Depression Rarely Strikes on its Own


I have clinical depression. I also have mild Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADD). I always feel a little silly rattling off the laundry list of my mental illness disorders. It makes me feel like I should add “hypochondriac” to the list as well.

My depression was far more severe and disrupted my life (prior to treatment) more than ADD and OCD. But both these disorders also had an impact on my life. In particular, the ADD was a problem when I was a child. I had a lot of trouble focusing in class and could be easily distracted. The word “daydreaming” came up in many of my report cards. Because I wasn’t hyperactive, however, my behavior was never connected to ADD. This is the case with many girls, as ADD seems to manifest itself without the hyperactive component more often than not in them.

My ex-husband used to say to me, “Just sit in your seat for five minutes! Why do you have to jump up and do things all the time?” I think my response was to point out that someone had to do the housework. Granted, he didn’t do anything around the house, so it was a valid explanation, but now I also know that my inability to sit still is due to ADD.

As long as it took my depression to be diagnosed(twenty years), it took my OCD and ADHD even longer. In part this was because mine are mild cases of the disorders. But it was also because psychiatrists as a rule don’t screen for companion disorders.

Another reason that they took so long to be diagnosed was that I didn’t realize that anything was wrong. Other people had commented on behavior that I know, looking back, was due to OCD and ADD. I was buttering a piece of toast in college when a friend said she’d never seen anyone butter a piece of bread so thoroughly. I was taken aback. Didn’t it drive everyone nuts to eat toast that had some unbuttered spots on it? I don’t think I had even heard of OCD at that point, so there was no way I could apply it to myself.

Since I grew up with ADD, I developed ways of coping and compensating for its negative effects on my ability to get things done. Nowadays when I need to stay on track I choose to use either those coping skills, or medication. It’s nice to have both options.

I’m not alone in my multi-disorder situation. For reasons we don’t yet understand, depressive disorders are often accompanied by other types of mental disorders. For some, addiction accompanies depression since they are self-medicating the depression with drugs and alcohol. For others like me, depression is inexplicably accompanied by anxiety disorders, eating disorders, OCD, ADD and/or any number of other disorders.

Sometimes I wonder at the defectiveness of my brain. I mean, how many things can go wrong with one brain (keeping in mind that I also have Multiple Sclerosis)? But then I remember what amazing machines our brains are. Not only does the brain operate all of our physical responses, but it also produces awe-inspiring creations like Michelangelo’s David or the Hoover Dam. It’s an incredible juggling act, and I guess we can forgive the brain for dropping a ball once in a while. Of course, it would be nice in my case if it could manage not to drop four balls, but nobody’s perfect.

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