Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Depression: The Greatest Character Defect of All

Some poll somewhere said that 60 percent of the public would opt to elect a convicted child molester as president over an atheist.

I’m sure the same is true about a person who takes antidepressant. Or suffers from depression, for that matter.

I heard all the biases and discriminations, the opinions and attitudes about those who don’t have the strength or character to get their crap together during the two years of pure hell it took me to recover from my most severe mental breakdown. I heard it all.


Yes, antidepressants prevent a person from doing the real work that he needs to do to heal and move on. Happy pills are certainly a lazy man’s way of making the ouches go away; they dull the pain so that he doesn’t know what he is feeling or why, and can therefore go on living completely separated to wrestling and inner struggle he should be doing if he wants to learn how to handle his emotions.

The pharmaceutical cocktails kill personalities, flatten all character or effervescence that comprise a person’s DNA, and destroy the artistic or creative flair in each of us. We become a version of flat Stanley … technically there … but unable to take anything in or, well, breathe.

I am used to all this talk. I’m so used to it that I forget how often I have to disregard it and try like hell not to let the toxic stuff get in. But damn, it sure is damaging when you’re in a bad place.


The last two weeks have been the white-knuckle kind where I am lucky if I can make it two hours without crying. The anxiety is so acute that I am tempted to grab a paper bag to steady my breath and make trips out to my car to get it together at work. I am begging God to take me out of this world with as much fervor as my kids trash our house. I want to throw things—pointed, sharp objects–at people who wear “Life Is Good” t-shirts, and the next time I hear “life is a gift,” I want to do something harmful to myself because I feel so bad, so guilty, so self-absorbed for not thinking the same.

Today I heard a woman say that she would never give her son medication for his depression because 1) it would make him suicidal, 2) it thwarts the progress of what needs to happen in learning how to master emotions, 3) it’s an unnatural element that is toxic to his health, 4) it would kill his personality.


“Sometimes it can be helpful,” I said, and ran to the bathroom where I erupted into tears. On a good day, I could possibly walk away and know that she has an opinion different than mine. Especially if I had my imaginary shield up. On a bad day? Not a chance. I’m retraining my thoughts every five seconds as it is, reassuring myself that I am not a pathetic bonehead. A comment like that is one more vote for the bonehead. In one minute, that’s seven against two.

Yesterday a friend of a friend was found dead, keeled over, at work. I asked her if it was possibly suicide.

“No,” she said. “He gives back to his community. People who commit suicide tend to stay within themselves.”

Really? Is that how people with depression are perceived? I knew the lazy and weak part. But I didn’t realize the self-absorbed component. I wanted to explain that I had spent a month in India, much of it working with Mother Teresa, and that I was actually suicidal for two years.


But she would never believe me.

One third of this country drinks too much alcohol and smokes pot.

But that’s okay.

It’s socially acceptable, and we can talk about it at the pool or at school or on the sidelines of a lacrosse game. Now what happens when a woman sobers up, starts dealing with her issues, and finds out that she has a very serious mood disorder that requires medication? FREAK. Weak. Lazy. Self-absorbed.

I don’t just take drugs. I work harder on my mental health than any other component in my life. I swim, pray, and meditate most days before 8:30. I take fish oil and every natural supplement for my mood I can get my hands on. I sit under a mammoth HappyLite. I haven’t drank alcohol in 23 years. I work with a therapist/psychiatrist. I keep a mood journal. I retrain my thoughts and engage in cognitive behavioral therapy. No one can say that I take the easy way out.


However, I can count on one hand the number of people I can talk to about my mood. I know from past experience that if I go through a bad spell, most people assume it’s the antidepressants … that I chose the easy way, I didn’t get to the root of my anguish, so I will keep on relapsing – a result of the quick fix I had hoped to get.

