My Experience with Depression

“I Am Half-Sick of Shadows,” said the Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse

Let me tell you right away that I am uncomfortable recounting my experience with depression. Not because it’s painful to talk about (though it is), but because I created this web page about depression to help other people, not to go on and on about myself. However, I can’t forget how illuminating William Styron’s account of his depression in Darkness Visible was to me before I was diagnosed and treated for depression. It really was the book that made me recognize my illness and therefore led me to seek professional help. Since Styron is so much more eloquent than I could ever be, I urge you to read his book. If nothing else, it will help you explain your illness to other people, if you have it, or help you to understand a loved one’s pain if you are close to someone who suffers from the “black dog”, as Churchill called it. If you are interested in my story, read on. You may recognize yourself or someone else in it.

My parents divorced when I was two, and I essentially lost my father. My mother and my sister and I moved across the country to live with my grandparents, and I only saw my father every few years when I was growing up. My mom remarried when I was almost four to the wonderful man I consider my real father, and who has been there for us one hundred percent ever since. However, the loss of my biological father had profound effects on my personality. Many people who suffer depression lose a parent early in life, either to death, divorce or abandonment. I don’t know if I would have suffered from depression without that early loss; perhaps my depression is wholly chemical. I do know that the only picture of me as a child which shows me laughing was taken before my father left. Every picture taken afterward shows a solemn child who smiles only diffidently.

I was a painfully shy child. I had very few friends, was terrified of talking to strangers or a group of people, and was careful never to draw attention to myself. I was afraid that if I was the center of attention, I would look stupid or do something wrong. It’s likely that as a child, I thought my father’s leaving was due to my behaving badly or doing something wrong, so I was always afraid of doing that again, and making my mother leave. I sought refuge in reading, confident that in books I could never say or do the wrong thing. That served to cut me off even more from the rest of the world.

As a teenager I was moody and self-absorbed. Of course, that’s considered to be common for teenagers, so my behavior was written off as normal. Unfortunately, I also had no interest in school, sports, clubs, etc. Part of it was the fog that was beginning to descend over my mind from time to time and part of it was a fear of failing in anything new. The only time I felt good about myself was when a boy was chasing after me. Of course the flip side of that was that a rejection from a boy I was interested in sent me into a black mood, unable to do anything but cry. Occasionally I thought of going to a psychiatrist and saying, “help me” but in that scenario I also saw rejection. I pictured the doctor saying, “There’s nothing wrong with you – why are you wasting my time when I could be seeing people who really have problems?”

Far Away Thoughts by John William Godward

My college years for the most part were relatively free of depression. I was much more social, and with the exception of being expelled for one semester due to a lack of interest in my classes, I was more motivated academically. Until what I think of as the “black hole time” – what was probably my first major depression. I was in my last semester of school, worrying about finding a job in time so that I could stay in Boston with my boyfriend, and panicking over the prospect of being entirely on my own. The semester before I had been raped by a male friend, and this may have been a trigger. My moodiness got worse and worse, and I was constantly fighting with my boyfriend, through no fault of his. In my mind, I vividly saw myself teetering on the edge of a bottomless black hole. I felt that if I fell in, I would never stop falling. In desperation I went to the walk-in clinic of a local hospital and told the doctor that I thought I had very bad PMS. I described my symptoms, and he told me to keep a record of my moods. I promised to do so, but I was in no shape to follow through. I could barely get my schoolwork done, and certainly didn’t have the energy to keep a log on top of that. I found out years later that he had made a notation concerning possible depression in my file, and that he would follow up with me. He didn’t get in touch with me again, probably because I graduated a few weeks later.

The next few years I went in and out of major and minor depressive episodes, although I didn’t recognize either for what they were. I remember a few periods of doing nothing but dragging myself to work and, in my free time, reading romance novels. My roommates would try to coax me into going out and bar-hopping (which I normally loved), but I just didn’t feel like it.

