David Mixner | Health | News

Depression Is A Bitch; Trust Me I Know


America's attention has once again turned to the horrors of depression, anxiety, and dark demons after the death of Robin Williams. Williams, like millions of others, struggled with it on a daily basis.

MixnerThe stigma against those with mental illness, depression or even anxiety runs deep.

Trust me I know.

Over the years I just have been reluctant to share my own journey with mental stress. Williams' death compels me to share with you some of my personal struggles.

All my life, many members of my family have struggled with depression. I have to believe there is a genetic component to it. I have not been immune to that struggle.

Living in the closet, I often contemplated suicide. There just didn't seem to be any future for me. When I did eventually come out of the closet at 30, I had a full-fledged nervous breakdown that took the form of a psychosomatic illness. I was totally incapacitated for months and often would sit for days looking at four walls or weeping.

Thank God for the loving family and friends who guided me through horrible darkness.

I sought out therapy from an early age and it has been a savior off and on through my journey. Early on my therapist would recommend medical treatment but I believed if I was on medications it would affect my ability to think and that it would make me truly mentally ill. Hell, even going to a therapist in my youth was considered radical.

As middle age hit, I was plagued with paralyzing anxiety attacks. At night I would fall fast asleep in total peace, then in the middle of the night wake up with so much anxiety I would walk or drive for hours until totally exhausted and with no choice but to collapse and finally end the pain. I thought about climbing to the roof and jumping off to end the anxiety.

The entire process was simply a nightmare.

The anxiety attacks finally moved into the daytime. With that I relented and started taking the prescription drug Zoloft.

The drug has changed my life. Not only has it not affected my mental process but the anxiety attacks have stopped, the depression has mostly disappeared and I feel like I have been given back my life. Now I understand that modern medicine can make the lives better of those of us who have suffered to various degrees with mental stress, and it is time to removed the stigma and allow science to perform its miracles!

Hopefully by opening up in this column, others will be inspired to seek appropriate care and also rid themselves of damaging and deadly stereotypes about mental illness. Our minds are just another part of our body that needs treatment. We fix broken bones and we should celebrate our advances to fix broken minds.

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  1. Thank you for sharing your story. I too have been battling depression and anxiety for many years. I'm 31 now, and I've been under treatment (off and on) since high school. First it was Prozac, and now Zoloft has helped me tremendously. People who haven't experienced this type of crippling depression/anxiety are quick to make judgements. Those of us who are survivors should be encouraged to share our stories and to help our comrades in the struggle.

    Posted by: DJ | Aug 13, 2014 11:12:28 AM

  2. Thank you David Mixner.

    Posted by: David C. | Aug 13, 2014 11:21:11 AM

  3. Yes I've been on Zoloft, Prozac, & Wellbutrin. Wellbutrin being the worst. All for depression. But what do you take for homophobia in our society? I wish we had a pill for homophobia.

    Posted by: terryp | Aug 13, 2014 11:35:15 AM

  4. One can't get better when one is drugged-up and full of toxins. Good nutrition and a progressively positive outlook on life can make all the difference.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 12:35:12 PM

  5. A blood test and a consultation with a naturopath can help to address nutritional deficiencies. Recently published studies have linked dementia to deficiencies of Vitamin D. I think it is a smart to take control of your health and at the very least know where you stand.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 12:50:36 PM

  6. Jay, it would be nice if you knew what you're talking about.

    Posted by: Robert | Aug 13, 2014 12:56:45 PM

  7. Thanks David for sharing

    Posted by: Ted | Aug 13, 2014 1:13:35 PM

  8. Jay, thankfully you're not a psychiatrist and you haven't got a clue about diseases of the brain.

    Thank you David for posting this. I propose we stop using the term "mental illness." Dr. Drew Pinski was on CNN on Monday night and he uses the term "diseases of the brain."

    That's what we're dealing with here and they are no different than other diseases. I'm a brain disease (depression/anxiety) for over 10 years now. I'm on Paxil and it has allowed me to be my normal self.

    Posted by: rickwla | Aug 13, 2014 1:15:51 PM

  9. @RICKWLA You're right, a Psychiatrist wouldn't care to order a blood test. He or she would simply prescribe you the drug. So much for your overall health eh?

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 1:19:05 PM

  10. david, how do you deal with potential weight gain and diminished libido?

    unfortunate potential side effects.


    Posted by: jaime | Aug 13, 2014 1:40:27 PM

  11. In her book "Smiling Bears" Else Poulsen describes a zoo bear who was clearly trapped in obsessive-compulsive pacing. No enrichment activities or treats were able to distract the poor bear. She would pace right past a favorite treat, drooling. To those who think non-human animals don't experience similar emotions to us know that the bear was able to reengage with normal bear behaviors under Prozac treatment.

    The brain is an extremely complex system. The idea that it can always fix itself is crazy. Some brains need more help. There should be no shame in that.

