I was born in Rochester, NY and there are two brothers and myself—so three of us. Very close, Italian family. Growing up was fine, my parents were strict, but nothing crazy. It seemed like I had a good childhood, but I was always getting picked on. Picked on for being the chubby girl, but I had my brothers to fight my battles. Once middle school started I was picked on a lot and I would come home crying. I had friends, but not a ton of them. I got into high school and I found that I didn't get picked on as much and I had more friends and high school was okay, but middle school was pretty rough for me. I don't really remember any of this really hitting me until I was in my early twenties. I was very sad as a child—getting picked on and not having a lot of friends. I think it [my mental illness] started well before my twenties, but in my twenties, when I was married, is when I started to talk to somebody because it just got to the point where I couldn't get out of bed. I felt like a robot day after day after day—just not really happy. I'm so tired of hearing, "you have so much—you have such a nice house and such a wonderful husband and a great child, what are you not happy about?" Well, it's a lot deeper than that. So I started to see someone and it kind of came up that I suffered from depression. It just got to the point where I didn't even want to leave my house. So I worked with some medication and kind of got myself a little better. Never was at the point of suicide back in that day; it was more recent that I felt suicidal. But back in the day when I first was diagnosed, I started to get it under control. Started to get it under control for a few years and then I spiraled again after I had Alyssa [daughter]. I don't know if it was postpartum depression, but I just felt like it [the medication] wasn't working anymore. So I continued to go to the doctor and we tried medication after medication after medication because I wasn't suicidal, but I needed a lot of help and nothing was working. Then they sent me to shock therapy. I did electric shock therapy, which I truly believe has screwed up my brain to the point where I don't remember a lot of stuff. It was the worst experience of my life. I didn't feel like it did anything and I feel it screwed me up more than it probably helped. But we kind of tried to turn every stone because there wasn't a medication that was helping. So after the shock therapy, finally I got on three different medications and it took three medications for me to finally start to feel better. For many years I was okay. I could get by. I was managing, but I still felt deep down that I still wasn't very happy. About a year or so ago things just started to go downhill. Every day I woke up, I just felt a little worse than the day before. I went back to my doctor because I had stopped seeing her—I was still taking my medication and then every so often I would go see her. I was at the point of suicide. I didn't want to go on anymore. I just didn't feel like there was a reason to go on. My daughter was away at college—she’s my only kid. I also didn't like my job. It was just a whole cluster of things. I actually even went to the point of planning what I was going to do and looking at the spot where I was going to do it. The only thing that stopped me is the fact that Alyssa would find me and I could never do that to her. What kind of legacy would I leave for her? All that kept going through my mind is she's going to find me and this will kill her. That was the only thing that actually stopped me. I mean I physically would punch walls and doors and hurt myself and put myself through pain. When she [Alyssa] saw that I was that way she wanted to hospitalize me and I wouldn't do it. So we decided to do partial care—partial treatment.
It's a program that they offer in Rochester—partial outpatient treatment. I would go there in the morning and you would meet with your group and you kind of go through your day and you learn coping skills and a lot of different things like that. At that point I had developed anxiety. My heart was racing and I couldn't get my anxiety to slow down. Anxiety was worse for me than depression was because when I was depressed I could cope. But my anxiety I couldn't control, and it felt like my heart was beating out of my chest—it was terrible. I think going through that program [partial treatment] was one of the best things I ever did. They started me on new medication, they started me on anti-anxiety, and it all kind of started to feel better. Their coping skills and breathing techniques they teach you—I started to feel a little bit better, but I still wasn't 100%. So I went through the program and I liked it—it beat laying in bed because that was all I was doing. It gave me a reason to get out of the house. I remember there was a day where there was this man and he was having some difficulty. I saw him disappear for a while and then I saw him come back [to treatment] a couple hours later. The next day I saw him and I said, "I'm glad you're back!" and he looked at me and said, "That is the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me...the fact that you realized I was going through a lot." You're not really supposed to fraternize and personalize with these people—which is one of the only things I disagreed with because you're all in the same boat and sometimes it's good to talk to someone like that to feel better. It made me feel good that he said that—he told me the day after that I was the reason he came back that next day. It felt nice to know that I helped somebody and I was already a week into it so I was like, "give it time."