In the summer of 1990, as I’ve said, I read Styron’s Darkness Visible. As I read it, I kept saying to myself, “This is me; I’ve been feeling all of this.” However, I still hesitated to see a psychiatrist. Not that I wasn’t seeing a doctor. I was overwhelming my family doctor with visit after visit, sure that I had this disease or that ailment. I think I was in his office every two weeks on average that year. My hypochondria wasn’t the only problem, though. My memory and concentration, which had always been excellent, were completely shot. I couldn’t retain anything I read. I lay in bed every morning trying to think of a reason to get up and go to work. When I wasn’t at work, the only thing I had the energy to do was watch TV.

I had been dating a man for a year who not only was depressed himself, but was an alcoholic. I had been pressuring him to make some sort of commitment to me, without understanding why it was so important to me. Finally, the morning after a particularly nasty argument, as I lay in bed, the sound of his car driving off made me crack. I started screaming and couldn’t stop until I was hoarse. Shaken, I called my family doctor and asked for the name of a good psychiatrist. I saw the head of psychiatry at the local hospital a few days later. I remember sitting in his office twisting my hands together in my lap as he asked me about my family history and my symptoms. At the end of the hour he told me he thought that they could help me (the most beautiful words I could remember ever hearing) and that he would set me up with a therapist and a psychiatrist at the hospital’s mental health clinic. He also mentioned that they might want me to go on medication, an idea which I negated immediately. I had hated taking medication since I was put on tranquilizers for migraines when I was a teenager.

Il Dolce Far Niente by William Holman Hunt

The next few weeks, which were at Christmas time, were horrendous. I went to a dear friend’s wedding, but was only able to endure half an hour of the reception before escaping, crying on the drive home. I kept ahold of myself all Christmas Day, but started crying hysterically as soon as I left my parent’s house, and cried all the way home. Things got slightly better after the holidays, and I was going to therapy once a week. I was gaining insight into what made me tick, which was helping me to a great extent in my relationships. However, it was not alleviating what was steadily growing into a shrieking storm inside my head. In early spring I sat in my bedroom and decided that if this was the kind of pain I was going to live with for the next fifty years, then life would hold absolutely no appeal for me. Strictly speaking, I wasn’t thinking of suicide, but I’m sure it would only have been a matter of time before I sought that relief. I told my psychiatrist that I was ready to try whatever medication they wanted to give me. He put me on Norpramin, which is a type of antidepressant. The side effects (dry mouth, shaking hands, dizziness in the morning) were unpleasant, but I was determined to stick it out for the six weeks they told me it would take for the medicine to take effect. This was my only chance at having my life back.

Not only did I get my life back, I got a new life. At first I noticed only that the noise in my head was fading, and I was beginning to take an interest in things going on around me again. But as the weeks went on, a whole new personality emerged. Instead of the classic clothes in smoky colors I had always worn, I now was gravitating toward flashy clothes in bright colors. Now I wanted to draw attention to myself – I loved it! I, who had always been so shy, was now smiling at strangers and eagerly entering into conversation with them. I was suddenly interested in everything: food, clothes, science, sports, history, etc. Not only did I have a thirst for knowledge, but I also had the energy to follow through on it. I read voraciously, but for the first time I wasn’t trying to escape into a make-believe world; I was fascinated by the one I inhabited.

I felt that for the first time in my life, my “real” personality had emerged. Going on the medication did so much more than I expected. The only thing that marred this rebirth was the thought that I had wasted so many years living in the fog of depression. I mourn all the years lost, all the opportunities missed, and all the friends that I had alienated. If I had understood more about this illness, if there weren’t so many misconceptions about it, I probably would have gone to a doctor years before.

Now, over twenty years later, the only time my depression has come back has been when I’ve gone off my medication or the level of medication in my blood has become too low, or when I’ve taken certain generic antidepressants. I have high and low moods like everyone else, but the low moods are always of short duration, a day or so, and always in reaction to something negative or stressful happening in my life. In other words, my moods are normal.

I’m begging you, if you think you have depression, get help. Although it’s true that not every case is as successful as mine, around 80% of people who have depression can be helped. I’m not advocating medication for everyone. I have a friend whose outlook on life has been changed by psychotherapy as much as mine has been changed by the combination of medication and psychotherapy. Every case is different. Your best bet is to educate yourself as much as possible about this illness in addition to seeking professional help. Depression is a terrible, soul-stealing illness. I don’t know if we will ever be able to eradicate it, but from my own experience I know that the tools to defeat it are there. You owe it to yourself to give those tools the chance to rescue you from the pain and emptiness of depression.

