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I read “Descent: A Memoir of Madness” by David Guterson, for two reasons. The first being my love of his novel, “Snow Falling on Cedars” it remains to this day one of my favourite reads. The second reason was my very ‘oh so’ intimate knowledge with the subject of “Descent” that of Depression.

I spent five very painful years suffering from severe, deep depression, and while the origins and length of time were different, in many ways he expressed exactly, much of what I experienced. I rarely read books on depression now, while I devoured them for many years. His depression, of five or so months, was severe, and I recognized several of his copying strategies.

Initially the Psychiatrist I saw went the usual routes of medication and therapy. After several months he acknowledged that any past traumas in my life I had obviously dealt with, my marriage, while like most had its usual ups and downs, was not causing the problem so why, was I still depressed and getting worse as time went on? A chemical imbalance! so we sought to correct that with more, and different medication. Nothing made the slightest difference, over the next four years I tried every anti-depressant on the market, at times I was on several at the same time. I tried all the behavioral ‘in’ things that were out there.

In his book (really an essay, more than a novel) DG writes that the day he recognized, death was a consideration, he reached out for help, and for him, medication worked. For me when that day came, I finally agreed to ECT, something I had resisted agreeing to for the previous year.

It took time, and more treatments than I would have liked, but it worked. The cost to me, and my family though was high, I lost large, what I call, ‘chunks’ of memory, I now know I will never regain. My children will talk about something, and at times I have no memory of it, they fill in the blank, but rarely does the memory become mine again. Other times they talk, and though at first I don’t remember, it will come in flashes, yet other things are perfectly clear. To this day I will be told something, but lose that memory, while others again remain clear.

While my family and friends in real life know most of what happened to me in those five years, I rarely talk about it online. Not because of shame, I resolved that some years ago, and not because of a judgment made by another, and liberally passed around, but because this is a subject which needs to be talked about. Though more is known about depression, and gradually the ‘stigma’ is being lifted, it is still not completely accepted as an illness as one would accept cardiac disease for example.

More people are becoming open about their experiences, Clara is a name most Canadians will have heard about in the last few years, she is a remarkable young woman.

My story is not that unusual, I am one of the lucky ones. Today I take no anti-depressants, and though there are still days and periods where it gets darker, for the most part, I am able to deal with it. I recently found that acupuncture is of some help when the colour dims a bit.

So why am I making this post? I think reading the book is part of it. I also realized that over the years I have talked with a few people struggling with depression, and the very fact someone else was open helped them. I never experienced that myself, but I think it would have helped, just knowing someone else who was experiencing something similar to me. For each person depression is different, but there are many things we have in common.

Depression needs to be talked about, it needs the stigma removed, and to be looked upon as an illness like any other. Because we suffer from depression does not make us somehow ‘LESS’ we simply have a medical condition, in the same way as we may have a cardiac or any other medical condition. I don’t reveal a great deal of personal information online, but this is an open post, and to be honest, as I click the post button, I know I will hesitate. Some of you know I have a number of medical conditions, and yes! I know I am repeating the same words, but I think you understand why. This is simply my doing what I can, to bring one of my medical conditions…depression…out into the open.

I wrote this a few weeks ago, with the intention of posting it this week. In light of today’s news about Robin Williams, I hesitated. In some ways it seemed wrong to do so, but then I thought, why? Perhaps this is just the right time so here I go, about to click post...I hope.



( 29 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:35 am (UTC)
Thank you very much for writing and posting this. Depression has such a stigma as you say, and there seems to be a fear of talking about it. Almost as though if we hide it under the carpet people will forget about it.

I have, myself been suffering for depression and addiction over many years but it was only a few years ago when I got to that point where I wanted to take my own life, and I realised that I needed to do something about it. I was lucky in that I had a support network. The therapist that I finally found was absolutely brilliant, and helped me a lot. I have been on anti-depressants for some years now, and started about 10 days ago to wean myself off them.

With the news this morning about Robin Williams I can understand you wondering whether or not to post this, but I'm grateful that you did.
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:05 pm (UTC)
My career was in nursing, yet before I had depression there was a part of me that thought all you had to do was pull yourself together, and get on with it.

People didn't talk about it, for fear of being judged. I suspect my father suffered from depression, but if he did, he never talked about it.

I am so glad you have found what works for you, that is really important. I know people who take the medication, but it doesn't help. They feel that is their fault, so say nothing, and on it goes.

