It has been a sad week for the University of Waterloo this past week. A student committed suicide. While this has created shock across the campus, I believe it shows there is a lot more work to be done on the issue of mental health and that there is still stigma against talking about it. While it is incredibly unfortunate that this suicide happened, it has inspired me to share my own experience in dealing with depressive episodes. I don’t tell everything that’s happening in my life on this blog (either because some details I’m just not comfortable sharing or too private to share), but I would like to take the time to talk about how depression has personally affected me. I do hope to help remove a lot of the stigma that surrounds these issues.
Throughout my life, lot of things have made me have periods of depression. This probably won’t surprise you if you’ve read a lot of my blog. Being diagnosed with autism has created certain difficulties in my life, which then lead to depression. There have also been other triggers for depression in my life, but again I won’t go into detail on them here. A little over two years ago, however, I ended up having a pretty bad depressive episode. I remember it like it was yesterday. It affected how much I could work and even affected my basic daily functions. Even getting dressed or getting breakfast for myself were a challenge on some days. It felt like it would never end. I went to a doctor and talked with him about putting myself on an anti-depressant. I was also seeing a psychologist at the time who I also discussed this option. with In the end, I ended up going on the S.S.R.I. (Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) Zoloft.
While there are mixed views out there about anti-depressants and S.S.R.I.s and there’s a certain stigma against them, my personal experience with Zoloft is that it has been helpful in calming me down, removing some of the anxiety and depression. I don’t believe, however, that such medications are a permanent solution to mental health problems. Actually discussing such problems with a professional is more important. What I do believe, however, is that such medications can be very useful in soothing the healing process. For a period, I was on a dosage of 100 mg of Zoloft daily, but due to an undesirable side effect, I reduced my dosage back down to 50 mg hence reducing the side-effect, so being aware of possible side-effects is important as well. Fortunately, even on 50 mg, I’ve found the benefits are still present.
I’ve been talking a lot about my issues with depression with my current therapist (the one I’m seeing for social anxiety I describe a couple of posts back) and have found she is really making it easier for me to pull myself out of this current depressive episode. We’ve been going through CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) where we examine how thoughts influence feelings, which in turn influence behaviours, which then influence thoughts and so creates a vicious cycle. She is very good at helping me break this cycle through altering my behaviour and challenging my perceptions and learning to accept perceptions that are different than mine. As such, I’ve learned how to be more accepting and less judging of myself and others.
I hope others affected by depression will also share and talk about their own experiences. We need to end this stigma and the more voices we have the more powerful our cause will be.