Here goes

I'm a rather private person. This isn't easy for me to discuss, but I'm growing more concerned and am not sure what to do. I'm asking here because of a degree of anonymity it provides. I feel ashamed, embarrassed for my family to find out. When they're around I do my best to hide it, often saying things that make me sound stupid because I'd rather they think that, than to think I'm depressed. I don't want my wife and kids to think this is because of them. Without them, I'd be nothing.

I have been dealing with depression for years. I wouldn't describe myself as suicidal, though I sometimes do find myself wondering "what if". I've seen my primary care physician several times and he has prescribed various medications, all of which have left me feeling no change or worse with various dosage increases. I've stopped taking the medications, as I feel they make me feel more tired or sleepless than usual. My motivation is difficult to muster.

I realize I need some kind of help. At the same time, I feel too awkward and ashamed to speak with anyone about this in person.

I am an EMT. I know this can affect anyone, regardless of who or what they are. When I'm responding to calls, nothing else exists. My focus is on the scene/patient and I have no issues. Yes, I've had difficult calls with difficult outcomes. Most of which I remain numb to. But this feeling far precedes my becoming an EMT. Which also ads shame because I feel like I'm supposed to be this "rock" for others to rely on, but even though I'm proud of my work and that I'm helping others, I feel like such a fake.

I feel an unshakeable, sinking "weight" in my chest that some days feels so heavy that all I want to do is cry, but tears never come. I should add that I would never submit to suicide. My wife and kids are far too important to me and I would never want to put them through that. But sometimes this feeling is absolutely crippling.

I've tried many things to deal with this on my own. Changing my diet. Exercise. Fresh air. Tried picking up various hobbies only to lose interest quickly.

This has been extremely difficult to write, and I'm trembling at the thought of posting this for anyone to see. But any advice would be appreciated. Short of seeing a psychiatrist/psychologist or taking more pills (I hate the act of swallowing pills).

15 Replies

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  • Hi JB. I know that must have taken enormous courage to write that, and I applaud you for it. Like many of us here we know all to well the suffering and pain you are going through. Just some food for thought, I was diagnosed at age 21 with major depressive disorder, and anxiety. It wasn't until I was 36 that I finally sought the help of a psychiatrist, and got on medication that has made a tremendous difference. It may be something you might consider trying. Wishing you all the best~

  • Hi ellybelle, thank you for the kind words. Like you, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder many years ago, probably around 20 or 21. Recently, I was diagnosed with having anxiety after having a prolonged period (several days) of inability to catch my breath, complete exhaustion and pounding headaches. It felt like the world was coming to an end. My doctor prescribed a couple different medications, but one made me severely depressed and the others left me exhausted all the time. I stopped taking them, and returned to "normal". I know I should talk to a counselor, but I just don't know how I'm going to be able to.

  • Here goes, I hope what I say will make sense and be of help to you. You sound like such a kind and bright person, a person others can count on, but you're letting yourself down. You are going to have to step out of your comfort zone for awhile. I had the same diagnosis and this is what helped after I went through the period where I was unsuccessfully helping myself. I saw a psychologist twice a week and took tranquilizers for awhile then was put on anti-depressants . It can take awhile to find the right medication for you, but you will , then you have to give them 4/6 weeks to kick in, eventually the side effects go away and if not you can try something different. All of this can take some time, but in the end you will get your life back and your family will get you back. Remember , people who work in medicine, like yourself, have heard it all. I doubt you will shock anyone, I try but they just nod their heads. Pam

  • That feeling is normal I think I was terrified for years that my family would notice I hide it pretty well and I think that hiding it take more of a toll on a person then finally opening up about I finally kind of started opening up about it and it dose help maybe not alot but it does... I explained to the one I have told that it has nothing to do with them that it is me that sometimes people are made different I explained the best I could and had them look it up ... Also letting them know that it can be do to a hormone inbalance in the brain.

