I have been talking to my psychiatrist to try to understand how I ended up with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety. We talked on Sunday. I told her that I know that I’ve had it for about four years, or at least that’s when I started to notice it. She told me, though, that even if I didn’t notice it or seriously consider whether I was depressed, that likely I was depressed even as a child, and that the initial cause was trauma.
Depression becomes treatment resistant when the brain no longer reacts to treatment as it should. When a person has depression there is a loop or circle in their brain that leads to depression symptoms. With depression that is not treatment-resistant, antidepressants and other treatments for depression take a person’s brain pathways out of this pattern successfully. Depression or anxiety becomes treatment-resistant when medications or therapies don’t stop this depression loop like they should. Much of the reason why this happens is that with treatment-resistant depression and anxiety the brain pathways that result in depression have strengthened over time and are not as responsive to treatment. This can happen due to a variety of reasons.
While this sounds a bit hopeless to my depressed brain, there are some medications that are used off label for treatment-resistant conditions, plus I know that a new medication just came out for treatment resistant depression. So there is definitely hope for those of us with treatment-resistant mental health conditions. It has taken me years, though, to even get diagnosed with this condition. This is due to misdiagnoses like bipolar disorder, mismanagement of medications, and also because I was so used to having depression that I didn’t even know that I had it.
I remember my first bout of depression occurred in the first grade. I only had a few friends, and I was very lonely. I also experienced an extreme trauma at the hands of my Dad that year. But because I was in an abusive environment where feeling emotions and talking about them was discouraged, I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings.
There were many times that I got depressed from there on both as a child and as an adult. But because I didn’t have anyone to help me understand what was going on, I would always assume that reason why this was happening was situational. In first grade, I thought that it was because I had no friends. In second grade I thought that it was because I was teased. In third grade I thought that it was because I had Scarlet Fever. And the list goes on.
By the time I reached adulthood I was very used to attributing my symptoms of depression to anything and everything that was going on in my life. Because of this pattern, I really had a hard time realizing that I was depressed. Even in 2015 when I began to clearly see that I was having symptoms of depression, I still attributed them to the fact that I was healing from trauma or to other situations in my life. This was easy to do because my depression really does worsen due to life events and because I was so used to having a baseline of depression and anxiety that I didn’t even know that it was there when I wasn’t stressed. This kept me from realizing that I do have depression itself, and that it is not just stemming from situations that I’m in.
Now, though, I am able to look back at my life and say that yes, I have depression, and it was always there. Situations or events in my life may have worsened it, however, even in seemingly good times I was still depressed. And I also am learning that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself because it was my parents and then later on my doctor’s/psychiatrists job to spot and diagnose major depression.
Over time my depression symptoms grew in severity, but I didn’t notice this because it happened so subtly over such a long period of time that it was easy for me to miss. But eventually I could not ignore what was happening to me and now am beginning to get the help that I need.
Have you had problems accepting mental health conditions? Feel free to comment below or just contemplate this for yourself. Thanks!