Comorbid Conditions with NLD, Part 1: Depression.

First of all, sorry for the lull in posting- I was the victim of a homework sabotage! I had way too much work to do any updating, but now that I’m on spring break I’ll try to write several posts.

Second, I’ve decided to start a series of posts about comorbid conditions that I have with my NLD. One of the facts that you read most frequently about NLD is that there are many related conditions that can result from the disorder. Generally these are conditions like depression and anxiety which stem from the difficulties caused by NLD (ie depression because of social issues and rejection by peers, etc). Unfortunately, I’ve developed my share of comorbid conditions! As I’ve mentioned before, I’m diagnosed with clinical depression, and that’s what I’ll talk about here.

I find it very hard to describe my depression, because I lived with it for so long before I did anything to fix it. It was part of my life for many years, and as a result I can’t really point to aspects of my behavior and say “oh, that’s a symptom of depression!” or “I did that because I was depressed.” Now, having said that, I personally think that I started to feel clinically depressed in 9th grade. I had a very tough time going from middle to high school, despite the fact that I didn’t change schools, because I had really loved my 8th grade classes and felt like 9th grade was paling in comparison. My school also doubles the number of students in the grade beginning in high school, so I had a lot of social upheaval.

Basically, I started to feel incredibly sad a lot, and wasn’t sure why. Sometimes I would get so upset that I would lie down and cry for upwards of an hour, and do it for no reason. If I ever had a “high point” when I was happy, it would be followed by a very “low point” when I felt profoundly upset. I spent a lot of time hiding out in my room, as well as arguing with and avoiding my parents. I got angry very easily, both at my parents and myself. I would have internal monologues in which I told myself that I was a bad person, a failure, and that something was wrong with me (which was something I did a lot when I was much younger, and had grown out of up until this point). Additionally, my executive functioning skills went a bit haywire when I started high school, and I ended up staying up extremely late doing my homework- as late as 3:30AM several nights a week. I couldn’t break the habit, and my fatigue just fed everything else. I would have many nights where I found myself slaving away on my homework at 2AM, and hated myself for it: I would yell at myself, cry for a while about how angry I was and how hopeless I felt, and then go back to my work. Because no matter how poorly I felt, I still did all of my schoolwork, all the time.

So, it sounds like I was pretty depressed, right? Well, the thing is, I didn’t think I was depressed. Most of the time, I felt happy- at least, I thought I did. So I wasn’t getting much sleep, and I was sad sometimes- who cares? I was perfectly fine! I didn’t really realize that anything was wrong… until the end of 9th grade. At the very end of 9th grade, right when school ended, I had a very high point, which was inevitably followed by a really, really low point. I usually get pretty upset when the school year ends, but this was more- within the span of 1 day, I went from being ecstatic to basically unable to get out of bed. And I started to think, “why do I always get so sad after I’m so happy?” In fact, I wrote that exact sentence in my journal at the time. However, I still didn’t really think that anything was wrong.

This continued throughout 10th grade. I had some incredibly bad social issues in the 2nd half of 10th grade which just served to exacerbate things, but still I insisted that nothing was really wrong with me. Starting in 11th grade, however, my parents started to insist that I do something. They kept telling me that I might be depressed, and my mom was pretty adamant that I think about trying antidepressants. However, this led to a lot of fights. Maybe I’m depressed, I’d tell them, but there was no way in hell that I was going to take antidepressants. I thought they’d “change my brain”, and I’d act differently and view the world differently. I simply refused to take medicine. I agreed to try therapy before medicine, and it completely failed. Meanwhile, I had another HUGE social issue in February of 11th grade, and my emotional health plummeted. I was just incredibly depressed. And at that point I knew I was depressed, but I was still refusing to take medicine.

In March, my parents had an “intervention”. They told me that I had no choice, I was going to see a psychiatrist to discuss antidepressants. The intervention ended with me locking myself in a bathroom in order to get away from them, which was probably my lowest point. But it was no use- the next week, I was in a psychiatrist’s office getting evaluated. She diagnosed me with Major Depressive Disorder and decided very quickly that I should start on anti-depressants, and I was started on 5 milligrams of Lexapro within a couple of weeks, almost exactly a year ago (I began them the week after spring break last year). We’ve since increased it to 10 milligrams.

I’m very grateful for my antidepressants now. I can’t imagine getting though the past year without them, and I’m a much happier person while I take them! I don’t think they “change my brain”, which is what I was so afraid of. I just don’t hit the low points that I had before I started taking them. My relationship with my parents is much better, my executive functioning has improved, and I’m just generally happy. It’s a much better feeling than what I was living with for so many years. I don’t think my depression has disappeared, I think I’ve simply been handed a tool to grapple with it more effectively. I don’t want to live with depression if I don’t have to, because it’s an awful way to live.

