Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Long Road

The Long Road to Nowhere

Now that the cat is out of the bag, I am going to post just how I got here. No need to read it, it is just part of my own process of recovery.

I first became depressed following the separation of my parents when I was 13. My father moved out our home when we were visiting my grandparents in California over the summer. After he moved out I heard rumors about him being unfaithful and I felt utterly betrayed. I felt as though he cheated on the whole family, not just my mother. I also felt that he did not love me enough to try staying or to rectify the situation. I felt much anger towards him, although I did not vent this anger. I really did not discuss the situation or my feelings with anyone. I felt ashamed that my father had moved out.

My anger quickly turned inward and began affecting my outlook on life. I felt burdened and worthless. With time, I became good at hiding these feelings as I carried on with my circle of friends.

When we moved to the US when I was fifteen, I suddenly found myself without the crutch of my friends and in a culturally very different environment. Growing up I had always considered myself American for I felt different from the Mexican children I lived with. However, upon my arrival to the US, I discovered that I was not American either. These feelings of inadequacy just mounted on the simmering anger and self-loathing that was inside me.

By my senior year in high school, the depression became too much for me to conceal or even bear on my own. Upon my mother’s request, I tried psychotherapy again, this time with a psychologist who had emigrated from Mexico. This proved to be successful and gave me the strength and confidence to begin college. In college, I could feel myself slipping into depression again. I used the colleges counseling services to try to cope with these feelings.

During my last few years in college and my first couple of years of graduate school I felt like I overcame my depression. In retrospect, I believe that I learned to cope with the severe symptoms of my depression, but the lack of self-esteem, sadness, and occasional feelings of hopelessness were still there. These feelings grew and became more intense after my Masters and when I entered the work force. The mundane nature of a 9 to 5 job exacerbated these feelings. The depression abated somewhat as I returned to an academic routing for which I felt better suited. Again, I think the feelings remained, I just was able to suppress them better in a more familiar environment.

When Sara and I started living together, there was someone who was directly influenced by the feelings associated with my depression. I thus became more conscious of them. I did try to hide and suppress them, but that was ineffective. When it became obvious that these feelings were affecting my relationship with Sara, I sought help again.

I had avoided treating my depression with medication because I saw being physically ill as being stigmatizing. I believed that my problems were a result of the circumstances I had encountered in my adolescence and that they could be overcome without the need to resort to “drugs.” I saw medication as something negative and the need to take them as stigmatizing. I did not see my problems as an illness to be treated, rather as a condition to be overcome. Realizing my inability overcome my circumstances over the period of fifteen years, I decided that I had to change my approach.

The prescribed medication was helpful in giving me a feeling of serenity and stability that I had not experience before. I did recognize some of the issues I needed to address and I felt better equipped to do so. Unfortunately, the therapist I was seeing (in addition to the psychiatrist) was not very helpful. I stopped going to therapy and tried to address my healing on my own.

I stopped taking the medication because I felt like I was making progress and I was going to be in Italy for six months. Getting my medication there would have been difficult. I felt like I coped with my time in Italy and the period just after my return well. There were moments of high anxiety (which I will get to later) and short episodes of depression. Compared to what I had felt in the past, these felt inconsequential.

As we prepared to return to Italy for another year of fieldwork, I began to feel immensely anxious and overwhelmed. A few days before we were to leave, the events of September 11 took place, which exacerbated these feelings. The year in Italy was a difficult one, especially the first few months. The feelings of depression began to stealthily creep into me.

The return to the US was welcomed yet difficult too. It was hard readjusting to the culture in addition to having to face the prospect of writing a dissertation. The feelings of inadequacy and lack of worth began to swell inside of me. After eight months of these feelings growing, I went to see a psychiatrist again. I began taking a different medication and I had psychotherapy sessions with the psychiatrist. The medication made me feel excessively lethargic and unable to focus. After about four weeks, I switched to to a different medication, which worked better for me.

I did not regain the serenity I experienced before, but I did have a sense of stability. The psychotherapy helped my focus on certain issues from the past and the worries of my dissertation and my future. I slowly tapered off the psychotherapy, but I continued with the medication.

After graduation and as I got ready to move to Washington state for my postdoc, I considered going off the medication, but I felt I still needed the stability in order to get through all the changes that were about to occur. Most of you have read about the trials and tribulations of last year, so I won't go into detail here. Just before the end of the academic year and my return to Boston, my housemate who had also been dealing with depression got acupuncture treatment for it. Her experience seemed to be positive, so I decided to try it when I returned to Boston.

Despite trying something new, I also knew that I needed to go back to the beginning and readjust my medication.

So once again, I am visiting the doctor, tinkering with my doses, and trying to talk the beast out of my head so I can better deal with it. I would like to kill it once and for all, but that probably will not happen. What I am doing, however, is taking baby steps in the right direction.

Baby steps...

No comments: