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Depression. There. I Said It.November 2, 2012

If you've been hanging 'round here at Chez Yarnagogo for any length of time at all, you'll know I'm predictable in the way that every six months or so, I end up writing something that some might think is too personal (and yep, this complaint does land every now and again in my inbox. Hey, if  you don't like what I write about it, I will stop coming to your house and holding the words in front of your eyes. All you have to do is ask. I thought you liked it when I did that). 

This, my friends, is gonna be personal. 

When I had my hysterectomy in May, I intended to go on estrogen-replacement therapy. I was 39, and after doing research, I'd decided it was the sensible choice for me. Unfortunately, it turned out that I have an extremely rare and potentially fatal form of estrogen-dependent angioedema, and can't take estrogen in any form (no supplements, no soy, no phyto-, no bio-identical, nothin'). 

So I hit menopause like a juice glass hits a tile floor. 

The doc said I could expect all the symptoms, but I haven't had one single hot flash or a moment of crazy emotional rage. I actually started sleeping better.

But my only other symptom was a doozy: Depression. 

I was sad, yo. And at first, I didn't recognize it for what it was. I just called it brain fog. I couldn't connect with anyone, couldn't seem to hold an intelligent conversation. I went to a writing convention and cried my way through it, thinking I was just being overly sensitive. Everything was out of focus and so difficult. During that time simply going to the post office was too hard for me to figure out. I felt bone-tired and got more exhausted every day. At home, I started sleeping in, something I never do. One day I was in bed looking at the noon-time sun reflected onto the ceiling, unwilling to move. I thought to myself, Why am I lying in bed? This is what depressed people do. I'm not depressed. Thud. Wait for it . . . Oh. 

I talked to my doctor, and even though I failed her Depression Quiz (there's a fun afternoon!), I rejected her recommendation for medication. I also rejected therapy. Now, I LOVE therapy and sign up for it whenever I think I can use an intelligent outside perspective on a confusing or difficult situation, but this was not situational depression. Love life was good. Family was good. Friends were good. Both jobs were good. I was happy with my life. I just wasn't happy, and the move from always happy to unbearably sad took exactly the four weeks it took for the estrogen to leave my body. So I knew it wasn't therapy I needed.

Now, I know I'm lucky. I don't know from depression.I've had situational depression, the kind of depression that comes from life's hardships like losing a loved one. Grief happens. Depression in those cases is natural and (usually) eases with time. But me? I'm one of those happy-chemicals people. And I've always, ALWAYS said that if my happy-chemicals changed for any reason, I'd march myself up to the pharmacy line and get me some of the good stuff. I understood in layman's terms the idea of serotonin reuptake, and I'd studied the way serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine function in the brain. I held no judgment, none at all, for people who chose to assist their brains' chemistry and functionality. 

When my joy and positivity plunged along with my hormone levels, I was astonished to find I totally rejected this option for myself. 

Without knowing it, I'd bought into the stigma that medication brings along with it. I'm not sure if it comes from having a mother who didn't take a single Vicodin after her hysterectomy because she could tough her way through it, but I was surprised by how desperately I wanted to try to fix my depression myself first. 

(I realize that some of you are, or have been, clinically depressed for a great part of your life. My friends, I can't imagine your struggle. I fought it for a few months, and so often I thought, This is TERRIBLE. They aren't kidding! I commend you for everything you've ever tried or done to make yourself feel better. It's so hard, and I only got a taste. Please know that I understand I'm very lucky to have been born with the positive chemicals, so lucky that I haven't had to struggle more with this in my life.) 

I told my doc I wanted to fix myself. I read books, lots of 'em. I learned our brains have to have exercise in order to keep the right levels of serotonin/norepinephrine/dopamine. Ha! Exercise! That's what you feel like doing when you're so sad you can't get out of bed. But I started running again, because I am nothing if not stubborn. I took it like medicine, trying to exercise every day, even though I hated it. 

I'd already changed my diet, eliminating dairy, sugar, wheat and all other grains, as well as the nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants). I didn't think I could get any healthier in that respect, but I did cut back on my optional sugar-of-choice, wine (which is, obviously, a depressant).  

I waited to feel happier. Instead, I just ate well, ran around the block and on the treadmill and kept crying. I hid this from you pretty well, didn't I? I might have dropped a mention or two of it on twitter and here at the blog, but I'm pretty damn adept at functioning as a happy-looking individual even when I'm not. No one at work had any idea. Many friends didn't know.

I hid it because I'm known for being happy. Someone has nicknamed me "Sunshine" at every job I've ever had. It was a huge part of who I was, and I was proud of it. (I wonder now if I'd have been so proud had I known that happiness was so dependent on my hormones?) And I hid my depression because I knew--it had been drilled into me from all parts of society--that being depressed is wrong, and trying to fix it with medicine is EVEN WORSE. It would mean that I was crazy and/or incompetent and/or untrustworthy. I am none of those things. So my knee-jerk reaction was NO THANK YOU NO DRUGS FOR ME BACK OFF NOW. 

But a month into trying to fix myself with diet, supplements, acupuncture, yoga, talking to friends, and exercise, I broke. I called my doctor and, literally through sobs, asked for the pills. I went on Celexa that day. Two days into the treatment, I stopped crying. Two weeks into the treatment, I felt better. Six weeks in, I felt normal again. 

It's been a few months now, and this---> I feel normal. 

