(Featured photo of Jocelyn Guschl)
Mood: out of it.
Depression is one of the most (if not THE most) dangerous of mental illnesses in the world.
I’d venture as far as to call it an epidemic. Not in the sense that you can “catch” depression from others (you can through genetics, technically, though); rather, I picture it almost as this dark, looming illness that kills many hosts by convincing them that they don’t deserve their lives.
In addition, it’s not like depression only hits certain people of specific races, religions, or socioeconomic statuses. It can and does happen to anyone, with the ADAA’s website stating that “the most commonly diagnosed form of depression is Major Depressive Disorder“, and that, “In 2015, around 16.1 million adults aged 18 years or older in the U.S. had experienced at least one major depressive episode in the last year, which represented 6.7 percent of all American adults”. That’s not even including the little ones who experience it, and that’s already a shit ton of people affected.
So, what are we currently doing to treat it?
Well, according to WebMD’s website, there are actually plenty of things we’ve been doing. If psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), diet changes, exercise or (sometimes) hypnosis isn’t enough, you’ve got antidepressants of different flavors to choose from, including:
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), which “are the most often prescribed type of antidepressant”. According to Mayo Clinic, this type of antidepressant works by “increasing levels of serotonin in the brain” through “[blocking] the reabsorption (reuptake) of serotonin in the brain, making more serotonin available”, and serotonin is an important neurotransmitter for mood regulation. SSRIs include medications like Lexapro, Prozac and Paxil.
- Serotonin and Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs), which pretty much do the same thing as SSRIs, except with the neurotransmitter Norepinephrine being added to the mix. Norepinephrine is suggested to help with energy and mental alertness. Medications like Cymbalta and Effexor belong in this little family.
- Tricyclic Antidepressants (TCAs), which, according to the RX List website, works by “[increasing] the levels of norepinephrine and serotonin”, and can also affect the actions of another neurotransmitter called acetylcholine (which affects movement and sleep). Elavil and Tofranil are included in the group of these antidepressants.
- Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors (MAOIs), which, according to VeryWellMind.com, “reduce the activity of the enzyme MAO (monoamine oxidase), leading to higher levels of norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine in the brain”. The MAO enzyme is said to “[break] down” the previously mentioned neurotransmitters, so inhibiting that enzyme leaves more of them in your brain to be used. MAOIs include Marplan, Nardil and Emsam.
Unfortunately, since depression treatments require a shit ton of trial and error, it can be easy to lose hope on finding something that works. How do you keep going?
Thankfully, a VERY lovely person named Jocelyn Guschl was willing to share her incredible insight with me on maintaining the necessary momentum in treatment to beat depression’s ass.
Jocelyn Guschl is a 39-year-old graphic designer, model, and mom of three (ages 14, 11 and 9). She’s currently living in Hillsborough, NC, where she shares her life with her children, boyfriend (AKA her support human), four dogs, two cats and two rabbits. In her spare time, you’ll more than likely find her doing yoga, meditating, flying (don’t be alarmed– her boyfriend is a pilot as a hobby) and working as a mental health advocate to de-stigmatize mental illness.
I’d been following her posts on Instagram for a while, and was inspired by the way she kept such an infectiously positive attitude with her depression treatments. I could never. I had to know how she did it, and, not surprisingly, she was a total ray of sunshine about filling me in!
Here’s the insight she shared in response to my questions:
How long has your depression affected your life, and in what ways?
“Depression has always been a part of my life. My mom has depression; her sisters, too (one of my aunts has recently been diagnosed with bipolar), and so did her mom. I can’t say I was a happy child. My mom, who clearly has BPD as well, was hard to grow up around. And, aside from that, I just couldn’t be happy. Even if I had pleasurable experiences, my mom would somehow sabotage them. Vacations were cut abruptly short. Good news came with dark, foreboding ‘they only want something from you’ speeches. Holidays had meltdowns. When you’re already this close to always being in darkness mentally, these kinds of events can push you over the edge.
As I got older, it became worse, and my anxiety about being in a mercurial environment became a habit. My thoughts automatically went to the downside of things. I never knew about things like coping skills. I started doubting myself with everything. Life became a very scary place.
The effect my mental illness had on my life hit me the most in the last three years when my ex-husband, unable to cope and never particularly supportive, had me committed to a hospital, had his mistress moved in, and basically (what felt like) left me for dead. I was cut off financially, kicked out of my home, and they tried to get full custody of my children. All I heard was how awful I was, and what a monster [I was]. I was none of these things. I was just very, very ill.”
When and why did you decide to seek help for your depression?
“I’ve always wanted help. I never wanted to be like my mother and her family. And I certainly didn’t want my children to hate and fear life as I have.
I started seeing therapists when I was 17…that’s when my moods started to become truly uncontrollable and my BPD (though that wasn’t even a thing back then) started to really come out. But, as with many therapists, I thought [the one I was seeing] was completely hokey and had no clue what true mental illness was. I remember she asked me to draw my family and offered me crayons to do so. She was obsessed with ‘why did you draw your father in all black?’ I mean, she gave me maybe 5 colors to use, and he wore dark suits. That’s pretty telling about my relationships with therapists since then.
I’ve been seeing therapists on and off now for 22 years. Finally, when the trauma with my ex-husband happened, I found a wonderful, compassionate woman who kept suggesting Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation once she realized how treatment resistant my depression was.”
How hopeful did you feel in seeking help?