  • Hi, well done for reaching out, its hard to do. I wonder what response you would give to someone who had posted this. Sometimes we are better at being kind to others than we are to ourselves. Maybe try responding with the advice you would give someone else who had posted this.

    Meds are not for everyone and as you have discovered come with side effects. It sounds like you know you need to speak to someone and I am wondering whether that is something you could contemplate doing. There is free counselling available in most areas or low cost options or see a private therapist. Also I suspect that your family know you are suffering and love you and would be very happy that you were taking action by seeing someone.

    If you really think that would be impossible for you then there are other things you can try - acupuncture has worked for me in the past. Just telling someone you are suffering and letting them take care of you for an hour a week for a few weeks could help enormously. If you think of depression as blocked emotion you need something to get it moving which is what acupuncture can do.

    Also you will have been experiencing considerable trauma through your work and this can build up and be held in your body and lead to anxiety and depression. Again this is something that can be tackled without talking therapies. There is a technique called focussing that you learn and then use with the help of a focussing partner. There is also a technique called TRE (trauma releasing exercises) which can be very effective in the treatment of anxiety and depression and is a technique you learn and then can do yourself at home. For someone in a job like yours either of these would be invaluable to learn.

    Other things that have been proven to work for treating depression are exercise, being outdoors in nature, mindfulness (headspace.com is a good place to start), eating and sleeping well, having a routine and not spending too much time alone in front of a screen. You need to take care of yourself but I know that in the space you are in right now it is the hardest place to do that from. Please do something and don't carry on suffering. Sending you love xxx

  • You have all been very kind and have offered very good advice. The most common theme being to talk to someone. I have spent my life (as far back as I remember) hiding my thoughts/feelings from my family because they were more likely to be exploited than to have any good come of it.

    I agree with you 2017runner, that exercise and being outdoors helps. While exercising, all problems seem to shrink away. . . Until I stop and they come flooding back. I will take a look into the TRE exercise. It sounds like a good option, I never knew it existed until now.

    My PCP recommended I see someone and was so panicked by the notion that I distanced myself and haven't been back to see him in almost 6 months. I guess the thing to do would be talk to someone. I just need to overcome the fear (for lack of a better term) to do so.

  • JB...having the courage to put this out in the open is the first steep to you feeling better. I to like your self am associated with the Medical field not on your level but none the less there. I too was searching the miracle fix for my anexity, which was at a point where it consumed my thoughts every day. And some of those thoughts were pretty morbid. I hate meds also and have found out that talking with someone that really knows what your going through is as helpful as I have found yet. This is not a fix but sure is easier fighting this with someone than alone. I wish you all the best and hope you feel better soon.

  • I hear what you are saying. I needed to be a rock for my family and my students. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks and outside of my wife and mentor, I didn't tell anyone until my daughter was diagnosed with depression. She felt all alone and we didn't understand what she was going through. My wife suggested I tell her about my conditions and I did so. It was the best thing I ever did. She opened up to me and we both help each other out. Go see a therapist for a full assessment. Get a mentor too.

  • JB,

    I truly understand your pain. I'm sure it took a lot of courage to post about this. The first step to feeling better is realizing that you are not alone. It took me many years to accept that I could make my life easier if I sought the help I advised others to do. Somehow I felt that my work as a counselor shielded me from the same feelings my patients were experiencing! Like others have suggested, I stepped out of my comfort zone and actually joined a short term women's group. It helped me tremendously to be with other "professionals" (attorney, nurse practitioner, etc) struggling with the same issues. It was after one woman explained her philosophy is to "do what brings me peace." She also pointed out the obvious to me which is that no one needs to know if you are in therapy or taking meds. You need to do what will make you ultimately feel better.

