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My depression story begins way back in high school

Hello everybody, you can call me V. My depression story begins way back in high school. Everybody says that a depression has to be triggered by an event, but not even now can I put my finger on one event that could have changed my life so drastically. I will start with the story a bit sooner than the moment I started taking medication so as to give a better picture of the setting. I entered high school in the best public school in town and in the best class (mathematics computer programming with English language intensive learning) as my mother and whole family wanted. You see, it was not up to me to make such important decisions, I never minded it, I am just a lonely girl that did her best at school, although I did fight with my parents periodically and on different matters. I was somehow at peace with my life and I did not know what I liked and if I did, I did not do much in that in that direction. I guess I pretty much obeyed the rules. I was a child living in the present and I was confident. The future never concerned me in a real dramatic way. We never talked about it, there were no real plans as to what I knew. The first thing that shook me was getting lower grades than I was used to although I was doing my best as usual. I think it was too much for me and the demands of the teachers a bit too high.
I remember being very stressed and concerned with my grades. I used to ask my colleagues a lot of questions on different school subjects but I never actually asked for help directly. Then my mother sent me to take private classes in computer programming, it was helpful, being one of the subjects that I had trouble with. However, it was Math that scared me the most. The teacher was very strict and scared me a lot with his though behaviour. Most of the helplessness and fear came from not mastering the subject well enough, as if I was disarmed in a battle, although his behaviour was pretty rather despicable. He called us stupid, sometimes all of us, sometimes individually or he implied it. I personally felt inferior and guilty. I remember when I had my first paper graded F, I called my mother crying that I need private Math classes. But I come from a poor family that did its best with the everyday tight budget it lived on. So, I did not get the private classes. Maybe it was better, apparently, the teacher made pretty much money from giving private Math classes. Nonetheless, this situation was revealed later, I was still in junior high troubled by the fact that I did not get the high grades I was used to, stressed with Math and computer programming. I also stopped playing volleyball as often as I used to after school. This robbed me from something that gave me physical and, little did I know, mental health. In our country, not many practice sports. It had to do with the fact that those who did usually did it for prices or medals so they did it at a very high level. It was a way for poor or modest children to get the best of their talents. Don’t imagine a was a great performer though, I am only 5′ 2″ ?. But I put passion in it.
So one day my mother takes me to a neurologist, I had no idea what illness that type of doctor treated, nor did I know why I was there, but I did understand something was wrong. Well apparently, there was nothing neurologically wrong with me, but afterwards followed a visit to a psychologist, a family acquaintance. The thing that impressed me the most was the fact that the lady had almost only white hair and a pleasant face which to me seemed too young for all the white hair. What I also remember is the yellow covered book she used to give me a test. It was an intelligence test. I asked for the results (as you already noticed, being smart is very important for me…) but she only told me that I am smart enough, what that means, I surely don’t know. I continued to go to the psychologist and talked about my problems in school. Somehow, I did loosen up, to be honest I don’t know how or why, I really don’t recall anything special from our appointments. I was kind of living on the thrill, but at least I did not spend my time bothering my classmates for help or trying to find solutions for sophisticated Math homework. I ended up copying the homework from some classmates every next day at school, in the breaks, while eating my sandwich. I did the same with some of the English homework, another subject at which we were supposed to excel.
So, the years passed hastily and I found myself in the last year of senior high. The big scares started right from the beginning of the year, when every teacher with no exception warned us that it would be a difficult year with all the graduation exams at the end of it and that we had to strive. No wonder one could crack under such pressure. It was a very busy year. I started taking private Math classes (with some other teacher, not the despicable one) which added to the computer programming classes and to the extra homework for the exams we had to pass at the end of the year. In the meantime, my mother had given up on the idea of me studying computer programming at a university in the future when one day she asked how I was doing in private classes and I told her my head hurt from staring at the all the numbers on the computer. Apparently, she took that very seriously, though she never really told me anything about her plan for me to study IT. So, while the other already young adults in my class were taking classes also for the exams they were going to take to enter the university, I was pretty much just holding on. I did try (I as in we, me and my mother and my father) to make an informed decision to start a career path I thought I liked. I wanted to get in a Fashion Design School, you can imagine what that meant since I had no real clue of the field beside what I drew on my own. But I was kind of proud of my drawings because they came from me and I enjoyed drawing. The attempt was limited to going to a painter and professor form our town my mother heard about was very good where he tested me and looked over my drawings. I did not get much of the meeting, I think he said I got talent but I don’t remember what emotions took over me or what I was thinking, whether I thought my mother did not give me any chance in this field, but I did not meet that artist again. We also went to visit an Art School in a big city where I could try to enter. I remember the worried expression on my mother’s face and the discussions we had afterwards. She was sure they could not support me through university if I did not get a dorm which was cheaper and depended on the result of the Arts exam I was supposed to take and if I did not get a scholarship. This was pretty much the end of my daydreaming…I just gave up. I remember I threw my drawings in the garbage that year or just after the first year at the university.
