When Your Depression Meds Don’t Always Work

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about my depression. Are you in the mood for an update? 

I like to think of my depression as being under control, but if I’m honest, that’s not the case. Because sometimes, despite consistently taking medication and trying to live a generally healthy life, it shows up again.

And every single time it is maddeningly debilitating.

It keeps me in bed, losing whole days of my life, instead of knocking stuff off my to-do list. It keeps me home, weakening relationships, when I should really get out and be social. Or it requires me to use up all my energy to focus on not dying.

Such a horrible waste.

Beyond the depression itself, the unpredictability is another layer of awful. I never know when a new round of depression is going to hit, or how bad it’s going to be. Which makes figuring out how to treat it a constant puzzle. I’ll be a few days in and wondering, do I need to see a doctor? Adjust my meds? Or is this just a blip, and I’m going to feel better tomorrow?

And then, eventually, things get better, and the medicine seems to kick in again, and I’m back to my functional self. 

I think I keep expecting to be “finished” with it at some point. The depression came on in such a bad way after we arrived here, and I could easily understand why. It was brought on by the traumatic move. End of story.

If someone had told me I’d still be dealing with it years later, long after we’d settled in and embraced our life here, with no additional triggers I can identify, I wouldn’t have believed it.

The last few times I’ve woken up with depression, I’ve wondered out loud to Ben: Am I going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life? Because a) I don’t think it’s worth it, and b) I’m not up to the task. I give up. I’m done. I need to be done living.

I hate depression so much.

As the calendar turned earlier this month, I made a pledge to myself that I would try and do something different about my depression this year. I would try something new to help treat it, or help me recognize the triggers, or just anything that will help give me a little more control over it. Do I need to add therapy back in? Do I need to change what I eat? Will a gratitude practice affect things? A calming bedtime routine? Who knows. But I’m ready to try things and see what happens.

Since I made that pledge to myself, two things crossed my path that made me take note. The first was a status update from my friend Morgan Shanahan (you might recognize her from many viral Buzzfeed videos):

“The thing about my depression is when it first grabbed me by the ankles, my instinct was to give myself little gifts — allowances that I normally wouldn’t take. It began small: You don’t have to finish writing those pages today. You can skip the shower and turtle on the couch. You can cancel that meeting. You can take a nap without checking your calendar. You can eat that entire bag of Oreos. And then, one day, I was no longer reliable. I was no longer physically healthy. No longer a social creature. I had gifted myself right out of society.

Treat yourself well, but don’t cease to hold yourself accountable. The gifts we give ourselves to get through hard moments aren’t meant to be kept around forever. I’m still picking up the pieces of a life ignored.”

Her observation hit me squarely in the chest. For me, it’s spot on. I can totally see I’ve done the same thing from time to time. I’ve been so careful about tip-toeing around my depression, not wanting to make it worse, that I’ve withdrawn when it was a mistake to do so. I’ve actively avoided school and church activities where I should have been making new friends. I’ve said no to work meetings and opportunities that would have opened doors. I’ve left a family trip early and stayed in bed while my kids were at the beach. 

I want to be better about both taking care of myself, and not using depression as an excuse to skip doing the right thing or taking the challenging step that will ultimately be good for me.

The second thing was an article in the Guardian. It’s titled “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?” It’s an excerpt from a new book called Lost Connections: Uncovering the Real Causes of Depression – and the Unexpected Solutions.

It’s written by someone who medicated his depression for 13 years, and then did a bunch of research into the underlying causes of depression, and it changed how he approached treatment. From the article:

“I ended up going on a 40,000-mile journey across the world and back. I talked to the leading social scientists investigating these questions, and to people who have been overcoming depression in unexpected ways – from an Amish village in Indiana, to a Brazilian city that banned advertising and a laboratory in Baltimore conducting a startling wave of experiments. From these people, I learned the best scientific evidence about what really causes depression and anxiety. They taught me that it is not what we have been told it is up to now. I found there is evidence that seven specific factors in the way we are living today are causing depression and anxiety to rise – alongside two real biological factors (such as your genes) that can combine with these forces to make it worse.”

I found the essay really interesting, and I’m intrigued enough to want to read the book, though I’m not sure if I totally agree with it. For example, he mentions having no control of your work being a major cause of depression, but, I have full control of my work, so in my case, that doesn’t apply. But I want to stay open-minded and see what I can learn from the book.

So that’s where I’m at on mental health at the moment. Still taking my daily medication, and looking at additional options that might help.

How about you? How is your mental health these days? If you already deal with depression, or anxiety, did it get worse after the election? Or better? Have you made any breakthroughs lately? Figured out a trigger or found something that helps? I’d love to hear.

105 thoughts on “When Your Depression Meds Don’t Always Work”

  1. I never leave comments on blogs, but this…this hits me. I have struggled with seasonal depression for 10 years. I have had to take medication for 6 months out of the year for 6 years. In October I ran across a book called “A Mind of Her Own”. I decided to try it and do everything she said. I didn’t go on my meds this year and I am fine. Before this book, I would not be fine in January. I would be so low and depressed that I couldn’t function. This has changed my life and my kids Mom! Good luck. I will be rooting and praying for you!

    1. Looking back at your other post, seasonal affective disorder is just what came to mind. Have you tried therapy with one of those special lamps? It might be worth a try if you are looking for something new.

