a little history

While I’ve alluded to my depressive history on this site, I’ve never outlined it in specific detail.  I think this is partly because I’ve been maintaining this site since early 2000, and while August 2001 can now be considered part of such a history, it wasn’t history when I wrote about it then.

Duh, you say. Fair enough.

It’s also partly because I can’t outline it in detail without recalling certain painful time periods, painful occurrences, and painful people I’d rather not think about.  Additionally, said people probably don’t want to be mentioned on this site any more than I want to write about them, and I think everyone should get to choose how their own story is told.  So I’ll never mention them by name or include any identifying details.

And (with the exception of Effexor) I don’t like to talk about what medications I’ve taken. I’ve never wanted to have a comments discussion about which drugs worked for whom and when, and I’d hate for someone to take what works for me only to discover it doesn’t help them at all.  The way anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications work on different people is so very personal that a free-for-all discussion isn’t likely to be useful to anyone.

So those are the rules. I won’t talk specifics about the people in my life, and I won’t talk about what medications I’ve taken. Also I’m not your doctor or your lawyer or your psychic or your life coach or whatever.

Also, I hope you’ll forgive me for not plumbing the depths of my extensive archives to find old posts that correspond to these events. I don’t like doing that. If you’re so inclined, you’re welcome to find them yourself.

As best I can recall, I suffered from depression even as a child.  My parents sent me to therapy a few times in junior high, which is probably an indicator, but more than that I just plain felt sad all the time.  In junior high especially, I would pretend to be sick when I was too depressed to face going to school.  I remember thinking that my life couldn’t possibly turn out to be any good, because I wasn’t any good.

I didn’t do anything about it. I didn’t really know you could.  A close family member had been in a mental hospital for awhile, I knew, but that sort of thing was for adults, and my family member was much worse off than I was. Right? It was probably just teen angst. Right?

Things got a bit better in high school. I didn’t have the junior-high bullies to worry about, and I joined some groups (school ones and church ones) that sometimes made me feel like I might fit in.  I had several close friends.  My senior year, when I fell in with the theatre crowd, spent lots of time in jazz choir (yes, really), and had an after-school job as a grocery cashier was the best school year I’d ever had.  Except maybe for kindergarten, but that didn’t really count.

I was, however, woefully unprepared for college.  I arrived at the University of Texas as an undeclared liberal arts major and found that the school was intimidatingly large, I’d never learned how to study properly, I wasn’t too good at making friends, and my roommate didn’t speak any English.  She was nice enough, but we couldn’t communicate, and sitting in our room watching her watch her Spanish soap operas was lonely and boring.  I didn’t study much, either.  I wasn’t any good, so what was the point?  Outside of taking in the occasional class, I hardly ever left the dorm.

This is already a little hard to write about.

Long UT story short, by the end of my freshman year I’d been put on academic probation.  Over the summer my parents took me to a doctor.  She was this sort of cross between a psychiatrist and a career counselor and a person who diagnoses learning disabilities, whatever you call that.  She diagnosed me with depression, a mild learning disability, and gave me some ideas for solutions for both.

I started taking anti-depressants and going to therapy during my sophomore year of college.  Things began to get a tiny bit better, but my grades weren’t improving much, and I was losing a lot of weight. A series of mid-sized interpersonal setbacks (see what I did there?) later that school year led me to drag my sad ass back home to Houston.

After that I felt much better. I got a job waiting tables (which I loved) and took some classes at community college (which I liked for the most part).  I weaned myself off of the anti-depressants in late 1998. Then I got a job as a web designer and decided that since I was fine now, the bout of depression had been due to college, moving to Austin, or some combination of both.

But August 2001 brought with it job dissatisfaction and a particularly painful breakup, and the bottom fell out.  I went to the doctor, who diagnosed me with the same old depression and some new anxiety and prescribed me anti-depressants and sedatives.  She told me that with my two depressive episodes to date, it was likely I’d be on medication for the rest of my life.  I went to my parents’ house and didn’t leave their couch for three days.

When I sat up from the couch, I formulated a plan. I would quit my job and go back to college.  So I enrolled as an English major at the University of Houston, and to my surprise I loved it. One of my friends recommended a therapist I ended up liking quite a bit.  I switched medications once, and took a sedative here and there for bad anxiety attacks, but I was all right until after the summer of 2005, when I began my Unemployed Year.

I’m going to stop for now.  I can only write about this sort of thing for so long, you know.  Hopefully my future posts about depression will be all uplifting and shit!

11 thoughts on “a little history

  1. Thank you for sharing. Though I feel like I’ve known you for a long time, some of this story is new to me. I’m looking forward to hearing more.

  2. Thank you for writing about this. I wanted to comment on your original post about the idea, but I don’t think I managed to. A bit too scary, actually. Much easier to lurk on blogs than engage in conversation with such difficult creatures as other people.

    I have undiagnosed anxiety — I can’t afford a therapist, and anyway, I’m terrified of new people, and I fit the lists I find on the Internet, so I might as well treat myself like I have Anxiety, since doing that seems to make it better.

    Anyway, it helps when other people talk about it, even on the Internet, because it makes me feel like I can deal with this. So thanks!

  3. hi alison – i second what erica lucci said. i’ve been reading bluishorange for a long time, but this is all new to me. thanks for sharing.

  4. Thirding Erica. I’ve always admired your ability to share bits of yourself publicly and candidly, and this is a major facet of you that, for obvious reasons, is a hard one for someone else to bring up. Thank you for talking about it. (And I promise that just because you brought it up, it won’t be the only thing we talk about from here on. In fact, we’ll only talk about it if and when you want to.)

  5. Ha-ha, I’m going to second Andrew rather than fourth Erica. So there! (Only because Andrew’s additions also apply, not for any actual diss on Erica.) I continue to admire your writing and appreciate that you share it with us.

  6. Perhaps this adventure in writing will be liberating in some way. I appreciate how you are not playing the “pity party” game…you are being as Andrew said, candid, and that makes it real and relatable.

  7. I think it’s a really great idea, to write about living with depression and anxiety so openly. I had a depressive episode and am still on medication, so I consider myself in the mental-health camp. It’s always good to hear more about people’s real lives with mental health issues – it helps get rid of the oh-so-massive stigma.

  8. i know you’re doing this for you, but when i’m reading it feels like you’re doing it for me, so i just want to say thank you.

  9. I like what Leah said about “living with depression” cause you seem to be definitely living with it, living despite of it. You’re wickedly creatively and amazingly funny and if these ruminations on depression make it easier to deal with, and if it means that we get to learn more about you in the meantime, then I’m happy to keep readng.

  10. My college experience was almost identical to yours, except i probably went out even less. I’m currently in my Unemployed Year, and about to make a whole year in a few months. I keep trying to get up and make myself do something, but it’s like i’m drowning and i don’t know how to swim. Flail, flail, bubble, bubble….
    and bam, three more months on the couch.
    I used to be on Paxil, but i only remember to take my pills once a week if i’m (very) lucky. So instead, here i sit.
    Good luck with your life turning out nothing like mine.

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