We who suffer from this terrible condition, need also to be our own advocates. Speak up if the treatment isn't working. I had a wonderful doc who tried everything, and when I finally gave in to the need for ECT. he made it all so easy for me, being with me every step of the way.

What you say about a support network is vital, more so as there are times we just can't do it on our own.

I hope all goes well for you in weaning off the meds. and that you will be just fine without them, it is important to try that step.

Thank you for commenting, I'm glad it helped that was one of the things I hoped for, when writing it.

Take care of yourself.
Aug. 16th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
It's interesting what you say about feeling that you needed to pull yourself together, and get on with it.

The big thing in our family has always been that the 'women are strong', and therefore they're not allowed to fall apart, or break down. They should just get on with it. It took me a very long time to acknowledge that I didn't need to just get on with it. I could seek help, and thankfully my doctor has been absolutely brilliant about it which I didn't expect. He wouldn't even just hand out the medications to me on a repeat prescription, he made me go in and talk to him first to see how I was, and if it was right for me to have more meds.

I watch people at work, who have had breakdowns, and clearly have problems and nothing but nothing is done to help them.

If nothing else, the death of Robin Williams has brought this more out into the press, and hopefully people will feel that it is possible to try and ask for help. That of course is from the responsible media - there are quite a few that have reported things very badly.
Aug. 17th, 2014 04:44 am (UTC)
My mother was a quietly strong woman, who put up with a great deal, for her there really weren't many other options at that time. I think I learned the 'pull yourself together' part from her, but in time I came to realize there were, for me, other ways to go.

Repeat prescriptions are fine for some conditions, not for depression, good for your doctor!

The really sad thing is that by the time people are severely depressed, they are often beyond the point of asking for help so it takes another stepping in to get them the help they need, even if that help is available to them.

Bad media is not likely to change, they make too much from misrepresenting the facts.
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:48 am (UTC)
Hugs you Liz

I have no experience with dpression apart from the occasional 'common garden variety form of sadness' which of course isn't the same thing at all.

I should imagine that "owning" it as you have done here, would be a big help to your own brain, as well as to any unseen suffers who may be reading it.

Aug. 12th, 2014 06:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks Lyn!

I think I finally owned it when I agreed to the ECT, and as I said family and friends knew by then. I had tried to hide it, but finally realized that was getting me nowhere so IRL I do talk out about it, wasn't sure about doing it online, especially an open post, but really when I thought about it...why on earth not!

I hope it helps even one person out there, that would be great.

*hugs you back*
Aug. 12th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
Hugs you* Thank you for sharing this. You're so right; depression needs to be talked about, and the stigma removed. We should applaud people who have the strength to reach out. We should be compassionate to the people who don't have that strength. I feel like we're still not very advanced in dealing with various kinds of mental disease, and I wish we had more and better options. Depression runs in my family as well. My great grandfather ended up in an asylum for his first depression, but when he got older he could sort of spot it coming on, and would take himself to the doctor for shock treatment, which did work.

I am "lucky" in that medication worked for me, and the first time, but even it took chunks of my memory. The doctors didn't believe me at the time because it wasn't yet a reported symptom, but it is now. I worry a lot about the trade off. Sometimes it scares me to lose a name or forget something I should know by rote. But at the same time, it was such a black place, and I sometimes I forget just how terrible it was. It's easy to be angry now that the treatment wasn't perfect, but I think I'm forgetting, most of all, how awful the disease was. And it's important for me to acknowledge that I did get a lot better. I hope other people reach out and talk about it too. It's one of those horrible problems that thrives in the shadows. It needs to be discussed matter-of-factly an in the light, to take away some of its power, I think.
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you for commenting!

It does take strength to reach out for the help we need, more so because of the stigma which is still part of having depression. Though that is getting better, but we are not there yet.

I've always wondered why some medical conditions are considered better to have than others! even non mental health ones. It is as if we categorize, people and rate them by the condition...something more to think about!

I am so glad the medication worked for you, but very sorry to hear about the memory. I had heard that before, but think it only became an acknowledged fact a few years ago.

I have come to terms re the trade-off, though I feel for my family when they talk about something I have no memory of, I think their sadness is greater than mine. I am just so very grateful to be here, and see colour in my world...to have left that very dark place behind.

I wrote some things when I was at my very worst, and if I was ever tempted to negate how terrible that time was, I have promised myself to go and read what I wrote. I think that would be enough, and I doubt I would read very much.

As you say talking about it, normalizing it, will help lessen the power of depression.