Normal again! I'm not living in a haze. I can communicate with people. I sing again (the fact that I hadn't been singing had been so weird. I didn't sing in the car or while working in the kitchen. I hadn't even chalked it up to depression, I just had the odd thought perhaps I was getting too old to sing all the time. So it was very, very nice when the singing came back). Now I feel wild bursts of joy at random moments, just like I used to. I also get stressed out and overtired and snappish and grumpy, all mixed in again with my regular, even-keeled mood. 

Normal.

The thing I'd most worried about when going on the medicine--that my creativity would suffer somehow, would change--hasn't happened. The only thing that's changed is that I sit at my writing eagerly again, instead of dragging myself to the page. My words come out sharper because I'm sharper. And I'm still completely me. I just feel like I put on the right emotional glasses and things are in focus. 

Sure, I'm nervous hitting Publish on this post. My boss reads my blog, for Pete's sake. (Hi, Denise!) Especially in my day-job field, the world of police and fire, being on depression meds was really stigmatized for a long time. You could lose your job for it. That coloring made an indelible impression on me. I'm also nervous because of that volunteer job I really want--what if they read this post and think I'm nuts? Yep, super nervous. But I've never regretted sharing myself here, ever. So I'm gonna hit that Publish button and squeeze my eyes shut tight and maybe take a little nap and have a smoothie later. 

This is what I think: let's talk to people about depression, directly and honestly. Tell those you love you need help with figuring this shit out. Encourage those you love to accept the help they need. IT'S NOT WRONG to be depressed, and there are things that can truly help you feel better. (And the thing I hear most when I do bring it up? "Oh, I don't want to go on that, it might affect my sex life." Dude, your LIFE is affecting your sex life when you're depressed. Don't buy that line. Sex is a lot more playful and fun when you're happy.) 

I deserved to feel better. I deserved to find the things that would help. For me, it's diet, exercise, and medicine. You deserve to figure out what makes you feel better.

Big love.

Comments

Oh, big love, big love to you, Rachael... I had NO IDEA, you really hid it well. Once again, you have made me admire you even more, with this honest and courageous post and with struggling so valiantly through this. XOXO, more later, I want to take some time to process this...

I had a big period of depression that coincided with graduate school. Be very happy that the happy pills are working for you, I'm not sure if it was that I was depressed so long that being happy felt wrong, or that the pills did have an effect on my thinking, but they didn't work for me. I've since graduated, and after a few years, I was sitting in the back yard, relaxing with a book under the sun, and thought: wow, I remember this, I remember being happy. Everything changed. Life is so much better now.

As for stigma, it's posts like these that effect those that haven't had to deal with depression. Posts like these remind others that while you may not be affected, others that you love/work with/admire, do, and that this disease doesn't change any of that.

Thank you for sharing.

I am so, so proud of you for writing this. As a medical student and a mental health patient, I've written before that mental health care is medical care, period. Stephen Fry (or someone else equally wise) wrote that of course medication is a crutch. When you have a broken leg, you need crutches, and when your neurotransmitters get screwy, you need medication. It's medical care. It's normal. It helps people lead normal lives.

Thank you, so much, for talking about this. Go look in the mirror and say "I'm so awesome" because I would say that to you in person but I'm on the wrong coast. And then get Lala to give you a big hug for me, too.

Great post! My experience with depression is very similar to yours. It's interesting how depression, for some, is best fought PHYSICALLY- through diet, medication and definitely exercise. Our brains are physical organs. They get sick when they don't have the right chemicals, hormones, etc. I am so glad to hear that you successfully fought depression. You go, girl!

*Hugs* Glad you're brain is behaving better now. It's interesting the things we discover we have internalized along the way.

Bravo and kudos! I have never suffered from depression myself, however a close family member did a few years ago. It rocked our world and nearly tore a marriage apart. What I learner was there is so little most people who have never had depression out there understand, the stigma associated with it and when you have an open and respectful conversation about it, the number of people who say, I have that too. It was a real opener for us. You are very fortunate to have the first med you took work for you. Often this is not the case. I applause you for using this forum and you words so well. I have a dear friend who works endlessly on advocacy for NAMI, he would be really proud of you for this post. Rock on Rachel- I am so happy for you that you've found yourself again!

Thank you for sharing your experience. You're so brave for doing what you need to do to feel better, then to let us all know what is going on. Glad that you have yourself back.

Asking for the pills made me feel like I failed too - but I was tired, and I was tired of crying. And when they worked, and I felt like I could smile again and MEAN it, I was amazed.

It's a dark place, and I am glad you've found a way out of it.

Good for you, sweetie. So glad you are feeling okay again.

I have loved your blog for years and a big part of that is that you share your life with us....thank you. This particular blog was wonderful. I so related to it. I struggled with depression and anxiety for a few years when my parents were sick (and later they passed). Your words were heart warming and healing. Thank you.

This is why I love you. You are honest. You say what needs to be said without preaching or talking down to us.. you just talk to us, with us. I'm sorry that you hid this all so well, that you felt you had to, but I'm most grateful that you are happy with you again. Super huge hugs to you and Lala... because this was and is a family thing - the support of our loved ones is what truly makes us strong.

Congratulations on finding YOU again! You have nothing to apologize for in your post - and nobody to judge you. It's your blog and you get to say whatever you want/need to say. And we get to send you hugs and look forward to sharing more of your life with you. Now put on your happy boots and sing and dance!!

