Aspergers and depression – the silent predator!

 

25th Postcard from the Edge of the Spectrum

I went to an Ivy League school and even in middle age, I can still bench 220 without really breaking a sweat.

But 2 months ago I was diagnosed with Major Depression.

 

Hidden in plain view

Major Depression doesn’t happen over night.

It creeps up on you slowly until you are on the edge, looking over!

In my case it was also camouflaged by my decades long experience of Dystymia.

  • Dysthymia is a minor form of Major Depression
  • A low level of despair (to quote Jim Carrey)

I was as unaware of Major Depression as I was of having Aspergers, which I discovered only in my 40s!

I estimate that I had been suffering with Major Depression for at least a year.

  • Perhaps as much as 2 years

I had pretty much come to a complete standstill, unable to think, in a state of inertia.

  • I had lost my way
  • Lost my purpose and my interest in the World
  • Lost hope, lost my joy

I was apathy personified.

I was descending into hell.

Powerless

I finally realized that I was too far from the shore to swim back in.

So I made an appointment to see a Specialist.

  • It didn’t take very long for her to arrive at the diagnosis
  • But for the complete absence of suicidal thoughts I would have scored full diagnostic marks

I was a mess.

I have now been prescribed anti-depressant medication and was told that I will probably need a 6 month course.

  • Seems this is the normal course duration, with this medication at least
  • To restore my neurotransmitter balance

The healing paradox

My medication is taken at night as it has a powerful sedative effect, initially at least.

The morning after taking my first anti-depressant pill, I awoke to a strange feeling.

  • I felt as if a great fog had lifted
  • I felt happy, which was quite a novelty after more than a year of utter misery
  • I was alert to the world around me
  • I was BACK!

These feelings have continued, without setback and the drowsiness passed after the first week.

It seems clear that the first step towards healing was when I admitted to myself and my wife, that I was in a helpless state.

  • Setting aside my ego allowed me to be receptive to healing and to help
  • It also kick started my cognitive faculties

This also happens to be the first step to recovery for those who are addicted to alcohol and other substances.

Back in the saddle

My progress continued, at a rate that seemed to surprise my Doctor.

I was able to identify that my work was the main underlying cause of my depression!

  • I explored what aspects of my work I enjoyed and those I did not
  • What aspects of my work were unhelpful/destructive?
  • I then set about analyzing what kind of work and corporate culture would be most suitable for me
  • Leveraging my strengths, while mitigating/eliminating the burden of my weaknesses

I spent several days putting together an up to date resume before sending it out to carefully targeted companies.

I am now working with a new company where I get to fully employ my knowledge, skills and professional credentials but in a structure that makes it much easier for me to be organized and stay organized (my main weakness)

The underlying disorder

After a few weeks on anti-depressants, I found myself feeling much calmer and better able to concentrate.

So under the supervision of my Doctor:

  • I have discontinued my ADHD medication
  • I am no longer taking anxiety medication either

I had read that one of the causes of anxiety is depression.

  • There are many other causes

So I wasn’t surprised that my general feeling of anxiety had lifted.

  • What astonished me was the speed with which it lifted, without returning!
  • It also seems that what I had been calling anxiety was actually panic attacks
  • In addition to a general, lower level of anxiety of more or less permanent fight of flight mode!
  • This was an utterly crippling condition to have to live with

The Question

I really don’t know how I managed to continue functioning for the year leading up to my diagnosis.

The question is not how could I have developed Major Depression or how could it go unnoticed for so long.

  • The real question is how did I survive for so long without professional help?
  • Or perhaps, as with my teen years, how did I survive at all?

A friend who had wrestled with his own demons, as a former combat soldier, told me what keeps him going.

‘I always want to see what’s on the other side of the next breath’

That’s a very simple statement but powerful statement and one that I can relate to very well.

Reboot

Somehow I managed to push my reset button.