“I gave up a lot and lost all hope by the time all of my children were toddlers. I figured it was all up to me. Therapists just didn’t seem to ‘get it’. I started my own research and did my best. I wanted to be better so badly. I started doing yoga daily and reading Buddhist writings. I even went to a workshop on Yoga for Depression at an ashram in Virginia (a place I cherish deeply called ‘Yogaville’). But, beyond that, there wasn’t much more I knew. I also started taking methylated folic acid, which helped a lot. But, admittedly, I was drinking a lot to manage. I had three small children, a workaholic husband who was so cut off, a mentally-ill mom, and other things. It was so hard to cope. But when it all ‘went down’ with my husband, I had to be hopeful. I HAD to keep going to treatment, whether I wanted to or not, to show the courts I was trying and to have allies. I was always a good mom, but my mental health was being used as the scapegoat to take the focus off of my husband’s transgressions (which is illegal in the state I live in) and as a legal tactic to ‘win’ my children. Losing wasn’t an option for me.”
What treatments have you already tried for depression before your current one?
“Ha. Literally everything, except acupuncture. Food (I eat mainly vegan now…it helps), meds (all of them. Seriously). CBT (bleh), DBT (awesome). Electromagnetic Stimulation (different from TMS, but it helped a bit), Hypnosis (nope), EMDR (absolutely not for me), essential oils, herbs, supplements, and now, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.”
How are you currently being treated for depression, and how do you feel about this method?
“I have two more sessions of Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It is my second to last hope (last being electroconvulsive shock therapy- ECT). It’s completely awesome and I am so, so thrilled with the results. I knew I had a problem, but I didn’t realize how truly ill I was until it started working and I started experiencing happiness and contentment for the first time. It’s like I was blind before and now I’m seeing, and I’m like ‘Oh, wow. THIS is what life’s like?!’ My life has always felt so hard, and now I see why: because it WAS. Without the capability to have a grey zone between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or to be able to regulate your moods, life is incredibly hard.”
What advice would you give to others who are either afraid of seeking treatment, or feel hopeless about it?
“You’ve got to keep trying. I truly believe we’re on this earth for some reason. I believe in lessons to learn and our spirits going through more than our bodies do. Keep reaching out. Talk about your illness to people. Someone somewhere can help. Maybe it’s me:)”
What do you think you’ve learned about yourself in the process of coping with depression?
“I think I have learned how to live my very best life. I really feel like I’ve figured out so much that I’m finally ‘doing it right’. And by living such a hard life, I’ve developed a sense of compassion, love, understanding and forgiveness that not everyone has. And I can take that knowledge and teach it to my kids, and even their friends. The generational plague of BPD & depression that my family has suffered stops with me.”
What do you think could be done better in treating/understanding depression?
“I, for one, feel that anyone who has not had a direct relationship with mental illness has no business trying to help others. They just can’t understand. This sounds incredibly harsh and I may be wrong, but I’ve lived with this my whole life and didn’t even understand it until TMS activated whatever wasn’t working in my brain and I saw this for what it is. Depression is the most awful of all diseases. I’ve had cancer, Lyme disease, a weakened immune system…nothing compares to the hell that is an illness in your brain. Now that I know that it is truly an illness, I speak to it that way. I think that the treatments out there are largely just out there for management, but for people with major depressive disorder (and other disorders like anxiety) only things like TMS and ECT (and medicine, for some) can put it in remission. Now, as I clean up parts of my life that have been affected by my depression, I openly call it my illness. I tell people I was very ill–because I was. If I just keep repeating that, and being frank about it…well, that’s how treatment will change.”
I couldn’t agree more, to be honest.
I’m so honored to be able to share Jocelyn’s insight on perseverance in seeking help for depression. I know that, for me, and especially in moments when my depression kicks into high gear, it can feel like anything I do won’t change how I feel in the moment. Hopelessness is one hell of an emotion; arguably one of the hardest to shake. But, I’m truly thankful for role models like Jocelyn to remind us that the fight is never over until you say it is, and that you and your life are worth exhausting all possible resources to reach a better place.
Honestly, after taking her insight in for myself, I’ve gained a second wind in my motivation to better my mental health, and I’m hoping this does the same for others. Of course, remember that you don’t have to have had extremely negative experiences in your life or with depression to still need help to live a better life. There’s no matter of “who needs help the most”. It’s just a matter of realizing that the way you’re living currently doesn’t serve you to the fullest extent, and having the courage to reach out about it.
And, of course, I’d love to give an extremely gargantuan THANK YOU to Jocelyn for being courageous enough to share her story with all of us. She’s definitely already helped someone (*cough* me *cough*), and I have no doubt that her mental health advocacy will continue to help many others. If you have anymore questions for her about her journey and her treatment, feel free to follow her on Instagram and reach out! She’s one of the sweetest women you’ll meet.
**Also, as an interesting side note, here’s the insight Jocelyn gave on calling depression her “friend” in the title that I absolutely loved:
“It’s because I’ve had it as my constant companion my whole life. It’s a sibling who drives me nuts, and a mom who is hard sometimes, and a husband who is distant, but I love them, anyway. However, just because I love them and the role they have played in my life, I don’t have to allow them in. Boundaries are important, right? But, becoming friends with our different emotions is important for self love and acceptance”.
Naturally, I have questions for you guys, as well: If you have already sought help for a mental illness or other personal issue, what pushed you to do it? If you’re currently too nervous or afraid to seek help, why?
And, until we meet again, readers, I still can’t thank you enough for reading and putting up with my nonsense.<3