Thank you. That is all. xxx

This. Plus for me the thought that the medications others encouraged me to take were just to make their slices easier. Yay for meds when you really need them. Thanks for sharing so frankly.

Big love to you too Sweetie - I've been there, and I lost my mother to it. I didn't know you were gone but I'm SO glad you're back! XXXOOO

You are singing not only my song but the songs of so many. Keep singing. And hang in there. Depression lies.

Thank you for finding your brave and sharing your story. You deserve to be happy and to sing. I'm so glad you were able to find your voice again and speak for millions who can't.

Great blog Rachael - its sad that so many people suffer alone with things like depression.
We all like to think we are unique but i'm guessing being one of those rare people in this case probally wasnt something good this time :(
at the risk of soundings like a self help book one great thing i read was that depression doesnt mean you are weak or lazy or anything like that, it is a chemical inbalance and sometimes it takes medication to fix that, and its ok to get help because we all need help sometimes - hope things continue to get better for you :) Bec

What a great post. I feel for you! I have anxiety, social and general, and I resisted the idea of meds or any help for a long time until it got so bad that I needed to go in. It was my second year of college so I wasn't used to taking myself to the doctor yet, either. I love sleep and always make sure I get enough, and when my anxiety was really bad, I could NOT sleep. And that made me more anxious!

It really is crazy how it can interfere with your life and your ability to be happy. And you can't control it no matter how much you want to! I'm not on meds anymore, but I feel like the medication gave me the chance to retrain my brain into less anxiety-inducing thought patterns by taking the anxiety away for awhile and letting me just experience social situations without fear. I recently had a screening with a mental health professional in order to become a mentor to a 5th grader in my community. She kind of chuckled at me when we talked about anxiety and how I haven't used medication for a few years. She said it's a midwestern thing to not like to help ourselves and to tough it out, but that I should consider making things easier on myself and going back on meds. From your post, it seems it's not just a midwestern thing!

Oh, Rachael, THANK YOU for being out loud about this. My husband suffers from chemical depression and I from situational and occasional chemical. I can't begin to tell you how much it matters to read the stories of others dealing with the same things. You, Heather Armstrong/Dooce, Ryan Macklin, et al make SUCH a difference in helping those struggling along in the dark to find their way to the light.

I am so glad you rediscovered your happy! <3

Thank you for your honesty, your authentic voice, and your sharing. Your words matter. Thank you for hitting Publish.

Rachael, thank you so much for this post . . . I'm so sorry you've been going through this. Sharing has to have been hard . . . many virtual blog hugs. <3

Oh, Rachael, your description of what being depressed feels like is so spot on. I am an intelligent woman battling depression for fifty years and the part I hate most is the brain fog. Sad I can take but the part of often seeming and acting intellectually challenged just kills me.

I am glad that medication and all the other changes have helped.

I once wrote to you about being depressed and something you posted made my day and made me laugh, which is not that common with me. I also told you that if I had had a daughter I would have liked her to be just like you. That still holds true.

It's good to know you are back to feeling like yourself again. And singing.

Yeah, this is a personal post, but I wouldn't put it in the category of TMI. You've used your personal experience to educate people about different kinds of depression and treatment, and you've explained it so well. I'm all for anything that will help eliminate the stigma of depression and help people to realize that it's smart to get help for any kind of problem you have, much smarter than suffering in silence because you were afraid of what others would think.

What a wonderful post this is. Like others have said, I like it when your writing gets "too personal." I like your light-hearted posts as well, but the ones where you share something that's a bit of a challenge to open up about are the ones that have stayed with me.

You make a lot of great points here. There is still too much of a stigma around antidepressant use, which is a real shame given how many people get good results using them. And just too much stigma around talking about depression, which really does get in the way of finding solutions that fit a given person.

But as a psychologist in training, I feel like I ought to share my perspective on what you wrote about not needing therapy because your depression wasn't situational. The fact is, non-situational depression can be helped by psychotherapy too! When you're in mourning, having a difficult time adjusting to a big change, feeling stuck in a life you don't want, etc., it is easy to imagine how therapy might help. But if you can find a therapist that is a good fit for you and whose approach suits your situation, therapy can also be a big help with depression that has a physical basis. From what I understand, in depressed people, out-of-balance brain chemistry and depressive thoughts tend to operate in a feedback loop together even when the brain chemistry problem was the impetus for the situation. And really, most of us have some old business back there somewhere that we could benefit from sorting through.

I mention this in part because I want people to know that even if medication isn't a good fit for them, and if other changes like diet and exercise aren't sufficient, there are still options. Personally, I have had a few bouts of major depression in my life and have dealt with low-grade depression or dysphoria for most of the remainder. I have tried quite a few antidepressants over the years. I would wait weeks or months to see if they helped, as instructed by psychiatrists, get my hopes up, suffer through horrible side-effects (I'm the queen of side-effects when it comes to most medication, unfortunately)...and every time, nothing changed. It's been a while since I looked at data on this but I know that a substantial portion of the population does not benefit from antidepressant treatment.

I hope this won't come across as arguing with your post, which I think is pretty flawless. I agree that it probably makes sense to prioritize pharmaceutical options when your depression seems very tied to a physical issue. I just want to submit that for some people, psychotherapy can really help with their depression no matter what they believe was its initial cause. I also don't want to make it sound like this is an either/or proposition. The studies I've seen have shown that a combination of medication *and* therapy is by far the most effective treatment for depression, and there's no need to choose between the two.

