Is it possible to be both depressed and happy? Common sense would tend towards no. But I’m thinking that it is possible to be both, at the same time, without even being aware of it, especially if your ‘normal’ state is some degree of depression. I think that depression runs the gamut from mild sadness occasionally all the way to severe clinical depression. I cannot honestly remember a time that I was not depressed, though if asked now, I would say I am happy. What does that mean? Being happy? Obviously, happiness is subjective. What makes me happy will not necessarily make you happy, and vice versa.
I can remember clearly the first time I was aware that I really didn’t want to be in this world. I was 14 years old. As I am thinking about this, though, I suspect that this idea occurred to me when I was far younger. I simply do not remember. Much of my childhood is a blur. I have very few actual memories, but knowing myself as I do, it makes sense that it would have come up long before I was 14. So much more is known and understood these days about depression and the genetic link. I am definitely predisposed to suffering from it. My brother and uncle (my mother’s brother) are both diagnosed bipolar. I believe that my grandmother, though not diagnosed, also suffered from it. And plain old depression runs rampant in my family. Two of my brothers have died as a result of it. It is something I continue to struggle with, though certainly not to the degree I have in the past.
I think part of the reason that depression is still so misunderstood and seen by many as some kind of weakness, is because it is possible to live with it and function almost normally. I did it for many years before I finally took the antidepressants I needed to get my chemicals back in balance. I’m sure I even had times that I felt happy in the midst of my suffering. I remember when my grandmother found out I was taking an antidepressant, she said, “You’re not depressed.” Ha! I told her that just because she didn’t see it did not mean it wasn’t there. I was very good at hiding it from everyone. I knew for years, and other than a few attempts at therapy, I did nothing about it. My mother’s attitude was, buck up and stop feeling like you do. Oh, okay. Too bad I didn’t think of that. Unfortunately, that is the attitude of a lot of people. If you were stronger you could do it. It does not work that way. If your chemicals are truly out of balance, no amount of wishing, hoping, talk therapy, exercise or anything else is going to change it. You must get the help you need. What made me finally break down and admit I had to go on medication was being in Key West, the sun shining and I was feeling nothing but darkness. I thought, oh crap, my therapist is right, I do have to take something. I was always able, when I lived in Chicago, to blame it on the weather and the lack of sunshine, which were definitely contributing factors. But when I was in sunshine and warmth and still had such negative feelings, I knew the time had come.
When I got back to Chicago, I asked my therapist for a recommendation of a psychiatrist so that I could do what needed to be done. When I first went to him (I do not even remember his name now) and he confirmed that, indeed, I needed medication, I asked how long I would have to take it. He told me that usually a year, maybe a little longer was considered ‘normal.’ I said, “Okay, but that’s as long as I plan to take it. No longer.” He agreed, and I continued with my therapist and once a month saw him as well. All I can really say about the drugs were they accomplished what needed to be done. I have always described the process of being on them as hateful. I was first prescribed Prozac, which just about killed me. Every bad side-effect that was possible to get, I got. Finally, he changed it to Wellbutrin and though I hated it too, it was not quite as bad as the Prozac had been. In the end I took it for 14 months, and when I was done, that was it. Luckily, he agreed, and I went off of it. I felt better than I had in years. At the time, too, I asked if I would ever have to take it again. He told me that I might, that there was no way to really know, sometimes people did and sometimes they didn’t. There have been times when I thought maybe I should probably be on something again, but until my attack, I never seriously considered it.
If you’ve been reading this blog all along, then you already know what happened when I attempted to take something for my depression, post attack. Because I had had such a negative experience with antidepressants, even though they did help me, I really did not want to take one if I could somehow do it more naturally. So, Suzie, my amazing therapist, recommended St John’s Wort, which is an herb. I thought this was a suitable compromise. Well, just as the prozac almost killed me, the St John’s Wort almost made me kill myself by jumping off the Coronado Bridge. Thing is, I did not realize it was the pills, I just thought I wasn’t getting better. I did not tell anyone, including Suzie, for a couple of weeks. I finally told her and she immediately knew it was the supplement that was causing the problem. I had to wean off of it, but because of that and the fact that every other thing I had tried taking and had had such a bad response to, I was afraid to try anything else. I had to white-knuckle it the rest of my therapy. As I’ve said before, my depression after my sexual assault was situational, not clinical, and I was able to do it.
Ask me if I’m happy now, and I’ll say YES. Some times I am happier than other times, and I still have issues that definitely challenge me, but, over all, I am happy. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!