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Everybody thinks depression is like being sad. It’s not the same. It’s like telling someone with stomach cancer, “I, too, once had a stomachache.” They’re two different things.
I live with treatment-resistant depression. My first diagnosis came more than 25 years ago. No medication or combination of medications has put much of a dent into my illness. Peer support, patient empowerment and recovery have been extremely important in allowing me to live a productive life.
Certainly my faith has been an extremely important part of my journey. It’s held me up at times when this illness—which changes the chemistry of your brain—hits me. I really need to hold on to my faith, my friends and my family’s support to get me through those very bad times. I can then emerge on the other side, without hurting myself or being in great despair.
I’ve been through times when my world has been shades of gray. It’s frustrating when I think nothing will ever get better. Part of what you have to do is hold on to the fact that this is an illness. Tomorrow it will be a little bit better and the day after that will be a little bit better.
This isn’t a simple illness—you can’t just take one medication and you’ll be fine. Medications that work for one person may not help another. Many of us have to figure out what works for us—wellness strategies, like exercise, sleep routines or writing in a journal. Medications by themselves don’t always help everyone. The latest study on depression shows that only two-thirds of people have any relief from this illness even after trying four different combinations of medications.
When you’re living with depression it takes more energy than you can imagine to just brush your teeth. It’s like walking through a room full of pillows. Everything you have to do takes more time and energy because that’s what this illness does to you. Just thinking about taking a short walk is almost impossible. The very things that can help you are so much more difficult than you might imagine.
Going to church on Sundays has been a very helpful discipline—it feeds me, comforts me and stokes my energy. Even if I can’t reach out to anyone because of my depression, the service gives me things that other activities don’t. It’s something I hold on to, even during the most difficult moments when I believe there is nothing I can do, when I don’t understand why this is happening. It reminds that God loves me in a way that no one else does. God’s love, my family, a good doctor and persistence have kept me here, thriving and making the gift of my life as best as it can be.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers