About five months ago I began writing more personal articles and sharing a more of my beliefs and views of the world. I started out by explaining my perspective on suffering. Then I went on to explain some of the reasons I had become clinically depressed, getting diagnosed with comorbid major depression and anxiety. Shorty after that post, I tried to express just how angry, aggressive, and hateful I was feeling despite my attempts at using suggestions from science to improve my mental well-being throughout the last five years.
After sharing those three articles above, things began to change. The first major change was that several people were kind enough to send me private messages about their own struggles with depression and with advice on what to do and not do. The one I took most seriously at the time was to not let myself stop exercising regularly, which I had already noticed myself letting flatline as motivation completely dissipated for the hobby I perhaps most enjoy. Another messaged simply to say they really appreciated my sharing because they had dealt with similar feelings for several years, but continue to keep it hidden from most people.
In addition to some of the kindest and most authentic attempts at connection I’ve seen people make for my own sake, I also started antidepressants and antianxiety medication. In talking with my psychiatrist during my first appointment and describing my thoughts, feelings, and situation, he believed that I was a textbook case of depression due to biochemical issues. This was mainly due to the fact that I was very clearly able to recognize that I had no reason to be depressed. As I’ve written about recently on my birthday, I do feel I’m one of the luckiest and most fortunate people I know.
Noting that I clearly felt a disconnect between my emotional state and reality, he decided to medicate me on the first appointment and scheduled a follow up appointment for three weeks later to reevaluate.
That first three weeks didn’t go so well. I felt basically the same with no improvement and was still having what he phrased from my explanations as “suicidal ideation” and mild panic attacks. Rather than wait to see if changes would occur after another three weeks, he immediately switched medications and asked me to return in another three weeks.
That three weeks went much better. I returned to my third appointment with him feeling quite different. I was less anxious overall, sleeping better, and having no more suicidal ideation, even if I didn’t feel one hundred percent like my old self, which I had told him was last experienced towards the end of my undergraduate degree in 2009-2010, nearly six years ago.
He decided to keep me on the same medication, but increased the dose just slightly and asked me to return in another four weeks’ time. That four weeks continued to see a positive upward sloping line of improvement, with each day feeling brighter and less oppressive. It became easier and easier to smile and my perception of life began to match my cognitive evaluation of it. I was beginning to appreciate and enjoy my status as a very well-off, privileged, lucky, and extremely fortunate member of the world with a renewed sense of agency to make change.
The next appointment was to check-in and say that things were still improving and getting better. He renewed the prescription for another six weeks without changing the dose and felt that because things were still improving it wasn’t time to begin slowly taking me off the medications. I’m about halfway through that six week period now, which means that with the initial three and four week time periods, I’ve been on this medication for about ten weeks total.
It is very much like magic. Surreal and amazing. Thirty-five milligrams of medication each night, an amount smaller than a finger nail, has completely changed me for the better.
I truly can’t express the gratitude I have for my psychiatrist’s quick initial diagnosis and immediate willingness to switch medication after the first three weeks saw no improvement.
I realize that major depression can be caused in several ways and that not everyone suffering from it will be due to almost entirely to biochemical reasons as I was, but I can’t recommend not waiting to get help enough.
Suffering from depression and anxiety is miserable. Getting help in any way is not a sign of weakness or something that deserves stigma in any way. It is the result of having a “sick” brain, just like we can have sick lungs, hearts, or digestive tracts. Society will have come a long way when we treat sick brains the way we treat sick bodies, like broken arms or the flu. We see doctors, get diagnoses, and take medications to get better.
My hope in writing this update is simply to provide my story for those who might also be suffering and feeling like something is wrong. Modern medicine can likely help. Please use it.
I feel very thankful for the support I’ve hand from friends, family, strangers, and my wife in particular. I know that this amelioration of depression was much faster for me than many people might experience. But whether it takes three months as in my case or much, much longer in other cases, there is no reason to tough it out. Find a doctor you trust, work with them, give it time, and trust that your brain and subjective experiences and appraisals of life can and will change.
Thank you so much.