You may also like

29 Comments

  1. Thank you for all of your stories. I have been diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder at the beginning of the year. I was plagued with depression, could not sleep, hopelessness,fear, anxeity,and what feels like bolts of lightening shooting through my tummy, racing thoughts and not much of an appetite. I finally I checked myself in at the behavioral center for mental illness. I was so scared because I dint know what was happening to me. Although to tell you the truth I have had these symptoms sparadicaly over 19 years. From 27 I am now 43. However when I was taken to the hospital I never followed up on the visits. This last time my symtoms were so extreme as I mention above that I was only to eager to follow up. I wanted to feel better. So when my doctor priscibe the medication I took it. First the dosce was to strong and they had to lower my dose. It was Not easy at first. One of my major struggle was taking the med and faith in God. I threw away the Meds and decided to have faith in God. I quickly learned that perhaps God could use the med to help me because when I threw out the Meds the symtoms came back with a rage. I soon learn to accept that I have this illness and learned I am not alone. I am educating myself and trusting God. Today I felt like my dpression is returning hence my reason fo being on this blog.
    I have been truly encourage by your stories. Please anyone who is facing a mental illness be encouraged things will get better you are not alone. Don’t try to deal with this by yourself speak to someone seek help trust your doctor and trust God. Get involved with a support group you have nothing to be ashame about. You are lovely and you deserve to live your life. I am involve with NAMI a mental health organization my doctor referred me to it. You will get better stick it out the next thing you know your story will help someone elseLove dawne be well

  2. Hey everyone, I have a lot of experiences of my depressions for 6 years because my parents got divorced leads my depressions through 6 years. It is very difficult for me to get over it but I am glad that I made the best decisions are threw beers away and started going to the counselor every two weeks. I didn’t realize that i had illness since a year ago that and didn’t know the depressions cause me to have illness a lot.

  3. I was specifically looking for something to assist one of my students who has recently been diagnosed and is struggling to accept She is also upset by her setbacks which just come out of the blue. Thank you for sharing. I know this will be of great help to her.

  4. Hhmmm i feel like crying when i remember some of de ordeal i went tru wen i was 26 in a major depression wilst pregnant fr 4 mnths.i was rejected completely by my husband so de stress brought abt de attack.i didnt feel like going to wrk.didnt bath fr even more than weeks.didnt eat.trim my hair.didnt hve de edge to go fr AnC clinic.say everybody as an enemy.couldnt sleep fr more than weeks.didnt have energy to go to public places.had suicidal tendencies everyday in an attempt to commit suicide my younger sister caught me.i had no energy fr anytin i always prayed to God i die cos i was a failure.i couldnt concentrate.recognise tins i was virtually mad as i was told after de depressive period of 6 mnths.i new i had depression bt couldnt walk to de psychiatrist fr help.i resorted to crying nd my family nd other frnds resorted to praying fr me.i was relieved abt 2 wks after delivery nd now my daughter is 3 nd a half yrs old.frnds wid same condition dont loose hope u will be fine.

  5. Thank you for writing this. It really highlighted the problems I’m facing as of the moment! I see that so many people have been touched by your story; we’re all grateful for you being honest with us. My mother has a brain tumour, and my grandmother, who is living with us, has dementia. It’s been tough, and as a result I’ve had to quit working in care as it was too much. I don’t feel 24, I feel older, yet I’m doing my best working on a home business making T-shirts, with the help of my dad. Since opening up to my friends, family and doctor about feeling depressed, I have felt empowered, but at times I feel incredibly down. I’ve never wanted to take medication, but I’ve heard wonders about it. Thank you for sharing the story, we all have good and bad days, and this is just a battle I have to beat. If anyone is feeling down, defeated and ruined, remember that depression is a battle in the dark; we’re never alone, and help is always available. Thank you!

  6. I am 15 . I have all those symptoms . How can I help myself . My Parents wouldn’t listen to me . I can’t help myself . I don’t know how to describe this bad feelings of mine .