So instead of picking up the phone and hearing someone insinuate that I’m bringing it all on, I thought I would write about it. For you. So YOU know that you’re not pathetic. You’re not taking the easy way out. You have some colorful wiring in that brain of yours. And that’s hard stuff to deal with. It’s really, really, really hard stuff. And it has nothing to do with a defect of character.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dawn

    It is almost impossible to comprehend pain that you have not endured yourself. It is completely impossible to understand the pain which tempts your life w/out having experienced it’s razor edged darkness. Your willingness to share will educate some towards compassion. And that requires significant strength of character.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    Hey Therese, sorry to hear you’re having a rough time, but thank you for this post. If it wasn’t for you and a few others talking openly about depression and mental illness, the social stigma will remain. I’ve been noticing more people ‘coming out’ as such lately by writing their own stories about their depression. Antonio Carluccio, David Walliams and only just today Ian Thorpe. I’ll forward some links to you. Hang in there my friend, you continue to be a tower of strength for me. Sam.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dick McKusic

    Please, take this hug from a fellow sufferer who sincerely appreciates your openness. The world needs you and your insights. I know you are a woman of deep faith. Will pray for you right now and, please, allow His arms to enfold you with love and compassion.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Caroline R.

    I hope and pray you feel better. You are an inspiration. I don’t think any of those unfeeling folk have any idea what it takes for you to bare your soul to the world about this horrible disease and try to combat the very real stigma. I recently found out that the late novelist David Foster Wallace took his own life after being persuaded by a 12 step ideology that said if he was working the steps well he wouldn’t need antidepressants. He went off his medications and later took his life. Stigma kills and so does ignorance! Keep up the good fight, Therese! God bless you!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment veronica

    God Bless. I know how you feel, and I know what you mean. You are so not alone…….I pray and pray and I hope and then I do not hope and then I pray and pray.
    Be patient, that is the key I think…..ha ha Prayers for you today and angels surround you. One minute at a time…..hugs and blessings.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Amy Freeman

    Thank you for having the courage to put it all out there.
    You have inspired me to let my closest friends know what is going on with me and they have been supportive and understanding. I still have trouble reaching out when I probably need it the most…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Althea

    Yes, you are NOT a character defect nor have a character defect. And you feel how you feel this moment. What courage you have to write about what is happening in your life at this time. Blessings.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson

    I love you!!! Thanks for being so open and vulnerable to us. Now I know why all these Rose Petals I have dried up for u are telling me to mail them……….it is time again. Know that you are an inspiration. I convinced a man in the new apt bldg I am living in for the elderly and disabled to see a psychiatrist for his “mood swings” I went with him the other day even though I had to sit in the lobby and wait. They wrote him 3 Rx’s. He is taking Cymbalta for depression, they gave him Abilify and something else to help him sleep, he has had insomnia. Like some of the ones you mentioned he had been self medicating with alcohol before and with the Morophine and other meds he takes for his back that was like slow suicide. I told him I cared enough about him to not see him do that. We all gotta stick together! While I was waiting on him I filled out papers and told the receptionist I just moved here in August and needed to get a Dr here rather than the one I had been seeing way across the otherside of Houston. They made a copy of my insurance card (Medicaid) and drivers license and I have an appt for Nov 2nd! My old Dr wrote me refills to get me by until I could find another Dr. I was in a horrible car accident this past Tue. on my way to a Dr’s appt with my friend who came to get me after Medical Transportation refused to come get me. I was put on back board, a neck brace before being loaded in the ambulance and taken to the ER. They took xrays the good news is nothing was broken. I DO have extreme sprain/atrain of my lower back and whiplash. I was given a Rx for muscle relaxers and my Pain Mgt Dr already had me on Hydrocodone/Acementophen for Pain so they would not prescribe me anything else. I am laying around my about recovering, taking even more med’s. Taking it EZ and knowing it was not my day to die. I guess God is not through with me yet, he is not through with you either !!! So hang in there with me, you are my Earth Angel. All my love,
    Mary Anne

  • Vilda Brannen, M.S., LPC

    Therese, You are an inspiration to so many even in the depths of your depressions. I daily share your words of wisdom to my staff and clients related to your battle against an illness that is a part of your being. You were born with this disease. I characterize depression as being a trait even of our Creator– because if we are made in His image surely he has low and depressed times. I think we find evidence of this in the Bible and in Christ’s life. I am reminded of the day I tried to get a local church to start a counseling center. One elderly man on the committee stated he wouldn’t want all of those “sick” people hanging out around the church and the children who attend school there. I replied: “You sit next to them in the church pews on Sundays. Wouldn’t you like for those suffering in silence to get the help they need.” When you feel your life is worthless, remember the people you are impacting through your writing and words. Keep taking those meds. Maybe we should write an article on the weaknesses of those who take medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, etc. Surely they can work through these illnesses and get better without the help of medications. The brain like all of the other organs in the body can get sick– and it can heal. Please know how healing your work is for others. Prayers are sent your way as you walk through this valley of darkness.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Holly

