Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dear Carla (Part 3)

Dear Carla,
I'm responding to the question you pose in your comments to part 2. After a number of years of experiencing depressive episodes in April and October, I decided that the seasonal element was important even though my doctors didn't. I researched Seasonal Affective Disorder and I read Winter Blues by Norman Rosenthal M.D., one of the the foremost experts on SAD.

These days, you can find all this online. When you read more, you'll learn that some people experience summer depressions like yours; others experience spring-fall ones like I used to, and there are lots of different combinations as well. I tried using a 10,000 Lux light but it didn't help. But for some people, light therapy is very effective.

A few years ago, I read that in addition to the change in seasons, these depressions may be caused by "anniversaries" of events. The trigger for the April depression was obvious. That's when I started college in 1968 and within five weeks, my first depressive episode had hit. Once I found that out, over time I was able to end this episode.

I couldn't come up with a life event for the October depression but that might have just been seasonal. Still, my solution was to begin spending lots of time outside, starting in September. It doesn't alleviate the depressive episode entirely but it can lessen its impact.

While I know that weather affects me, the moment I'm feeling "blue," I begin to spend more time outside. I garden, do home improvement projects, play tennis, walk, and go biking and hiking, dependent upon other commitments, how well I feel, and my energy level.

Most of all, I say to myself, "One bad day doesn't have to lead to a full-fledged depression." So, in essence, I took away the fear factor, which had become a real problem. When Zoloft used to work (14 years ago), I had three days from the time I felt a depression on the horizon, to stave it off naturally or begin taking medication. What I learned--about me--was that once a depression took hold, it was very difficult for me to get rid of it.

All those years ago, if I didn't pay attention to the advent of the depressive episode, and either identify and remove the trigger or start taking medication, it would be a far worse episode.

These days, the seasonal element isn't as much of a problem but the triggers still are. My last depression (October 2006) was caused by an incident with a client. I had just finished helping edit her book, I thought we were all set for an ongoing relationship, and within a day everything changed. After a telephone call from the New York Times where they said they would review her book, she decided she was going to become very famous (once again) and thus didn't need to be "polite" and "well-behaved." (It's a long story and one I'm not going to share.)

What I can say is that I will not allow anyone to treat me badly. I told her how I felt. She said it was my problem, not hers. I had to quit because there was no other option. My depression was caused by stress (from the loss of income), and from disappointment (an ongoing theme in my depressions). I realized what was happening but I couldn't stop it.

What compounded everything was that prior to taking the five-month job with her, I had decided I could no longer write my own books because of my frequent depressive episodes, which precluded me from publicizing them. I had hoped that "editing other people's books" or co-writing books with them was the solution. My experience with my client convinced me that this wouldn't work because I would always be dependent upon other people for my happiness, income, and sense of well-being.

Once again, I felt I was "stumbling" in my career, and the downward spiral had begun. During my five-month-depression, I decided to launch this blog, and repackage and sell my memoir. I also decided that I'm only truly happy when I'm working on my own projects.

Although I was taking Adderrall, my experience is that no medication is effective for me when there are unresolved issues that are contributing to my unhappiness. Once I figured all this out, my depression moved from fairly severe to moderate, the Adderrall started working more effectively, and I was able to institute my personal wellness program, which I'll discuss more tomorrow.

Best!

Susan

2 comments:

JayPeeFreely said...

Just finished reading the 3-part letter to Carla. That was very, very kind of you!

It must be extremely difficult to be resistant to drugs that are suppose to "alleviate" the problem. Doesn't inspire confidence in the industry either.

To be a bit selfish, I did wonder about the editing job you did for your 'friend.' How in the world can a person flip that quick? (Course, never being successful, I wouldn't know.)

Anyways, always a good post. I hope to get back here more regularly.

Good Luck to you Carla!!! ;)

marja said...

I don't have a huge number of triggers but a few. My problem usually seems to be the reverse - not what I'm doing or what's happening, but what I'm NOT doing. I have an insatiable appetite to produce stuff: writing, photography, cookbooks, activist schemes. When for some reason I'm kept from getting my fill, I get depressed. I learned forty years ago that the best way to avoid depression is to make stuff happen - but always on my own terms.