Eight years have gone by since my first depressive episode in 2009. It’s hard for me to believe that eight years ago I was beginning this journey and even harder to imagine that young girl going through hell. I want to give her a hug and tell her that things will get better, but I can’t. And that hurts me to my core in a way words can’t explain. I feel for this terrified teenager and I am so grateful that I didn’t know at the time that eight years later I would still be deeply suffering.
I write this after five major depressive episodes. I write this after returning home from urgent care where they removed the sutures from my latest act of self-injury. I write this after four psychiatrists, six therapists, a traumatizing psych ward stay, and extensive outpatient treatment programs. After repeated trial and failure of the long list of antidepressants, after being given hope and having the hope tragically ripped away from me each time. I write this from a place of deep, pure hopelessness.
Six months ago I identified as depressed and anxious. Now, I’m not so sure. My mood swings are unbearable. I am cycling at a rate I have never cycled before. Cutting one night and waking up the next morning disgusted at the visible sign of my pain because I now feel on top of the world. One night I plan my suicide, I schedule the date and acquire the means with which to complete the act. The next night I am out with friends, plans that I myself initiated (very out of character) because I was euphoric and wanted to share it with the world. The painful awareness I have of these mood swings penetrates every moment of my life without exception.
In hindsight these mood swings aren’t new, what’s new is the rapid cycling and dramatic uncertainty about the following day. This is not a way I can live my life. I thought the depressive episodes were bad, and they were (still are), but this adds a layer of complexity to the issue that I cannot cope with. At first I believed the swings to be a result of hormones, a sort of severe PMS (PMDD as it is formally known). This was always something I struggled with and the reason I initially began birth control. I went to the gynecologist who humored me by ordering blood tests. But we both know the mood swings do not align with changes in my hormones, the changes just exacerbate it (in my non-medical opinion). My horrible current psychiatrist told me, in the five minutes she had for me, that likely my primary diagnosis is incorrect and began me on lamictal, my first big-time mood stabilizer. She so kindly gave me instructions to increase the dose rather quickly, resulting in horrible health anxiety and an eventual rash. Against medical advice, I continued to take the lamictal believing it to be my only hope as I am not willing to take a drug that will cause weight gain. I halved my dose and the rash subsided. All my hope is on this drug, all my hope rests on one doctor’s appointment and finally it is getting close.
I have this idea in my head that is admittedly wrong that this appointment will change everything. That getting an answer about what is wrong with me will somehow change my life. In reality, nothing will change. Sure, the label may change, but what matters won’t. When it comes down to it, I will still be chronically ill. I still will have repeated major depressive episodes that seemingly get worse each time. I will still experience periods of intense pain when I believe my only option is ending it all. The weight of my fate is still carried on my shoulders to class and to work and back again to my apartment. The weight sits on my chest as I lay in bed through insomnia contemplating my pathetic, painful existence. It is bearing on my soul so much that I don’t know how much longer I can take it. I have shifted this weight to rest on this appointment and I don’t know what hurts worse: carrying the weight day in and day out or the realization that I can’t fight off my fate much longer.