At this point I felt lost but I was going to try for a university where I had no exam to pass because it was late to start studying and I was pretty much ok since I was not the only one in my class doing that. I picked the city myself, the majors as well: Business Administration, Pedagogy/Education or Journalism. I was going to apply to all of them to secure sort of a state scholarship and not to have to pay for my studies. Here, the best universities are still in the public system but the universities can have a mixed budget, public plus private, so most of them also offer paid undergraduate programs. That same year my great-grandmother fell ill to bed, being very old and frail. She raised my mother, me and my sister. My mother took her to live with us and she took care of me and my sister all the time because both of our parents had to work. My great-grandmother lived all her life at the countryside so you can guess it was difficult for her to adapt to living in a town, in an apartment at the fourth floor with no elevator.
It was in the month of April when it all happened. I started to feel afraid, so afraid that I thought my heart would race and stop. My mind was overwhelmed with negative thoughts. I was spiralling around the same thought (I found out later that this is called ruminating), I was worrying myself sick. I had no idea what was happening to me. I was afraid of death suddenly. I even had thoughts I could not control myself and I would kill my mother with a knife. Finally, my mother got concerned enough with my behaviour and with whatever little I expressed of my irrational fears and she took me to the lady psychologist. I explained to her my continual state of fear and told her some of my thoughts. She then talked to my mother and I found out I was going to be checked by a psychiatrist the lady recommended. I remember telling the psychiatrist the same things I told the psychologists and then she asked me extra questions which seemed very odd to me, she asked me If I had suicidal thoughts. I was afraid I would commit suicide but I had no thoughts of doing it. Anyway, at some point she made it clear she is asking questions to find out if I should take medication or if I can make it without. She diagnosed me with anxiety disorder and wrote me a prescription for Paroxetine and Xanax. She said I had to take antidepressants because apparently, anxiety and depression just come together in a package. To be honest I was not very present in those days, I felt not like myself in that period at all and it has been years until I got back even a piece of my old self.
Since then things just got worse for me, from my depressed point of view of course. I was amazed by the zapping I got in my brains as a side effect, the vomit sensations, the dizziness, and the vivid dreams. I stayed a week at home and then I went back to school. It was not the same anymore. A big part of me was much too preoccupied with what had happened to me, it’s as if I was purposeless and helpless and at the same time I was trying to fit back in the world I had just got out of. It was sort of a forceful living, like the people in comas who are kept alive by machines. I got admitted to the university, business administration major. I went, lived in a dorm with another 4 roommates. One year passed, two years passed. Another thing from this period, I was sleepy all the time, it was unpleasant, I was falling asleep at the early classes and I was not even a party animal to have an excuse. Some professors made fun of me, some colleagues as well. I had many relapses and had moments when I was shaking in bed trying to calm myself. I called my mother a lot. My family got pretty concerned with me. Even my younger sister was affected by this. She kept annoying me and telling me that it is only up to me to get better again but at the same time she wrote her final paper at English about depression and even considered studying psychology at the university for a period. I was very in my mind all that time. I made stupid things also like liking two guys and scaring them away with my insistent declarations of my affection. It was weird, from a shy girl who only had platonic relationships to this girl who was too insistent. I was not vulgar but I did annoy them a lot. The medicine apparently numbed me from other fears I used to have as well. Anyway, I remained a sexually inexperienced creature long after graduating.
