By Larry Barber
I was lying spread-eagled on my living room floor when I returned. It was like a movie scene of traveling through time or returning from a flashback. In fact, that was my first thought—“I’m back.” My second thought was, “From where?” But I knew from where. I had returned from an intense episode that had lasted months. And with that, for the first time in my life, at age 40, I learned I suffered from depression.
My therapist had been telling me for quite a while that she thought I had clinical depression, but I resisted the diagnosis. There was plenty to be done healing the rifts in my self-image caused by Tourette Syndrome. I was impatient with her—let’s just get on with the work at hand, I repeated; that’s what’s causing my suffering. I didn’t know about the co-morbid conditions, such as depression, that can sometimes accompany TS.
In a mysterious way, my depression was invisible to me. It was simply my life as I knew it. I remember sitting opposite a friend and shaking my head sympathetically as he described barely being able to get out of bed in the morning, having no desire for what life offered, feeling a constant, deep-seated despair. And all the while I was experiencing those same symptoms. I seemed to lose months at a time, suddenly realizing it was April when the last thing I remembered clearly was January. Spending day after day fighting a near-physical pain, as if every cell in my body ached with sorrow; building a stable reality only to have it suddenly snuffed; holding my façade of normalcy like a Chinese acrobat spinning plates on sticks as I maneuvered through my demanding job as television writer/producer. How is it I didn’t know I was depressed?
Lucky for me, then, to come to my senses on my living room floor that day, because I knew I might not have the physical or emotional strength to survive another depressive episode. It wasn’t an emotional decision—I simply knew that if nothing changed I might have to stop my suffering by stopping living. I could see the end of my rope.
Soon after, I was walking out of the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute with a prescription for Paxil. I ran my hand over the pebbled exterior of the building, hoping that from now on reality would be stable, that there would be no more trap doors, no more rebuilding from emotional ruins. And these goals did come to fruition for me, although it took a little time to get my dosage right. That is not uncommon for people when they begin anti-depressants. There were also side effects, but I learned to live with them.
I was fortunate that the first drug prescribed worked well. Trial-and-error is frustrating and that’s what it often comes down to, looking for an effective medication. But I’m here to tell you the search is worth the effort. If you’re depressed, I understand your pain and want you to know there are solutions. You are not helpless. Do not give up—don’t. Most important, don’t isolate yourself like I did. Talk to family and friends. Seek help. Going it alone is just too difficult. It doesn’t work as well as reaching out to get assistance.