Ever since I can remember I’ve been in therapy. It began after my parents got divorced and has been an ongoing process since. Throughout the majority of my childhood I can remember regular trips to a counselor; now, it’s just when I need a mental break. Fortunately, because of this, I can say that I have learned fairly decent communication skills and have only been clinically diagnosed with mild OCD. Like everyone, I have bad days and rough patches and times where I feel hopeless and defeated, but I can’t say that I know what it feels like to be depressed. Some might tell me, “well then don’t try to tell us you know what it feels like if you haven’t experienced it.” But I have. I have watched two of the closest people I love suffer from it; my husband and my father. And while they both have suffered from depression and were clinically diagnosed as such, it was found out later on that both actually have different mental disorders, but depression happens to be a side effect of both.
My father’s story is very dark and very long, but I will spare the gory details and try to make it as condensed as possible. My father’s side of the family comes from a long line of abuse. My father’s mother was sexually abused by her father and he was physically abused by her. This abuse continued throughout most of his childhood and adolescence. (If you’ve read the book, “A Child Called It”, you’ll pretty much know what he went through). He was also sexually abused by someone else in his early childhood. Once he reached adulthood, he joined the military, got married, and had two daughters. That marriage didn’t last due to excessive arguing and him being physically violent a few times. He then got remarried, to a woman who already had a daughter, and then they had a daughter of their own. Seven years pass, and wife number two says she wants him to start getting help otherwise the marriage is over; she can no longer take the mood swings, arguing, violent outbursts, and sometimes suicidal tendencies. But at the time he was still in the service, and being mentally unstable was highly frowned upon, so he didn’t get help but the behaviors started improving slightly. Then he’d break from stress and he’d be the same again. It wasn’t until three years later he got help and got an original diagnosis of depression. The pills seemed to help, but only a little, there were still many symptoms but the counselor insisted it was depression and to keep taking the pills and talking it out. But after a year of not much difference, they tried a new therapist. This one diagnosed him with rapid cycling bipolar disorder and got him on medication for that. It helped a lot more than the depression meds, but still there were some symptoms that were unresolved and now there were new problems. Now he was experiencing anxiety, so they gave him pills for that, but these made him not be able to sleep, so then he needed pills for that. It got to the point that if he didn’t take his meds at exactly the right time or go to bed at the perfect time or eat the right amount of food at the right time that it would cause one of these pills not to work which would trigger a landslide response of all not working and him being out of control again. So after another three years of a failed regimen, wife number two threw in the towel on their marriage. So he decided to try a new councilor, and this time they seemed to get it right; they diagnosed him with complex PTSD, or disorder of extreme stress. This is defined as being, “found among individuals who have been exposed to prolonged traumatic circumstances, especially during childhood, such as childhood sexual abuse,” according to PsychCentral. Since then they have taken him off of meds and given him coping mechanisms to help deal with the PTSD and it has worked tremendously for him.
As for my husband, his story is a lot simpler and not as grim. He has been active his entire life and had a very easy childhood. After high school, he joined the Navy and became a nuclear engineer. Once he was done with school, he got assigned to a submarine and almost immediately they got orders to deploy for 6 months. His job was to sit in front of a floor to ceiling, wall to wall panel of gauges and make sure they stayed in the normal range for 8-12 hours at a time. On a sub of only 100 to 125 people, there are only about 6 who can do that job. Well, after returning from their deployment, someone had found out that he had become depressed underway, to an extreme. Once they found out, they diagnosed him as clinically depressed and medically discharged him from the Navy. Whole world changed in about a month. It’s been four years and since then he went to UTI and became an auto mechanic and is going to school currently for another degree, but a few months back he decided he wanted to see a civilian therapist because he thought his depression was starting to become an issue again. After talking with her, he discovered that he actually has ADHD. He has been on meds for ADHD since and has been fine with no bouts of depression.
What does either of these mental disorders have to do with depression one might ask? As stated by PsychCentral, people with complex PTSD exhibit extreme emotional difficulties, such as depression; and in ADHD, depression can be a secondary problem that is triggered by the frustration of coping with symptoms of it (Larry Silver, 1998 – 2015). Both my father and husband were experiencing depression due to the fact that they were overwhelmed by the lack of control they seemed to have over their mental abilities, emotions, and themselves overall. Because neither of them thought they could change what was going on with them, they became helpless, which caused the depression. This is known as Seligman’s learned helplessness model of depression. Another theory that was developed after Seligman’s model of depression was Abramson, Metalsky, and Alloy’s hopelessness theory of depression. It states that two factors must be present at the same time, a vulnerable person and a negative environmental circumstance. A vulnerable person in this context is someone who is interprets events negatively/pessimistically which can also be called the pessimistic explanatory style. Both my father and husband interpret events in this way, which also increases their chances of depression due to the fact that they would be defined as vulnerable people and would view a negative environmental event in a pessimistic way. Their pessimistic explanatory style coupled with their viewed helplessness didn’t help the depressive side effects of their mental disorders. With the proper diagnoses, regimens, and information about their disorder, both were able to overcome the depressive side effects and both are now better at handling situations that could cause them to become depressive again.
Larry Silver, M. (1998 – 2015). Diagnosing Related Conditions in ADHD Children and Adults. Retrieved 09 27, 2015, from Attitude: Strategies and Support for ADHD and LD: http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/774-3.html
PTSD, N. (2013). Types of PTSD. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/types-of-ptsd/
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. SAGE Publications, Inc.