In hind sight, I can recall having symptoms of depression at the age of ten.
The Spring of 1982, at the age of eighteen and during the end of my freshman year of college, my symptoms stressed me enough that I began to share the secret of my internal battle. I began to more openly talk to others about my feelings of unhappiness. Finally, a friend in my dorm suggested I check out what the school health center might offer. Although, my first experience with seeking help for being unhappy was very unsatisfactory. After one visit, I thought finding help was a hopeless issue. I did not receive any validation that my feelings were real nor did I get any serious leads as to what might be causing my problems. I left the appointment feeling frustrated, confused and I just mustered up the strength to face my inner turmoil on my own. What had been an attempt to seek help, ended up being a shaming experience and reinforcing my belief that my problem was related to a lack of fortitude and grit.
Sometime in the Spring of my junior year, my symptoms again pressed me enough to try to seek professional advice. On a recommendation from my Pastor, I made my second attempt at finding a doctor to give some medical insight to my persistent unhappiness and constantly recurring discontent. That second visit began a nine year cycle of trying counseling with and without medication, getting frustrated and quitting, and then proceeding with a long interval of doing nothing about the depression. Each new attempt at counseling and/or medication was with a different counselor or doctor. I blamed my mismatch with each person as part of the treatment failure and I used this as a new piece in the reasons to be depressed puzzle. I had been hearing the word Depression from the counselors and doctors, but I did not really understand this as an illness or what this diagnosis meant to me. I tended to let my feelings about what was happening in my life control my desire or commitment to seek help.
In the Spring of 1993, I entered again into individual psychotherapy, and also, for the first time, started group therapy in a program called Mend.
By August of 1993, after a few months of my renewed individual counseling and attending the twelve week group therapy, I became convinced that I needed to make an even stronger commitment to a serious course of treatment. I requested that I be interviewed by the supervising psychiatrist in order to begin medication again as an additional means to treat my illness. During the Fall of 1993, I learned about the term Bipolar Disorder or Manic Depression, and was diagnosed (again) with this mood disorder.
I have successfully stayed with my counseling since the Spring of 1993 and I have been through a long process to discover which medications and dosage would work best for me to treat my mood disorder. Currently I am taking Zoloft and Depakote. But who knows, that could always change, when I get restless again.
Every Spring and Fall, especially in April and October, I tend to go through a major funk that is worse than the rest of the year. I experience a great deal of rapid cycling: oscillating between high energy with numerous thoughts and ideas to feeling immobile and apathetic about life. I have put together a chart for myself that shows how every April and October (1980 through 1996), some internal tremendously unsettling something pushes me into restless thoughts and behaviors. This biannual funk seems to last for several weeks. Astonishing to me, it took until the Spring of my 32nd year to fully recognize this pattern and fit it into a clearer understanding of my illness. In studying my chart, I’ve noticed that many times this funk has had some important influences or repercussions to the course of my life. Some of my not so smart decisions added some additional grief to my already sad history, like dating or seeking comfort from relationships that were not really healthy. Certain choices have turned out to be positive aspects of my personal history, like making the decision one year to attend Outward Bound. Some other choices have turned out unplanned results that ended up positive, but certainly made a big change in the direction of my life, such as the pregnancy of my son. Also, I see the interesting connection that I choose to leave two marriages, both during October. Apparently, the changes in the seasons at Spring and Fall can be especially difficult for someone suffering from Bipolar Disorder. Therefore, I am striving to not let my reaction to my biannual funk continue to disrupt my life or to make such big changes, that may end up as more regrets.
Obviously, I am far from being cured of my depression. Rather, I am in the middle of a long journey of learning to cope with this illness. My bipolar roller coaster is just something that I, my family and those that know me will have to learn to accept. This is not something that will just go away… and it’s so sad, too bad… but, it can’t be made to disappear with happy thinking.
Happy Thinking Graphic
Can you tell I was in the middle of a funk when I created this page?