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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

My Journey With Depression

Published November 26, 2014 9:41 AM by Pam Tarapchak
Late this summer, lots of people were talking about Robin Williams, discussing what he must have been going through, what would bring a person to the end thought of suicide. I was quite sad at this news, but it's a shame it takes a top celebrity's death to bring up the topic of depression and mental illness. In reality, you probably interact with someone who has the same disease/condition every day. Like me.

From experience, I know that depression brings with it much stigma. It's much different than saying you have cancer or heart disease; those conditions have solid treatments. Depression does not. So, it's not something I've shared with many people. A handful, at most. And to be honest, I'm hesitant in writing this now. I've fought a battle for almost 2 years. Very few people knew I had depression because I couldn't see past the darkness and stigma. I'm quite saddened by what Robin Williams must have been going through to have reached the point of suicide. I am one of the lucky ones who is starting to win the battle and see the light. I agree knowledge of this disease is power. But it's not an easy battle to win.

I have been on more than 15 medications that have brought on anxiety and sickness. I've attended more than 50 therapy sessions, and struggled day in and day out to get out of my bed and live my life. Anxiety greeted me every day as I turned my alarm off and I cried every morning while driving to work; I took medications that made me have poor perception, resulting in bumping into cars in front of me; I've made dates with friends only to change them once, then twice, then cancelling them; I've hidden in closets so my kids couldn't see me lose it. I was constantly looking within, and blind to everything outside of me.

Looking back, I have to say I definitely reached the very bottom of depression and saw no way of climbing out. I was at the bottom of that hole for a long time, through celebrations like birthdays and Christmas, through meetings at work and trips to conferences. Every doctor or therapy appointment I attended, I was asked if I considered suicide. And each time I always hesitated and said no, simply for two reasons - Ava and Harrison. So, sitting at the bottom, I had to find a way to climb out. I switched doctors, went religiously to therapy sessions, and literally just kept getting up each day and doing what I needed to do. I leaned on my faith and kept asking God if he could make it a little bit easier every day. There were days when I didn't think He was listening. When was He going to help me? 

Slowly, over several months, I have worked with my new doctor to titrate my medication from 6-8 pills a day down to 2. I've stretched my wings, sometimes to the point of great unease, meeting a friend for dinner, or taking my kids for a day out. I've found that I look at others quite differently because they too could be battling hidden demons. So I reach out with kind words: hello, have a great day, thanks for your help. 

My battle is not over but my climb out of depression has come a long way. I could have depression for the rest of my life, but I've learned there's strength in adversity and there are others in worse pain than I myself have felt. I'm just an ordinary person who is a mother, daughter, sister and friend. My life has been average with normal ups and downs. Depression came to rest on my shoulders and this journey has been given to me for some reason. But today I laugh more, and reach out more and feel empathy more. Moving forward, I ask you to show kindness to others and know that people may not be the person they appear on the outside. 

I'm a 45-year-old woman who is beating depression. And I'm proud of that.
posted by Pam Tarapchak

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