So, do any of you have depression? I’m especially curious about when other people started to “develop” their depression, since I don’t feel like mine began to pick up until high school (although my mom disagrees). What are other people’s experiences?

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13 responses to “Comorbid Conditions with NLD, Part 1: Depression.

  1. Not to over-comment, but since you asked… :-)

    I have major depression also. I tend to have “major episodes” of more intense depression interspersed with times that I feel more neutral. The first episode I had was in spring of 2005, when I was 20, at the end of my junior year of college. However, like you, I was convinced that I was not depressed and didn’t get diagnosed until a year later, when I had another episode. It had been my choice to see a doctor– no one knew I was depressed, although everyone in my family has been depressed at some point, some worse than others.

    I tried 3 different anti-depressants (Effexor, Zoloft, Wellbutrin) and they had no effect on me (except for the side effects of Effexor improved my sleep). I think this is because my personal depression is primarily situational rather than chemical. All the major episodes I’ve had have been brought on by major negative changes in my life, first the loss of a community I cared a lot about, and then unemployment. I find I can feel better if I do certain things like wake up early, have a structure in my days, and work at building my self-esteem, which is very low. I’m also in treatment for my insomnia, which has been a problem for awhile. Knowing I’m dealing with it puts me in a better mood.

    • As part of returning to my blog, I am finally responding to the comments that people have left since I disappeared!

      A lot of my depression was caused by negative changes in my life as well, but I think that the reason why these changes made me so depressed was BECAUSE there’s something wrong chemically. I think the fact that you’ve figured out how to change your behavior in order to deal with it is really admirable… I’m trying to do that myself.

      • I agree. Depression makes it MUCH harder to bounce back from adversity. There are times when I think I could benefit from medication, but trying out bunches of different kinds can be really taxing on your body, so I have mixed feelings about that route. Do you do talk therapy also? I think I should probably go back to it, but there are just so many incompetent therapists out there (and I say this with respect for the concept of therapy), it’s hard to find a really good one.

  2. I was diagnosed with major depression somewhere around fourth grade. I have ADHD, and my behavioral and academic problems resulting from that, combined with my social ineptitude and general awkwardness resulting from my NLD, and frequent moving around as a kid, all worked against me in bringing it about. I took antidepressant medication from around fourth grade until near the end of my first year of college. It helped, but not a whole lot. I probably tried dozens of meds or med combinations, but most were either ineffective or had intolerable side effects, so I settled on one that kept me functional, if barely at times, that had not noticeable side effects. Id still probably meet the criteria for clinical depression, but its worlds away from what it was in elementary through high-school. Moving from a small town to a big city, and the freedom to pursue personal interests and decrease in busy work that college provided ultimately made the difference for me, but I doubt I’d have made it to college without even the limited help that the antidepressant provided.

  3. I recognize quite a lot of the symptoms you mentioned. What exactly did the antidepressants do for you and how long are you going to have to take them? I find myself in a situation right now where I can’t do anything else than that.

    • One word: ENERGY! I think that they’re really helpful day-to-day because they stop me from sinking too low energy-wise and mood-wise once I get home. I used to come home and hide away because I didn’t have the energy or desire to see anyone. Now I’m cheerful enough that I hang around downstairs with my parents all night, and go out on the weekends a lot more. I’m also much more social at school during free time and breaks (times when I don’t necessarily HAVE to be social)- I run around campus during lunchtimes and talk to everyone, whereas I used to stay in one place a lot more.

      My psychiatrist hasn’t even mentioned the idea of stopping my antidepressants, so I think I’ll be on them for a while. In fact, we just increased my dosage about 1 1/2 months ago…

  4. Hmm :p In your blog about ‘change’ you notice that you hit low points again? But weren’t the anti depressants supposed to kinda avoid to let you reach these low points? I thought that was the whole point of it? Besides that, how bad were the side affects?

    Thank you for taking the time to respond.

    Peace

    • Out of everything that I have to deal with, change is still the hardest thing for me. Despite the anti-depressants, a change as big as graduating high school was bound to make me hit a low point, and I was expecting that to happen! The anti-depressants still help me cope with change a bit better, and they stop me from reaching low points for no reason. Anti-depressants don’t cure depression, they just make aspects of it easier to deal with so that I feel better!

      Thank you for taking the time to read!