Excellent, excellent point, Susan. Thank you for bringing it up, and I appreciate you doing so! 

I commend you for putting this out there. You could really help a lot of people by being honest. And I'm so glad for you that you found what helps you!

I want to second Susan's comment. Chemical Depression IS a situation, and therapy can help you figure out how to cope with it, and with the stigma and other feelings associated with that.

Ah Rachael. My young children struggle with depression and other mental health illnesses, inherited from their father. And boy has it been tough. I worked in the operations side of a behavior healthcare company, so having my kids take meds wasn't an issue for me. But, watching my 11yo daughter struggle as we try and find the best medication options breaks my heart.

Amen to having an open mind about all your options and what you need to do for you. My 13yo has accepted that he will probably have to take medication his whole life, but he remembers what it was like before he took them, and he never wants to be there, again.

Hugs to you and yours.

Janice M.

Yes! So glad you're doing much better now. Thank you for sharing.

Thank you for writing about this. I remember when I wrote about being depressed, I had the same feelings - that I somehow wasn't living up to my reputation, that I was letting everybody down, that being depressed was okay for other people, but not for me. I couldn't believe the stigma and embarrassment I felt about being depressed, even though I didn't think other depressed people should feel embarrassed or stigmatized. I'm glad you found something that worked so quickly to return you to your normal state of mind. Much happiness to you, Rachael. xox

I'm so grateful the world has you singing again. It gives me hope knowing you're out there, living a life I seem inspirational and so honest and generous. I carry many of society's biases about antidepressants, when considering them for myself. (And I'm sure there's a dose of suburban alterna-elitism and striving to be different/special due to low self-esteem plus a harshly judging self critic in here.) I've seen meds help LOADS of people but won't extend that same solution to myself in times of need. Recognizing my own and my familiy's struggles with depression, your words inspire me yet again. Thank you, Rachael.

seem = deem, silly phone typo.

Very glad to hear you found your way to write about this difficult phase and your journey with it. Hugs.

Thank you for posting this and using your blog as a means of support and a mouthpiece for those of us suffering from depression. I was diagnosed almost 3 years ago (and also 11 years ago, and again about 7 years ago) and even though I've been in therapy and taking meds, I'm still spending more than half of my time in a fog, having a hard time remembering anything, misspelling things (this is a major upset for me!) and having zero energy. I spend almost a year denying that anything was wrong, even after going from running 4-5 days a week to nothing in a weekend. Even though I was finding myself crying incontrollably for no reason. Even though I had a history of depression. It took a lot for me to see past the stigma of mental illness and get help again...even having been through it in the past. And I know where you're coming from about meds - I resisted them for about 3 months once I was diagnosed, but finally broke down despite the stigma attached to them and got them. I'm better, but definitely considering switching things up at this point, despite not wanting to go through the ups and downs of new medication. Thank you thank you for overcoming the stigmas and writing about this...and I hope you continue to feel "normal" from now on! Hugs to you!

Have I told you recently that you are awesome? Because I really think you are. Great post. Very brave, and you gave me a lot to think about. When you're in that fog for a long time, you start thinking it's normal. And it's not.

Yup. Thanks for honesty. Stay the course of exercise and good diet.

Depression lies and it sucks. You did a courageous thing to write about it, but more so that you did the right thing for you. Courage.

This is an awesome post! Sending you a huge hug, Rachael! (((( O )))) You did the right thing, Sweetie! You tried so hard to fix yourself but you needed that little bit of outside help. Very glad things are looking much better. With the world in the state it is in, it is a wonder anyone stays healthy. Glad you are smiling and singing again. The hysterectomy crashed your world but you have climbed the ladder again. "Knowing you" as well as I do, I thought something seemed odd but didn't quite pick up on it. Sending much love to you, Lala and the 4-footed furry ones.

You are saving lives, with this post. We never think that it is anything but cathartic, when we write about personal issues, until someone, who is suddenly elevated by words, writes or mentions it in person. Talking about what is happening/has happened is like medicine to folks going through the same thing; they recognize themselves and relate, realizing that there is not only someone else going through such an ordeal but that the author has found the key to their own salvation.
I know a couple of women who eschewed hormones after a hysterectomy, only to find that their bodies were the opposite of yours; needing estrogen replacement to LIVE. We Cold Turkey people are SO proud about getting through the road to menopause "without the damned drugs", only to secretly wish that estrogen was still in our lives.
Brava to you, Sistah Friend. You rock and now...literally.

Thank you so much for telling your story. It seems that so many who suffer from depression are often hesitant to share, but it's the best way to help other people. I was able to guide my husband to getting help because of any number of bloggers who wrote about their depression. We're so much better because he's on medication.
I'm so thankful you decided to go on medication and that it worked so well for you.

Sing it loud!!

Congratulations.

xo.

Thank you. So. Much.

Have to unlurk to say "Brava". There are many of us out there.

Big love right back at you xoxo

Good on you for not only being strong enough to make life changes during your depression, but also for accepting help from your doctor (who appears to have their own head on straight). In our household, we have dealt with situational depression and have a family member with bipolar disorder. Some days it's all you can do to climb out of bed and put one foot in front of the other, even if it's just to go downstairs and knit while watching bad TV.

