Doug, age 50, has been learning to live and cope with hard-to-treat depression (also known as Treatment-Resistant Depression) for as long as he can remember. The severity and chronic nature of his mental health condition has led him to try multiple therapy and medication combinations without much relief to his pain. Unwilling to give up on finding a medical approach that works for him, Doug turned to other treatments like neural modulation (e.g., Electroconvulsive Therapy, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation).

Doug (left) and Ed (right) in their college days

In 2013, Doug joined a clinical trial on Deep Brain Stimulation. As part of the trial, Doug underwent surgery during which two electrodes, sometimes referred to as ‘brain pacemakers,’ were implanted on his frontal lobe. The electrodes send electric pulses to the brain in an effort to alleviate symptoms of depression. About a year after surgery, Doug started seeing results, feeling like a brighter person. He continues to work with researchers to adjust his medication and brain implants.

Doug went on disability after his surgery. Fortunately for him, the cost of treatments have been covered by the clinical trial. He has made the most of living with a limited budget and pursues his passion of ending mental health stigma and increasing awareness. With the support of his best friend Ed, Doug began producing a podcast, Unhinged- Talking Mental, about his experiences. In addition to covering topics such as coping with symptoms, finding hope, and relapse, episodes also highlight the resiliency of Doug and Ed’s friendship—an important message since, for so many, hard-to-treat depression often leads to conflict among friends and family.

Doug (left) and Ed (right) working on their podcast.

Even though mental health conditions have been a part of Doug’s family history, he hasn’t been able to find support and connection through his immediate family. Hard-to-treat depression is a condition people can’t easily see, like you can see a broken leg, so it can be challenging for his family and friends to understand and empathize.  It can be a very lonely, grueling daily struggle for Doug.

Regardless, Doug is determined to find a way to give himself a fighting chance. He focuses his energy on giving back to those who’ve helped him and been there through it all. Doug asks friends and family to look for ways to show unconditional love, because sustained support can make all the difference to a loved one’s quality of life.


Additional Resources

  • Do you or your loved one live with hard-to-treat or treatment resistant depression? Share your family story to help other families learn from your experiences. Together we can end stigma!
  • Not sure how to be an effective and supportive caregiver? Learn more about your role as a caregiver.
  • Watch our new videos on family action planning and advocating with a loved one’s primary care provider.