would save me.
Instead, he diagnosed me with a rare form of bipolar where instead of swinging from high to low, and drew a sine wave which represented my life, way below the normal baseline of human experience. In that moment, all hope was vacuumed out of my soul with unbearable force.
It seemed that once again, I was being forced to conclude that believing in my own sanity was just another component of my mental illness.
At this point, I felt like I had lost all hope and had been completely abandoned by whatever higher power I still believed in and so, I decided to die. I disconnected emotionally from anyone I still held onto in my heart.
It was here, in this space of total blackness, that I found there were just two tiny details that I could not let go of.
Was the joy and tranquillity I dreamed of, that I remembered from so long ago when I was very small, all just the delusion of a sick mind? Was there really such thing as a fate to suffer so carved in permanence that there was nothing I could do to change it?
I realized that I still needed answers to these questions. There was only one thing I could see that I had not tried yet: listening to that small voice deep within that never, no matter how medicated I was, stopped trying to tell me: I am not mentally ill. There is something greater in store for me. This is not the way.
I can’t explain why detoxing off all the meds seemed like the next logical step, but at that point, that's what I felt I needed to do.
I guess somewhere, I felt like I needed to get back to my natural state and see exactly what I was dealing with.
I could no longer tell what was my own state of depression and what aspects of what I was dealing with were side effects induced by all of these chemicals.
So, I got off of everything.
The detox off of these “nonaddictive” pills was an excruciating hell of physical symptoms: the worst nausea imaginable, chronic fatigue, full body pain to the point where I couldn’t stand anything touching my skin, migraines, vertigo, deafening ringing of the ears, brain zaps. It lasted almost a year. Even worse were the psychological side effects. It was as if my brain had lost the whatever weak ability it had to regulate itself. I full of rage, hopelessly depressed, hallucinating, anxious to the point of mania, a complete insomniac, suicidal, confused about small things and also enormous things, like my own identity.
During this time I supported myself nutritionally with supplements such as B-complex, D vitamins, Glutathione, Omega-3 fatty acids and cut out all of the gluten, sugar, chemicals and processed foods. I used acupuncture to reduce many of the physical symptoms.
And … I found a new therapist, one who had actually experienced depression herself and seemed to have a different understanding of it. She said we needed to examine the root causes of my depression, the time in my life when it formed, all of the relationships that shaped me when I was young, all the pain I had never spoken about, all of the pain that I didn’t even know I was carrying.
No one had ever asked me about any of that in all of those years of therapy. Then, she spoke of something I had never in my life before heard: the end of my treatment.
After a little over a year of seeing her regularly, I felt like I woke up inside my life. I could suddenly see how every aspect of my life was created from a depressed state, and therefore served to keep me in it. I got out of an abusive relationship, a career that I hated, a state I didn’t want to live in, and friendships that only worked as long as I was quiet and defective.
What I have come to realize is that the problem lies in the way depression is understood and the courses of treatment that stem from that understanding.
One of the most damaging moments in my journey was the first time I had the courage to reach out and seek help and was labeled mentally ill.
I spent over a decade in three different states seeking help for depression, and I have seen a broad variety of all types of health care professionals.
There is a very clear summary of how they see depression. According to these beliefs, depression is a mental illness, a nebulous disease, some type of chemical imbalance that we don’t really understand and treatment is more about managing it and learning to cope than actually “getting better."
It’s been six years since I’ve been off of all the meds and so much has changed in that time. I have reconstructed my entire life into one that I can thrive in.
I think the greatest difference is just waking up in the morning and feeling joy over nothing except my own existence.
That is the feeling I was desperately seeking all of those years, and it brings me to tears to realize I have finally lived my way into it. What I have come to understand is that depression is a suppressed level of functioning caused by many distinctly identifiable things. If you resolve these things, the depression resolves itself. Permanently.
People who are depressed live in a thick, murky soup of confusion over their own truth, anger that has been so stuffed down they don’t even know it’s there, pain that they don’t have language for, grief that hasn’t been allowed to evolve to a healed state of acceptance and gratitude, loss that is not so straightforward, trauma that is often complicated and psychological (if not physical) and tremendous sensitivities all sealed inside a pressure cooker of the body with a hefty sprinkling of shame.
When you begin to understand this, suddenly a very faint map starts to appear. Routes to freedom appear. A logical progression of the things that must be done to heal. Ways to grow. Suddenly there is room for excitement. Empowerment. Hope. Life.
I think that everyone struggles with these things at least in small ways but had I not suffered so extremely, I might never have been forced to look so closely at them. There was a message buried deep in my depression, one that revealed itself when I finally started to listen. It was actually a calling to break myself apart, examine all the pieces, and build something entirely new.