Depression: “You are loved and needed in this world!”
Published Jul 6, 2022 • By Berthe Nkok
Doug_RVA, a member of Carenity US, has suffered with depression at a time when the thought of any sort of psychological treatment was not really an option. Today, he shares his story with us on Carenity.
Read his story below!
Hello Doug_RVA, you agreed to share your story with us on Carenity and we thank you for that!
Could you please introduce yourself in a few words?
My name is Doug, and I am a 68-year young man living in Richmond Virginia. I am a Greek Orthodox Christian, a Freemason, and a gay man.
Some of my interests include dancing Argentine Tango, painting and distributing Kindness Rocks, developing my personal websites, reading – especially spiritual and history, listening to music – almost any genre, and watching movies – again, almost any genre. There are more, but we don’t need a “book” here for the question.
How and when were you diagnosed with depression? What prompted you to seek help?
I was not officially diagnosed as having depression until in the 1980s. The reality, however, is that I had significant emotional and mental issues growing up. They just were not diagnosed.
Having grown up in a small rural town, and at a time when the thought of any sort of psychological treatment was not really an option, I just made it through life as best I could.
There was alcohol abuse in my family as well as emotional incest.
“Escaping” to college was my first opportunity to actually be myself, at least to some limited degree.
Throughout college and grad school I had issues but only minimally worked on them. The work was not explicitly on depression but on general coping skills.
It was only after moving to Richmond in 1985 that I started to identify depression as a major problem for me.
What treatment plan were you offered? What medications have you tried and how effective did you find them?
My treatment plan has had a variety of components since the 1980’s, including therapy with a psychologist, medication managed by a psychiatrist, Al-Anon, CoDA, journaling, practice of my faith, dancing.
At one point I checked myself into the psychiatric ward at one of the hospitals here for 10 days when I realized it was no longer safe for me to be myself and it was suggested by my doctor. That provided a safe environment for care and for adjusting my medications.
The first medication I was prescribed was Prozac to which was later added Remeron. At the time it was adequate. The Remeron knocked me out at night.
Over the years there have been changes to my medications. My current medications are Effexor XR 300 mg in the morning and Lamotrigine 100 mg in the morning and in the evening. These medications are working extremely well for me.
For quite some time I have been stable and using therapy more in a maintenance mode than a crisis mode.
Though things are going well now, I realize I could fall back into severe depression if I am not careful. Between my therapist and psychiatrist, I have a good monitoring system in place and am able to deal with specific issues that arise in a timely fashion.
To be blunt, I do not want to ever find myself in the hellish and dangerous situation I have been in several times. In many ways it is a miracle that I am still here.
What helps you manage your depression, apart from therapy and medications?
There are several things that help me. The first one is the practice of my faith. Working on my relationship with God individually and through my faith community is extremely helpful for me.
Focusing on others in various ways. I paint and distribute Kindness Rocks. I also design and send encouraging cards to others. Finally, I provide support to a few charities.
Working on my personal websites, reading, listening to music, watching movies, all are very helpful for me.
One unexpected activity that has been helpful for me is dancing Argentine Tango – taking private lessons, helping to teach classes, and dancing. I never planned to dance Argentine Tango but came across a local group performing at a botanical garden and fell in love with it. It provided for good exercise, discipline of body and mind, and fun social activity.
As an introvert, I know how much intense contact I can handle and act accordingly. Unfortunately, since COVID-19 started, I have not felt comfortable enough to go back to dancing even though it has started back up in the area.
You have mentioned that you were diagnosed with Diabetes in 2021. Can you please tell us what your first symptoms were?
There were no identifiable symptoms for me. I found out I had diabetes as a result of an elevated A1C discovered when I had a full physical last August. Having received the diagnosis, I can look back at past incidents and see that they were most likely caused by my sugar levels.
How is your diabetes managed now? Are you on any medication?
My diabetes is being managed now through exercise and diet. That has been enough to reduce my A1C from 7.2 last August to 6.4 at the end of December to 5.9 at the end of April.
How do your health issues impact your everyday life?
I have lost a bit over 30 pounds during that time. I am not on any medication for diabetes.
The primary way my health issues impact my daily life is for me to be continually aware of my physical and mental state, as well as the environment I am in. I was fortunate to be able to retire from state service a couple of years ago.
I had been in a high-stress position. What I really needed to be aware of, however, was that there were some very toxic people I had to routinely deal with as well as some toxic situations. And, I had to accept the fact that I had no control over the people or situations, only my responses to them.
So, that stress has been removed.
What would be your advice to other people suffering with depression and/or diabetes?
Never give up hope! You are loved and needed in this world! You are not alone!
I have a favorite quote from Deepak Chopra that I find very helpful: “The universe wouldn't be complete if it weren't for the fact that you happen to be here.”
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