Is This Really Only Going to Get Worse?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’ve had depression just about all my life. I was a social reject all through school and was mentally and physically abused by my parents. My dr put me on antidepressants (ludiomil) in about 1980 when I started having constant thoughts about suicide, and that seemed to work for the depression but left me feeling zombified, oversedated and with near constant headaches. I had enough after a couple of years of those and quit taking them. I was also breaking up with my SO who had decided to invite another couple into our relationship because I had no interest in sex (thanks to the antidepressant mostly but there were relationship issues too).

They went out partying one night and I took a bunch of demerol pills thinking they wouldn’t be home until it was too late, but they got back sooner than I expected and dropped me off at the hospital, where I was an inpatient for two months at the beginning of 1982. I escaped about two weeks into my stay and made another attempt with a bottle of aspirin, which got me locked down. I refused meds and insisted on therapy that would allow me to cope without them, and was assigned to a PhD student who was doing her clinical practicum in psychodynamic therapy.

I saw the therapist for probably a year and a half and she helped me achieve my goal to be free of psych meds. Since then I went back to college and finished my degree, started a new career, got a great job offer, met & fell in love and got married (still married, still totally in love), and thought I had my life back in order until job issues (dot-com-bomb) and caregiving for mother-in-law left me feeling unable to cope in the summer of 2002.
My doc prescribed Zoloft which worked rapidly and very well, and I have continued taking it ever since as it helps me and doesn’t have the unpleasant side effects of the older drugs.

That was going fine until spring last year when there was a bunch of reorganization at work and I was assigned to a different department under a new manager. Up to that point I loved the job and they seemed to love me. I got great evaluations every year and generous raises, got along well with colleagues etc.

The “reason” I was given for the reassignment was that “everyone” hated the web site, product information and manuals (all of which I was responsible for, if not writing it myself, then maintaining, updating and correcting the content). The manuals were “too long” and “too technical”, and the PR people were going to help me rewrite them and save the company some money by removing the “distraction” of documentation from the engineers who develop the products, letting them concentrate strictly on programming.

The whizkid marketing guy who became my new boss admitted he hadn’t actually personally read any of the stuff I wrote, of course, and wasn’t interested in hearing about what I do and why, about the audience for my documents, or any of that. These are highly technical products developed by engineers for engineers, and the manuals have a lot of technical content, because without it, it’s not possible to install or use the products safely or successfully.

Without going into too much more detail, my job has sucked hard ever since, and I started falling back into depression, sleeplessness, allover pain, hopelessness, self-injury and suicidal thoughts. I went back to my doc & explained what was going on, and she increased the zoloft from 50 to 150 per day and added Xanax for anxiety until the zoloft kicked in.

It’s been a long rough road since then (four months so far). I asked for permission to work from home as an ADA accommodation, and after two months of paper shuffling, my request was finally approved so I only have to go into the office one day a week.

That was helping until I had a whole bunch of work heaped on me by co-workers who had no clue about how long it would take and what it would do to my other projects (they are hilariously incapable of finishing any of their own projects on time or within budget), and accused me of shirking and having a bad attitude, even though I am doing the work of two tech writers (the other writers keep quitting) as well as stuff the PR people can’t figure out how to do on their own.

So, after a couple months of feeling better, I am now totally in the dumps. I cut myself up again and have begun abusing alcohol, codeine, and xanax, plus looking for other ways to get wasted. I quit smoking pot 20 years ago, tried it again recently and got no pleasure from it. I sometimes drink during the day when I am home working, even though I know it’s stupid and destructive, but it’s better than hurting myself. I have even considered huffing solvents.

I only have two reasons not to kill myself now — one is a promise I made back when I was having therapy that I could go day by day deciding not to do it, the other is that it would break my SO’s heart. I told him that and he agreed, and if things got too bad for him too, we’d go together like Thelma and Louise.

All the psychotherapy I’ve had, and all the miracle drugs, and the very best most loving spouse I could ever want has only made me think I could ever overcome this. Instead of getting better, I go along for awhile and crash again, and now have almost constant anxiety and paranoid thoughts.

I know if I really decided to punch out it would be pretty easy. I am violently allergic to naprosyn (anaphylaxis) which is a nuisance anyway because I can’t take any of the drugs in that class for chronic pain as a result. If I washed down a handful of those and the rest of the xanax with a few shots, I’d be over the bridge in no time.

I feel like this is only ever going to get worse. The economy is in the toilet, there are no other employers within 100 miles where I could do the same work for anywhere near the same pay, and we “diversified” our retirement savings by investing in real estate as well as the usual 401k and IRA funds hahahaha. Each new bout of depression brings more debility — insomnia, then pain, then constant vertigo, then paranoia and anxiety. There isn’t much left but dementia, which I dread — my mind has been my only companion for most of my life.

What am I *still* doing wrong here?

A. Yes, you have been through treatment in the past and things did get better for you. But if you notice, it seems as if you were only doing better when aspects of your life were stable. It other words, you’re happy when life is good but when a difficult situation presents itself, you fall apart. It seems that in difficult times, you revert back into a mode of self-destruction that began when you were a teenager (or younger), which is to hurt yourself either through cutting, overdosing or abusing drugs and alcohol.

You asked what you are “still” doing wrong. It is possible that you never fully learned effective life coping mechanisms. That is what therapy is supposed to help you with. You may feel as if you have tried all that you can to remain depression-free but it is not clear that you have. If you had, why is it that you fall into a deep depression whenever a challenging situation presents itself? Yes, you probably put forth much effort in therapy but was your therapist good? Did he or she give you wise advice? These are all ideas to consider.

You wrote about your work situation. You talked about how what you are experiencing at work is unfair. Your boss has not read the material he needed to but still gets to make a decision about your job even though he’s probably not adequately informed about the entire matter. Your co-workers do not believe that you are doing your work and they think you have a bad attitude. They continue to think this way even though their perception of the situation may be skewed. Yes, your work situation seems unfair. Almost anyone would agree with that. But there are many situations in life that are unfair. And if you live out your full life expectancy of about 78 years you will likely experience many more unfair or unjust situations. But what you cannot allow yourself to do is to self-destruct each time something doesn’t go your way. You need to find another way to deal with difficult situations that doesn’t involve you reverting to old patterns of self-destruction.

I know you may be tired of trying but you cannot give up. If your solution to life challenges is to consider suicide or other avenues of self-harm then you still have much work to do. Consider finding a therapist who can teach you alternative methods of coping that do not involve self-injury.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jan 2009

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2009). Is This Really Only Going to Get Worse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 30, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2009/01/05/is-this-really-only-going-to-get-worse/