Take care of yourself
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
Depression is such a misunderstood subject, so it's always a good thing when intelligent and informed persons like you share their knowledge on the subject.
Aug. 12th, 2014 06:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for that:)

Education is the key, and for that we need more openness, and no judgment. The stigma really needs to be stripped from this disease, only then will it have equal ranking in the medical arena of conditions and diseases, and not something to be hidden or whispered about.

That is starting to happen, but not quickly enough. The need is even more so with our youth, who find it hard to talk about their health at the best of times. Clara Hughes, has done a wonderful job there, by simply putting a young face to depression/mental health, and talking about it.
Aug. 12th, 2014 09:26 pm (UTC)
This was a beautiful post. As you know I struggle with depression as well, sometimes more, sometimes less, but it's a struggle.

And I realize again and again that I do need to talk about it but do not want judgement so I don't talk about it...sadly circle I run.

Aug. 13th, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
Thank you!

It really is a struggle, at times for life itself.

I hope you do find someone you can talk with. I think we expect judgement, but in my experience that is rarely the case from those who care about us, be they family or professionals.

When you are ready you will break that circle.

*hugs you*
Aug. 13th, 2014 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this - and for messaging me to come over and see it. I think posting it around RW's death was completely appropriate; the more voices there are claiming this disease and normalizing it, the better.

I'm so glad you were able to find a treatment that worked for you. I wish the cost wasn't so great, but I understand so very much how dark the dark places are, and how each of us is trading something for the light. And thank you for posting about a treatment that doesn't often get talked about - the limits of medication and therapy are real and difficult, and I'm glad you're a voice offering another perspective on what might work. ♥
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:57 am (UTC)
I hesitated re the PM'ing, but you shared so much about your journey, and so openly, that when I decided to post this, I thought of you.

To me the cost of not living in the dark has been very much worth it, my family at times, I think, regret the loss, but still will say they would rather have me as I am now.

ECT always creates such a negative emotion, even for me. As a nurse I had witnessed it in the seventies, when it was a completely different treatment. Today it is very much better, and has more than proven its effectiveness. I am glad for it, as medication did nothing to help me.

Depression still needs to be talked about, until people treat is as any other medical condition.

Thank you for reading:)

Aug. 13th, 2014 10:24 pm (UTC)
Hugs you, thanks for sharing.
Definitely a good time to post, depression is still stigmatized, and the pull yourself together and cheer up still goes around. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have been so dificult for Robin Williams to ask for help if he suffered from MS or anything else more physical.
Broken leg accepted, broken mind not so much...

I'm sorry you had to pay a big price in order to get well, but happy that you did get well :)

I myself love when I find a novel or lyrics which describe how I am and feel. And I feel very grateful towards the guy who spoke out and wrote a book about his demons, making me go ask for help.

hugs you

Aug. 14th, 2014 02:08 am (UTC)
Thank you, I'm glad I made the post!

Oh yes! the good old 'pull yourself together' I wonder how many people gave up when they realized they just couldn't do that.

When someone who is depressed, commits suicide, I often wonder how many times they had reached that point before, and had managed to resist the lure of ending the pain. Then that one time comes, and they can no longer hold on, or ask for more help...my heart goes out to his family.

The price paid was worth it, very much so.

When I read the book, it hit me just how much he described was what I had felt, it was validating, in many ways. I'm so glad you got that help for your demons.

*hugs you back*
Aug. 14th, 2014 10:44 am (UTC)
I just found this on instagram
Aug. 14th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the lin. The poster said it very well. Now all we need is for the rest of mankind to see the truth in it.
Aug. 14th, 2014 01:56 pm (UTC)
Thank you for sharing your experience with depression.

Initially the Psychiatrist I saw went the usual routes of medication and therapy. After several months he acknowledged that any past traumas in my life I had obviously dealt with, my marriage, while like most had its usual ups and downs, was not causing the problem so why, was I still depressed and getting worse as time went on? A chemical imbalance! so we sought to correct that with more, and different medication. Nothing made the slightest difference, over the next four years I tried every anti-depressant on the market, at times I was on several at the same time. I tried all the behavioral ‘in’ things that were out there.

... this shadows my brother Paul's journey. One that has lasted 16 years. He has tried ECT but unfortunately it did not work for him, but I am so pleased to hear it did help you. Paul has accepted that he will probably need to be on medication for the rest of his life.

Thanks to the efforts here of associations such as "Beyond Blue"...