    Posted by: Glenn I | Aug 13, 2014 2:04:24 PM

  12. Jay, take a seat. Of course a healthy diet and exercise are going to help people feel better, but it's not a cure-all for clinical depression. Just because you don't have it doesn't mean you can cure it.

    Posted by: Mikey M | Aug 13, 2014 2:36:38 PM

  13. I appreciate Mixner sharing his story, but this "I took Zoloft and it changed my life!" line is misleading. Sometimes anti-depressants work, sometimes they don't work at all. And most times, one drug will work and others won't. The only way to find the right one is trial and error. And sometimes you need a combination of drugs, which means an even more complex trial and error process. There might be a perfect combination for a person, but he will never get it because he spends years trying out the wrong combinations.

    And even if you find the right single drug or combination, you might have good results coupled with bad side effects and then have to choose whether to take the good with the bad or to give up both. Further, your body can change and the perfect pill may cease to work after a time.

    So it is a lot more complicated and challenging than just being handed a prescription for 1 drug and having it work perfectly the first time.

    Posted by: Thomas | Aug 13, 2014 3:19:20 PM

  14. You need to distinguish physical diseases like cancer and mad cow from mental illnesses like depression.

    Posted by: anon | Aug 13, 2014 3:22:52 PM

  15. Body chemistry is controlled by what we put in our bodies. Having been an undiagnosed Type2 diabetic for years, I never truly comprehended what role diet actually played in our emiotnal well-being. After treatment for Diabetics , the anxiety that I had been experiencing for years appeared to more glucose related rather than my lack of coping mechanism. I know the taste of anxiety.
    However one of the most profound self discoveries I made was being Lactose intolerant. I know that seems to be a fashionable diagnosis but have having some serious digestive issues, I eliminated all dairy by the process of elevation. Along with eliminating all dairy, even products labeled lactose free, my digestive challenges stopped. I lost 25 pounds . However the most profound side effect is the mental clarity I haven't had for decades. I was astounded by how my well being improved. I always felt confused and at times, could not complete a thought. I read where my new found clarity does have a relation to eliminating dairy. I loved dairy but I love the way I feel now. Being a senior and looking back, I would have appreciated knowing how diet influences emotions and well being.

    Posted by: Jerry | Aug 13, 2014 3:31:18 PM

  16. Zoloft helped me so much as well. Like pulling a hood from over your head and being able to really *see* for the first time.

    Posted by: refoe | Aug 13, 2014 4:36:32 PM

  17. The consumption of dairy increses the levels of homocysteine in the body. Elevated homocysteine causes mental fog and can lead to depression and higher risk of heart attacks. These are some of the things a simple blood test can reveal. Drugs mask the symptoms, they don't cure the cause.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 4:58:30 PM

  18. One of the diabolical things about depression: one person's successful treatment can be another's undoing. For every person whose life was saved by Welbutrin, you can find one who had an awful experience with it. That said, I found great success with cognitive behavioral therapy, followed by a course in mindfulness meditation. It does the trick for me.

    Posted by: trailrunnr | Aug 13, 2014 4:59:17 PM

  19. Jay, have you jumped on Oprah's couch lately?

    Posted by: crispy | Aug 13, 2014 5:03:40 PM

  20. Crispy et al. You can make fun of me all you like. But nutrition is everything.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 5:11:39 PM

  21. "But nutrition is everything." No, it is not.

    Oh, the Internet, allowing every anonymous idiot in the world to have a medical degree.

    Posted by: Ernie | Aug 13, 2014 6:13:56 PM

  22. Can't help but feel David seems to shilling for Zolof now. Otherwise, why not simply say anti-depressent medication.

    Posted by: MP | Aug 13, 2014 6:16:32 PM

  23. Oh, honey, I'm not making fun of you. I'm dismissing you outright.

    You belong in the same category as the quacks who deny global warming and believe vaccines cause autism.

    Bye Felicia.

    Posted by: crispy | Aug 13, 2014 6:48:16 PM

  24. I get it you're conditioned to follow the norms. Keep eating sh!t, keep getting sick, keep on going to your doctors and taking your drugs. Oh and keep on using female slang lol. So sad.

    Posted by: Jay | Aug 13, 2014 7:39:26 PM

  25. People of means can get help to reduce depression to everyday unhappiness. When a celebrity commits suicide, its usually after reducing or stopping medication or after resuming an addictive behavior. Robin Williams chose a permanent solution to a temporary problem. His wife must be filled with all sorts of recriminations just now since she was the last person to see him alive.

    Money cannot buy happiness, but it can buy relief from enormous pain, even psychic pain.

    12 step groups ill serve their membership by an ethos that sees psychotropics, especially anti-depressants, as crutches to be dispensed with. That's something for attendees to discard and to ignore.

    Posted by: BigGuy | Aug 13, 2014 8:53:45 PM

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