    2. Hi Haley-
      I’ve been wanting to try Kelly Brogan’s approach for awhile. However, seems overwhelming. What exactly did you do?
      Thanks for sharing.

      And designmom- I can’t thank you enough for your honesty. It painfully resonates and is incredibly comforting.

  2. Thank you of being so honest about this. I have suffered with depression/anxiety since I was 12. I am now 44 and have spent most of my life with it under control. It would come up at times but I could always ‘manage’ it. That is until about almost 6 years ago when my mom received her cancer diagnosis and passed away 2 months later. I feel like I have been a shell of myself ever since. Like I just exist and go through the motions. I have cancelled hundreds of plans, stopped myself from participating in so much. I have tried medication, therapy, acupuncture, natural supplements, diet changes etc With the new year, I have started a gratitude journal and try to meditate. Jury is still out. I keep wanting to just be me again but I truly do not know how to get there.

  3. Depression hurts so bad. But it’s a pain most people can’t see. Thanks for giving us the update and I am giving you a virtual hug. No doubt you are trying your best and please keep us updated on things that work or don’t work for you. For other readers commenting, if you are depressed you are not alone. I am sorry you are in pain.

  4. I’ve been looking at hormone imbalances as a cause. It looks like “A Mind Of Her Own” might be similar to books I’ve been reading. I’ll try reading that next. I started with “A Hormone Cure.” I’m slightly skeptical but mainstream meds haven’t been consistently effective for me either.

    1. I bought The Hormone Cure last month. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped. I feel like you need to have a doctor that you can work really closely with and do tons of tests and retests in order follow her advice, and I just don’t really feel like that’s doable for me. How are you liking it? Any parts that are particularly helpful?

  5. I read the Guardian essay as well, and am still digesting it. I think I’ve commented only once before, when I was taken aback by your expectations of yourself. I’m surprised again, this time by your comment that you have full control of your work. It’s certainly true, in the sense that you don’t have a boss who is directing your work. On the other hand, the very public and entrepreneurial path that you’ve chosen seems fraught with intense pressure. So many choices to make–hour by hour, day by day, month by month, year by year. Some are minor of course, but many more seem major, especially because the choices need to be consistent with your own sense of integrity. And of course, the overall question of when is enough enough? I wish you well as you read the book. Such an important topic!

    1. I was just going to respond with a similar response as Elle. Being an entrepreneur is often more stress then having a boss tell you what to do. You are in charge and some days you don’t feel like being in charge or being creative or doing all of the things you seem to think you “should” be doing. Who is saying you should be doing what? I noticed the “should” word a few times and I am wondering if you are expecting too much of yourself on days when you wake up not feeling as productive or creative as others. You continue to inspire so many people daily and I myself am grateful that you share this struggle but I hope you can recognize all of the light you bring to others and shine a little more light upon yourself.

      1. Yep, I saw that “should” word a bunch, too. Not to mention, the general sense of the entire post that you SHOULD be cured by now, or SHOULD NOT be having episodes of depression.

        I have been working on managing my depression since I was 13 (I’m now 37), and I still get these feelings about my depression, too. ‘These feelings = (1) wholly unfair and unrealistic expectations of myself + (2) shame, which – guess what? – do not separately, or together, help one get through a depressive episode.

        It’s hard, because I do all the things – I take medication, I see a therapist, I exercise regularly, I take cal-mag-zinc every day, I use a “happy” lamp, I try to get time by myself/in nature/near water, I try to meditate, I try to stay connected with friends, I scale back on caffeine/alcohol/sugar during the week before and during my period – and all of those things REALLY help. If I don’t keep up with these lifestyle practices, I know I’m up for a few days curled up in bed incapable of seeing or enjoying my children or my life at all. But even with ALL of this, it still happens sometimes! And every time I moan, Why??? What else can I do? What didn’t I do? What is wrong with ME?

        And that last part – about what’s wrong with ME – I don’t mean, What’s physiologically wrong with me – I think about MY personal responsibility in getting depressed again. But when I’m not depressed I see how cruel this is to myself, and how I’m buying into our culture’s shaming of mental health issues, as if it’s a choice as opposed to a health condition.

        There is a lot we can do to help ourselves manage and avoid depression – it’s true, and it’s a blessing – but sometimes, no matter our best efforts, it will pop up, and I think the best thing you can do for yourself in those moments is to be kind and nurturing to yourself the same way you would if – despite getting a flu shot and always washing your hands – you got the flu.

        For me this means (1) cancelling everything – or as much as possible – for the day, and not interacting with people if I don’t want to (I don’t get this idea that you should be hanging out with new people at church or in social settings when you feel depressed – that would 10000% make me feel worse b/c I’d have nothing fun to talk about and would be so hard on myself for not being more charming and likeable); (2) letting myself just be still for a while; (3) checking off all of the physiological requirements (do I need sleep? a really nourishing meal? a little bit of exercise? some fresh air or sunshine?); (4) letting my brain go fallow, or sink into a meditative state – which I find is best achieved by putting a puzzle together while listening to music (watching TV or a movie never helps me); and (5) accepting that it may last a few days, and all I have to do is survive to the other side.

        You are not alone. And thank you for sharing this with us, so that so many of us also suffering from depression will not feel alone.

