In my teen years, I had some anger issues, but never identified them as
mental health problems. The turning point for me was toward the end of
an unhealthy relationship, when a door was locked in my face and I decided
to put a fist through it. The glass didn't hurt me seriously, but at that
moment, when I fell to the floor weeping and bleeding, I realized I needed
help. Help getting out of the relationship, getting control of my anger
and my dependency.
By my thirties, I self-medicated by overspending and managed to get myself
deep in debt. My parents tried to help me out. I was an only child, and
my mother loved me, so she constantly tried to help me, and explain how
the dangers of debt could impact your self-image as well as your credit
rating. I was guilty and ashamed of my debt. When I got bills in the mail,
I wouldn't want to open them. I stopped taking mail out of the mailbox,
and I didn't want to get out of bed.
My best friend could see the trouble I was in. She bought me a book on
codependency. We talked about depression and anxiety, and she eventually
steered me toward her family psychiatrist. I believe she saved my life.
My psychiatrist was very patient and kind, but we didn't have much success
with medication. Every time a new antidepressant was released, I hoped
it would help where the others didn't. I was torn between relying too much
on medications and being unable to believe they'd help. We had mixed successes,
but I never got a very good fit.
Therapy made a big difference, though. My psychiatrist has been my rock.
I've seen him off and on for the past 16 years, and he really talks to
me and knows me very well. His role has never been just to prescribe medication.
In fact, last year I got off antidepressants because we decided the benefits
weren't there for me.
Thanks to him, to group therapy, and friends and family who stuck by me,
I've been able to keep my current job for 25 years. I've won awards for
publication design and photography—I guess I'm one of the victims of the
"creative/depressed" curse. I've maintained healthy relationships. And
most importantly, I was finally able to get out of debt a few years ago.
Although my friends were supportive, I did run into people who were less
supportive. A relative of one of my friends once said that an acquaintance
with depression should just "pull himself up by his bootstraps." I was
in the room at the time, and it was very hurtful. I understand that she
had her own issues, but I felt it was insensitive.
It's a hard lesson to learn, but I think it's important to face your own
demons. You have to be honest with friends and with yourself. I'm hoping
that through telling my story, I can help people understand that their
feelings are valid, and that mental illness is just as difficult as any
other illness. If insurance providers and workplaces accepted this, we
would be able to say, "I'm feeling really down now, and I need to go home."
If you know where a problem comes from, then you've gone a long way toward