brad_mac2, my awareness of my own mental illness goes back to my own college days over forty years ago, but I think it began earlier than that. One of the symptoms of depression in adolescence is guilt, and I had plenty of that for no particular reason. In college, the first sign was waking up every morning at 3:00 a.m. I was becoming difficult to get along with and uncentered. I seemed to have no real sense of identity. It wasn’t sadness that I felt so much as disconnected.
Much of this is hard to remember because I had several rounds of shock treatment in a hospital. I was in the hospital at least twice. This was in the early 1960’s and my parents chose this treatment for me because it had been successful in treating my father’s depression. Given the circumstances at the time, I think they made the best decision they could. But the shock treatment back then was much stronger than it is now and it has done some permanent damage.
One of the most difficult things about depression is that I could not recognize it when it was happening to me again. That was because my brain was not functioning in a way that was able to judge my own feelings and behavior accurately.
I became suicidal in 1966 and had no idea that it was depression again despite my own history. I was in a different college in a different city. I landed in a different hospital and, with the luck of the draw, had a horrible psychiatrist who misdiagnosed me and gave me the wrong meds. Those medications just led to worse problems when I was released. It took me two years to get back on my feet and return to school.
I continued to have a sort of mild depression all the time in the late sixties, seventies, and eighties, and sometimes I would have bouts of severe depression in which I would sometimes have suicidal impulses. The closest I came was in 1979.
In 1989, I couldn’t teach anymore. I couldn’t concentrate enough to keep my wits about me. My physician put me in the hospital and asked a psychiatrist to see me. Even then I had to ask him if it was depression again.
This time I had the right therapist who put me on prozac for the first time. That has made all the difference in the world. I’ve been in the hospital once when I had problems I needed to work through with help. The medicine that I take has some side effects and I won’t return to teaching.
But this medication has allowed me finally to develop a sense of self. I am no longer hostile and anxious. Even my agoraphobia is beginning to fall away. And last year I flew for the first time in over thirty years. I give full credit to my therapist that I see once a month and to the medications which he has adjusted over the last 16 years.
You are right that there is no pharmaceutical substitute for wisdom. But it was prozac that allowed me to use the wisdom that I had gained over the years and to add to it.
I want to make it clear to anyone reading that I have much respect for AHunter3 and his comments. He comes to this discussion with different experiences from mine and with legitimate concerns which I recognize.
My illness is depression and that is the only mood disorder that I address. Also, my experiences may be very different from someone else’s. Having the right therapist is very, very important.