    2. I’m going to chime in here. First let me say, I’ve suffered from depression since I was 13. Over the years with the on-going help of an excellent psychotherapist, a knowledgeable psychiatrist/neurologist, and a compassionate partner, my mental health continues to improve. I definitely suffer setbacks, though, and know I will continue to do so, on occasion. In fact, I just saw my psychiatrist yesterday to change my meds because I had fallen down a manhole, again, so to speak.

      It’s understandable you fear going down the same path as Morgan Shanahan but one does not have to completely check out to ease some of the stresses exacerbated by depression (or that exacerbate it). Like a few other commenters, I think you’ve set the bar of personal expectations awfully high. As well as maintaining this very dynamic blog, you’re also a mother of six(!), in a long-term relationship, and active in your church. It might do you good to lower the bar a bit and give yourself some of the “gifts” to which Morgan refers. Society (and some religions) pressure us to be industrious at all times. It creates an unnecessary burden that I feel does more harm than good. Maybe practice more “being” than “doing.” Wishing you the best in your journey.

  6. I don’t have anything to add, I just wanted to a give a little encouragement. Not even sure what to say to do that, but I’m very sorry that you are dealing with this. It sounds so frustrating. I think that your posts must help many, many people dealing with the same issues.

  7. My husband has struggled with depression most of his life, and tried all the traditional routes to cure/management without lasting success. Two interesting things I’ve learned recently–he did a genetic test that pinpoints your biological tendency to depression and how well your body reacts to/metabolizes various medications, which gave us a fascinating insight into his family history of depression and a reality to deal with (it’s not just all in his head, it’s a lack of some kind of receptor gene that doesn’t take up folic acid properly, meaning that the usual serotonin path medications are completely ineffective). An article about that testing: https://qz.com/576138/this-new-dna-test-could-help-people-beat-depression-faster/ (he did the Assurex one, not covered by our insurance so it cost about $300 if I recall correctly)
    Additionally, there are clinics that work with “treatment-resistant depression” and some speculative treatments such as ketamine shots (controversial and not covered by insurance, but we’re considering it), which give me some hope for the future–there will be other solutions someday. Maybe my daughter and whichever other descendants have inherited this same genetic deficiency will have happier lives.
    There are also studies that suggest sugar–an inflammatory–is a contributing factor, and that altitude can be a detriment, but so far we’re still living in Utah and eating a sweetened life, those elements are just harder to change…

    1. ACW- similar experience with my hubby. he too is drug resist, and also did the testing…we have tried the ketamine. it didnt work for him but have seen positive outcomes. its a terrible situation to watch someone you love and not being able to “fix”.

  8. I have suffered from depression 4 times in my life. Each following the birth of a child and once following a miscarriage so clearly mine was hormone related. Thankfully I haven’t had it again.

    It’s a horrible disease and so incredibly jealous, it wants you all to itself. That’s the only way I could describe it to people that have never experienced it. It’s all you can think about, it gets you in its grip and hangs on for dear life. Ugh. I’m so sorry you are dealing with this, especially the unpredictable nature of it for you.

    I never went on medication. I was nursing and didn’t want any of the meds to effect my babies. The only thing that really got me through was exercising (really long walks or jogs). My brother-in-law is a psychology prof and did a bunch of research for me and said that exercising daily can have a profound effect on people suffering from depression. Of course, I have no idea what your current routine is, but thought I would mention this as it may help you too.

    I truly hope you find some answers.

  9. Thank you for posting your depression update. My depression weakens my resolve to be vulnerable and accountable. I was with my psychiatrist this morning to try an adjustment to my meds. Time will tell.

  10. Last weekend I realized I must be dealing with SAD. I feel like it’s a case of the “blahs” . I don’t want to do anything, go anywhere and I find myself grouchy. I have to remind myself to smile when one of the kids brings me a picture he or she made. Stuff like that. (“respond with kindness!” I tell myself) I just don’t care about anything! I’ve met new people and I can’t remember their names because I don’t care. It’s horrible to notice that about myself! I really feel for those of you dealing with more intense depression, more acute. I have been working on trying to get in some sunshine when I can (My office has no windows) and some exercise–outside if possible. Today I tried to do something for someone else as well. My husband has been carving out time for me to play music again. It is one of the things that helps me feel “grounded.” I feel like this is a simple place to start for me and to keep tabs on myself and my health.
    I have a lot of questions about how social media contributes to mental health as well as screen lights and other types of artificial light. I know there’s been research on it but it’s been years since I’ve read anything about it.

  11. I wonder if something like the #metoo discussion contributes? Even when someone hasn’t had a direct #metoo occurrence, the discussion and analysing and inevitable tearing down can become overwhelming. How to change the world, just as one person.
    But you are, even on those days, changing it by providing this platform – your voice in its wholeness of experience. Thankyou.

    1. YES. My sisters and I talk about this often – how we’re so grateful that people are bringing these issues to the surface, but how focusing on it and thinking about it more has meant we walk around in a fog of anger and overwhelm.

  12. Thank you for talking so openly about depression. I can relate to all you have said and I’m interested in what you have to say. Depression is something I suffer from every single day at a variety of levels. I have been severely crippled by it three times in my life, but mostly I just push forward because I have a family to take care of. Like many, I hide it incredibly well. So well that my happy-go-lucky husband can’t tell. He is not a safe harbor to discuss this topic, so I generally keep it close to my heart. It feels freeing to say all of this in your comment section. So thank you again for this.