I must mention that during this period I went to a psychologist regularly. I even changed psychologists, but we’ll get there too. My main and strongest relationship based on dependency and strong, debilitating helplessness that I felt due to my condition was with my mother. Sometimes I think I lived through this period also for those around me. I don’t know how to explain this but when I felt bad and not on medication yet, I felt an incredible joy in connecting with others, being around them, as if behind these were horrible thoughts of fear of not being around anymore of not being able to establish relationships.
I was in the second year at the university when my great-grandmother died. I went and saw her just before dying. She died exactly after I arrived and kissed her good-bye… This is not a coincidence. We, my mother, my sister and I were all there with her, her three girls. I was overwhelmed but since I was on medication I could barely cry, this is another effect of the medication has on me. My father was still working in another country and was not there with us. I was not of much help nor was my younger sister. My mother arranged everything. I was sad, but I could not express myself, my happy pills made me euphoric or sleepy. This passed too. In the summer holidays between second and third year at the university I came home and was going of medication. I had taken it for three years already. I hadn’t read too much on depression, I was still on the anxiety side of this whole deal. My expectations were strictly limited to getting off medication and doing what I did before it all started. But my condition got worse when the time came for me to prepare to go back to university, in my third and final undergraduate year. I started taking medication again, this time in a higher dose and she added another medication as well. The diagnostic was depression and the extra medicine was Seroquel (quetiapine). She said it would help me with the thoughts. I’d say this episode was worse than the first one. And it was worst mainly because of postponing so much taking the medication again. I guess we all hoped I was ok again and my mother refused to accept my relapse. So, I started my last year in low spirits. My mother came with me when I had to check in at the dorm and she even talked a little with my roommate from then about my condition. Somehow, she tried to make me feel secure and to ask for a little more attention for me from my roommate. To be honest, this made a little bit of bad impression on me, I have never been a trusting person. I was scared and more inclined to believe she would talk about my condition with other colleagues and I would just end up feeling ashamed. Despite all this I had to believe it was a good an idea since I was not feeling just fine and maybe she could help me if something bad was going to happen and for that to happen she had to be informed.
By the end of the year I had gained an extra 10 kilos’ without realizing. This, I think, had to do with the graduation paper I had to prepare. I was stressed, I even changed my paper coordinator, I felt I could not do what the first one asked from me. It seemed too much, at least what I understood I had to do. It was the first major weight gain I ever experienced. Again, I asked my mother’s help, it was another acquaintance of hers who gave me information for my paper, see we had to have something theoretical and something practical, I just complained so much that my mother sent me to this acquaintance. I am very grateful for this lady’s help, it was uninterested. This same year we had our banquet, so many dreams, so many expectations, but the reality was just different. No boy, no special evening. Oh…I forgot, there was this guy that gave me a ride to the banquet. He was more interested in me than I was in him. Apparently, some people do have a good grip on reality. I am talking about this guy, judging by our similar heights we would have been a perfectly suitable couple…sex friends. I don’t know… My opinion on our relationship was that I could become more excited when dancing than when I was near him. Not to mention the fact that my libido was very low ever since I started taking the medication, this is another unwelcomed side-effect of anti-depressant drugs. Plus, getting pregnant on medication calls for abortion, I found this out while I was checked up by the psychiatrist and a female patient called her telling her she got pregnant while on medication and without even thinking 2 seconds, the doctor told her she had to have an abortion because the baby may have malformations. This shocked me. I just realized I may never have children. I knew none of this when I first started taking medication for depression, neither did I know I would go through depression again and restart the treatment.
