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When we last left my depression story, I had just come out of an outpatient stint at a psychiatric hospital armed with medication and an appointment with a psychiatrist. While I wish that this story could come to a happy conclusion in weeks or even months, that wouldn’t be truthful on my part. The truth is that it took several years for me to get to a good place again. This was partially because I had a lot of years of baggage to unpack in therapy. Recovery from depression is definitely not linear. With mental illness, recovery is often a life long process.
After my release, it was time to find a medication routine that worked for me and also a therapist that worked for me. Neither one of those things happened for over six months. I went through two psychiatrists who wouldn’t answer phone calls and seemed to really not care in general. One even didn’t answer phone calls after I spent a week sick and then finally realized I was having a severe reaction to the new medication she prescribed.
I went through two therapists. The first told me that she couldn’t work with me any more (apparently depression was too much for a therapist to handle?). I truly have not seen so much unprofessionalism in any medical professional I have met since and of course, for someone that was scarred from rejection, having your own therapist not want to deal with you any more certainly doesn’t help. The next literally sat in her chair the whole time and said hardly anything, which helped me so much. So here I was almost a year into this depressive episode and I had only managed to basically see the worse that the psychiatry and psychology worlds had to offer.
Recovery from Depression: Our Mental Health System is Broken
I won’t sugarcoat it : the truth is that the mental health system in the United States and many other countries is broken. Current public policy makes it nearly impossible to get those with severe mental illnesses the help that they need, which means many of those suffering from illnesses such as schizophrenia end up homeless or in jail. Although the widespread abuse that occurred in state institutions has been eliminated by some of these public policies, when these facilities closed down, very few alternatives were created.
Those that suffer from other mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety may not get assistance due to public stigma, fear of the reactions of their friends and family, or even fear of losing their job. And those who want to find help may find it difficult to find compassionate and/or affordable care. More and more therapists and psychiatrists are deciding to no longer accept insurance to be able to give clients more quality time, leading to fees that are simply unattainable for many clients. And those that do accept insurance often face burn-out (which often reflects in the quality of treatment their clients receive), because of overwhelming case loads. And there is such a desperate need for these services that often it can be difficult to find someone that has an opening.
This was, and it is, still incredibly infuriating to me. Our mental health system fails people every single day. It failed me multiple times. I don’t write all this to be discouraging, but to be realistic. I write it so you know that there are bad therapists, bad psychiatrists out there. And to not give up if you find some of them, because there are plenty of good ones out there too. That you will come across fees that seem ridiculous and that you can’t afford. And that that doesn’t mean you are out of options. That you will have a friend, family member, or stranger say things that are completely insensitive or rip apart a week of progress you just made. And just because they don’t get it, doesn’t mean you won’t find someone that does.
I found a psychiatrist that didn’t take insurance but cut her fee in half so I could afford it and then worked with me to find medications that worked for me using my pharmacy’s discounted prescription list. I found a nonprofit that offered a sliding scale fee for therapy that made it affordable for me to see a therapist every single week, and stayed there for over three years with two excellent therapists that were key to making it through several difficult years. Part of the reason I wrote this guide to free or inexpensive mental health resources is because I don’t want others to have to go through all the digging that I did just to get access to them.
Recovery from Depression: Shame
While I was in the process of recovery, there was a lot of shame involved not only in the depression and anxiety, but the place I was in my life as well. I didn’t feel like a normal, well-adjusted young adult because the following weren’t an option for me:
Having a full-time job- First I was finishing up grad school, then I cobbled together a variety of freelance and other part time jobs such as babysitting to pay the bills. A traditional 9-5 job wasn’t feasible when I was struggling so much and didn’t know what each day was going to look like.
Living somewhere other then with my parents- Although this is something that more and more millennials are doing these days, my reasons were both financial and that for a while it was not good for me to be living alone.
Driving- I didn’t own my first car until I was 25. The experience of driving caused me so much anxiety that it wasn’t until I worked through all that anxiety that I was able to drive without being so distracted that I was on edge the entire time.
Recovery from Depression: It’s Ongoing
Eventually I bought a car, got a full time job, and moved out. I met my future husband, we got married, and we are now expecting a baby in August. None of that happened overnight, but it all happened! I hate to say this sometimes, but it is really does get better. Yes, it takes a lot of hard work. Medication is not the magic bullet, as I explain in this post. I spent many years in therapy, not only processing my depression and anxiety and learning methods to cope with them, but also unpacking my childhood, self esteem and body image issues, and healing from broken relationships.
And here’s the truth: things aren’t always sunshiney even now. Remember what I said about it being a process earlier? I still take medication for anxiety and depression. I still go to therapy. I still have to put my coping methods in action on a regular basis. Sometimes I have bad days. And let me tell you, pregnancy hormones are no joke when you struggle with mental illness.
Whatever stage you are currently in your recovery from depression, I would love to hear from you in the comments or by email. What’s working for you and what’s not?