    1. J, I’m so sorry to read you don’t feel able to lean on your husband in this. That’s really tough. I would still be in a big puddle of uselessness without mine to identify and find me treatment for my depression. I hope you have someone around you who understands, but certainly sending virtual hugs your way. It’s sometimes a tough road, but it’s always worth it to keep walking xx

      1. Thank you so much Katherine. Your kind thoughts mean so much. I love your graphic pictorial of depression described below. I’m an analytic person so this resonates with me. It would be interesting to draw the history. I am thankful that the most debilitating episodes were before I had children (aside from post partum which for some reason I set apart in my mind…maybe because of the sleep deprivation). You are so lucky to have such a loving support system. That makes me really happy for you. xx

  13. Medication has been the biggest help for me (I’ve tried various therapists and never found one that I connected with, and Iaways left feeling frustrated about the time it had taken), but I’ve also noticed that exercise and creativity are HUGELY helpful for me. So I run marathons and do oil paintings, even though I’m not particularly good at either—but it keeps me happy and functional.

  14. What you said about being “finished” with it really resonated with me as I have wondered the same thing. I get breaks from depression, but it seems to come back every couple of years. Currently I’m having success with elimination therapy (releasing negative emotions). Much of it is based on the book The Emotion Code. I use an elimination therapy practitioner, but the book teaches you how to do it yourself. I hope you can get back to feeling better soon!

  15. Oh, I’m like you. Mostly all better and functioning but then, bam, I’m hit by a really low few days. Mostly totally out of the blue. Occasionally I can link it to hormones but that’s not a consistent pattern. I can describe my 7 years by drawing wavy lines, which is hard to do here! But in the early days the low part of each wave was long, very low and flat, with little short climbs up to the peaks before the waves go back down. Now my wavy line is much shallower: the lows aren’t ever as low nor as long and it’s the highs that are higher, longer. But that unpredictably makes you more despondent: there’s a hopelessness in the lack of control. Ugh. It just sucks.
    And I’m still doing the hard work of raising expectations for myself, when once I had to work hard at learning/accepting new lower standards were necessary and ok. Meds, therapy and a VERY patient husband have been crucial to me. A few years back my friends all made a roster to take my kids one day each week so I could sleep, clean, sew…whatever helped me most. But it’s tough feeling you should be physically capable of functioning and feeling bad for requiring so much of others. I had to learn my brain is also a physical thing, that all this was physical. Calling it mental illness makes it seem airy and not tangible. I started to think about my brain health instead. Focusing on the physical processes in my brain as the source of my issues. Ugh. It’s all very tough though. And like you, I hope there’s a final end point. Soon!

  16. It’s so interesting to me that a hard move triggered your depression. I read your blog faithfully and had forgotten the connection. I had no significant history of depression and anxiety before our cross country move in 2013. I was thrilled with relocation, but the actual move was tough. My husband had to leave for his new job months before our move. I had to sell our house, move all of our belongings (no company help), continue my job, and take care of my kids, one with severe autism. At the last minute, some plans fell through and I ended up driving myself and our kids alone cross country to our new city. I got through those months on adrenalin and then when we were settled, the depression and anxiety hit. It’s also strange, because I’ve had to endure tougher life events (parents dying, etc.) but it was the move that triggered it all. I’m sure your case is similar. It’s been very difficult, and I definitely feel for you and wish you the best in conquering this monster.

    1. I don’t suffer from depression, but I have been dealing with anxiety for the last few months after going through a divorce. Luckily my best friend recognized what it was and basically forced me to talk to my therapist and physician about it. I’m so grateful for her. I thought I was having heart issues, which only made my anxiety worse because I thought for sure I was going to die of a heart attack at home alone. But luckily after some pretty thorough testing by a cardiologist, we are certain it’s anxiety. The weird thing about anxiety is that it feels like your worries are so founded in reality in that moment. Then it’s just a downward spiral from there. You’ll feel fine a day later, but then it comes back when you least expect it. I’ve been taking an anti-depressant for my anxiety for a few months and it has been life-changing. The difference between today and three months ago is kind of mind-blowing. In addition to the medication, I practice serious self-care. Self-care is not a hoax. My anxiety is triggered by unhealthy eating (or not eating enough), lack of exercise, and lack of sleep. I make sure to eat three meals a day and include lots of vegetables and water and cut out excessive sugar. I don’t drink caffeine. Coffee makes my anxiety much worse. I lift heavy weights 3-4 times per week, which feels so good. I go to bed early. I just started dating someone and it’s hard to keep up those good habits when you’re in the early stages of a really exciting relationship because all you want to do is eat at good restaurants for date night and stay up late, but I noticed my anxiety creeping back in a couple weeks ago and going back to eating healthy and sleeping enough has been really helpful. I think you linked to an article a couple months ago about self care that I loved. The author said something along the lines of “self care is not about escaping from life. Self care is about doing things so you don’t need to escape your life.” I always thought of self care as spoiling myself with treats, clothes, etc., but I’ve realized the last few months that sometimes self care is really really hard. It’s not fun to give up delicious treats and coffee and diet coke and being a couch potato. Exercise sucks. Eating healthy sucks. But when I do those things, I feel a million times better so in a sense, it is a treat for me. I’m a huge proponent of therapy, living a healthy lifestyle, and anti-depressants. All stuff everyone else has said, but I think it’s helpful to read the experiences of others out there. I really appreciated reading these comments because I felt less alone in my anxiety.

