I have battled depression for more than 20 years. I was diagnosed at age 19, though I suspect I was depressed in utero and it wasn’t until I started contemplating suicide that I was actually diagnosed. (Good thing I recognized it for what it was.) I was put on an SSRI (a very expensive one, I recall) and within a few weeks I felt fantastic. I woke up one morning and said to myself, ”Wow, my life doesn’t suck!” I had a good life, and I loved it. I was cured. Life could go on.
9 years later the drug stopped working. Life started to suck again. Over the next 10 years, a revolving door of doctors switched me from one medication to the next, then tried combinations of multiple medications, all of which made me more depressed.
After quitting meds in frustration, I ended up in the hospital for observation because I was contemplating suicide. Back on the meds I went. Instead of pushing my luck I decided to pick one drug that didn’t make me irritable/paranoid/suicidal and didn’t interrupt my sleep too bad. After all, when life sucks the least one can hope for is a fairly uninterrupted bout of sleep.
I was beginning to resign myself to this feeling of not-quite-on-the-verge of utter despair. Medication kept me from being a suicidal nutbag, but I certainly had no zest for life.
Over the past 3 years, my mood and personality had devolved into a single dimension that my boyfriend and I jokingly refer to as ”meh.” Get a promotion at work? Meh. Boyfriend does something completely extraordinary by cooking dinner, doing the laundry, changing the cat box AND buying flowers? Meh. Win a million dollars in the lottery? Meh.
Nothing I experienced changed my mood. I didn’t care about anything. I wasn’t sad, I felt no joy, sometimes I felt despair. I hated myself for feeling that way, but my brain left me so distracted that I could never concentrate long enough to do anything to change it. Or to care. Meh, indeed.
On top of that, I felt like my latest drug was beginning to betray me. I couldn’t think logically or rationally anymore. I couldn’t multi-task. My memory was shot. I poured all of my energy into my job, but I was faltering there, too. I would come home and ignore the state of my existence–I was physically/mentally/emotionally incapable of doing laundry, feeding my pets, vacuuming my carpet or generally taking care of myself. I was becoming a shut-in. I slept a lot. Or not at all. I gained 30 pounds. I stopped doing all the things I loved–walking, running, cooking, reading. Living.
And all of this ”meh” jeopardized my relationship with my boyfriend, who is my best friend and has been my partner for over 6 years. If I didn’t do something I was going to lose everything. But what hope do I have? Over the years I’ve tried more than a dozen different medications and combinations of meds and they simply don’t make me feel better. I am avoiding confronting head-on the notion that ”meh” might be as good as it gets.
And then, a miracle.
I saw my psychiatrist, Dr. Tim Jennings, in August 2011 for my semi-annual state of ”meh” evaluation. Nothing was ”really” wrong, really. But certainly nothing was right. He told me about a new treatment called TMS. I’m sure the look on my face was one he’d seen before.
”Let me get this straight,” the expression on my face was saying. ”You’re going to point a magnet at my head for 6 weeks, and I’m going to feel better?” He briefly talked about the studies, the science, how the treatment works. I was skeptical, but felt a glimmer of hope. I started to cry. Too implausible. No way. I schedule a free consultation anyway. I grow more hopeful. I go home and read up on TMS, review other patient testimonials, and still can’t believe it.
Today I’m almost finished with my TMS treatments and will be transitioning to maintenance treatments in the next 30 days. Never in my entire life have I felt as fantastic as I feel today, and I owe these feelings to TMS. I am a multi-dimensional human being again! I am experiencing true feelings and real emotion like everybody does, but I’m feeling them for the very first time, unfettered and uninfluenced by emotion-numbing medications.
Like a wandering traveler in a foreign land who experiences tastes, touches, smells and sounds that are alien and wondrous and marvelous, I’m rediscovering who I am and who are the people around me. I’m alive! And I love it.
If I could give one bit of advice to other people enduring a lifelong battle with depression, it’s this: You owe it to yourself to explore TMS as a treatment option. It’s expensive, yes. But so is a lifetime on anti-depressants. Consider it an investment in your happiness.
And while you go through the treatment, be patient with yourself. You won’t feel a difference in your mood for weeks, and then one day you’ll wake up and realize that everything has changed. “Hey!” you’ll shout, overjoyed. “Life doesn’t suck!”