    I suggest you see a psychiatrist, they are the experts in psychopharmacology and treatments for depression/anxiety. Finding a therapist to talk to will also do wonders. Again, you need to push yourself to do what feels uncomfortable. I "managed" my depression and anxiety for many years and the toll it takes on your mind and body is exhausting. There is nothing "weak" about getting help. If you had diabetes or high blood pressure you would most likely seek treatment from professionals. Depression is not something that we can "cure" ourselves from or "snap out it". The only way to balance the neurotransmitters in our brain is with medication. Talk to people that you know will be supportive and avoid those who don't understand. As others have mentioned, medications can take up to 2 weeks for effectiveness so patience is necessary. Some side effects do wear off as your body adjusts and those that remain can be discussed with your doctor. Meds are not the cure and only treatment but can help make things not feel so difficult to manage.

    Best wishes! You are not alone. You need to get help now for how you are feeling. Don't think too far ahead about taking pills forever. Nothing is set in stone or forever. Do what brings you peace today.

  • Well, I'm sure I sounded like a nervous wreck over the phone, but I scheduled an appointment to talk to someone. Only problem will be sticking with it, as the soonest I could be seen is the beginning of March. If I remain as anxious as I am right now, I may need to be sedated.

  • That is so wonderful!!! As anxious as you feel now, you will feel more relieved after your appointment! Don't obsess over the appointment. You just did a great thing. Now, continue to take small steps as a therapist is only one piece to this puzzle. I feel like I'm always in a battle with myself. As hard as it is to get through each day that's exactly what we need to do to feel better. Doing group therapy in the past helped me to realize that it was my perception aka depression which held me back. The other group members helped me to see that my situation never changed. It was my perception and thus my resilience to cope which changed with therapy. As difficult as it might be continue to do the things you used to enjoy. They say fake it until you make it. You can do this! You've already taken a huge step!

  • That's fantastic. Well done. When the anxiety hits, breathe into your belly, it stimulates the calming response. Or move around to dispel the adrenaline/cortisol that has flooded your system and know it will pass, it always does. Good luck x

  • JB- wondering if you had your appointment? I hope that it went well and you were able to follow through with booing to the appointment. Best wishes!

  • Well, I did make it to the appointment. I was the most nervous I could remember ever being. I was so jittery, I probably shook the entire clinic. I will start by saying, it was definitely not as bad as I had made it out to be, although I probably sounded like a nut to the Dr. there were a couple points during the initial interview when the Dr. unknowingly made references to the movie "What About Bob", which caused me to laugh uncontrollably for what felt like an eternity (maybe about a minute each time).

    But more seriously, when my nerves calmed, the appointment went well. I was diagnosed with GAD and biological depression (caused by lack of sleep for a long period of time). The Dr seemed certain that it could be treated but wanted to talk with my primary about which medications to prescribe. Looking for something that won't leave me feeling mentally and physically drained like the clonazepam and sertraline had. But also something that won't adversely effect my hypertension. That was nearly a week ago, and I haven't heard back yet. So for now, I'm still anxious and dealing with a headache that won't quit, but hopefully something soon. I have another appointment in a couple weeks.

    In the mean time, I was instructed to work on different mindfulness techniques, but clearing my mind to focus and complete the exercises has been a huge struggle.

  • That's a huge step for you! Wonderful! I'm sure the therapist was trying to lighten the mood by making you laugh. I'm sure your body. Weeds to release some of the anxiety and what better why than to laugh! It sounds like your doctor listened to you and took your individual situation and health into consideration. If you haven't heard back I encourage you to follow up! I know from experience that sometimes I can take it personal if I don't get a call back but in reality, after discussing with my doctor, it was really just a time management thing. Doctors are human and subject to the same anxiety and stress that we suffer! Don't feel bad about bothering anyone or being a pain...this is your health and following up is another positive thing you can do to help your anxiety. You mentioned you have another appointment coming up, you might want to clarify whether the doctor planned to check with your GP during this time and prescribe at next appointment. You were so nervous you might not have completely absorbed all the information. Let me know how it goes!

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