    1. Sharia I read your plea for help. Please talk to anyone who will listen and take you serious. A counselor or teacher at school or a best friends Mom. A aunt or grandmother. Who have you ever liked talking to because they listened, think about it and go to that person, call on them to help you. Please let me know how u are doing now. Thanks Pam Someone who does Care !

  7. hi.im a bipolar I eat drugs but almost time im depress.im very tired of my life.i don’t know what I do.pleaes please help me

  8. Thanks for your sharing! i deeply understand this feeling! Actually I’ve create a blog with a topic I m interested in for a few months to restart my life, and today I m going to write my story…I’m writing…and i stuck, long time no write anything about myself make me not confident! So i search google and found you! I’m 27 and I’ve overcome my depression for 1 year, I ll never forget the fear and madness I’ve ever had in the past, and also thank them because all of them made the now me ๐Ÿ™‚ the first time in 20 years I feel that I’m LIVING my life ๐Ÿ™‚ the first time I touch my HAPPINESS ๐Ÿ™‚ the first time I see that LIFE IS SO BEAUTIFUL ๐Ÿ™‚ the first time I WANT TO LIVE ๐Ÿ™‚ Sorry for talking so much ๐Ÿ˜› I ll continue with my writing now! Thank you again!

  9. I just turned 50. I feel like the last 5 years of my life have just been “rolling along” day by day, Like the movie “Groundhog day”.I just exist from the time I get up in the morning till I go to bed, like robotic. I feel numb to life and the weirdest feeling as though I’m living an ” out of body experience”. The best way to explain this is, I don’t feel like the same person I was a few years ago. I feel like a totally different person living a totally different and unstructured life. I know what brought this on. I’ve had many disfunctional family situations and losses in my life but I always seemed to “deal” with them pretty well. But over the years,good friends move on, family thins out, and we get older. I feel very alone now as my family is very small, I have no siblings left and divorced. My 27 year old son and I don’t really have much of a relationship anymore because of his drug use. I blame myself.”where did I go wrong”, I ask. I have no strength to kick him out of my house because I blame myself for his drug use. I go out on dates but I feel like I purposely sabotage myself so no one will allow me to let down my guard. I blame my son and his constant irresponsible life choices that aids to my depression. He still lives with me and I am very disappointed in his life decisions. I wanted so much more for him but I think I’ve instilled so much less in him to mold him into the man he is now. I know I could have done so much better as a mom with him but I’m at a point where I can not look back but I can only look forward with alot of prayer and asking the Lord for forgiveness and begging him for the strength to move on with some hope that everything will be ok. That’s all I ask of him……that things in life will just be “ok”

    1. Dawn, don’t beat yourself up regarding your parenting. There is no manual that comes with a baby and we all make mistakes. I have a 22 year old bipolar girl and I have questioned myself a million times but they are adults making their own decisions and we as parents with depression need to focus on ourselves. I am slowly focusing on myself even it is hard but we have to stop enabling our children. Time for you to get help and hopefully your son will follow….it may take him to hit rock bottom but if we are always there they don’t ever get that learning opportunity. Take care

    2. You must look to your hormonal changes at this time of life, that is usually where the answer lies. Your hormones will exaggerate your problems and cause havoc with your emotions. Get them in balance. HRT has been brilliant for me. Check out Dr John Studd’s website. Hope things prove for you. Best wishes

  10. Thank you so much, I am starting to break out of my fog with the help of a holistic psychiatrist after suffering with this since I was 10. To hear your hopeful story helps me to remember to keep on keeping on. Thank you a million times!

  11. I think i m in a deep desperation doesn’t even feel like to read this posts , don’t take it offending but I feel envoy of people who are very energetic about everything ,has so many emotions and every thing very good ….I hate my self I was a troubled child for my parents ,for my siblings and now I m becoming horrible for my husband and only child….I feel very bad for him…. I bought him in this world and not capable of providing him good surroundings….why did I took birth god only knows….tc u all