  17. Has there ever been anything friends or neighbors have done that helped? Or their good intentions made situation worse?

    1. Yes! Or anything specific that Ben Blair does to help? Sending so much love. Thank you for your courage to share this part of you.

  18. Hi Gabby, thank you for posting about your thoughts and feelings. I am amazed how brave you are and how much you do despite depression. It might sound weird but I am a big fan of your blog and of what you put out here. I have so much respect for your writing, your sincerity, candor and your compassion. Also I too have personal (and professional) experience with depression and I think it sucks!
    As a clinical psychologist if you would want to try therapy again I would recommend newer forms like Schema therapy or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). They are both quite upfront but very validating and might help you find personal triggers and coping strategies. And a lot of people that tried therapy before but didn’t respond or relapse benefit a great deal from it. If you look for something less direct (and less expensive I guess): maybe committing to a weekly yoga session in a comfortable but sincere yoga studio or running will ease your mind and body. I am very new to yoga and picked it up because a lot of our patients improve so much because of it (Ha!) and I like very much what it does to my mental and physical health. Wish you all the best!

    1. I commented below, but practicing yoga has done so much for me. I love your phrasing of a “sincere yoga studio” so much, because I feel like that is the key. Classes at the Y or another gym are there for just your physical body. A class at a yoga studio will help you connect the mind, body and spirit :)

  19. With regards to your work, you do have control but perhaps you do many things you do not love and those can stack up sometimes – sneakily! They wear away at your energy and have a domino affect on your psyche.

    Also maybe consider nutrients and making sure your body has what it needs during each phase of your cycle. Woman Code (the book) helps unwind it a bit from a cycle perspective. I personally know that I have the MTHFR gene mutation and have found that keeping my folate/b12 consistent through taking the methylized versions has been helpful for more steady “ups.” And knowing that I naturally fall short in serine, zinc, choline and other nutrients helps me to supplement to keep those up. I truly believe lack of correct nutrients for our individual bodies play a huge role in all mental illnesses, not to mention other diseases. Spectracell is a phenomenal nutrient test – you can go to the website and fine a doc in your area. But I’ll admit, I lean on the naturopathic side of the house ;-) Good luck – and be good to yourself. Life is always worth living – for the good days!

  20. Your suggestion many moons again of ‘checking in’ with yourself has helped me loads! I’m borderline, like a previous poster, and have managed over the years to get by without medication. My mother recently passed away and I’ve just this week started anti-depressants as well as my ongoing CBT – it just felt right.

    I find mindfulness really helps me – I use the Headspace app (I don’t work for them). Ideally I’d do this daily, but sometimes I only manage 3 times a week – that is okay, it’s not instant but long term it’s the thing that’s help me the most.

    I also check in with myself if I’m feeling low (as per your great recommendation!). Have I eaten, exercised, done my meditation today? Did I have a drink or eat too many carbs last night and I’m just a bit hungover? Short term a call with a good friend or some exercise helps.

    This letting yourself check out hit me hard too – I’ve been doing this way too much.

  21. It is so positive you are looking for additions to your regime: I feel really confident it is a question of keeping going with little variations until you find what works for you, which can take a long lifetime but is so worth it in the end. If you are looking for ideas I would recommend cold water (showers/baths/ideally swimming but not sure if available in your neck of the woods!) which has some very intriguing early research on benefits on mental health.

    Cold Water Swimming Can Change Your Life

    The Case for Cold Showers

  22. Thank you for sharing your story. While I suffered PPD, I haven’t experienced it long-term, and stories like yours help me understand just how debilitating and challenging it is. I have learned a lot and gained so much compassion. A book that also taught me a lot is *Keeping the Feast* by Paula Butturini. She writes about both her husband’s and mother’s depressions through the lens of food. It was the first place I learned about medicine-resistant depression. A powerful story. Prayers to you and to all here struggling with anxiety and depression.

  23. I’ve never been medicated for depression, but I’ve definitely had some blue periods, and even angry periods in my life. I started practicing yoga a few years ago, and oh my word. It sort of became it’s own addiction lol. An hour of moving my body and focusing on how it feels and my breath and very little else (stray thoughts still creep in, but I’m so much better at pushing them on now) has been sooooo amazingly helpful. I’m adding in some mindfulness meditation each day as well. And I’m learning to love myself and really decide if saying yes is good for me. It’s really amazing to me to look back and see how it’s changed me, especially as we are going through some challenges currently.

    I am happy that you come here and share. I know it’s not easy. And as a spouse of someone with depression, I get it. We have our own struggles and sometimes it can feel as if we aren’t allowed be frustrated or upset over the things depressions steals from us as well. I also love what Morgan wrote about gifting yourself…so true.

    Good luck on your journey :)

  24. Are you friends with Gretchen Rubin? I could see a project with you and her working well. You could be a regular guest on her podcast.