  • It began with ACKNOWLEDGING my depression
  • Which meant I was open to healing
  • I believed in my Doctor and believed in my medicine
  • I started believing in myself again ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I have also begun a Cognitive training program
    • To help improve my concentration among other things and
    • To develop healthier thinking patterns

Epilogue

I have written this to help others who are suffering with depression.

Depression is especially common among those with Aspergers Syndrome.

No one is immune and depression is nothing to be ashamed of, any more than catching a cold is anything to be ashamed of!

If you have the strength to endure depression, you have the strength to take the first step toward recovery.

I would urge you to take that step and get some help, even if it’s just telling a friend or loved one about how you are feeling.

 

The Stand Up Kid

 

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. mindretrofit8
    Oct 27, 2012 @ 14:49:30

    Oh, thank you, thank you! What you have described here is what I am been slowly unfolding in my own life. It also one of the major factors in me seeking a psychologist. Though I was seeking my Aspergers diagnosis, for my own confirmation, I have been depressed for years, but did not realize the severity until we moved to our new city/state several months ago. I have managed to pinpoint many of the the contributing factors for my causes as well.

    I just received my “official” Aspergers diagnosis, I am waiting on the psychologist to give me her feedback and suggestions for my progression plan with anxiety/depression.

    It is so good to read this. I do not do well with medications so we are trying to approach it without any at this time. Hopefully, I can work through this without any, but if I need to I hope that my body/mind respond in a good way. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I appreciate you sharing so much!

    Reply

  2. elizabeth
    Oct 29, 2012 @ 12:19:00

    Thank you.

    Reply

  3. A Quiet Week
    Oct 30, 2012 @ 21:20:18

    I understand. I’ve had bouts of major depression since my teens, plus a couple of good old-fashioned “nervous breakdowns.” Yet, I consider myself to be very cheery. Understanding ASD helped me manage me bouts better. I take meds, and will continue to do so. It is a quality of life issue for me.

    I am proud of you for sharing and grateful as well. It’s good to have a friend who understands.

    Hugs to you, my friend.
    Lori

    Reply

    • spectrumscribe
      Oct 30, 2012 @ 21:35:34

      Thanks Lori and well done to you for having the courage to be honest about your journey.

      Despite my misery over the last year or so, I feel very fortunate and grateful to have recovered so quickly.

      I am open to the possibility of lifelong medication to manage my depression. Without medication my brain does not get an adequate supply of serotonin.

      I also see this as a quality of life issue; I am a different person since I started taking anti-depressants and I like how I feel now and I like who I am becoming ๐Ÿ™‚

      Reply

      • A Quiet Week
        Oct 31, 2012 @ 07:50:09

        Well said. I take an SSRI mostly for OCD. It doesn’t rewire my brain, but it helps me to turn down the volume enough so I am not checking the doors at 3am. I take another med for depression.

        I am totally okay with life-long meds. I like where I am at. It feels like the “pure” me. Who I am when I am at my best.

        I wish you the best as you explore your new strengths. I find that the combination of autism and the modern world can be very draining. Meds help even the score.

        Lori

  4. spectrumscribe
    Oct 31, 2012 @ 08:47:54

    I am beginning to unwrap aspects of my Autism that have previously been muffled.

    Turning down the noise is a very good description of how my medication is affecting me. It means that I can bring my combined autism and intellect into very sharp focus, with surprising effect.

    It seems to work quite well for Dr. Temple Grandin too ๐Ÿ™‚

    Reply

  5. Trackback: #Aspergers and #Mindfulness « Postcards from the edge of the Spectrum
  6. thymeoperator
    Nov 05, 2012 @ 13:08:43

    I once saw a therapist who made me realise that my biggest problem was how down I was on myself, generally from feeling outside of everything. I think there are many of us who could function better if surrounded by understanding and filled with confidence.

    Reply

  7. Michele Schwien (@MLSchwienD)
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 09:46:58

    Thank you for speaking out. It helps others to be courageous as well. Be proud of what you are accomplishing.

    Reply

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