Judy's story of mental illness

Depressive illness ravaged my body, mind and emotions for many years before I sought medical treatment. In the early years, the symptoms were mild and sporadic. Over time, they became more frequent and severe. I had no idea that the progressively worsening mental, physical and emotional symptoms were all part of the same illness.

For three years prior to starting medication, my mental functions deteriorated so much that I feared  I was developing Alzheimer's disease. My thoughts raced. I was unable to concentrate. I remember reading paragraphs over and over, unable to understand or remember what I had read. My vocabulary deteriorated. Forming coherent sentences in conversation or writing became increasingly difficult, despite being an award-winning author with many years professional writing experience.

At times, I had trouble understanding what other people were saying in conversations, or on television. Sometimes their words sounded like a foreign language.  As conversations became increasingly difficult, I withdrew from relationships.

Physical symptoms included extreme fatigue, chronic muscle pain, insomnia, stomach problems, frequent bouts of hyperactivity, low immunity, a way-too-fast metabolism, and severe weight loss. In a desperate attempt to stop the pounds from melting away, I ate numerous high fat, high calorie meals every day and sometimes during the night. But food went right through me.

The emotional symptoms were equally debilitating. Severe emotional depression never subsided, day or night. Like most people, I had experienced depressed moods during my lifetime from such things as heartbreak, stress and grief. But these experiences can't compare to the anguish of clinical depression.

I didn't believe in medication. Weren’t anti-depressants for people with a weak character? Didn't anti-depressants turn you into a zombie?

Through the years, I tried every non-drug strategy I could think of to beat the depression. Since my early twenties I have followed a healthy regiment of exercise and good nutrition.

More than anything, I prayed. Since receiving Christ as my Savior at age 24, my spiritual life has been my number one priority. My greatest joy is spending at least one, and usually two hours with God each morning in prayer, meditation and Bible reading.

I believe in healing. I have seen people healed. I have also prayed for people that God miraculously healed. But over the years, the depression kept getting worse.

My doctor never made the connection between my physical and emotional symptoms, nor did he diagnose clinical depression. He was, however, an excellent doctor in preventative health. In my early twenties, he started me on a regime of nutrition, supplements, regular aerobic exercise, and stress management -- a regime I have followed religiously all my adult years. At first, those strategies helped with some symptoms; eventually, nothing helped.

I hid my symptoms from others. Why? Looking back, I suppose I felt a desperate need to cling to a semblance of normality. And I was afraid of being judged. Over the years, I had heard many people (including leaders I respected) make judging, negative comments about people who are depressed.

On the few occasions I mentioned my depression to friends, they asked, "What are you depressed about?" But there was no negative event, relationship or circumstance I could blame. To the contrary, I was grateful for all the blessings in my life. I was already plagued by guilt; to be asked to state a reason for my depression just made it worse. So I kept silent.

Still resisting the idea of medication, I sought help from a Christian psychologist with expertise in depression. I hoped she would find a psychological issue I could address. But after several sessions, she told me the depression was not rooted in any unresolved emotional or psychological issues.

At that point, I phoned a doctor acquaintance who heads up a medical research institute in another city. Not only is he very knowledgeable about depression (I had heard him speak at an event), but I appreciated his preventative approach to medicine and focus on non-drug strategies whenever possible. I hoped he might recommend one more herb or supplement I could try.

Instead, he yelled at me over the phone. "This is NOT an emotional problem," he said. "You have a serious neurological disease! To not treat it is unthinkable. Every day you delay treatment is destroying more brain cells!"

I finally agreed to take an antidepressant (and felt like a failure for doing so). The first medication helped with thought control. A few months later, my doctor switched me to a different antidepressant. To my surprise and joy, the medication turned out to be my miracle. I felt as though I had been literally re-born physically, emotionally and mentally. I had not felt so healthy since my mid-twenties. (This is typical for major depressive disorder (MDD). It is usually genetic, often manifests in the twenties, and develops so gradually that most people don’t realize they have a serious problem until they become non-functional).

Prior to starting treatment for severe MDD, my family doctor (a new one who is very knowledgeable about depression) asked, “How long have you been experiencing these symptoms?” I replied, “About three years.” (My response was based on the length of time I experienced severe symptoms every day).

But after successful treatment, I realized it had been at least 30 years since I felt so healthy. I had no idea that the initially mild but chronic physical, emotional and mental problems that started in my mid-twenties were symptoms of a slowly developing brain disease. It was an indescribable joy to get back my mind, personality, emotions, energy, motivation, and physical health. I will be forever grateful.

If you are suffering from depression, please don't be foolish like me. Don't wait one moment longer to reach out for professional help.

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Non-clinical Depression
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Judy Rushfeldt is the publisher of DepressionFree.com and an award-winning author and speaker. She is also the publisher of the online women's magazine: LifeToolsforWomen.com.

If you are experiencing the symptoms of depressive illness, see your doctor immediately. If you are having suicidal thoughts, immediately call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency ward.

 

JudyRushfeldt

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