    Every day I have to remind myself (and others) that depression is a chronic, lifelong condition that I can manage but cannot make go away. It’s the medication I finally gave in to that has – at 60! – finally given me a quality of life I had only heard about, or seen in others and wondered if they were faking it. I spent most of my life believing I was lazy and evil for not being “better.” The medication changes something so that I am able to do all those other non-med things that help: take my fish oil + D, walk, reach out to someone else in need, or reach out to someone when I’m in need. I enjoy the world now, my family, I’m beginning to believe that if I keep doing what I’m learning to do, the rest of my life can be happy and worthwhile, and I can know it. You have been my companion and guide through my journey, Therese. I don’t in-the-body know you, but I love you, admire you, appreciate you. You are a major person in what I have learned to do to save my life. Thank you, from my heart.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Larry Parker

    First of all, Therese, my heart goes out to you.

    I would say to, ironically, have the self-awareness to recognize that your anger is not only justified, it’s a positive sign for you. Anger is depression directed outward, a reaching out to the world in a way more profound than just a blog post. I hear you writing to connect, not just to inform, and that should give hope.

    I hear comments everyday – comments from people intelligent enough or, frankly, with life experience enough to know better. Sometimes societal pressure is so extreme that we ingrain it in ourselves.

    For my part, I thank God every day in a quiet way for my continued overall health and my hard-learned self-awareness when I have a mini-relapse so I am able to avoid full-blown ones. My life is more important than other people’s hate (or more accurately, blatant ignorance). And I take small comfort that we live in a time when all sorts of societal pressures are abating, so perhaps the taboo against depression will too.

    And … I am humbled every morning and evening when I take my cocktail. But I am so grateful I have survived so much to have the chance to do so and now have a reasonably normal and fairly healthy life.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Downthedumps

    Thank you

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment spareparts

    Well done, Therese, well done.

    The unfortunate thing about depression is how people choose to stay uninformed. A few examples are:

    1) “You don’t need meds. You just need to deal…”

    2) “I don’t have Depression and am not depressed, so I haven’t a clue how to help you…”

    It gives them an out. They expect for YOU to take responsibility for your recovery, and when you do and you make adjustments, THEY are not able to treat you the same way they always have; THEY don’t want to take responsibility for any adjustments THEY need to make… It’s just easier for them to assume you hate them; they walk away, and avoid you as much as possible.

    Sometimes my Depression actually helps me. Especially without meds, I enter into periods of apathy. When I think back, it is usually times when that was the best response I could have to whatever s*** is swirling around me at the time.

    I wince at the phrase, “happy pills”. My meds don’t make me happy; my God does (I TRY to remember to tell my problems how big my God is, not tell my God how big my problems are). With my meds, I am able to respond to things consistently and in a more even manner.

    This is by far, seems to be how I can feel about my life the best, no matter how often or how badly I want to take it.

    Meds are not the only thing I treat my Depression with, of course. There are many facets to the etiology of my Depression, so I use several things (many of the same things YOU do, in fact) which help me along with my meds.

    Sure, many of my pursuits seem like a waste of time to those around me, but like you, there are only a few people I can talk to. They may or may not understand (I just don’t expect understanding anymore; it is easier for everybody that way), but they are willing to listen. This is a huge gift given to me, and I am grateful.

    I am grateful to you, Therese, and for my fellow readers for chiming in and helping me hang on (along with my God and my many saints I pray to and light candles for).

    Be very blessed, Therese. Hang in there.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment JEThompson

    Thank you so much for this post. I can relate so much to what you have stated here. I recently said to a friend and to my therapist that a substance abuser gets eap support and congratulations for his/her sobriety which is well deserved, but have a major depression or anxiety disorder diagnosis and people avoid you like the plague, not to mention the judgment and condemnation. Even some clergy will be quick to say that in some way your relationship to God is fractured and you need to reestablish your relationship with God, be more faithful/believing. So much more education is needed in this country to help some people understand that depression is a disease (I use that term cautiously however) not unlike diabetes ms. It just seems so unfair that we need to fight this condition and people’s misguided opinions as well.

