Monday, June 15, 2015

My life with depression & GAD -

For family's sake and others who may be helped, here is a simple summary of my life living with depression and GAD (generalized anxiety disorder):

> First signs of depression appeared in my senior year of high school (at least that's when I noticed something, but wasn't sure what it was?)  I know my family history of mental illness played a part, I think high school coming to an end and the unknowns of college, etc had an effect on me emotionally.

> I didn't seek treatment, instead turned to alcohol and marijuana while away at college.  Failed out and came home to attend community college.  Had a horrible paranoid anxiety attack, which triggered heightened GAD and associated panic attacks and phobias I had never had before; heights, flying, elevators, claustrophobia.  I continued to struggle with life but did maintain a job and school.  Also got married to a high school friend during this time (a mistake for both us in retrospect).

> During the next several years I graduated and got decent jobs, but still never sought treatment for my illness.  I don't know if it was denial, fear or what?  My father's experiences with bipolar and ptsd probably made me hesitant too?  Eventually the marriage failed, she moved out and I thought I would have a nervous breakdown, "go crazy" and kill myself?!  Instead though some friends got me into running.  I was 28 by now.

> The running turned into an obsessive triathlon and ultramarathon lifestyle.  If I wasn't working, I was training; running about 100 miles a week, cycling about 250, and swimming about 6-7 miles a week.  [The psychiatrist I would later see for my illness said all that exercise must have normalized my brain chemistry?  Apparently, exercise is good for maintaining serotonin levels in the brain?]

> Healthy and happy now at 32 I met my future and current wife and soul mate.  The training curtailed and family life began, but we both continued to run and workout, even with kids.  Eventually though the stress of career and raising family caused some depression symptoms to appear.  My wife convinced me to see a counselor about my anger and irritability.  That wise woman saw the typical symptoms of depression in a man.  She worked with me in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), but also convinced me to see a psychiatrist (MD).  I was resistant (again the fear of being my dad's illness), but the prayers of my wife and others prevailed.

> I'm still seeing my psychiatrist over 20 years later.  We have managed my meds together over that time, with a few adjustments here and there.  I have other things I do to help myself too; walking, faith disciplines, etc.  I have learned much about my illness and how to embrace it as a small part of who I am.  I expect I will continue taking medicine for depression and anxiety for the rest of my life, but I'm totally okay with that, we all should be okay with that.

> I am a happy, content, mostly calm old grandpa these days.  I love my life and family.  I am a man of ever deeply growing faith as well.  My heart overflows with gratefulness and love these days, and my passion is simply to share it with others.

Patrick Watters, aka da Moose, anonemoose, Pops, Papa, Pat

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