Didi’s Story: The Long Search for Effective Depression Treatment
June 14, 2023
Didi has been living with severe depression for nearly 20 years. Through the support of her brother Greg and friend Lynn, she found the caregivers and cheerleaders she needed to pursue effective depression treatment. Over time she learned that her depression is treatment-resistant, meaning standard treatments are not effective in addressing her depression. She has utilized a variety of treatment approaches: talk therapy, medication, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). She has also had three hospitalizations for her depression.
Two Decades of Depression Treatment
After the birth of her daughter, Didi realized that she was not able to find joy. She started with talk therapy, where her experience was horrible because she and the therapist clashed. But Didi’s experience with therapy improved when she found therapists who could understand her background and culture.
Now, she knows what she’s looking for when she needs to find a new therapist, like when her therapist retired or when she relocated. Having a therapist with a similar background – or at least has an awareness of how her background impacts her mental health and her conceptions of mental health – has been key to the quality of the therapy experience.
“If they make it, I’ve been on it.” That’s what Didi says about her experience with medications. Her first medications were from when she was misdiagnosed as having bipolar disorder. Over the past 10-15 years in trying to manage her treatment-resistant depression, Didi has often had her medication dosages adjusted or her medication changed to try to find a treatment that works. Lynn has been a great support and helps Didi to assess whether medications are having an effect, whether helpful or not. Didi appreciates having a trusted friend to help monitor when she makes a change to her medication.
Caregiver Reactions to Finding Effective Depression Treatment
Lynn comments that Didi’s explanation of ECT was difficult to hear and she was cringing inside. Nonetheless, she was she hopeful for good results. But she didn’t see the improvement both she and Didi had expected. And then, because Lynn and Greg had been uneasy about ECT, Didi didn’t share that she was starting TMS treatment.
Lynn admits her worry. The treatments – over the course of 20 years – have taken a toll on Didi, both mentally and physically. Lynn admires Didi’s resilience and how she is able to help others despite dealing with this persistent depression, but she reminds Didi that she also needs to do good things for herself, not just for other people.
Greg’s concerns increase when he doesn’t hear from Didi, because she will often not connect with him if she is not doing well. He wants her to understand that he can provide love and compassion, regardless of how she is faring with her depression.
The Financial Strain of Effective Depression Treatment
Didi reports that the financial burden of treatment is real. At times, she has been unable to afford medication and therapy visits, or even pay for gas to get to appointments. Her state-funded insurance doesn’t cover what she needs. The financial burden of treatment is one of the most significant downsides of living with a mental health condition.
Putting Together a Support Team
Didi suggests that people look for a psychiatrist that they are comfortable with and who will explain their treatment suggestions. She always wants to know what side effects to watch for.
Having a bad therapist can set you back in your treatment, Didi says. Look at online reviews and if they have a good following. You’ll know if it’s a good fit within the first few meetings. If you don’t feel right, she says, then find a different therapist.
From your family members and friends, turn to the people who will love and support you despite your depression. They need to understand that you might not reach out if you are not feeling well and not take it personally if you don’t call.