Misconceptions About Depression

A few years ago I posted an Instagram photo with me crying and a caption that said, “This is the face of depression. Be kind to others because you don’t know what they’re going through.” That photo upset some of my friends because I hadn’t really discussed my depression before in such an open way. To them I was happy and a goof ball. What most didn’t see was I was moody, miserable and even suicidal at times.

Though I was diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, it was after my babies were born that it really got bad — and scary. I had dealt with postpartum and post-weaning depression but had inadequate psychiatric care.

On the outside I was posting pics of my kids in cute outfits and everything online told a completely different story.

Many people mask their pain for different reasons. I had the idea that depression wasn’t talked about, that having depression makes you weak. That it was a matter of willpower. I didn’t want to be the depressed mom, I wanted to be the mom that does it all, which is a dangerous and unrealistic expectation for anyone. That stigma that I was buying into keeps a lot of people silent about their struggle. It can be especially hard in certain cultures, such as Asian cultures (read more about that here.)

There are definitely common misconceptions about what depression looks like. In my case, I’m not sad every minute of everyday. There are good and bad days, just like anyone else. Sometimes my depression manifests in other ways, such as overeating or binge eating; sleeping too much; having a short fuse; or partaking in other unhealthy behavior.

I was freed of the heavy weight depression holds when I admitted to all my friends and family that I went to a psychiatric hospital in 2019. I even wrote a forum piece about my experience for the local paper. It was not easy, in fact it was a little terrifying knowing that essentially the whole city knew my secret, but like I said, it set me free. I just didn’t care about anyone’s opinion anymore. I know it can be annoying when I plug my blogs or pieces in the paper but I’m hoping they will reach someone who needs to hear what I’m saying — that it’s OK having depression and there is no shame in it. Those who I’ve met who struggle with depression are the strongest people I know. We are fighters. We are survivors.

Ideally, everyone should be able to talk about their mental illness but I understand why people don’t. It’s terrifying being vulnerable, especially when there’s a chance someone will react negatively. But I urge everyone to reach out, even if it’s to one person. You’d be surprised how free it makes you feel, and by telling a friend or family member, you’re lightening your load. Your support system can help you carry that load, and you should take help where you can get it.

If you can’t reach out to someone, please know there are several online resources that can help. To learn more about depression or find resources visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. They have a 24-hour helpline.

Other Misconceptions About Depression:

  1. “It’s all in your head.” – Depression is a psychological and biological disease. You have no control over it, so if someone tells you to “buck up” just know that the problem is not with you — it’s with them and their lack of understanding. You don’t have to pretend or fake it, just do you.
  2. Depression = being really sad. – Sure, you get sad when you’re depressed but someone equating it to “just being sad” is trivializing your feelings and your disease.
  3. Depression means you’re weak – I already touched on this but it’s worth repeating — I think people with depression are so strong. Depression can wreak havoc in all areas of your life. Some people deal with suicidal ideation daily and others have to tap into a reserve of strength and energy just to take a shower (me!) or go to work. Often that reserve is depleted.
  4. Depression is not treatable – There are a variety of medications that are safe and effective in treating depression. There might be side effects and it might take a while before finding the right combination, but (most of) patients feel better. There are also therapies you can try, such as talk therapy, TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation), ketamine infusion therapy, and my favorite, ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Please consult your doctor before trying any medication or other treatments.

These myths are damaging, but again, please reach out if you are struggling. It gets better.

If you are suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or visit their site for chat support.

A Horse of a Different Color

The other day my doctor suggested a couple of Ketamine infusions to do until I can do ECT. I didn’t think much of this because I’ve done several ketamine infusions in the past and they didn’t do much for me, but I learned the clinic that I was going to in Corpus was doing the infusions wrong, or perhaps not in the ideal way. Let’s put it that way.

At the old clinic they were adding benzos (Ativan, Valium) to the ketamine, which actually lowers the efficacy of the ketamine. I didn’t know that until I got to Menninger. Also, the other clinic’s protocol was to give everyone 100mg/hour no matter what. Here, they go by weight. I was skeptical of that at first but now I see why.

When you do 100 mg per hour, rather when I do 100 mg per hour, I feel like I’m in a black hole. There’s a lot of dissociation and I just feel drugged up and then I’m tired for the rest of the day. When I tried ketamine at the clinic, it was almost a religious experience. It was the most calming, most relaxing, therapeutic experience I’ve EVER had. I felt happy – and I haven’t felt happy in a loooong time.

It was amazing. Now, this infusion lasted just 40 minutes but I’ve already noticed a shift in my behavior. I made some jokes with some of the patients and staff here. I cleaned up my room and generally my mood is a bit better. I still have depression, of course, but it did provide a respite from the constant pain I’m in.

This makes me hopeful. I’m scheduled to have another ketamine treatment Monday and then later in the week, I’m due to start ECT. I’m not expecting my life to change but I’ll take any improvement from my current state. Some days it’s just so hard to breathe and it’s so exhausting to be a wife, mother, daughter, friend, etc. It’s just painful. Everything is painful, so relief is all I want. I want to be there for everyone. I want to smile and laugh – just live in something other than this awful darkness. I know I have to work on my therapy, too, and believe me I am. Everyday here is emotionally draining and I don’t think I’ve gone a day without crying, but that’s okay. I’m just trying to get to the other side.

I hope I see ya’ll there soon.