Now that you're feeling "normal", do yourself a favour and put a post-it somewhere that you will see it, with a note that if you ever decide to go off your medication, that you first NEED to read what you've written here. It's a silly pitfall, but it happens...you feel perfectly fine, and figure that it's not the pills, so you just stop taking them. You're fine for awhile, but then it creeps up on you, and you don't feel that it's worth the effort to start taking them again.

Trust me, nothing makes Xmas more "fun" than a family member who has gone off their meds at entirely the wrong time. Seriously.

All that doom and gloom aside, hooray for singing and feeling joyful again! It's the small things that we miss :)

Thank you for talking about this. Depression eats people alive, and it thrives on silence.

As always, Rachael, you speak the truth so clearly. You should send this, or a version of it, to a magazine so more people can see it. Glad you're feeling better.

big squishy hugs and lots of love for you.
xoxo

Rachael, Rachael!! I agree with Elizabeth D. This posting is so well written it definitely needs to be published somewhere that more people may reap the benefits of it. I have also battled at times in my life with depression and working in the healthcare industry has instilled in my own mind that taking meds for this would be admitting failure! I could not and would not admit failure for anything in my life......there always had to be a way for me to CONTROL this !! But recently I have found myself feeling things in my world were on the verge of "running amuck"......and reading your post has made the transition in my brain a little easier about medication. Thank you sweetie.....your honesty will help so many people who have feared the dreaded "DEPRESSION" including me!!!! I know I'm not running to my Dr. today but I am looking forward to my next appointment now with anticipation......I consider you and your sisters, like your father, some of the most intelligent people I have ever known! Thank you for being YOU! Sometimes advise adheres more when it comes from a "known" source! I am truly thankful for your findings and so very happy for the wellness you are feeling. You deserve every happiness this life has to offer Rachael!!

Oh, daughter, your words trigger lots of emotion...sorry that I didn't pick up on your depression, didn't say the "we're here for you" that you know we feel. But so glad you have found a combination of things that work for you. And so grateful that you can share so openly with your largest support group of loving people. Let's all try to be more openly communicative of depression cause it can be so truly damaging.

Sounds flip, but what works for my blues sometimes is "Take two actions and call me in the morning."

Love you so much!

Dad

Dear Rachel:
I have been on Celexa for years now and believe me it really does help. So glad you finally realized that you needed help. When it works it's likie a miracle you didn't think possible.
Stay happy

Thank you for being brave and not hiding what you are going through. Your openness and honesty are a wonderful part of who you are--the person we have come to love. Know that for every negative comment there are a hundred people in your corner. You inspire us!!

celexa changed my life.
when i first met you, i was struck by how crazy happy and upbeat you were. and let me tell you, i've always been suspicious of happy people. i wanted to see the world like you did. heh. and the reason is because i had never been. but because i didn't cry, or miss work or miss school, it never occurred to me that i might be depressed. instead i was grumpy, surly, cynical, jealous, envious, rageful, paranoid and ill-tempered. and mostly i was anxious and really really tough on myself for having all of these horrible feelings. for as long as i can remember. and then j and i broke up and i couldn't hold it together. it was like the last straw. i cried all of the time. couldn't sleep. didn't eat (and if i'm not eating you know it's bad). couldn't work. i went to see a therapist and when that didn't work, i called my doc and asked her for meds. and it totally changed me. the smallest dose. a little pill every day. oh i still have my edge, heh. i'll never be a pollyanna. heh. but all of those really horrible feelings that would stop me in my tracks and make me lose control, they are gone. no more rage. no more envy. no more paranoia. no more anxiety. no more cloud following me everywhere i go. my bosses noticed even. and when my mother died in february, i was broken hearted and sad, but it's totally not the same feeling. it's sadness. and confusion. it's grief. but it's not depression.

it's a brain thing. i wish i had been on this stuff since i was 14 years old.

i'm glad it didn't take you 30 years to figure it out ;) sorry for my long comment.

And big love right back atcha Rachael! I'm a devotee of better living through chemistry - what a difference it's made in my life, too! xoxoxo Sue

Celexa changed my life too. I was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety in college and it was crippling. I had to take off work because I was so afraid to be in a public place. I worked super hard in therapy and kept refusing meds because I thought: it will change me. it will make me not able to feel feelings. I am a happy person, I don't need this. and man, when I finally agreed to try some medication (after 9/11, when again I was scared to leave the house), it changed. my. life. and I am so so grateful that it exists, and I am so grateful when wonderful people like you talk about it because I want other people who need this to not be afraid. so much love to you, and I am so so happy that you are feeling better. <3 and omg I am nervous about clicking post on this comment! and you posted a WHOLE POST! you rock.

Don't listen to anyone about something being too personal to share! You sharing brings all of us closer together and helps take away the stigma of being depressed AND doing somtething about it. We all need to know that we're not in this life alone. I've battled with depression too, and fought hard against taking drugs. But, eventually I decided that being good to myself was way moer important than what anyone else thought of me. So I took the meds, they were great. I did therapy too and am now weaning myself off the medication and feeling way happier than I have for a long time. Sometimes you just need a little help, sometimes you need a lot, but regardless, taking care of yourself should never be considered a bad thing. Much love to you girl! :)

brave woman and BIG hugs, chica.

I adore you, brave soul.

