Today’s guest post requested that I post without any identifying information and I will honor that. I hope this person is happy with how I presented their story.
Depression Doesn’t Mean Sad
There have been several instances in my life where I’ve gone through long periods of time with no sleep. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, I would stop sleeping altogether. It first happened in college, during my sophomore year. I went nearly a week without sleep. I wanted to leave; I didn’t want to be there any longer.
I felt hopeless and worthless and hyper-concerned about things that shouldn’t have concerned me. It was close to the end of the school year and my parents came up for a few days and drove me to every class and got me through the week. We also saw a campus psychiatrist who prescribed Paxil and Lorazepam. The medications helped and I was able to finish the semester. I came off the medication after only two months.
I was off and on different antidepressants throughout my twenties. I had a couple more episodes of not sleeping for a long period of time, happening when I, naively, thought that I no longer needed the antidepressants.
I never went without taking a sleep aid at night, be it in the form of an over-the-counter drug like diphenhydramine (Benadryl) or a strong prescription sleep aid such as Ambien.
After taking Prozac for several years, I thought that I would try to see if I could function without it. I wanted to have kids sometime in the near future and didn’t want to be on any long term medication.
I made it nearly five years and through an entire pregnancy without an antidepressant. I was incredibly concerned about post-partum depression after the birth of my son. I was in close contact with my obstetrician and she was aware of my concerns. For six months, I was fine.
Then, out of nowhere, I stopped sleeping. For nearly ten days, I didn’t sleep. I tried several prescription sleep aids and nothing worked. I didn’t have a primary care physician and the mental health field is such that it takes weeks to get in to see a psychiatrist if you’re not already under the care of one.
I had panic attacks for the first time in my life, feeling electrified with panic and unable to cope. I had no choice but to go to a hospital that specializes in mental health.
I stayed for four days and realized that they basically dispense the drugs, make sure they work and shuffle you out the door. I’m sure there are other, better facilities, but the one I was in, and the wing I was in, catered mostly to overdoses and chemical dependencies, neither of which I had issues with.
The best I can say is that they hooked me up with a psychiatrist and got me through the three weeks I had to wait with bagsful of drugs.
Now I am seeing a psychiatrist regularly, something I’d never done in the past, preferring to leave the care of my mental health in the hands of primary care doctors. I also see a therapist.
I’m taking Zoloft and Trazodone for sleep. It’s been about three years now and two more babies. It’s a process. I have mostly good times with a few occasions of low/no sleep. The difference is that now I am under the care of a psychiatrist and am able to adjust my medication quickly and turn my sleep around.
Depression affects so many people in the world. It used to have such a stigma attached to it, but I think, and hope that the stigma is lessening.
I think there isn’t anyone out there who isn’t either suffering from depression or know someone who is. It affects each and every person differently. Depression doesn’t always mean sad.
*Update: I’ve recently started taking a continuous birth control pill and, as I believe much of my problem has been hormone fluctuations during my cycle, I hope that this will help me to lower the dosage of some of the medication.