Asking someone who doesn’t have depression to fully comprehend what it’s like would be like asking him or her to know what it feels like to give birth to a baby if you’ve never done so. This is an indescribable, intense, and one-of-a-kind experience that defies the written word.
So does depression.
I believe there is a time and place in almost every person’s life when their spirit must decide whether to go on with life—or not. This decision isn’t necessarily a conscious one as in an “Aha” moment, nor is it hidden in a dream or revealed in a gypsy’s tea leaves. It can happen in a heartbeat, or over the course of many years. It is simply part of the human condition when life serves up enough challenges that the spirit either becomes too tired, too confused, too frustrated or hopeless to sort through another day, another month, or another year of living.
For some, the idea of ending one’s life is absolutely out of the question. Religious heresy. Philosophically abhorrent. They seek prayer and counseling for salvation and answers. They get busy, pull themselves up by their bootstraps and move along their life’s path, hoping that tomorrow will be better. And it usually is for them.
For others, wanting to end it all is a dark inner voice that constantly provokes the listener into a battle between life and death, a struggle tied to curiosity, hopelessness, and despair. They also may seek prayer and counseling, but to no avail. These are the stricken ones. The people who have been dealt a lousy hand because their brains have either been wired differently or their bodies refuse to provide their brains with the organic chemicals needed to keep them emotionally and mentally balanced.
I wrote my first book, 3,000 Pulses: Surviving Depression with TMS, about my own depression and suicide attempt in order to spread the word about a new therapy for treatment-resistant depression called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). I still hope to accomplish that goal with my second book, 3,000 Pulses Later, because TMS has saved my life. But I also want to share with you the reality of living with the chronic illness called Major Depressive Disorder and how important it is to accept the fact that it is as real a physical disability as any other readily accepted condition such as diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Living with depression requires constant vigilance and self-care in order to survive it and silence the inner voice that insidiously picks away at a person’s will to live. There are several options available to patients to handle their mental illness: psychotropic medications, talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), and now Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). But they are all treatments that require a commitment by the patient to do their part. There is no “get out of jail free card” with any of them. It is the patient who must decide to own his or her chronic illness and adhere to a lifestyle that enhances whatever treatment is working for him or her, as well as sticking to whatever regimen the doctors have prescribed.
I am not a therapist, nor am I someone who has a scientific background. I am one of the stricken. An ostensibly “okay” kind of gal whose brain goes on the fritz every now and then if I don’t take care of myself physically, psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually. I am constantly looking over my psychological shoulder keeping a watchful eye out for my Depression Demon who will sometimes tap on it and whisper, “I’m back!”
Now I’m happy to say I at least have the awareness that it’s lurking and always will be. I’m even happier—no, relieved—to know that TMS will rescue me from the depths of despair that I experienced several years ago when I fell prey to Depression’s ultimate goal—suicide.
I hope this blog will enlighten you to the dangers of undiagnosed, untreated, and treatment-resistant depression, and that it gives you a sense of how fortunate we are to have a myriad of tools to manage our mental illness. I’ll also share some of the strategies that help me avoid a relapse into major depression and encourage you to use them or develop your own successful defense tactics.
If you are giving up and my blogs offer you hope, strength if you are feeling weak, or information if you are lost and confused as to how to help yourself or a loved one manage life with depression, then my job as a blogger will matter.
© 2013 by Martha Rhodes. All Rights Reserved, Cover Photography by Paul McGuirk and Megan Lane.
The events described in this memoir are true. Some names have been replaced by pseudonyms in order to protect privacy, particularly those of medical personnel. This book is intended to reflect the life experiences of the author and in no way should it be considered to be medical advice, recommendations for treatment, or a replacement for medical care given by physicians or trained medical personnel. The author refers to and thereby endorses NeuroStar TMS Therapy® in this book because it was the only FDA-cleared transcranial magnetic therapy device available at the time of treatment and is an integral part of her story. This is by no means a promotional or advertising vehicle for NeuroStar TMS Therapy® nor does the author have any financial ties to Neuronetics, Inc.