Diagnosed with Treatment Resistant Depression

Treatment Resistant Depression

“That’s one thing we can do with Treatment Resistant Depression.”

Blink. Blink.

Oh hey, new diagnosis. Wasn’t expecting to see you there.

I sat in the office of my Meds Doc with the windows open on February 6th because the temperature got random and hit 60 degrees. I felt the cool air on the back of my neck as the heat started to creep up my face. She continued to ask me questions.

“You said you’re sleeping again, but is it safe to assume you’re probably sleeping too much.”

Yes. And shut up.

I’ve known things were off for awhile now. I attempted to move this appointment up after my crash-and-burn in late December, but our mental health care system sucks, so this was the earliest I could get in to see my doc. My husband thought I just needed a med change, something I felt strongly opposed to at the time.

Changing meds is literally the worst. Tapering down on the old, up on the new. The side effects that slam into you, full force, that you’re just supposed to live through because “they go away after a few weeks.” It’s always great to feel nauseated and dizzy for three weeks on top of being depressed. It’s the best.

So, I started out the appointment telling her that my husband thought I needed a med change.

Then she made me get very specific about what had been happening since December. Then her tone changed, and she apologized that she couldn’t get me in earlier. She started listing off things we could do.

And then she said Treatment Resistant Depression.

I didn’t quite hear anything for a bit.

I’ve lived with a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) since I sought care at the age of 25. Honestly, I have lived with anxiety my entire life, but that was the first time someone put a name to it. I also suffer from bouts of Major Depression, but normally I adjust what I’m doing, up my therapy, and I’m good to go.

Not this time.

I’ve lightly Dr. Googled the new diagnosis. I don’t really feel like delving into it just yet. I’m just sitting with it.

I know that a new diagnosis doesn’t define me. But it feels new and different and I don’t quite know what to do with it. I don’t know what box to put it in. I don’t know how it feels. It doesn’t actually change anything about me.

I start a new medication in the morning. They didn’t take me off any of my other medications, so this one is just added to my existing cocktail. I hope the side effects are minimal. I hope I feel like getting out of bed on a regular basis and not just when I absolutely have to in order to function as a parent or a dog owner. I hope I’ll resume the energy to work out again. I hope I’ll just enjoy anything again.

I do know that I have a wonderful tribe of people supporting me through this next step of my journey. I feel very thankful for their continued presence.

Treatment Resistant Depression


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I possess a photographic memory. Some argue that such a thing does not really exist. I invite those dissenters to spend a day or two or twelve in my brain. I can recall every outfit worn on every first day of school ever, college and kindergarten included. I remember the shirt my grandmother wore the day she told me the dog who bit my face when I was nine months old died; I remember being bitten by that dog. I remember things people said in the heat of the moment and in the dull moments in between; and yes, I know what they wore at the time.

I remember a late night in my junior college dorm room, windows cracked because we lived just over the boiler room. I remember writing, as I always did, the only light coming from my gigantic Gateway desktop. My roommate gone, I turned the music up a little louder than usual.

Once I made my way through Jewel’s 1998 Spirit album, I turned on Puddle of Mudd’s song, “Blurry.”

And I played it on repeat for hours.

Now realize, I didn’t receive a diagnosis of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) until after my oldest son arrived in this world. We’re talking late winter, early spring 2006. Ten years ago. Prior to that point, I just thought I was straight up crazy.

As my senior year of high school progressed, I felt extreme panic—though I didn’t know that’s what it was a the time. Choosing a college and a major and a significant amount of debt sent me into a spiral of what I now know to be continuous panic attacks accompanied by cutting as a (poor) coping mechanism. A teacher turned me in to the counselor at the time, and I, being the intelligent woman I am, lied my way out of what could have become a hospitalization at the time.

The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I didn’t do so well with the redirection and ended up in ICU and the mental ward of the hospital for five days. The same panic and fear persisted the upcoming changes in my life, but the doctors during my stay didn’t pinpoint the problem and sent me on my way.

Let’s not ignore the fact that once diagnosed with a kidney disorder while pregnant, placed on Level III bedrest, and unable to work or save money during a pregnancy during which the father of my child provided no support, I panicked to the utmost. That panic resulted in the ultimate placement of my daughter for adoption.

It wasn’t until after my son was born and I had a giant panic attack attempting to breastfeed him and stayed in a high level of panic during his first three months that anyone said, “Hey, is this your norm? Because it’s not the norm.”

I didn’t know that the general population didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of dread waking in the morning. I didn’t know that I could feel anything more than hopeless or worthless. Add in the depression of losing a child to adoption and subsequent giant losses in my life, and I forgot what it felt like to feel anything more than nothing.

Therapy and medication helped, off and on, over the years. I experienced a number of stable, as-normal-as-can-be years. And then 2014 happened. 2015 involved a lot of work on my part, but improved. For the most part, 2016 featured me with my head above water.

Until it didn’t.

Now I feel like that junior in college, sitting under her loft bed in a room lit only by her computer, typing out bad poetry while listening to “Blurry” on repeat. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t think I deserved to know who I was. I didn’t understand that I could ask for help; didn’t understand that asking for help wasn’t a giant sign of failure.

In those very dark months before my first psychiatric hospitalization, I just thought this is what life felt like. Everyone lived in their own bubble and generally wanted to pop themselves on a daily basis. I know—I can recall each thought of that night—that I wanted to die. I didn’t know how or by what means, but I knew I didn’t want to live any longer. I felt tired of feeling blurry, of not knowing who I was or what all these anxious thoughts meant. I just wanted them to stop.

I live there now sometimes. More frequently than I’d like.

“Everything’s so blurry. Everyone’s so fake.”

I’ve started that dangerous process of pushing people away. “I’m fine.” I’m not. I just don’t want to admit how bad things are inside my messy mind. I don’t want to be held accountable for actions or inactions. I don’t want to think long term. I don’t want to do anything. I am lost somewhere inside myself.

Someone asked me questions that night as I listened to that song. Questions that poked and prodded at places I didn’t want to deal with just yet. They prodded me to go to bed instead of go through with any of the thoughts in my mind.

One thing I’ve learned about getting older is that people are less likely to poke and prod as we age. We don’t want to get messy with one another. We don’t want to disrupt order or friendships or life as we know it. Even for those closest to us—even our spouses—it’s easier to just type out some placating bullshit about how “you can do it” and “it will be okay.”

I hope I’ll be okay. I’m fighting to be okay. But the truth is that my mind is waging a battle I can’t even begin to understand what to do with, how to fight right now. What do you do with that? How do you shake it off and say, “Well, tomorrow is a new day,” when you know, damn well, tomorrow is just more of the same.

I don’t know right now. Everything’s so blurry.