This is my story that I would like to share with you. My THRIVE story.
A quick glance at my family history first. I am number 10 of 11 children and grew up with a mother who suffered from depression all my life. I lost her when I was 19. At 20, I married my high school sweetheart. We had three children……Now the rest of my story:
When I was 28 years old, my second child was two and for a few years I had been seeking a doctor’s help for PMS. For three weeks a month I felt badly. Low concentration, panic feeling, sad and lonely, my heart raced at times (leaving me wondering if I was having a heart attack). I was unable to make even simple decisions like what shirt to wear. I surely wasn’t enjoying my husband, our two sweet girls and not really anything. Ironically, the week that I had my period was the best time of each month. Now that’s just not right!
At a visit with our family doctor for my heart, I started to cry uncontrollably and all of my issues spilled out of me like a glass of milk, all over the table and down onto the floor. He told me that my heart was fine…depression was my problem. I needed to be referred to a psychiatrist. My reaction after I left his office, well, I freaked out. Really I don’t have PMS-I want PMS. No heart problem-really? That would be great about now. Anything but the big D word –depression.
You see my mom had depression; mental illness for the first 19 years of my life. She died at age 60. Now after my diagnosis my greatest fear ever was happening to me. I will be like her, I have to see a psychiatrist, in and out of hospitals, pills (she always was waiting for the magic pill), shock treatments. All of the things I watched as a kid would now be me. How can this be?!? I remember asking the doctor if we could call my problem anxiety, not that depression word, I couldn’t handle it.
At the psychiatrist the first thing we did was discuss my fears about being like my mother and her sickness. My depression sure could be hereditary, a chemical imbalance. The magic pill that my mom was waiting for through her sickness really did exist and was called Prozac. During the last 10 years there had been amazing breakthroughs with medications. It’s here now for me. I am so very blessed. I left his office feeling so hopeful. I get to change my life, get better, I will THRIVE!!!
People in my life were very supportive, mostly. My husband was very scared for us. But he witnessed my life change right before his eyes. Change was so welcomed and wonderful. Some spoke words like “you’re not that sick, you don’t need meds” or “it’s good you’re getting help.” I really was that sick, I had a mental illness, depression. I felt scared, embarrassed and relieved all at once. I knew what was wrong with me and it all made sense.
This is how my new journey began. I changed my pharmacy. No way was I going to let Jerry know that I needed antidepressants. Then right away I visited my oldest sister to let her know about my health issue. I told her all my concerns. She shared great wisdom with me to put me at ease. “Honey, if you had diabetes you would need meds, but you have a chemical imbalance and you need meds.” That made so much sense. The only thing was, people don’t really understand mental illness. If I had a cast on my arm they would say “she has a broken arm” – easy ,right? Not this shit. At that time, people didn’t understand. I did though.
After several years my shame disappeared and I didn’t feel like I had a secret I needed to keep. I felt able to share about depression, I even went back to my pharmacy (I didn’t care if I was on Prozac). I would shout it from mountain tops to help others and would share and talk openly to anyone I felt could benefit from my experience.
I am now 62 years old. I’ve been on medication for all these years. I took Prozac for many years. Every once in a while I needed some fine-tuning and tried other drugs. I went to much counseling therapy throughout the years as I needed to learn and grow healthy (pills don’t do all the work). I try to exercise regularly and visit the doctor as needed. I know myself well and continue to THRIVE along my journey.
Life is oh so good. I usually can hold up the happy round paper face (the smiley one from that drug advertisement on television) but when I see those round paper sad faces, I can relate and empathize. My favorite saying is “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” – something I’ve said since back when I needed to cheer on my mom and continue to use today.
Thanks for listening to my story. Please share it with someone who deals with depression. My hope is that it will help them to THRIVE too.