Major Depressive Disorder (Source: NIMH)
- Major Depressive Disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15-44.
- Major Depressive Disorder affects approximately 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.
- While Major Depressive Disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.
- Major Depressive Disorder is more prevalent in women than in men.
I had to look those numbers up, because too often I feel alone in my diagnosis.
You see, contrary to most people’s impression of me, I am depressive. Clinically. Sometimes, debilitatingly. But only my two closest friends and my psychiatrist (no, not even my family) know how grim I can get.
Here’s how it usually goes when I mention it to the uninformed:
“But your life is so awesome. You are so awesome. Cheer up!”
I don’t know how to write about it. It’s embarrassing. And I don’t understand it.
But I do know what pisses me off about it.
Articles like this one, recently published in The New York Times:
Talk Doesn’t Pay, So Psychiatry Turns Instead to Drug Therapy
The article examines the switch from psychiatric talk therapy to becoming mere pill factories and how disgruntled older psychiatrists are (or aren’t) about it and how patients are suffering nonetheless.
I was going through a crippling wave of depression about seven years ago. I was finally convinced to see my friend’s psychiatrist. I was terrified. This would be my first trip to a real, live, “New York Shrink”.
I had been to one social worker/therapist in Chicago six years before that, but with awful results. After two visits and a recommendation for a bottle of St. John’s Wort and a couple bars of dark chocolate, I was sent home with a treacle-dripping “Feel better!” and a wave.
And that was during the truly borderline years.
So while I told myself that a ‘professional’ would be better than that particular weirdo therapist, I knew I didn’t want drugs to solve my problems. I knew I was a smart person and that I could figure things out if someone would just listen to me and understand me and give me some tools to help me fix the sadness.
I got a prescription for Zoloft at the end of my first visit.
“After you’re chemically balanced, we’ll be able to figure out what’s really going on.”
After I was chemically balanced, I had nothing to talk about.
Sure, I was no longer on the emotional roller coaster, but neither did I have the capacity to talk about what was making me so miserable, because suddenly nothing was making me miserable.
I spent two years rehashing broken relationships, parental annoyances, professional disappointments, but they seemed so inconsequential. I was putting on a performance for her, because that was what I felt I was supposed to be doing, and I didn’t want to waste a penny of my $200 45-minute hour.
Also, I got fat.
Zoloft stopped what little metabolism my diabetically-inclined body has, and because I was an emotionless blob, I started eating and staring at the television all the time.
More than usual, anyway.
Add ‘overweight slob’ to my weekly schpiel.
Eventually, thankfully, my rational senses took over and I weaned myself off of the drugs and the shrink’s staid head-nodding, non-responsive “um-hmm” attempts at fixing me.
And for a while, I was better. I was. My brain came back. I met a guy. The thrill of meeting him was exhilarating, the orgasms were mind-blowing and the break-up was devastating.
As it should be.
Life resumed its normalcy.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the depression came back. I don’t know where it came from. It’s genetic, I had learned that, so certainly it was in my DNA. A chemical imbalance? Maybe. A learned coping mechanism? Sure. I could see that.
But whatever it was, things were getting bad again.
And I didn’t know how to deal, other than I knew I needed to talk and I didn’t want to keep bothering my two friends. I know friends say that’s what they’re there for, but nobody is there for long when things get like my things get.
So I looked for another psychiatrist.
But no drugs this time. I was adamant.
Plus, it took me two long years to lose those additional 40 lbs.
And I was lookin’ good.
I found one. One who was in the business for all the right reasons. He didn’t think I needed drugs. He even gave me a massive discount because I was broker than broke.
He talked back.
And it helped.
I’ve been away from him and our bi-monthly sessions for nine months and I can feel the all-too-familiar twinge creeping back.
But I recognize it now. And I know what to do before it gets too ugly.
I have to go talk to someone.
My appointment’s next Tuesday.