March 3rd, 2011

Recently, I had to make the decision to increase my anti-depressant medication. I think I’ve written about my struggles with depression once or twice (or three or four times). My guess is, if you have struggled with depression, you have a pretty good idea what it looks like when it’s time to up or change your meds. For those of you that don’t, I thought I’d describe it for you.

Imagine you burn your finger – not necessarily third degree burns, but a good, painful burn. About a day after you burn it, there is a dull pain, and your skin is raw. This is essentially what depression is like for me. There is just difficulty in seeing past the ache – and no positive spin to it. It’s not so much that it’s a throbbing pain, but it’s more like it’s always slightly painful there in the back of my head.

There is an overall ache, a “something just isn’t right” feeling, and then there’s a rawness. Things that might regularly annoy or press on your finger suddenly become painful and unbearable. You rub it against a coarse fabric and it brings tears to your eyes. A glimpse in the refrigerator to find something to eat after a long day only to find nothing that sounds good or is simple to fix might cause the same reaction when I’ve reached this point with my depression.

Or sometimes, if you’re really unfortunate, someone pinches your burnt finger or smacks it, and it causes an outright cry of pain. A couple of weeks ago, I got an email from a student which would annoy or possibly frustrate me on a regular day. On this day, it pushed me to tears – heaving, wailing, ugly tears. And then I had to admit it – things were not right.

This is actually the first time that I’ve experienced the onset of depression while on medication. Usually, once I’ve been on medication, I’m good – end of story. Perhaps that’s why it took me so long to read the warning signs this time. Had you talked to me a month ago, I would have had few ideas of things to write about on here that weren’t me complaining, whining and bitching. Which made me feel like I didn’t really want to write about anything – and that made me more frustrated. I couldn’t find anything good about my job, and I wasn’t even enjoying any of the books I was reading – no matter how good they were. I should have known – and normally would have – from any single one of these signs, but that whole meds thing threw me off.

Luckily, the meds have been adjusted for almost three weeks now, and today, today was just a glorious day. No, really – there might have been a few annoying aspects, but I was just in a Really. Good. Mood. It was great, and it had been so long since I felt this way that it merely confirmed for me that I made a good decision with the change.

I’m writing about this now because I try to be as open as I can about my illness – I think it helps others who struggle with it deal, it helps those who don’t understand it learn, and frankly, it explains a lot about my grumpy ass. Please feel free to comment away if you have thoughts on dealing with depression, questions, whatever.

I’m glad to be back.

  • Amber Garrison Duncan

    Thank you very much for writing and sharing. Powerful.

    • Thanks for your comment, Amber – much appreciated.

  • Tbump

    Wow- you and your honesty are such a gift to us all! Thank you. PS. I enjoy you- grumpy or not!

    • And I enjoy you, Teri! Thanks for the comment – and hopefully I’m more not than grumpy these days :-).

  • Scott Laurent

    Thank you for sharing Kristen. Depression effects many people and talking about it helps remove the stigma and bring us closer to understanding and coping with depression. I too struggle with depression and some days aren’t easy. Hang in there and know that you have many allies in your struggle.

    • Thank you for sharing, Scott. And know you can always call me when you need it. You are definitely someone I count as a friend here.

  • Thank you for sharing your story Kristen! It takes strong people like you to pave the way for others to have an honest conversation about the experience. I certainly appreciate it!

    • Thank you, Michelle – I hope that others can at least feel like they’re not alone by my sharing this.

  • Now that is a blog post. Kristen, thanks for your honesty and sharing. You’ve no doubt left me inspired to be more open in my writing. Thank you again for sharing.

    • Thank you for your comment, Joe – I really appreciate it!

  • Wow… I really have no words but just thank you. I admire your courage to post this and just wanted you to know how much I appreciate it. Be well my friend.

    • Thanks for the comment, Ed. I appreciate it, and I do plan on being well. 🙂

  • While I don’t have your gift with words, I try to be open about my depression, too. It’s tough enough to manage the depression on my own, but throw in helping my husband understand it (we’re newlyweds), and being open with my friends and colleagues. It’s super tough. But helpful. And important. If nothing else I hope that by being open, those with depression can help someone else suffering towards the road to help. Keep up your amazing work!

    • Thank you for your honesty and openness, Amanda. I think once you add a partner to the mix, it definitely gets more complicated. Some day, I’m going to talk my partner into writing about his experiences, as I think that’s another group that needs support. And I agree – I think being open about it not only ultimately helps you, but others around you. Keep it up – and always feel free to contact me if you want to chat about it.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your struggles! You are certainly not alone in this 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment – it means a lot to hear that!

  • I sincerely admire your openness. Thank you for talking about this!

  • Julie Payne Kirchmeier

    Absolutely fantastic. Thank you for not only sharing, but for helping me develop a frame of reference for what you and others with depression deal with on a daily basis. This is truly a gift – and thank you for providing it to me and so many others. Outstanding!

    • Thank you, Julie – I’m glad you were able to get something out of this – that’s exactly what I was hoping for with this post.

  • Excellent Kristen! You are brave and amazing! I appreciate you having the courage to put this out there!

  • Ryan Miller

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m sure that it was not an easy thing to do. Know that you have a good, solid group of professionals (both on and off your campus) that are more than willing to help support you!

    • Thank you so much for your comment and support, Ryan – I greatly appreciate it!

  • The depth of your honesty and vulnerability in this post is so inspiring. I am so glad that you have showed all of us what it means to be courageous. I look forward to the day when I get to meet you in real life.

    With admiration, Eric.

    • Thank you for your comments, Eric. I’m looking forward to meeting you IRL someday, too! Wish it was going to be at NASPA, but sadly, we’ll have to plan for another time in the future. See you in the backchannel, though!

  • Julie Larsen

    Kristen, thank you so much for sharing. When I was a child/young teen I had a close family member who struggled with depression for years, and was never quite able to fully understand their experience. Your story is important, and your bravery in sharing is not unnoticed.

    • Julie – I’m glad this post gave you some understanding – I hoped that it might provide that insight for those who hadn’t ever experienced depression themselves. Thank you for your comments.

  • Ericgrospitch

    Well done my friend, well done. It’s been a long arduous bit, but glad to see you back on th other side. Thanks for all you do and all you share.

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  • Well, it may appear, I’m a bit late to the discussion, however, I feel it’s right on time. It was great to spend some windshield time with you as we traversed to IV-West. Learning that you had blogged about depression has been helpful for me to learn more about this from another person’s view. I have a friend who is dealing with depression. She is handling it her way, while I may not agree about her method, I choose to support her anyway I can. Having read all of your blogs regarding your depression, I am grateful for your willingness to share your journey. I have learned much and it will help me with my own challenges.