Beautiful. Thank you. I work as a therapist in an Ob/Gyn office (yes, actually, I DO have the best job in the world). Any bias I had about medication went out the window after a little while of working with strong, dedicated women trying every damned thing they could to deal with their depression and then finding relief with medication. It helped me when I needed to go on Celexa, as well. Women are REMARKABLY good at "covering." So often only our most intimate partners and friends have an inkling of our struggles and that makes it harder to get help. This kind of writing (along with things like your doctor's willingness to discuss the subject) is such an important part of encouraging women to get the help they need. Thank you.

Good for you! As one that has known the dark side of depression and having to leave a full cart of groceries in the aisle at the grocery store to go to the car and cry it out, I know how you feel. So happy that you have found your way back! xoxo

You are amazing Lady. I have said it before and I will say it many times again I am sure. Thank you so much for this post. As someone who has struggled with depression and watched others do the same I understand where you are coming from. Thank you for always laying things out there so honestly. You are such an inspiration.

Wow. so many times when I read a depiction of depression I sense from my own gut that it isn't real. maybe a depiction of the experience of a friend the writer wanted to portray.

Girl, I have goose bumps, as well as happy bumps. You so had the real thing and so very much expressed its painful, helpless reality. The happy bumps are for your sense of self you have that strived for self care but reached out for help when you had done all you could do. In six months you went through a process that has taken me years and I am still not on the "sunny side of life".

People like you remind me to keep trying. And I will!

Congratulations on writing this post. I started on 'happy pills' when I started perimenopause, some 6 years or so ago. I was never against taking them, but I thought I'd eventually not need them.

Not true. I have, like many depressed people, stopped taking them for a couple weeks and have found myself grumpier, possessed, and ready to go to drastic measures to get help. Meds do. And if they stop working (sometimes they do), see the doctor and try something else. There are lots of choices out there, and not everything works all the time.

Be proud of yourself. It is a strength to recognize a problem and be willing to address it.

Stay happy!

SO MANY HUGS FOR YOU!

Wow. Just wow. First, I'm struck again by how many similarities you and I have gone through (although my being on Celexa was situational - loss of my dad and caregiving for my mom). It was a tough decision to make because I'm also known as the happy one. (And I am a happy person, I have a great life, lots of love, and many, many blessings.)

Loved this post. Thank you for writing it - you always put yourself right out there (even if sometimes it takes you longer than others) and I just love that about you.

OMG Seriously? Don't worry darling! As someone that suffered(s)with depression I know that it is debilitating. Take the pills, go to therapy, do WHATEVER you need to do to get well. Don't effing worry (yes, I said effing) what people think. It is a hormone issue. People are usually terribly understanding because they've dealt with it or someonebody near and dear to them has. It is us in our depressed heads that think that people will judge us terribly over it and I've found that this isn't true. Be proud of yourself and who you are and the good you bring to the world and take care of yourself.

Good job, Rachael! Celexa ROCKS -love it and have for 11 years. Also as you probably know, it's one of the few anti-depressants that doesn't affect the ability to orgasm. Win-win!

Good on ya for getting effective treatment and getting your life back.

My husband has depression. My brother has it. They were talking to each other the other day about the mental corner that they had turned. That it had started seeming like diabetes. It's a condition to be managed, not something that has to define your whole life.

Big love right back to you!!

Your story sounds very familiar. "I'm not depressed or crazy. I don't need any meds." I was sad. I didn't sing. I didn't feel like doing much of anything. But I hid it the best I could from everyone, including my mother.

Then I talked to my doctor and got a swift kick in the butt. I had nine out of ten factors on his list that points to depression.

He put me on Celexa. So, welcome to the Celexa club!

I was worried about the stigma, because I too had bought into it. Then I realize if people talk about this, then the stigma will go away. There's nothing wrong with me, I just need a little help with my chemicals.

I'm so so so happy to hear that you're doing better. And I'm doing my part to kill the stigma. I talk to everyone I know about my battle and what's helped. And I always explain that asking for help is the very hardest thing I've ever had to do.

Thank you for being so brave. You are fantastic!!

Thank you for sharing your story. I think there is still work to be done to help people understand that there is a chemical component to depression and that knowing you are depressed doesn't mean you can just make yourself happy again.

Bravo! Well posted! And thank you for sharing with us. I think you know we love you but, just in case, I will say it again. We love you. Take good care of yourself.

Thank you so much Rachel for sharing your story with depression. Not many people talk about it and I agree, people think you're being a drama queen if you talk about depression. If we don't talk about it and other mental health issues, we can't get help. And ignoring it isn't going to go away. I think it's great you're able to feel happy/normal again. I hope you're words inspire others in the same situation to get help or to help another loved one.

Well done. Depression should never be something to be ashamed of. Depression is a physical illness caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. If you have a pain in the leg, you take a pain killer, if you have a serotonin deficit - you take something to help you make extra serotonin. If everyone was as open about their depression as you have been perhaps there wouldn't be a stigma attached to it. I applaud your courage in talking openly about it. Glad you are feeling better.

It is so horrible that people with depression are made to believe that it is a weakness that needs to be hidden. I deal with mine un-medicated simply because all the meds I've tried have been worse than the depression itself (the best ones turn me into a zombie, and the worse make me suicidal). Thankfully, I am self-aware enough to know that "this too shall pass". Bad days suck, but they aren't every day. Can't even imagine being depressed all the time, and my heart goes out to those that are. Glad you are back to yourself.

Whoo hoo for you! I'm so glad you found something--well somethingS, actually--that worked for you. Thank you for telling the truth and encouraging other people to do the same. I loved reading this post. It makes me so happy to read that someone had a problem, did the work, and found the solution. Good job, you!

