Maybe it was my husband’s near-fatal heart condition three years ago. Maybe it was the cease-and-desist order for GardenSpirit (my dream come true retreat house) last year, which is forcing me to jump through extremely bureaucratic hoops (can you spell R-E-D T-A-P-E?). Maybe it was my parents moving into assisted living this week with virtually no notice. Maybe it was the failed project to redirect water away from my front yard that culminated in an ugly gash 4 feet wide and 200 feet long. Maybe was my dear Sheltie painfully hobbling toward an inevitable end. Maybe.
Or maybe, under a constant attack of stress, my brain reverted to its genetic predisposition. Depression.
Ugh. I really hate that word. And it seems to have descended on me despite my best efforts to 1) ignore it 2) pretend I was far too ‘healthy’ to fall victim to it and 3) work like a madwoman to outrun it. But thanks to my new psychiatrist, I am starting to view depression in a different light.
“It is really unfortunate that we use the word ‘depression’ because it sounds like you are sad. That’s not what depression is,” Dr. Ware told me yesterday. “It’s more like the frontal lobe of the brain goes dark.”
Frontal lobe? Hey, isn’t that an ADHD issue? Isn’t that all about executive function and planning and impulse control? Hmmm, could they possibly be related? Well yes. And no.
Depression isn’t ADHD. I was pretty angry when I found out I had ADHD because depression and ADHD in women are often confused. Even after I learned that ADHD often has a sidecar disorder along for the ride (like depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive), I was mad at all those doctors who had misdiagnosed me. I decided I’d probably never been depressed at all. It had been the ADHD all along, right?
Uh, probably not. Dr. Ware reminded me that signs of depression include lack of concentration, distractibility, trouble with focus. Huh. Sounds a lot like my good friends Inattention and Distraction, who pop up in a diagnosis of ADHD.
I suspect that for me, depression and ADHD take turns at the helm. One is in the driver’s seat while the other rides in the sidecar, then they switch places. Since it has been years since I was really depressed, I blithely decided that it would never return. Ever. WRONG.
Many of you wondered why I chose to stop taking my Adderall, especially when it had served me so well in the past. What I now realize is that the Adderall was keeping me afloat, squishing that depression into a corner so I could get something DONE (my favorite four letter word, remember?).
It was actually a miracle/stroke of genius/blessing that I stopped taking my Adderall because it peeled back the covers to reveal a more basic issue that I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. When Dr. Ware told me that depression actually causes cell death in the brain (which is repairable, thank goodness) I suddenly understood why I’ve been struggling with even basic tasks (but embarrassed to admit it).
I have lots more to say about this but I know the ADD brain prefers short, sweet articles, so I’ll stop here for today. Stay tuned …
Oh, and my treatment plan includes being consistent with my antidepressant, fish oil, exercise and folic acid….tantalized???? Come back tomorrow for more….
(But first, tell me about your experience with depression…were you ever diagnosed with depression before your ADHD diagnosis? After? Talk to me!)
I’ve struggled with depression since childhood (just didn’t know I was depressed, but knew I felt different). However, after being dxd with ADD as an adult when my oldest child was dxd, it makes me wonder how much was depression and how much was the ADD. I am now on Adderall, 20mg 2x daily and see a big difference although I still have challenges I’m facing. I’ve also found a practioner who is more of a mentor than a physician’s assistant. I’m in a drug study through her with Astra Zeneca for people who have persistant depression. I take Cymbalta in addition to the drug study and also the the Adderall. However, if I quit taking the Adderall, my ADD & depression both kick in. I’ve always wondered if the depression was caused in part by the symptoms of ADD. I feel overwhelmed & depressed by my lack of organization and restless mind. It’s gotten worse since my husband died in 2004. My mother died 4 mos after my husband and my dad 18 mos after her and I went into a deep spiral. I’ve only recently started coming out of the fog but find myself in a big financial mess that I’m desperately trying to dig myself out of.
My P.A. that I see for the depression has been such a positive influence. She’s not like some of the doctors I’ve seen who throw a prescription at me & tell me to come back in a month. She sometimes seems more like a mentor/counselor. One of the things she’s recommended is using positive visualization. I also joined an awesome community of women at http://www.braveheartwomen.com. I’m trying hard to get it all together, but still feel as though I have along way to go.
I would like to believe that medicine like adderall should be avoided for it only gives a volatile effect which causes you to be more dependent on that drug. I don't have ADHD but most of the time depressed. If in a case that I have ADHD maybe I'll do your treatment plan.
I have been on Adderall XR just over 5 years now. I still have small bouts of depression. My doctor added Celexa and the depression cycle usually last 1 or 2 days now. I spent 10 days is a psych ward in 1996 (my chioce). I did learn how to recognize when I am 'off' a little bit. Now I try to use positive statements and gratitude lists to rain in my ANTS. I have asked my doctor if I really need to still be on Celexa. He believes it gives me a backup for a really bad spiral. Part of his reasoning is that I am still in the transition from losing my husband (2004) and closing my retail stores(4) over the last 3 years. Sometimes I feel like I have been in this detachment stage for ever.
Linda, very interesting post. I've been on an antidepressant for approx 14 yrs.
Through those years I've had break thru periods lasting 4 or 5 days of very dark times. It almost seemed to mimic my period, even after menopause, except it seemed to be every other month. I was diagnosed 1st with depression, then when the episodes kept happening, I was diagnosed with ADD and have been on Adderal for about 9 years. Tracey Ware's talk on stimulant meds was frightening, but I fear getting off the Adderal more. I'd like to hear more about your experience and where you are now.
Thanks for being so open and honest about your experiences, it can only help those of us still trying to figure out if it's just the way life is or is there a chemical imbalance, or is there a way of developing our frontal lobes to help over-ride the destructive emotional swings.