My Story

I am really not sure how my depression started. I think I am aware of some of the triggers (stress, family illness and death, shyness as a child, self judgment, tendency toward perfectionism, identifying who I am with my job), but I don’t really understand how they all fit together and what the final straw was to push me into the well of a deep depression. I do know that once you are in the well of depression, your thinking becomes so distorted that is incredibly difficult to find your way out.

I had my first experience with depression in 1998. I had just moved to Washington DC for a work assignment I was excited about, but had just left California where my mom had been diagnosed with uterine cancer and had a hysterectomy that showed the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. I have a very small (mom, dad, me and my sister) and very close family. We moved seven or eight times when I was a kid. I was very shy and it took time for me to develop friendships. Family was always who I turned to for love and support. I had very mixed feelings about moving to the east coast while my mom was fighting cancer on the west coast. I knew we would talk regularly, but would not see each other as much. I think the worry about my mom, moving to a new place, starting a new job with very few resources and not a lot of support, and a biological vulnerability all combined to trigger a depression. For me, it started with waking up early, then not sleeping at all, being incredibly stressed and worried about things that I would have previously been able to handle and then not being able to make a decision or function very well or at all at work. I had no idea what was happening to me at the time and went to get a full physical to see what was wrong. A doctor put me on paxil, which had a lot of bad side effects for me. Through the help of my dad, I finally found a great psychiatrist who through trial and error with about five different medications, finally found an MAOI that helped me feel better. The whole depression lasted maybe 4-5 months.

Once I lifted out of it, I felt like me again and was able to get back to my normal, happy, highly functioning, caring and compassionate self. I went off the medication after 6 months (to the day) with the blessing of my doctor and did not have any withdrawal or depression until nine years later in June 2007. I put the whole experience out of my mind and never thought there was a possibility that it might happen again. I had a beautiful baby boy in 2001 and did not suffer from postpartum depression, so I felt I was safe and out of the woods and the well for good.

Unfortunately, this was not the case. My mother died in June 2006. She suffered from a long illness with both endometrial and colon cancer. She fought for her life very hard until the end. She is the most amazing, strong, compassionate loving person that I have ever known. It was very hard to let her go and I miss her with every cell of my body. I realize now that I probably should have seen a grief counselor or a therapist to learn to understand and integrate my feelings about losing my mom and open the door to accepting and feeling my grief at losing her. I thought I could keep it together and be strong for my sister and my dad. Somehow the first anniversary of her death as well as some other triggers and perhaps some thyroid and hormonal issues, seemed to trigger another spiral into depression. This time it happened very quickly and led to a furious decline, starting with losing my self confidence and not being able to sleep. I tried the medication that I had been on nine years before for one month and my sleep did not improve and my mood only slightly. My recovery was very complicated by a planned work trip to South America and my feeling that I could will myself into getting better. Also, after the MAOI didn’t seem to help as much as last time, I was put on a series of 5-6 SSRI medications, bouncing from one to the other, which only made things worse.

Medications have different effects on each individual. For some people SSRIs work very well. For me, they made me feel very disconnected from my family, friends and the rest of the human race. I could not feel any feelings and experienced suicidal thoughts and a sense of complete worthlessness. I felt like I had never done anything worthwhile, was not a good mom or wife, daughter or sister. I now know that none of this was true. I beat myself up on a daily basis and visited and revisited my negative thinking pattern. I would try to do things to break the cycle, but could not manage to get out of it. I was seeing the world through a completely distorted lens, but my mind told me it was true. My sleep got worse and to the point where I would go weeks without sleeping at all. I tried several sleep medications, yoga, meditation, worked on improving my sleep routine, all to no avail. Finally, things had gotten so bad, that I felt like I would be in the same depressed state forever. No one seemed to be listening when I said the medications were making me worse. I was completely sleep deprived and I took some sleeping pills to try to escape my misery. I know this was the wrong thing to do and, thankfully, I am still here to share my story and what I have learned along this difficult journey. I am extremely grateful to my family, friends, and the Santa Barbara community for all of the love and support I have received and am very lucky to be here to write this story. I am now recovered from my depression, sleeping well (on my own without sleeping medication) and taking a very small amount of a mood stabilizer, and appreciate the small joys in every day. I have made many nutritional and lifestyle changes as a result of this experience and I fully expect that the use of this medication will be only for the short term.

While I would have never chosen this path, it is really a blessing in disguise. I now feel like I am in a place where I can help people and families struggling with this disease. This web site is part of that effort and a gift I offer to the community. My husband had great difficulty finding resources to help us when we were in the midst of the darkest parts of the depression. I hope that this site will help people find some resources and ideas to help them recover and live full and joyful lives.