I will call her “Melissa.” Living outside Bloomington, Indiana, she regularly reads this column in the Spencer Evening World and for privacy reasons wants to remain anonymous.
In a telephone interview, middle-aged Melissa said, “I was physically abused by my sister as a teen at home and I think my depression started then. She was bigger, and would get me face down on the floor, grab my hair, and yank it back. She dug her nails in. I would go in the closet and cry.”
She married at 22 and afterward “made a series of life decisions I don’t think I was prepared to make,” she said. She was experiencing depression at 28 when a family member overreacted and “corralled” her into a hospital psychiatric unit. For years, her self-esteem had been at “zero.”
Clinically speaking, a major depressive episode occurs over at least a two-week period when a person experiences a depressed mood or loss of interest in activities. Symptoms can include significant weight loss/gain, insomnia, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt, diminished concentration, indecisiveness, and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
When experiencing suicidal thoughts after leaving the hospital, Melissa avoided telling anyone in her family. In the mid-’80s, she began seeing a counselor. “And because of counseling, I went from the bottom of hell to slowly going up a little bit at a time,” she said. Due to feeling depressed so often, she felt unable to work outside home.
In 1999, she took matters into her own hands. She quit her medication. Over time, she formed relationships with massage and physical therapists, alternative medicine providers, and kept seeing her counselor. She made dietary changes. Her depression returned in 2001, as did suicidal thoughts, but she fought through it.
Then three years ago, she began taking a medication for migraine headaches. Amazingly, she said, this new medicine soon lifted her depression, too. She said, “Suddenly, I wasn’t having any depression. Now when I grieve, it’s normal grieving, and I’m not afraid (the grieving) is going to go on forever and be out of control.”
In large measure, Melissa credited her husband for staying with her through everything. “He never let me get stuck in disability mode,” she said. “He saw me as a healthy person and he made our (top) priority my health.”