...the public is becoming more aware of how prevalent depression is and hopefully removing some of the stigma attached to mental illness. It was actually doing the test at their site that convinced me I had to stop bottling up how I felt and talk to my Doctor.

I have not said anything anywhere else on LJ but I have recently been diagnosed with depression myself, I think all the medical problems have just got to me lately and I am not sleeping, can't be bothered doing anything, just want to stay in bed all day and cry at the drop of a hat over silly, minor things. I am on medication and am hoping that helps. My depression is mild compared to others I'm sure.

Thank you for this honest, open post.


Edited at 2014-08-14 01:59 pm (UTC)
Aug. 14th, 2014 05:18 pm (UTC)
I am so sorry the ECT didn't work for Paul, it was what saved me. I am assuming if he is still taking the medication it is of some help, I do hope so.

Thanks for that link, it sounds like a very good organization. I noticed they mention anxiety as well as depression. I feel anxiety is another condition that has a stigma with it. Social anxiety is another, that needs a spokesperson to bring it out of the darkness, and have treatment more readily accessible.

I'm so glad that doing the test helped you seek help. What you describe is exactly some of the things I experienced at different stages.

You have a number of severe medical conditions, difficult to deal with at the best of time, even more so when you are depressed. One thing I would say, no matter how you feel don't skip on the other medical stuff, it can be tempting at time to do so.

This last year with the added medical conditions I developed, I found myself having a few more grey days than usual, I am heart sick of going to treatments etc. and one of the latest conditions really impacts my life in new ways.

Anyway, my GP also practices alternative medicine, and we decided to try acupuncture for a few things, including my grey days...it worked! Now he uses the Japanese form of acupuncture on me, he felt the Chinese, wouldn't be as effective. I wonder if something like that might help Paul, just a thought.

Please do take care of yourself, and I still have ears which work! ready to lend one anytime.

*hugs you*
Aug. 18th, 2014 01:30 pm (UTC)
One thing I would say, no matter how you feel don't skip on the other medical stuff, it can be tempting at time to do so.

.. I know exactly what you mean.

With all you have gone through medically I'm not surprised you have had a few more grey days.

Am so glad that the acupuncture has helped, will have to check into Japanese acupuncture as I have never even heard of it and will certainly mention it to Paul. Thanks for the advice.

Aug. 20th, 2014 02:11 am (UTC)
Even though I am temped at times, I rarely skip an appointment.

Grey I can handle, for me it will pass, it's the total black, I hope to never experience again.

My doc felt the Japanese form would work better for me, in part, because there are a number of issues he was working on. That may not be the case for another person, I don't know enough about either types to say one way or another.

I really hope there is something out there for Paul, that gives him better control, it is a horrible illness.

I'm praying the medication works for you.

*hugs you*
Aug. 22nd, 2014 01:07 pm (UTC)
I really hope there is something out there for Paul, that gives him better control, it is a horrible illness.

I'm praying the medication works for you.

... thank you on both counts.

Aug. 17th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
All I can say is hugs and kudos to you for posting it. And with the news about Robin Williams, even more important that you did. So many people don't know that depression isn't just the emotion of sadness.

Aug. 18th, 2014 02:34 am (UTC)
I am glad now that I did post, it's that revealing too much about yourself online thing, but then I realized I really didn't matter.

So many people don't know that depression isn't just the emotion of sadness.

Aug. 19th, 2014 11:22 pm (UTC)
I've had bouts with depression. Fortunately, not for years now. But the worst episodes were when I was in my mid-late 20's and again in my mid 30's. I took medication for both. I had a good therapist who I saw for 10 years. She was always a good advocate for me. I'm not sure what shifted in me, but episodes of depression became fewer and fewer.

Aug. 20th, 2014 02:03 am (UTC)
I am so glad that the medication worked for you, and a therapist who works with you, and is in your corner, is irreplaceable. Anyone suffering from depression needs a good advocate, as we often can't speak for ourselves.

It's great your episodes diminished with time, I like to hear that:)
Jan. 18th, 2015 02:46 am (UTC)
Thanks for pointing out this post to me, it's always helpful to read about other folks who have depression, and we do need to start talking about it more. I've been on antidepressants since grad school, pretty much. I'm trying to gather my thoughts on my depression and I may make a post soon.
Jan. 18th, 2015 04:52 am (UTC)
It is helpful to talk to others who are going through the same thing, just to know you are not alone. It is a subject that badly needs talking about, so that it may be viewed as any other illness.

Take care, and I do hope you feel better soon.
( 29 comments — Leave a comment )

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