  12. I’ve had depression, anxiety, and panic attacks pretty much all my life. I still do.my dad was an alcoholic, who would sit my mother down after being gone a week, 2 weeks? Whatever, and tell her how stupid she was etc…I remember putting my fingers in my ears to not have to hear it. When I was 11, my oldest brother was killed in Vietnam. This really did something to me. I loved him so much. A few months later we moved, away from all the friends I had ever had. Also, I need to mention, my dad had a girlfriend, who came to our house all the time. He told my mom ‘he was King of the castle’ and he’d do what he wanted.there was 6 of us kids. My mom couldn’t drive, her family wouldn’t let her move by them because she had 6 kids. She was stuck. No job. My dad’s girlfriend use to tell my mom she was gonna have to move out. My dad wouldn’t say anything in front of his girlfriend, but when he could he’d tell my mom shed BETTER not leave. So much more. I thought this life was ‘normal’.until I got grown and knew different. We were never told I love you by either parent, or ever given a hug. I’m 57 and have taken so many different prescriptions, gone to physiatrists for years and years. Nothing is a magical pill. I have a daughter, married. I’m divorced several years now. Both my parents are gone. The rest of the family yells at me and says I’m just lazy, because I never feel like cleaning my house, effort just to get groceries. I’m totally alone. No friends. Every time I read about someone with depression or anxiety they always say, use your support system, friends and family. What if you don’t have any support system at all, and your so alone it’s ridiculous! I feel stupid for even being alive.

  13. Im 16 and I feel like im depressed but it’s probably just a little phase im not quite sure but ive had it for 4months straight then it went for 2months and now the feeling hss come back and I always feel like crying. The weather also makes me depressed because I libe in yhe UK and the weather here is bipolar.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story. I happened to stumble across your blog as I was doing research on depression in children as I wait for my 11 year old son’s first appointment with a counselor. Thank you for doing this blog and putting everything in one easy to reach place.

  15. Thank you for this encouraging story. I, too have suffered from depression for the past 15 years. I had just thought there was something wrong with me. A doctor prescribed Prozac. I had always heard about Prozac and thought well lets try it. Little did I know how Prozac or any anti-depressant worked. I got home, couldn’t wait to feel better, took my tablet and waited….little did I know that I would have to take it for about 2 months before I started feeling better!!!! I was appalled that nothing happened!!! I threw the tablets away!!! I come from a family where there was no affection. I knew I was loved but I couldn’t feel it… My older sister hated me for some reason, my parents were always fighting, there was no communication at all. To give you an example…I am currently 41yrs and my mother told me she loved me for the first time this year. A friend of mine hugged me for the first time at the age of 23…I wasn’t used to someone touching me in any way. It felt good which resulted in me bursting into tears. There are so many things I want to tell my parents but because of the lack of communication I haven’t been able to tell them. I don’t know how to approach them and I am not used to showing any emotion in front of them. I am terrified something happens to them or me before I pluck up the courage to tell them. I fell into a deep depression in 2006. It lasted for just over a month, but it felt like a lifetime. I went onto medication permanently and a year and a half later I stopped taking my tabs. I thought I am feeling pretty good so lets try this. Wrong move. Two to three months later I felt things were not as they should be, but I ignored the warning signs, and in 2008 I crashed!!! I had thought 2006 was bad but this was ten times worse!!! I went into such a deep depression that I thought I was in hell!!!! I argued with God internally, asking Him why me? I have a good heart, it makes me happy to see others happy, I had never been nasty to anyone in my life!!! Why me??!!!! I prayed everyday all day for God to take my life, I wanted to end my life as I felt like I was in hell!! Do you know that I could not find how to commit suicide by gassing myself in a vehicle on the internet!!! I was so desperate, but at the same time I had a beautiful 7yr daughter to think about. I didn’t want her to go through life knowing her mom committed suicide!! I eventually confided in a friend about how I feel, and her words to me were: If you commit suicide you will go to hell!!! Just that thought stopped me from committing suicide….I am in hell right now and I am terrified…so if I commit suicide I “basically” will feel this way forever???!!! Never!!!! that would be like jumping out of the fire into a bigger fire!!! Anyways it is now 2013, and I am still here……:) You only have one life, treasure it, communicate, seek help, take your meds and make a difference in this crazy beautiful world..xx

  16. To all who read this and suffer as I do from depression.hang in there with gritted teeth if need be. Take your meds and be gentle with yourself. ALL WILL BE WELL. ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. Reading this has helped me out a real lot so thank you!! I have been through this too and I am going to the doctors to get back on medication, I tried to fight it for too long without it but I’ve realized that I am losing that battle.

