23 July 2006

A little bit of History

Ok, don't get offended by what I have to say right now.
I'm not trying to take this out on or disrespect anyone, I'm trying to explain. Thank you all for your concern, from the bottom of my heart, but I must say:

For the ten thousandth time, I AM NOT DEPRESSED.

Several people in the last two weeks have offered suggestions to help me with my depression. I don’t suffer from depression. Now you might be saying to yourself, "that's what depressed people say." You might think I'm in denial. But let me just say that just because you don't have my condition, doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. So really, don't be mad. I'm not. Now I’m going to tell you a story.

Once upon a time in 2002, a young girl was serving as a missionary for her church in Cleveland, Ohio. She loved it. When she’d been there 7½ months, she was assigned to train a new missionary and was having a difficult time. Her trainee was difficult, the congregation was not supportive, and to top it all off, she started getting really tired and didn't want to get out of bed. She was having chronic migraines and was emotional. So she called her mission president and told him she thought she was suffering from depression. A few weeks later, he sent her to a church counselor. The church counselor was a fantastic person. He listened to her concerns, asked her questions, gave her advice, and then told her that he honestly did not think that she was suffering from depression. It was a normal stress response. He said that in the LDS community, it was common for people to think that if they were having a bad day, week, month, that there was something wrong. Because if they weren't happy 100% of the time, they must not be praying hard enough or they must be depressed. (Sometimes people are depressed and they need help and I’m all for that. If that is indeed the problem. Which it oftentimes is.) He said that she was stressed out, but since she had the physical symptoms of depression, he would refer her to a psychiatrist. Because she asked him to. The psychiatrist asked her questions, looked at her like a bug, thought she was strange for coming in because he didn't think she was depressed, and prescribed her Zoloft because that's his job and because she insisted that she had depression. He said the meds would help with the physical symptoms. Well, that depends on your definition of "help." She was given a sample pack which would get the meds into her system over the course of 3 weeks. By this time, she was feeling better emotionally because of a change of scenery and companionship. She started the meds, but was becoming more and more tired. To the point that she really could not get out of bed. She thought she just needed time for the meds to kick in. But the meds were making the problem worse. Her mission president and his wife saw her at a meeting. They called her that night and told her that they loved her and that they really and truly didn’t believe she was depressed. They said that she just looked really tired. She told them she felt really tired. They asked if she’d ever heard of the Epstein Barr Virus. She had. Her father and some of his siblings had struggled with chronic fatigue believed to be caused by this virus. They sent her to the Cleveland Clinic to get tested. The results were positive. They also told her she'd very recently had mono. The doctors told her that there was no cure. That she would be tired off and on for the rest of her life, not to party too hard, and to have a nice life. She was upset. She went to the library and read some information on the condition. She found studies linking this virus to the type of cancer that killed her father. She drew some conclusions. She cried and was stressed out. She told her mission president she wanted to go home. He said he’d call her in the morning with her departure information. He called her the next morning and said that she needed to stay. He had her mother call her and reassure her. She stuck it out. It was difficult, but it was worth it.

When she came home, most people acted like she was a lazy hypochondriac whenever she mentioned her condition. She went to a doctor two years later who had a theory. He thought her fatigue was caused by constant allergic reactions that were depressing her adrenal function. (There’s your depression in case you were looking for it.) He wanted her to start a hypoallergenic diet. He didn’t really tell her how but at least he believed her. She still felt overwhelmed and alone. She felt good about what he’d told her, but still struggled with fatigue. She started eating more sugar (the chocolate box) for energy, but that made things worse. She tried to push through it. It got worse. She had to leave her friends in Provo and move to where her family was so they could help her. It was hard. She still misses her friends. She tried to eat really healthy and get lots of sleep and only worked part time. It worked for a while. She still felt tired and sick a lot, but it wasn’t as bad because she didn’t have much she had to do everyday. Then she decided to go to school. She was confident that she was healthy enough to handle 12-14 hour days. She started school. She was mostly ok for the first 6 weeks. Then she started getting stomach bugs, colds, random headaches, and then, debilitating fatigue. Everything she ate made her sick. Her poop was Crazy. Her food allergies started getting worse. Her body was reacting to everything. Last week, her mother was out of town and she was alone at her house and she was very tired and very afraid and started having some panic attacks and realized she has some anxiety issues. But these were her first real panic attacks in her life. And it was because she could not control her body and she felt alone and unsupported. But she feels that way even with her mother around. She didn’t go to school for a straight week and left a message for the school director telling her that she needed to talk about her condition. She called her sister and told her how she felt. Her sister listened, believed her, reassured her, and made an appointment for her to see a naturopathic doctor who practices traditional Chinese medicine. He reassured her, believed her, asked her about her medical history, told her that the theory of the second doctor was best, expounded on that theory, made sense, and stuck needles in her body that helped stimulate her natural energy, calm her fears and alleviate her anxiety. She finally felt like there was light at the end of the tunnel. He told her that this is what is going on in her body. I know it sounds really weird. This site explains it too. He told her to go on a hypoallergenic diet. He told her exactly how and gave her his email and phone number in case she had questions. He said that he would do whatever it takes to help her feel better.

And so that’s my story, that’s where I am, and even though this is still vague and pretty obnoxious, it gets the point across. And I don't hate you if you think I'm depressed. In case you’re wondering what happened to the Zoloft, after my body got hooked on it, my insurance fought me about paying for it. I didn’t have any for a week and started going through withdrawals. It was one of the most horrible experiences of my life. They approved my meds after I called them 10,000 times during my withdrawals and I stayed on it until my fatigue diagnosis. Then I slowly weaned myself off and felt like I was coming back to life.

I’m not against taking medication if you need it. If you have depression, I hope you find the help you need. If you have that help, I’m happy for you. If your body is haywire, I suggest naturopathy. Traditional western medicine has become all about masking symptoms instead of making the body whole. No one should have to live with chronic illness or pain.

The End.