  5. Hey I am really glad you started this blog, I just found it tonight. I’ve talked to a lot of people about my nld before, but it’s been very rare to find others with firsthand experience. So, right on.

    I don’t think I have been depressed but I certainly have anxiety. I can say that combining meditation with a prescription for adderall has really helped me. (the aderall can raise anxiety and irritability, but it does wonders for my executive functioning. Meditation relieves muscle tension, calms me down, quiets my mind, and is probably made easier by my heightened focus)

    • Well that’s exactly why I started this blog- to provide more firsthand accounts! I’m glad you’ve found it.

      What medication do you take for your anxiety? While my anti-depressants are also anti-anxiety meds, I don’t have a specific long-term medication for my anxiety. I take Xanax when I’m facing an immediate anxiety-provoking situation, but of course that only stays in your system for several hours. It’s also very very addictive, so I’m trying to watch my use of it… Many people have recommended meditation to me, and I’ve always been eager to try it! However, I’ve never really had the opportunity. How did you start?

  6. I have been depressed to some degree for the majority of my life. Ever since I First began school(yes, I remember quite far back) it was a constant source of stress. My life during the time I went to school was characterized by a fairly constant low grade depression with occasional bouts of moderate to severe depression. These the frequency and severity of these episodes increased as I entered middle school, and a similar trend continued into high school. Life was a constant struggle for me, always trying to keep up with responsibilities and trying to make sense of social interaction.

    Two years ago, at age 15 and in the midst of a bout of severe depression I took stock of my life. For the first time I consciously realized that I no longer desired to live. All those years I had struggled to continue on, but nothing had fundamentally changed, it never got easier. From that point on life dramatically spiraled into a complete mess. In the last two years I have tried to end my life several times, been in a mental hospital twice, received many hours of therapy, taken 5 different kinds of antidepressants, and dropped out of High School.

    I felt like the antidepressants never helped, they only thing they ever did was occasionally make me feel somewhat numbed and out of it and give me irritating withdrawal symptoms. My apologies for being a complete downer, but I think that my depression is significantly related to my NLD so I thought I’d share my experience.

  7. nycgrlupstate

    Hello onefoot,
    I have recently found your wonderful blog and am so happy that I did! I don’t like to sound like a condescending old fart (not saying I’m not one, just that I don’t like to sound like one, lol!) but I hope you feel fortunate that you were diagnosed so early. I am 56 years old and only found out in the last year or two that I have NLD (still working on finding a neuropsychologist and getting an official diagnosis). I have also struggled with major depression with recurrent episodes and with chronic anxiety…they were diagnosed a little over ten years ago but in retrospect I’m pretty sure I’ve had symptoms for at least 35 years so as you can imagine my life has been difficult to say the least. Now Zoloft and talk therapy are my friends! I have frequently wished I could have found out earlier and avoided some of the many bad decisions I made before I understood my disabilities.

    Anyway there are two things I’d like to share with you and, by extension, your readers. First, there are beginning to be some great resources out there for folks with NLD. Two that I like alot are blogs: “The Odd Bird” by Lillian Baulding and “Courting Destiny” by Pia Savage. Lillian is a film maker and is working on a documentary about NLD and her blog is basically about NLD and associated disorders. Pia is an excellent writer and one of the earliest bloggers that I know of and recently started blogging for Psychology Today. They both have NLD and are very cool people–I’ve gotten to be “friends” with them online and in Lillian’s case had the pleasure of a few phone calls. And there is also a tremendously helpful and informative book about NLD and Asperger’s by a woman named Yvona Fast.

    The second thing I wanted to discuss with you is your guest blogging idea. I’ve been trying to start a blog in earnest since this past summer and thinking about it for much longer. Apparently the only people these days who aren’t it seems are the ones who have already done so! Mine will be launched by the end of this month…I just realized I’ve been telling people “any day now” for the last few weeks! It will be called “My Left Hemisphere” and I will also be on WordPress.

    I am held back by the usual NLD-related issues with executive function, procrastination, etc, as well as more general ones: fear of failure, fear of success, fear of fear itself, you know. I thought if you were interested we could do some guest blogging back and forth, maybe something ongoing like interviewing each other and so on. Hopefully this could help us both “just do it!” I think the perspectives revealed by a dialogue between a younger person with NLD and an older one who lived much of her life before it was a known entity would be interesting, to you and me if no one else!
    I’ve gone on much longer than I meant to but you know how hyperlexic we can be. Keep up the good work with school and with the blog. I commend you for taking them both on, especially simultaneously.
    All the best,
    nycgrlupstate

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