    I also plan to go to a counsellor as well..

    Again thank you for sharing!!

  18. I agree with the writer,depression is an illness that can steal your true spirit. It is truly a merciless disease that is usually genetic. I want to share that I used homeopathy and alternate treatments to keep it in control. The good thing about this treatment is that it is non-habit forming. I only have to take short remedies for some weeks at the onset of the symptoms for instance,when a stressful experience takes its toll. I really hope this helps all who are affected and if you have any questions,feel free to ask!

    1. Hello. Thank you for sharing this. I’m in theraphy for three years and in in-bed-crying-depresion for 6 months. I’ve expirienced often panic attacks from 8 years old to 16 yo that were concidered and treated as lack of calcium. In school, I was getting sick very often, but I was actually feeling relief that I can finally stay in bed with the pillow on my had. At 22, living for the first time on my own, I expirienced my first one month in-bed-crying-depression. My parents weren’t around anymore, so my body didn’t need a flu to take his time in bed do grief something that didn’t even happened. It was than that I let my self recognize that I’m depresive. After an in-sleep rape by a friend (he drugged me) I started teraphy in order to get over it. But what happened is that I discovered that for many years my life is actually a series of tricks i apply in order to do little daily things. But I consume so much energy to do so, that once in a while my body just gets stucked in bed letting the suicidal thought get closer and closer. Usually when it gets to close my vital impulse helps me start another trick game that keeps me up and anxious, but able to do little things for a while. I’m 26 now and this is my longest severe depression.
      I’m not able to tell people I work with, friends, fammily just how severe it is and I feel how they are going further and further. I’m afraid that if I will ever be able to get up I will have to deal with all the complications I create now in my work and social life. My therapist recommended me to see a psychitrist, but like about everything in life right now, i can not decide. Could you please tell me more about this kind of treatment? How severe was your depresion? Thank you.

      1. Ala I just read your story of your depression. I hope you are doing better now . Would you let me know. Your story really concerned me . I deal with depression and take Zoloft. Seven yrs ago I lost my 31yr old son to suicide and depression .hope to hear from you. Pam

    2. Thank you for sharing this. I’m in theraphy for three years and in in-bed-crying-depresion for 6 months. I’ve expirienced often panic attacks from 8 years old to 16 yo that were concidered and treated as lack of calcium. In school, I was getting sick very often, but I was actually feeling relief that I can finally stay in bed with the pillow on my had. At 22, living for the first time on my own, I expirienced my first one month in-bed-crying-depression. My parents weren’t around anymore, so my body didn’t need a flu to take his time in bed do grief something that didn’t even happened. It was than that I let my self recognize that I’m depresive. After an in-sleep rape by a friend (he drugged me) I started teraphy in order to get over it. But what happened is that I discovered that for many years my life is actually a series of tricks i apply in order to do little daily things. But I consume so much energy to do so, that once in a while my body just gets stucked in bed letting the suicidal thought get closer and closer. Usually when it gets to close my vital impulse helps me start another trick game that keeps me up and anxious, but able to do little things for a while. I’m 26 now and this is my longest severe depression.
      I’m not able to tell people I work with, friends, fammily just how severe it is and I feel how they are going further and further. I’m afraid that if I will ever be able to get up I will have to deal with all the complications I create now in my work and social life. My therapist recommended me to see a psychitrist, but like about everything in life right now, i can not decide. Could you please tell me more about this kind of treatment? How severe was your depresion? Thank you.

  19. This article helped me feel better! I just hate how when I get to that point of finally being happy again, my family makes it worse for me…what do I do to accept them for who they are and begin making myself happy without worrying so much??..

  20. Woah.. i just happen to google some words and your story came up.. i cant tell you how much better i feel. I need more help. I have been on antidepressants for 7 weeks and have seen no change. I was once that optimistic as you described yourself. and i want it back so bad. any advise

    1. Hey I have bad anxiety people judge me I get strange looks from ppl I hide away at times I don’t what loneliness in my life anxiety is hard 2 live with but I’m a strong person who never gives up in life