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:
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.