Depression: “Don’t be ashamed of living with depression, it is okay to ask for help!”
Published Mar 9, 2022 • By Courtney Johnson
charding8290, a member of Carenity US, has been living with depression since she was a little girl. Though it is still a battle she fights each and every day, she tells us how she is working to break the stigma associated with mental illness and let people know they are not alone!
Discover her story below!
Hi charding8290, thank you for agreeing to share your story with us on Carenity!
First of all, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 60 years old and live in Bowie, Maryland. I have 3 grown children: 2 sons ages 39 & 37, and a daughter 31.
I am no longer working; I am on full disability but before that I was an infant teacher. My hobbies are reading and playing computer games. I love to help others, so I volunteer and serve on several ministries in my church.
Could you tell us how depression came into your life? What were the first signs or symptoms you experienced? What triggered it?
I honestly don’t know for sure when depression came into my life but feel that I have been dealing with it since I was about 10 years old.
The trigger was and has been the negative comments from my mom and siblings: “I am no good, I will never amount to anything, I am worthless, I was not wanted”, etc.
I recall not ever being happy, pretty much kept to myself, started drinking at age 11, had many thoughts of suicide.
How were you diagnosed? What doctor(s) did you see? What diagnosis or diagnoses were you given?
In 1986, my neighbor found me curled up on my couch crying uncontrollably, not able to speak, she called her doctor who told her to take me to the emergency room immediately.
In the ER, the doctor said I needed to be admitted to the psychiatric ward. The next morning, I was given a MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory), and the psychologist gave me the diagnosis of clinical depression (known today as major depression or major depressive disorder, MDD).
Can you tell us about the impact depression has had on your personal or professional life?
As I stated earlier, I started drinking at age 11, and soon discovered that it was a way to numb the pain, so it quickly became a way of life for me.
School was pretty much a blur until high school, that is when I would be on school grounds but didn’t go to my classes. I would bring rum with me in the morning, buy a can of coke, and then go into the bathroom and fix me a rum and coke because I hurt so much.
At age 18, I met a man in a bar and moved in with him just to get away from my mother. A year later we got married. About 5 years later, he decided he didn’t want to be married anymore and walked out on me, leaving me with 2 sons under the age of 5, no money, no transportation (5 miles from the nearest store) and nearly empty cupboards.
I have been homeless and a victim of rape, which resulted in me becoming pregnant with my daughter. My mother claimed that I did not get raped because apparently “no man just goes and rapes a woman”.
I lost custody of my youngest son to my sister, which started with her taking him just to help me out after my daughter was born. After several months, she reported me as an unfit mother and wanted the court to take my son and daughter from me. Thankfully the judge didn’t agree with her.
I still have so much pain, hurt that is so deep, that has been pushed down for so many years and still have thoughts of suicide. Every day is a struggle for me to get out of bed. I fight with everything - I must get up and get out of the house because if I don’t, I will spiral down.
Does your depression have an impact on your relationships with family and friends? Do they understand your depression? Do you feel supported?
My family (mom, before she passed, and my siblings) do not understand my depression at all. They couldn’t accept it when I was officially diagnosed, feeling that I should “just snap out of it” because I was embarrassing the family.
My son and daughter understand and are very supportive, in fact, they are my rock, and they help keep me going every day.
I feel supported somewhat by my friends but have experienced stigma and have heard comments made that if I prayed, I wouldn’t be depressed or if I truly believed in Jesus then I have nothing to be depressed about.
I have also been asked what someone can do to help me, I respond with “call and check on me, invite me to have coffee or lunch, etc.”, but they have never followed through. I feel this is because folks don’t fully understand depression, so I am always trying to find ways to help them understand more.
Have you been prescribed any medications? If so, are you satisfied with them? How long have you been on them?
Yes, I am currently taking 300mg of Bupropion every morning and 50mg of Quetiapine every evening. I have been on these for about 2 years, the dosage has been increased several times, but because I am still struggling so much, I wonder if it needs to be increased again or changed to a different antidepressant.
With the Quetiapine, if I don’t take it, I will not get any sleep at all. It took many different medications to find one that would help me sleep. And even though I wake up during the night, I am able to get back to sleep, so I am now getting at least 5-6 hours of sleep as opposed to about 2 hours.
Before these I have been on other antidepressants, the first was Imipramine when I was in the hospital, the only other one I remember was Prozac.
Are you seeing a doctor or mental health professional? What do you think of their care?
I was until recently; I was seeing a Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) for my medications and a psychotherapist.
I am trying to find someone new because my therapist first went on maternity leave for 6 months, came back for about a month, and then her mom passed away. She told me she was taking some time off for herself, which I fully understand, but she promised me she would be back and that she was not leaving the clinic.
I had built a very good relationship with her, so I waited to hear something. When a good deal of time went by, I talked to my psychiatric nurse about it, and she assured me my therapist was coming back. My last session with my therapist was in July and as of today I have not heard anything.
This has been very difficult for me because as many of you know it can be very difficult to find a good therapist, the one I had before this one told me I just need to “think of cupcakes and rainbows”! But this one was awesome; I built a very good relationship with her and then just like that it is over without informing me or giving an explanation.
My nurse arranged for me to see a different therapist at the clinic, but after 2 sessions I knew it would never work. The hurt I feel because of all of this continues to grow, to just be dropped like that and then being lied to have made finding new therapist very difficult.
How are you doing now? What are your plans for the future?
I still struggle every day – this is why I volunteer so much at my church, it helps get me through.
I am currently staying in a room at a friend’s house, but I really, really, really want a place of my own, so I am working on that as well as finding a new therapist.
What do you think of online patient communities like Carenity? Are you able to find advice and support?
I really like being a part of communities like Carenity because you are able to build relationships and support from others who fully understand what you are dealing with every day.
Finally, what advice would you give to other Carenity members living with depression?
My main advice is to not be ashamed of living with depression. It is a disease that we don’t chose to have, but it is not contagious. And yes, you can do everyday things, you can laugh and have a good time and still be depressed, so don’t let others tell you differently.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
About 8 years ago, I shared my story for the first time in public at a conference where I only knew 2 people. Since then, I share my story anytime I am asked, not just because it helps me (it does), but because you never know who is sitting in the audience that needs to hear that it is okay to admit you are living with depression and it is okay to ask for help. And more importantly, you never know who may discover that they are not alone.
The only way we are going to eliminate the stigma is to speak out so go out there and share your story!!!
Many thanks to charding8290 for sharing her story with us on Carenity!
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