I thought the treatment was great even though after I finished I still didn't feel great. The morning I was supposed to go back to work I was balling. The fact that I hated my job didn't help my overall situation so I quit my job that morning and said, "I can't do it anymore." I'm on new medication that they started me on in treatment and it has started to help. I'm seeing my psychiatrist again so it has gotten slowly better, but I don't think I'll ever be 100%. I don't think I'll ever feel all that energy or how I should feel. But, I feel like it's maintained. I can get up and I can get moving, but it could be instant and all of a sudden I can be miserable without any trigger. There are no triggers or anything, I can just be sad and it's a scary feeling. My husband didn't understand and people didn't understand so trying to make people understand when they're saying I have all of these nice things in my life—it's hard. You kind of don't want to tell people because every time you do you get that same response. You even start questioning yourself like, "Why do I feel this way? Can I actually control it?", and of course I can't.
I honestly remember the day Alyssa told me about your brother, Casey. It just brought back memories of knowing the place that his mind was at during that time—it's scary and for someone so young to be feeling that way is just a scary feeling. Everyone says suicide is selfish and you don't think about the others that are being affected so I kind of tried to sit and think of it that way when I was suicidal. It's just a feeling you can't get rid of. You just want to sleep. I lost thirty pounds. It's just really tough and I think a lot of it was because I was picked on and I was never really happy with myself and I felt that was a lot of the reason behind my depression. It's a mind thing. I couldn't control how I felt, there was no way of controlling it. It has been a twenty-five-year roller coaster of ups and downs and I went a good stretch of time where medication was helping—I got by with the medication, but lately it has been really tough.
There are of course things that can help, but I just never have felt 100%. It's [depression] always there at some level—it was at its highest level twenty years ago and about three months ago. It's almost like what had started to work for you suddenly stops working. I just kept asking my husband, "Why am I here?". I just didn't understand and for me it would have been so much easier if I wasn't. That's what I kept thinking—it would be so much easier if I wasn't here. I always know I suffer from depression, I just never know what level I'm going to be at. Any little thing that comes up is like a big hurdle and it feels like every day there is something new.
I think depression has also changed me a lot, even though the medication helps keep me grounded. I found myself not as outgoing as I used to be back in the day. I used to be a very outgoing person and I would talk to a lot of people and now I don't want to go anywhere and I don't want to do things. I don't want to have to be out talking to people and socializing. So although I feel stable, I think it has taken a lot away from me in my life. I don't take risks or chances and it's just made me so much more cautious. Pills will help, but there is so much more that they don't help. Sure it gives me some energy to make me feel like I can deal with the day, but there's so much more that it has taken from me. I feel like I'm not the same person I was and that I'll never be the same person I was.
You start feeling pretty good and you start feeling like, "Okay, I can beat this", and I did for many years. Sure I had my ups and downs and I knew it would always be with me, but what I experienced this past year was brutal and it scared the crap out of me because I thought I was doing really well. I always fear, "What happens when this stops working again?". I just remember lying in bed with my husband and crying, "I don't want to feel this way anymore. I don't want to do this anymore." It's scary.
What's also scary is the fact that I was put on this new medication at the beginning of this last episode and I said, "Let's try it because nothing else seems to be working." I was worse. It put me into a spiral—it was brutal. Going through those periods where you're trying new medications you're thinking, "Oh, this is going to work for me", and it could have the total opposite effect where you're worse off than you were. I was having more suicidal thoughts than I had before I started the new medication. It's scary to start a new medication and to not know how you will react to it—and there are so many medications out there.
Is it [depression and anxiety] manageable? Absolutely. But there are still times now where I just don't want to do this anymore. Every day is a struggle. Every day. Just to get up and go.