According to the World Health Organization, 300 million people worldwide suffer from a depressive disorder, such as Major Depressive Disorder, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and the depressive state of Bipolar Disorder. It’s a crippling mental illness that is one of the leading causes of disability.
It wasn’t really a surprise to find out I had depression. I’d had symptoms since I was 10 years old, as I hopelessly cried myself to sleep for a reason I couldn’t think of. Anxiety accompanied the depression, as it does with many people. It also wasn’t a surprise to find out it was specifically Major Depressive Disorder. I had seven out of nine symptoms in the diagnostic criteria, and it was only a matter of time before someone declared it.
What was perhaps more of a surprise was to find the accompanying words next to my discharge diagnosis from my third stay in a psychiatric ward:
Everyone’s been suspecting for years that I have some form of a psychotic disorder. The hallucinations began when I was 12 years old. They were scary, intrusive, and most importantly, never left me alone. They would stick with me a good majority of the day… A tall shady man followed me to school, and voices in my head made a commentary of my daily actions. I was terrified and acted out in ways that made me seem like I had a behavioural problem. I was dissociating from my episodes, running away and hurting myself in an attempt to get it all to stop. I tried overdosing twice, both times obviously failing. I had no idea what was going on.
Psychiatrists, doctors, and psychologists would make guesses like severe anxiety, Dissociative Disorder, Schizophrenia, Schizoaffective, or even Borderline Personality Disorder. All avenues were explored: CT scans, countless blood tests, EEG monitoring, hormone imbalances, nutrient deficiencies, spiritual possession. Nothing came up with a clear answer.
My 16th birthday was mostly spent sleeping. I had an episode the night before which resulted in me being sedated, twice. I was thinking, Why me? Why must I be deprived of a normal teenage life? Then I realize that everyone has their own struggles. I’m not the only one with a problem here, and there are plenty of people with mental health, physical health, financial and emotional struggles. This is just the thing I have to deal with, the battle I must conquer. And I know it’s possible! I’ve stayed alive so far, and so have other people.
Depression is a strange disorder that no one still fully understands. It can lead to catatonia, emerge right after childbirth (postpartum depression), even affect children as young as three years old. It’s so common, yet still not talked about enough. It’s made me run onto highways, travel six hours for help, and led to my hospitalization three times in four months.
It’s also not easily fixed. Over 30 antidepressants exist, and treatment can range from talk therapy to electroshock therapy. I’ve tried seven different medications so far, and I currently rely on a combination of clomipramine, a tricyclic antidepressant, risperidone, an antipsychotic, and diazepam and temazepam, benzodiazepines, as needed. I’ve been in therapy for five years, and it’s still not over.
But one thing I know is that it is beatable. It doesn’t matter if you’ve suffered four months or 40 years. Depression is not a life sentence. Resources and information grow every day. We don’t have to be slaves to our minds. You just have to keep on going, and never give up. You have to fight your battles.
Brianna Schulte is from Australia. She shares her journey with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, psychosis NOS, And Dissociative Disorder on Instagram, helping others as she can.