  25. Post partum depression is the worst. If I could tell myself prior to any of my pregnancies, one thing and one thing only, it would be this: You will feel like you were hit by a train and that you will undoubtedly die very very soon leaving your husband with a newborn. You will convince yourself 100% your story will make it on the news because surely others with postpartum depression only had postpartum depression and clearly you have something much, much worse, which will be diagnosed only after you die. You will convince yourself that taking a 2 week vacation by yourself to St Martin will cure you. When you tell your husband and your mother this they will exchange concerned glances and you realize they think you are crazy. ****Then this is what you will do. You will call your doctor. She will prescribe an SSRI anti-depressant and you will take it. You will feel like yourself again in a few days. This will only happen this way after your FIRST pregnancy. Your second and subsequent other pregnancies, you will leave the hospital WITH the SSRI prescription because you recognize your symptoms immediately. You will be fine. You will be fine. You will be fine.

  26. Hi, I had depression last year, because of other medical conditions I have, doctors didn´t want to give me most of the medication prescribed for a depression. So a big dose of vitamin B12 & D3 (1000 MCG & 2000IU) and DHEA were taken and daily dose of sun and fresh air. It wasn´t a quick fix, but 8-9 months latter I felt much better. SOme time to time things get more difficult, so I try to rebalance with more “me” moments with fresh air.
    Hope it will help you with your journey!

    1. Hi Macarena,

      I’m intrigued by DHEA. Can you tell me what type of doctor you worked with for this regimen? I’ve read it might not be good for people who want to get pregnant in the near future, so I want to talk with someone who can guide me through that.

  27. I really applaud your honesty and candor about this topic. I wasn’t diagnosed with depression until college but the therapist I saw during that time felt I’d probably been struggling with depression since at least 6th grade. After my diagnosis and some therapy, I started doing a lot better. But I’m always afraid it will come back with the strength it had when I was in high school. The past four months or so I’ve definitely gone through some rougher patches, but I don’t think I’m very good at figuring out if it’s serious enough to do something more concrete about it. I think the time of year definitely affects me- this time it settled in during October and is still affecting me. I’m also halfway around the world from my family and most of my friends and I think the isolation certainly isn’t helping me.

    The comment about not letting myself get out of everything because of depression really hit me. I definitely do that, and doing things (particularly getting some exercise or yoga in and eating better) would probably really help me, but I keep allowing myself the excuse that I’m too tired/why can’t I just “treat myself”. I’m trying to better, but it’s hard sometimes.

  28. Thank you for sharing! My husband has dealt with depression since high school (he almost completely flunked his junior year) so I know what severe can look like. I had my first child almost 4 years ago and within a year of that, two of my closest friends moved away. I have been functioning “fine” since then (I work full time and everyone at home is alive and happy) but my husband says for the last four years I’ve just been a little “off”. Not like I used to be. He or I can’t put a finger on anything in particular. Of course my life is completely different and of course I’m more tired and of course I have less in common with my childless friends and difficulty finding working Moms to interact with. At the encouragement of my husband and marriage counselor we recently began seeing, I just started some medication. So far I feel the same, but then again I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel? I so enjoyed reading the comments above and all the different ways that people are dealing with this. I might try a couple of the suggestions and see if anything can help in addition to the medication. Thank you to everyone who commented!

    1. Hugs to you, Kristin! Parenting and Life is just HARD sometimes! I think it’s great that you are going to counseling and taking medication.

      1. Typically, it takes 4-6 weeks for those medications to take full effect and then there’s usually a need to move up to a more therapeutic dose. We are in the process of figuring it out with my daughter, who started an antidepressant 3 months ago and now we are having to wean her off of it and start all over again with something else because it wasn’t helping. Everyone’s body reacts differently, so don’t give up until you find out what works for you! It takes time!

        I went through a similar depression last year when my sister moved away. I can totally sympathize. Sending hugs from Utah. ♥♥♥

  29. Thank you for sharing <3 I, too, am struggling with the realization that my struggles with anxiety will be the work of my lifetime. It's scary to think that it won't ever be "gone," but I'm hopeful that continuing to work and strive for improvement will continue to help.

  30. Wow. Thank you so much for your openness to share something that is so very vulnerable. My husband has Bipolar II with depression and anxiety, so I feel as if I can understand what you are talking about, because he has the same thoughts. We feel as if we are always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It makes life difficult and frustrating at times. Therapy has been a big help for us. But I think that it will always be something that he will live with, and accepting that has been a huge turning point in the positive direction. We don’t fear the shoe dropping, but accept that it will happen…and when it does we have plans in place. I also have a support team in my in laws and my parents. It is extremely difficult to lean on others at times, but I don’t know what I would do without them, and I don’t want to know. I hope that you are able to continue to live life for you and your family. It’s always different for everyone. But thank you once again for sharing your story. It means so much. We actually started a non-profit to reach out to people affected by mental illness. http://www.herehear.org

  31. Four days ago, I had to have a police escort to the ER to admit my 13-year-old daughter, who tried to suffocate herself at school. This was not her first attempt, and for a couple years now she’s had destructive thoughts. She’s been in therapy and on medication for ADD, OCD and anxiety/depression. It’s so hard to watch someone you love struggle.

    We are adjusting her meds, getting her more involved with after school activities, limiting her electronics, doing EMDR therapy and trying to rally her support group. Also crossing our fingers that things will get a little better once she’s done with puberty! She’s had the anxiety and ADD ever since she was little, though. With a family history of these issues, we are prepared for the long haul and not giving up.

    Art is a big outlet for her. She has a “sad” journal she keeps in her backpack to write or draw in when she’s feeling overwhelmed, and being able to get her feelings out on paper helps her to process them and move on.

