Casebook: At last fighting free

Carol came to see me on and off for four years.  This is her story – of an adult life time of depression and how she is now over it, at least most of the time but not yet confidently so.  She is happy for me to share her story and so what follows is my understanding of it (with just a few small details changed including her name, and a couple of big things omitted for reasons of privacy and respect).

Carol’s remarkable story – at last fighting free from a lifetime of depression

Carol was in her mid-fifties and when she first found me had been depressed since her early twenties.  And she really had – at times to the point of extinction and total exhaustion but even when the pressure lifted through these years, the depression never really went away. When she came to me, she was on heavy antidepressant medication and knew that she needed it.

Carol would say that she was now free of her depression for eighteen months.  In fact she now knows that she is not her depression: it was just something that happened to her.  By the end of our time together she was taking only a small dosage of anti-depressants and even when she feared that her depression might be coming back, she wanted to contend with that, without increasing her dosage.

Carol is one of the most remarkable, resourceful and determined people I have ever come across (though would hate me to say that).  And yes, there were issues in her past that needed to be resolved and cleared.  One of these related to her relationship to her father, which came to the fore at the time of his death.  Another was a very private experience in her early twenties, which she could only face and deal with towards the end, by at last being emotionally strong enough to acknowledge her culpability and loss around it.

So why did the depression stay for so long and why is Carol so remarkable and resourceful?  These questions are two sides of the same coin.

Carol was depressed for so long because she has had to contend with so much just going not right for her – relating to her essential human needs of work, financial security and intimacy.  That despite her best efforts, these life difficulties persisted.  She was a single mother, bringing up two children (who are now young adults).  And she was a teacher and never quite realised just how much she hated what she did – not the teaching mainly but everything else that surrounded it. It was only when she realised that she had to do something else – when she finally understood just how much she hated teaching that her depression began to ease.  And now as I write this, her shoulder is injured and she cannot dance, which she loves.

But that she kept going, resourcefully looking for what she needed to do and to change to get her life back on track.  How remarkable is that?

But she never knew why her life problems were affecting her so much.  She never understood how excessive rumination causes exhausting over dreaming. But now she does.