It was a sunny winter day, the kind of day that usually puts a smile on my face, but nothing could bring me out of the doldrums. Lately that was the norm for me. I wasn’t sleeping soundly at night, and I was so fatigued that each day it was a struggle just to get out of bed. I wanted to just pull the covers up over my head and withdraw from the world. I had every reason to be happy. I had a loving husband, kids that made me proud, and all the creature comforts I required. God had blessed me greatly and I was His child. So why did I have such a feeling of despair?
We had recently moved back to our home state after my husband finished his military career. I had looked forward to this day for many years. I had secured a good job as a medical transcriptionist and everything was going well, but I couldn’t shake this feeling of overwhelming sadness. I became adept at hiding my feelings; projecting to the world that everything was fine. I interacted with my friends and co-workers by laughing at humorous anecdotes and smiling when appropriate. To the outside world I looked happy, but inside I didn’t care if my life ended. What was wrong with me?
My assignment at my job in a medical office that specialized in internal medicine included transcribing office notes. I began to see some of my symptoms showing up in patients’ charts. That is when I realized that there was a medical name for the despair and hopelessness I was feeling: Clinical depression. I went to see my doctor and he asked me some questions to help discover the source of my feeling of sadness. When there is a life-changing trauma to one’s life, or loss of someone you are close to, it is normal to be depressed to some degree. This depression is called “exogenous” depression, meaning it is caused by painful events occurring in one’s life. Through a series of questions, my doctor determined that my depression was “endogenous”, meaning that it was coming from within my body, not from outside influences that would normally make someone depressed. He prescribed an antidepressant for me and told me it would probably take a couple of weeks for the medicine to make me feel better. I saw an improvement within two days! On a subsequent visit to my doctor, I expressed my concern about becoming addicted to the drug. He explained that the medication was replacing a deficiency of chemicals in my brain. He used an analogy of a diabetic who takes medication to replace the deficiency of insulin in the body. This medication was not going to lead to an addiction. This answered that question for me but there were other issues to deal with to which I had no answer.
I still had to overcome the feeling that I was a weak Christian to have to rely on medication for my happiness. I felt that as a child of God I should be happy and carefree and without worry. I couldn’t have been more wrong! For a whole year I kept my secret. I didn’t even tell my husband I was on the medication, though I’m sure he probably could tell there was a difference. Slowly I came to realize that there are countless individuals that suffer with this deficiency. I was not alone. In the years since, I have talked to many people who have also been through this agony. Some have sought medical intervention, but too many still linger in the abyss of depression, thinking they could pull themselves out of it if they were just strong enough.
That sunny day occurred 28 years ago, and today I still take the medication my doctor prescribed. I no longer have feelings of worthlessness and despair. I look at the world differently, and today when I laugh at a funny story or smile at something someone did or said, it is genuine.