I did very good on my graduation paper and continued my studies enrolling in a two-year Master’s Program in the same field. The pressure was less in these two years except for the time I did my paper for the Master’s Degree. This was another period of transition, friends, colleagues started to scatter around and relationships ended or faded away. By the end of the last year I had changed the psychologist with one that charged less and I had got through a period of deep worrying when my mother put very much pressure on me because of her worries, she kept pushing me to find something to work, while expressing her worries that I would never be able to find a job because of my condition. It was an awful period. I was feeling hopeless and this just worsened my condition. I went to several interviews but the one I passed was the one posted on a church yahoo group, where people from my church posted announces and communicated. Coming to this point, I must tell you that many times through the hardships I encountered I ran to the Church, I felt desperate. I experienced profound desperation so many times while in depression. I remember some good priests talking to me and most of them were extremely reasonable and told me that I must take my medication and keep my faith. I just really wanted a miracle to happen and to put an end to what I was going through. It is so unbelievable how much suffering a depressed person goes through and how little of it the other people can see…because there are no physical evident manifestations. When I was, little I had asthma; people could see I had trouble breathing, I took medication and I felt better and that was it, though it was unpleasant having restrictions, but when you are depressed and take medication and see that another side effect is depression or relapse when on medication, a lot of things don’t make sense anymore.
I started working. I moved, I moved again and again until I found a place where I rented my own room in an apartment where the conditions were not very bad and I could afford it. The salary was very small, especially at the beginning. Then, when it increased, I could hardly handle all my tasks. I think you know by now I am not a very confident person, I have been lacking confidence ever since this whole drama started. I worked three years for my first employers. I did not feel appreciated or close to them although I wanted to. The company was very small. I was on medication all the time and I was in therapy also. Bad depression episodes recurred. An unusual period began. When I felt bad one winter I went with my mother to the first monastery I ever visited while in high school. I am so glad we went there. It was the first time for my mother at this monastery. We spoke with monk in charge of the monastery, we attended the masses. It was good…after a while. When I was there I was feeling bad. The priests and monks there prayed for me. Here, we give notes with our names and those of our family to churches and monasteries so that the priests and monks or sisters pray for us. I guess it is no surprise given that here hospitals are so old and outdated and you must buy your own medication although these are public hospitals. Even so, faith has always been part of our lives. I also confessed, got Eucharist. On the other hand, I went to a course for self –development, fell in love, almost made love with this guy, got cheated on, apparently nowadays relationships are mostly open… was hurt. He went back to his country, I was left with a fantasy. Got out of the job because the company was on its descending slope. Then I got depressed, I got another job in a different field of activity, it was only me and my boss. It turned out very intense, I did not get along with my boss or better said she did not get along with me. I did not have the determination, dedication, fast rhythm and almost perfect attention she was looking for. After seven months, we ended our collaboration. This was a very big surprise for me, I always knew productivity mattered but given the fact that we were only two I also thought the relationship mattered, but it was productivity first. I am still very hurt and I cannot believe how much this affected me. It was a huge failure for me. Professionally, I considered I could handle things, I could …but I could not handle the fast pace and perfection, the way I was supposed to offer perfect services and make no mistakes. In the meantime, I was making unsuccessful attempts to get out of medication without the psychiatrist’s knowledge (never do that!). I was somehow influenced by the psychologist I was and am seeing; she kept saying I could make it without medication… Bullshit… What I learned from this? I learned that when you do not prolong the coming off antidepressants and do not stick to your psychiatrist’s advice you may experience excruciating pain suddenly, your body, your brain will react strongly. It is the so-called withdrawal effect. I prayed to die and not to do something stupid while I was feeling that pain. It is also true that I also prayed like this sometimes when I was on medication but I was feeling bad.
The present. I am working, I found a job and I did not get back home with my parents. I put in extra hours, the volume of papers I work with is huge compared with I worked until now. I am doing my best, try to keep up. I feel overwhelmed a lot and I am behind with work but I am going to start from the beginning every day. I hope God helps me deal with my work or helps me find another job. I am waiting for a response from another company, it is quite due… I ask lots of questions at work, I do my best. This is very important for me acknowledge and my contribution, the fact that I want to succeed, I put in extra hours. I appreciate when the colleagues give me answers that help me. Sometimes I am angry when others are inconsiderate or are rude. I have a harsh time when one of my superiors constantly points out mistakes. But I do react, I defend myself and I do enter arguments if I feel things are not fair. I am on medication (high dose), I am pretty fatigued all the time, I am not thinking about ever going off medication unless my doctor tells me to, I live my life one day at the time. It is though, I do not know what the future looks like, my parents are growing old, my sister will have her own family, nonetheless I must have faith and take my medication, it is not terminal.

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