    1. I’m so sorry to hear about your daughter’s struggles. It sounds like she has the perfect mama to help her through. Sending strength and love your way and hers.

  32. Your comments are spot on – I have struggled on and off with depression and anxiety for nearly 20 years and I HATE that this is my struggle. Most days are fine but the low days suck. I even wrote myself a note reminding myself that what I was feeling would pass knowing I would want to read it again. I have been on medication for the last few months and even though it is not perfect it has helped a lot. I also know I need sleep, to do yoga, meditate and RUN – running saves me. Know you are not alone and number one – don’t stop showing up. Showing up to life will help :)

  33. I notice how many commenters have noted your bravery… to admit that we feel desolate, sorrow and pain can feel taboo against the filtered, productive and cheerful ideal we live in. I have to protect my own neurochemistry as if I have a severe allergy, for me this means I don’t have social media or news apps on my phone. I try to take breaks from both, February is going to be a social media “fast” because it triggers me. I have to get 9 hours of sleep. I have to walk. I have to meditate, accept pain and acknowledge it (Tara Brach has a guided meditation where you say hi to the pain ..you take tea with it..you don’t push it away). I also read books that help rewire my brain and keep my brain challenged. I run a business and I have to let go of the “never enough” feeling that comes with it. I see a therapist. I journal, I write down 3 things that went well that day. I set goals. These are the tools I need to be my healthiest. I have never tried antidepressants, but hope they work for some people, but I agree with The Guardian article…basically the pills are a simplistic answer to the complexity of being a person…and underneath there will be struggle for some of us, and I only want relationships with people who have the capacity to understand that. I hope you feel better. You are strong and brave!

    1. Shanna you sound amazing!
      Sending good thoughts your way.

      And gabby you are so brave. Thank you for sharing.

      Tina, nyc

  34. I experienced depression and anxiety off and on starting in adolescence. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I realized how I had felt wasn’t a normal part of being a teenager. It wasn’t until I was clobbered with postpartum depression and anxiety 2 years ago that I finally fully opened up to my spouse about my struggles. The irony is that I’m a mental health professional and for years I believed I had the knowledge to fix myself and shouldn’t need to call on others.
    But now I do. I tell my wife when I notice changes in my mood and we problem solve so that I don’t end up in dire straits. It’s hard not to feel like a burden when the solution is that we shift some parenting and household duties to her. But I see the benefit when I prioritize sleep, nutrition, exercise, and unstructured time. In a way I find it easier to ask for these concrete “ingredients” for mental health once things start to go south.

  35. Thank you for sharing your experience with chronic illness. For what it’s worth, I don’t think getting sick is “such a horrible waste” I think it’s part of living with a chronic illness, although I know it can be incredibly frustrating.

    Like you i have A TON of responsibilities professionally, parenting, school community, volunteering, running a household, extended family obligations, maintaining friendships, carpooling, hosting holidays and birthdays, planning for work travels, keeping everyone fed the list goes on and on. We do a lot! And maybe sometimes it really is too much and we need to take a break.

    I hear you on how difficult it is to balance taking care of yourself but not giving yourself a pass on things you should be doing. So tricky!

  36. Thank you for the check-in. Mom with ptsd here. Surprisingly low day. I can relate to a day without answers. I can relate to wondering how much perseverance is in me. Researching ways to maintain and build energy. Tweaks in my habits seem to be helping. I appreciate the reality of high and low days within the world of strong creative women. I didn’t ask for my experiences to shape me like this but I understand the world better because of these events. At a cost, mental health gives us an edge we don’t acknowledge enough.

  37. I have suffered from depression and anxiety for over 20 years.

    My best therapy has always been my dog(s). Not only do they get me out walking but they are always there for me when I am at home. As my daughter gets older and is out on her own more, I have the constant furry companions. They create a sense of calm. They soak up my feelings.

    Gabby – as more and more of your kids leave the nest, perhaps a pet could provide you excuses to get out walking and cuddles any time you need them.

    1. Yes to this, to the power of 10. After a lifetime of dealing with depression & PTSD I got my first dog more than 20 years ago, & was able to go off anti-depressants & get out of therapy. My psychiatrist said he was going to start prescribing dogs–this was years before psychiatric service dogs or emotional support dogs were on anyone’s radar.
      I also raise service dog puppies, which have done wonders for the social anxieties–people approach me in public, & I always have something to talk about, so I don’t want to hide.
      Even the dogs weren’t enough to get me out of the downward spiral after the election (I put on 20 pounds between November & January–I also have a long history of eating disorders, including bulimia) but a diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes on January 20, 2017–talk about a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day–brought me up with a jerk. I was determined to control it just with diet & exercise, & & have achieved my goals–lost 53 pounds, & got the a1c down as well. I think that limiting carbs & increasing exercise has also helped the depression a lot.
      Ironically enough, my dog has just been put on Prozac for her separation anxiety. Non-humans have their issues, too.

  38. I love how open you are about your depression. My husband suffers from depression and anxiety, and it’s something he feels like he really needs to keep private. He’s concerned about how others might judge him, bother personally and professionally. It’s such a hard thing to overcome in society.