Well said. Glad you've made it through to this point!

Yeah, gotta be careful of that whole sharing thing. People might figure out that you are a multi-faceted human being or something. Heavens to Betsy, people on the internets are real!

I'm glad you are feeling better and may you continue to do so. I'm glad that the medicine is helping and I am glad that you are willing to take it and help yourself.

Thank you for sharing your struggles. It takes a lot of strength of will and character to show yourself as you actually are instead of painting a picture of your idealized self. I feel like the whole world would be a better place if we could all look around and view everyone we meet (physically and virtually) as a whole person.

You are a very strong woman and you are an inspiration to me. Please keep writing whatever you feel is damn well necessary to write. I'll keep reading.

I'm so glad you spoke up. We (as a society) need to get past the stigma of depression and depression medication.

You all still love me even though I take medication for my arthritis, right? We still love you for taking medication for your health and well being.

Aimalyn said it perfectly. This is medical care and you, my dear, did a wonderful job shining a flashlight in that corner and showing it isn't scary afterall.

Everyone is saying everything I would/could say.
Some people push through on will alone, some people need drugs, some therapy, and some both. Use the tools you need to achieve the best end result. The "no drugs" crowd are NOT better/stronger. They're just different from the ones who need drugs.
I've been depressed. I used drugs and I've not. Different times, different levels of depression. It's not important how I got better, only that I did. Ditto for you. Ditto for all who suffer.
No stigmas. No judgements. Just love and support and help.
And ((hugs)). Many, many (((((((((hugs)))))))).

Hugs to you! Thank you for sharing this with us. For the record - I don't think you EVER get TOO personal (and anyway, it's YOUR blog!). This was such a good post. I'm so sorry you felt so bad for so long (& felt the need to hide it). I'm so glad you are feeling better. And (selfishly), I am so glad you're writing! :-)

Thank you for being brave, for posting this, and for fighting the stigma. I've lived with clinical depression my entire adult life, and I grew up in a household that did not believe in depression or in treatment for it. The stigma nearly killed me, and it does so much harm to so many others. So thank you for speaking out.

Good for you for recognizing what was wrong and doing something about it! And bravo for having the guts to blog about it. Cudos for not turning into a stark raving lunatic with the sudden cessation of estrogen.

I am glad you hit the "Publish" button. And I am even gladder you found what works for you to feel normal and happy again! And I know how it feels to think you are letting people down just because you are not Miss Sunshine all the time. I have people asking me what is wrong if I am not smiling, just because they are used to see me with a smile on my face all the time. One friend in college told me he didn't recognize me on a photograph and then he realized it was because I was not smiling. We all have cloudy moments. They are normal. And I think you are incredibly brave first for trying everything else, and then for taking medication that is there to help people. And I have so much respect for you for sharing your experience with other, when you know your boss will read it too! I have started a blog about pregnancy while unemployed and looking for a job and considered to quit it for about 5 seconds, because you can imagine how interested employers are about preggers, but I decided I will not crumble under pressure. And people like YOU make ME stronger and more courageous to do things we feel are right things to do. XOXO

One thing I love about you is your honesty and openness. You are a brave person to share as much as you do in this space. I'm so glad you do share, it's so thought provoking and healing for so many of us. My momma has done great on Celexa, she went from 95 pounds and depressed to still slender and sitting here in Switzerland visiting her family (I'm here as her "muscle") and having fun. Use what you need to make yourself better.

Much love! Tchuss!

Big Hugs and Love

Big, big, BIG love to you. Such a brave and beautiful post.

No one questions when someone is given medication for a heart condition or for diabetes. So why do we question medication for mental illness? This is what helped me make my own personal decision. I have been on medication for just about a year now, and I am content with the fact that I may be on this medication for the rest of my life. My whole world changed when I finally accepted that mental illness is just as real and 'normal' as any other illness. But it's still hard! There IS a stigma about it and it's very hard to explain my choice when there is no test that can 'prove' what you need.

So, kudos to you for being brave enough to share your journey with others! You have the ability to influence many, and I applaud you for bringing this sensitive situation into the light. Either way, you have encouraged me and helped me express my own story in a more concise way. Blessings to you.

I'm so glad you're doing better! Depression is horrifying, and so many people deal with it. I'm so happy for you (and Lala, and all the animals)!

And depression affects not only the one who is depressed, but their family and close friends. So yes, get help. Talk about it. Ask your friends and family if they are all right when they seem sad or just not "them". My 16yo son was veering toward suicidal thoughts before he let us drag him to the docs and convinced them that this wasn't just "he's adjusting, it's hard to move to a new school/state; he's just shy, he'll make new friends and things will even out". Within 2 mths of starting therapy and meds he was himself again and by the time he was 18 and decided to go off meds he had found ways to cope (running, working out, a job he loves) and to identify and head off symptoms before they got out of control. He knows he can talk to us or to his older sisters (one of whom had a bad bout of depression her 1st semester of college). I'm glad you found your way back to your normal and that you had the courage to share. Mwah!!! xoxo

I'm 49. Aunt Flow left town about ten years ago without much of a fanfare and I thought I'd aced menopause.

Now I'm not so sure. After reading this, and (I kid you not) bursting into the second bout of sobs (yes, second--I already came home from work and sobbed myself into a nap) when I hit the part about singing, I have to wonder if the reason I felt like bursting into tears over that (because I AM a singer, but I haven't felt like singing much in, oh, about ten years) is because of menopausal depression due to a lack of estrogen.