  • Caroline

    I’m on meds and probably will be for the rest of my life. It took me a long time to realize that it’s not a character defect, but part of a result of man’s fallen nature. My therapist put it this way. Our bodies were perfect in the Garden. When man feel, so did the perfection of our bodies.

    Many people have to wear glasses because their eyes are bad and can’t see well without them. (The Fall) Without their glasses, they can’t function properly.

    Some of us don’t have our chemicals properly aligned and can’t function at full capacity without outside help.

    People who need glasses to live are the same as those who need help regulating their chemicals.

    We are the same. Let their be no shame in this. I’m working to break the stigma too.

    KEEP WRITING!!!! :)

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Michelle

    Therese, you help me know I am not alone. I admire you and if I can admire you, maybe I can be more accepting of myself. This current white knuckler won’t last forever even though it feels like it will. You will have better times you can thrive in and tougher times you will get through. You are so valuable. Hold on.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jennie

    Thank you SO much for sharing in this post! I identify with all of it and it is true there are so many misconceptions about depression and anxiety. It is very hard for me to try and explain how I feel to someone that doesn’t understand depression (especially on a bad day). I can hear the words coming out of my mouth to explain how bad I’m feeling, but the visual response from someone that doesn’t understand makes me feel ten times worse. I regret saying anything most of the time. I just do my best to make it through. We are doing what we are supposed to do by treating the illness.

    Rather than making a snap judgement about people with depression people should understand that there are a lot of us out there. I will think of you the next time (because there’s always a next time) I am in the middle of a “bad spell” and know that I’m not crazy or alone because other people out there struggle the way I do.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment paula

    I know you are doing everything you can to manage your illness. The antidepressants give you a hand, but they don’t mask the underlying problems you have. I’ve found that they allow me to think more productively than when I didn’t use them. I’ve a better chance to live with them than without. That’s the bottom line.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment cathych

    This is a great post. I read your blog because it is spot on. I feel that you really understand what it is like to be severely depressed, and when I read your posts I realize that “if she can get through this, I can get through this.”

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Cherlyn Kelly

    God Bless ou Therese – and everyone else who deals with this debilitating disease -and it is a disease folks – it just amazes me that we are the weak ones – well let me ask some people out there – if you haven’t seen a parent commit suicide, been abused, including cut and chocked as a child, been in abusive relationships and then had a son murdered in cold blood – tell me who are you to judge us.

    I just pray we can all forgive everyone who has hurt us – because we have enough to deal with – in the course of our disease to allow anyone else to keep hold on us.

    Be Blessed and thank you Therese for all you do for all of us.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rebecca

    Thank you so much for putting it all out there. My moods are so variable. I take meds and have had many side effects but I keep going because they keep me on earth, instead of several feet under it. I’ve had major issues with therapists/psychiatrists and I tend to dump them quickly. every single day is hard. I know how it is.

  • Chris K

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
    I have been watching the dark clouds on teh horizon for the past several weeks gradually creeping in. I am taking my meds, journaling, trying to be ‘in the moment’, sitting in teh sun when possible, and all the other stuff I’ve been taught. Yet the darkness is descending again. And I don’t have the strength to say, “It’s happening again.” I have been cast off by so many because I won’t just smile and get over it or simply think happy thoughts. No one wants to know that I am sinking again. Because there is such a stigma and negative attitude toward depression, I am hiding it as best I can. We’ll see how long it lasts. Am asking my psych. for a happy lite next visit. Anything…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Stephanie

    Dearest Therese,

    You remind me of Irena Sendler who rescued more than 2500 children from the Warsaw ghetto from certain death from the Nazi’s. In a very real way, you have rescued so many of us from the ghetto of our depressions and mood disorders, to a safe haven of understanding, light and hope. I thank you with all my heart.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Margaret

    The Lord is with you, even if it feels as if He has taken a long lunch.

    Praying that God gives you His Peace.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Denise

    Thank you – God has spoken to me through you today….and to be honest, most days :-)

    Your words and thoughts help me tread water. I’m still on the shallow end and often swim in circles, but hey, I’m in the pool damn it (and so are you)!