    Your thoughts about how long it will go on really struck me. He has had issues probably all of his life. A big piece is genetic if you look at his family history, and a piece of it is a traumatic childhood. He’s had ups and downs, but after a huge down a few years ago, we finally stepped back and realized we needed to treat this like a disease, like he had diabetes. No more off and on meds and weaning himself in his own ways. Even though he doesn’t always love being on the meds, they are treating his disease, and he needs to regularly take them. And he has stayed consistent with regular therapy appointments. Even if he feels like there is not much to talk about some weeks, by regularly going, he always has those appointments lined up for when things do start to look bleak, even briefly. I know it differs for people, but for us, treating this like a real health issue has made all the difference. I look back at our first 10 or so years of marriage (and 15 years together) and realize how much better things could have been if we had taken this approach earlier. So we are also looking at this like, yes, this will be a health issue for the rest of your life. But it’s a manageable issue now. We know how to manage it, treat it, and help keep things in balance in life in general, just like we would do if he had diabetes.

  39. Thank you for being so honest. I suffer more from severe anxiety, and it ramps up during flu season. The checkout lady at Target said her nieces had the flu- so I promptly went home and washed everything she touched- including the Lysol wipes I had just bought. Yes, can you imagine washing off your Lysol wipe container? That is my life. I notice it is much worse during hormonal shifts, and right now I am just trying to recognize it and rationalize. I was the opposite of a germaphobe before having kids, and now that I’m in my 40’s it’s much worse. I’ve missed out on a lot of opportunities because of fear. You’re not alone.

  40. Thanks so much for always being open about this topic – it makes it so much more comfortable for me to casually discuss it when it comes up with family or friends when I know that others are also being vulnerable in this way. I had a really challenging year last year and I started taking medication after my counselor posed this question to me: “Should it have to be so hard?” As in, maybe I shouldn’t have to be working so hard just to feel normal – and maybe I don’t need to. Another thing I really want to mention is that after reading a recent op-ed in the NY Times about a Danish study of women, hormonal birth control and increased levels of depression and anxiety, I stopped taking the pill. It’s been a month and already I feel a major difference – when I feel anxiety, it’s just a feeling, it’s not a gut-twisting, heart-pounding experience anymore. I’m sure not everyone has this reaction but I feel so liberated that I just want to shout it from the rooftops! Anyway, thanks again.

  41. Gabby, as always, I admire and am inspired by your courage and bravery. Thank you for your willingness to talk about your own experiences and give others a place to share theirs.

  42. Thank you for your check in. Part of the reason I started following you consistently was your post about your bout with depression after the move. Last year around this time I tapered off my SSRI in preperation for having a child. Then in July I had a major break down where I missed 5 weeks of work and went to the ER 3 times. I realized I need to be on an SSRI all the time and it will be better for me in the long run. Nearly 6 months later and I am finally feeling like there are things to look forward to. Its tough. I feel you when you say that you wake up and wonder if this is how it always will be and if so, not wanting to live like this. I’m only 29 and I have been dealing with it since I was 16. I don’t want to keep on this fight. I am scared I will pass it on to my children. I am scared I won’t be able to take care of them.
    I have started going to see a hynotherapist. CBT was great for the first 10 years but I am feeling hopeful about this new approach. Thank you for sharing. <3

  43. There’s an interesting discussion like this going on over at onehundreddollarsamonth.com. It’s humbling to hear all this lovely people who are dealing with depression and it’s ugly sisters, loneliness and sadness.
    I wonder if many people suffered hundreds of years ago like we do in the modern age. Have we forgotten some aspect of human life to make this human experience more joyful? What can we improve on?

  44. My depression came after the onset of fibromyalgia. The pain was enough to deal with for the first few years, but then the depression, anxiety, and chronic fatigue set in. I no longer felt like myself and while the medications (first prozac, then wellbutrin, now cymbalta) stopped the crying and the feelings of complete isolation, they did nothing for the lack of energy, fatigue, and loss of interest. A new rheumatologist educated me on the drug low dose naltrexone. Look it up. Read the research. It is a fascinating drug with VERY few side effects that is being used to alleviate symptoms in tons of different disorders/diseases. After being on it for 8 days, I am starting to feel like myself again. It is supposed to eventually help with my fibro pain; but for now, it is giving me back my energy, my enjoyment in talking with / being with others, my enjoyment of my kids and their activities, etc.
    My heart goes out to all who suffer with depression or mental imbalances. Because this drug is working for me, I feel the need to share it. It feels so good to have hope again.

  45. I constantly struggle with depression. I think you’re the second person in the last few days to say that it comes and goes – or, gets “flare ups”. I do too, but I didn’t realize that others get them as well. Over the years, the one thing that helped me the most was daily meditation practices. Not for two hours, or even an hour. Usually just for 20 minutes (working up from 5, 10, 15, etc.). It helps to heal the brain’s frontal lobe. I was OK for years after that until my older daughter (now 3) was born, and then it became very challenging again. It’s been very frustrating – not only for me, but for my husband and daughters (I have an almost-1-year-old now, too).

    Thank you for being so candid about this, and for sharing. I didn’t know you struggled, until I read this post. I actually thought to myself, “I am not alone!” Like, someone really well-known and respected is open about it and struggles too… That gives me hope.

    I feel like it doesn’t take a whole lot to kick up a “depression flare”, and meditating is challenging these days.

    I wish you the best. <3

  46. When I cut sugar and flour out of my diet my anxiety and depression disappear. It’s the craziest thing but it really works for me. After dealing with it for 20 years it’s just gone. I feel happy and optimistic and calm.

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