I wonder if the reason I'm too tired to even think of trying to function normally is due to this. I wonder if the reason life feels so flat and tedious is due to a wicked combination of menopausal depression coupled with unresolved grief following the loss of both parents in 2006 and the surprising "loss" of the rest of my family and friends as I knew them.

I wonder if this depression is the reason I've been letting my life fall apart the way I have, even as I struggle to survive (but can't figure out why I'm bothering). And I'm hiding it, too.

I'm glad you posted this. And I'm glad you're feeling normal again. Because it opened my eyes, AND it lets me know that even if I'm going through something similar (thanks, lack of estrogen), there is hope. There is a solution. There IS the possibility of light again.

Big hugs.

No guilt required. You do what you have to do to enjoy your one life and be the best you. I love your openness, love your books, love your blog. Best wishes and love to you, Rachael. Wendy x

Oh, honey, I am *so* glad you found yourself again. Big big hugs to you !

I'm so happy for you and SO proud of you for asking for help. It's a really hard thing to do.

I've hit on the emotional rage of perimenopause myself and it sucks. I've always dealt with depression off and on all of my life. I've hidden it well because that's what you're supposed to do. Girls are supposed to be sunny and sweet, right?

The last few years people have finally started talking about it. Started making it a thing to be cured instead of shamed. Just by the amount of people that have already responded to your post I can see that there are a lot of people that get it and that is so encouraging.

You rock on with your bad self sweetie. And thank you for sharing.

Rachael, this past spring I had to quit my job because I couldn't deal with the stress anymore. Every small thing felt insurmountable, and every day I would freeze up on even routine tasks. This transitioned into having panic attacks, first when I was in crowded or small places, but eventually it got to the point that the thought of leaving the house and/or driving would send me into anxiety attacks. I knew something was wrong, but I didn't want to see the doctor about it, because I was genuinely afraid he would put me on medication, and that really bothered me. I became really good at putting on a happy face around friends and family, but inside I was falling apart.

The final straw was when my husband and I had a series of... not exactly fights, but serious problems. He finally asked me if we were going to be able to make it to our 10th anniversary this year (not in a snarky or mean way, but in a seriously worried way) - that's how bad it had gotten. I finally worked up the nerve to see the doctor, and he put me on a small dose of Lexapro.

I can't describe how different life is now compared to then. I want to go out. I want to DO STUFF. I can drive again without freaking out. I feel like I can actually take on anything now (within reason!). I want to knit again, to dance again, to do all the things that fell to the wayside when the anxiety & depression set in.

I don't know why there is this stigma attached to the meds. But what I do know is that living life without them... well, for me it wasn't living at all. What you've done is super-brave, and I hope that it's encouragement to others that are struggling with similar issues to seek help. There's no shame in getting the help you need, be it meds, therapy, or lifestyle changes. Not only will you be happier, but your friends and family will see the change as well.

And yes, we made it to our 10th anniversary, and we are both very happy once again. :)

Thank you!.....for being real and sharing yourself with us. You are an inspiration, and I am reminded again what it means to live authentically. It's so refreshing!!

Rachel, thank you for explaining depression succintly and with such care. It is something i've dealt with since childhood. I, too, didn't want to accept it as a Part of me. I denied, ignored, talked myself out of it. I created a pretend version of myself that became so ingrained, I still can't feel I know who I am! I find the sadness to be paralytic and frightening.
My current diagnosis makes so much sense to me. It's PTSD. I went a long while with diagnosis' that didn't seem adequate.
Thank you for acknowledging with gentleness what depression is. I'm so encouraged by your journey and wish for you all life's best. I know meds are hard to need, but if you're better with them~~Hooray!!! take special care.

Depression sucks. Have dealt with it since I was a child and let me just say again, Depression Sucks. My family riddled with it and the suicides in the past many.

Kudo's to you for this post. Awareness so important and vital. Had depression not been such a shameful word 20 years ago my brother would probably be alive. It is the secretiveness and shame of depression that is so damned toxic.

I am so glad you are feeling better and are making the effort to keep yourself happy for you, and those that love you. Smooches.

Re: Amy above. Yes, depression does suck! I have been treated for 25 years, and while I go up and down, I generally don't go so far down as when I was unmedicated. I am in a little down right now, as my mom died in August, and I don't know if it is grief or depression. I am so glad you got help and that you are yourself again. And one thing you said should be emphasized. The medication doesn't make you feel "up". It makes you normal. You feel so crappy, and with the right medication, one day you realize you feel normal. Depression makes your life gray. Treatment helps the color return to your world.

Rachael, thanks for posting this. You reach a lot of people. It helps to have someone they respect give her view. Someone will go the dr. today because of you and that is huge.

My depression was anemia. I went to the doctor, assumed she would put me on antidepressants but she did a blood test first. I'm so glad she did! 24 hrs after taking a supplement, I felt better.

It's always good when someone has the courage to write a post like this. It's keeping depression in the dark that causes suicides. And very accurate your description of feeling like your brain is in a fog, I found possibly the worst thing about depression wasn't the sad, but the inability to think coherently. We need neurotransmitters to think, and serotonin doesn't just transmit happy messages, it transmits all sorts of messages. I think of my pills as my "brain medication."

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.

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