    God bless,
    A hug from South Texas

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment johann e lee

    hello there, i am too new here, but i wanted to add to the sharing; yes there is a stigma, and it is not fair. i too have been (mis?)-diagnosed with clinical depression for over 35 years now, and spent many of my adult years on meds. why i say mis-diagnosed is that i learned there were two kinds of depression: clinical and situational. while situational (borne of a bad time in your life, or just a bad life overall) can spill over and create a kind of internal ‘habit’ that causes depression under what might look like ‘jolly’ or happy situations, i cannot help but wonder if a deeper layer has not been uncovered, addressed, and healed. i had a bad life, for one, and know in my heart, humans do not become unhappy for no reason. we should all i think, look deeper, farther, wider. the answers may be simpler and more complex than we can ever imagine.
    with respect, and gratitude for your post,

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Catie


    “Yes, antidepressants prevent a person from doing the real work that he needs to do to heal and move on. Happy pills are certainly a lazy man’s way of making the ouches go away; they dull the pain so that he doesn’t know what he is feeling or why, and can therefore go on living completely separated to wrestling and inner struggle he should be doing if he wants to learn how to handle his emotions.

    The pharmaceutical cocktails kill personalities, flatten all character or effervescence that comprise a person’s DNA, and destroy the artistic or creative flair in each of us. We become a version of flat Stanley … technically there … but unable to take anything in or, well, breathe”!

    THANK YOU! SO glad you mentioned this…I remember reading last week about some woman who went off her anti-depressants so that she could actually feel the grief of her husband’s death. I remember thinking, “WHAT THE HECK?” I’m on anti-depressants and I’m sure as heck not getting any type of numbing or flattening of my feelings! (That would be a welcome side effect!) W/out anti-depressants I wouldn’t be alive. Anti-depressants don’t make we want to live or take away any of my feelings – I think they allow me to actually access feelings other than those of wanting to die.

    Again, like so many others here, I thank you for posting your truths and sharing your struggles. When I read your posts I know I am not alone – seeing it in black and white is different than having someone tell me they understand.

    I’m in a particularly bad place right now, so this post was very timely for me – I actually laughed out loud when I read those two paragraphs – they just sound so incredibly condescending – no wonder I reacted to them. Part of me IS definitely NOT numb!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Rita

    Thanks, Terese. A couple of weeks ago I needed to get out of the house, as I was isolating too much. I didn’t need anything from the Dollar Store, but felt drawn to go in there. I usually check out the book aisle, and there was your book Beyond Blue, only one copy, facing out at me right at eye level. (God often leads me to books that I need.) I read the intro in the jacket and thought “she sounds kind of flaky” (sorry!), so I read the chapter headings, and flipped through it and read a little more, and changed my opinion to “she sounds really honest!” Of course I bought the book, appreciated it immensely, and found your blog. I’m so glad you’re on this earth with me!

    I recently got back on Wellbutrin, and it seems to have helped some. (Also don’t like the sexual side effects of Zoloft.) I was really resistant to a counselor telling me that I was having a relapse of depression. I thought I had “conquered it” with nutritional therapy and “natural” means. For me, it is more of a physical severe lack of energy, so I thought I had more like chronic fatigue, and was at wit’s end trying to figure out why I have no energy when I was “doing everything right” with food, sleep, etc. (but no energy to exercise, and isolating due to no energy to go out). I felt like a failure going back on meds. The stigma was more in my own mind. I don’t talk to most people about my depression, though, probably because I’m afraid of getting all the responses that you have gotten.

    Anyway, I’m going to try all the suggestions from your book, and keep a journal to keep track of what works, in addition to my meds.

    I’m so sorry that you’re having an especially difficult time right now. I’ll pray for you. Give yourself lots of breaks; don’t expect too much of yourself right now. In Christ’s love…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Betty

    Thanks…thanks so MUCH for writing this!!.
    Im suffering PTSD and MDD for more that a year and my meds combo is big enough to make me sleep the whole freaking day: Effexor 225mg, Klonopin 2 or 3 times a day and Seroquel 100mg at night, i go to weekley therapy as well…but sommetimes i just cant take it no more..
    And people around me juts dont get it, its really hard being isolated by the stigma and bad conceptions of mental illness.
    Thanks for writting, i always read and meditate on your posts.

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