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Ask Dr. DombeckAsk Dr. Dombeck:
Psychotherapy and Mental Health Questions

Non-medication Help For Depression

Thu, Dec 9th 2004

Is there any way that people who are mildly depressed can become better without taking anti-depressants? And how do you know whether it is in your best interests to ask for help? My mother has mild paranoia schizophrenia. She had me when she was 15. My parents divorced when she was 18. When I was 5 my mother's brother who was studying medicine, committed suicide in his final year of studies. I can remember my mother before that being happy, carefree and silly; like you'd expect of a young woman. For years after that I remember things like hopping into bed with her at night so she would stop crying, her following cars with hers because she thought she recognized someone who knew her brother, her throwing a radio through a glass window, her getting the phone cut off because the phone company was putting voices in her head etc. I found it hard because I got teased at school for having a crazy mother. For months at a time she slept in the attic complete with cobwebs on a mattress on top of ceiling beams. I couldn't have friends stay over and she was ten yrs younger than most of my friends mothers so i was also ostracized in that way too as she was never friends with any of them. I ended up shoplifting and drinking at around 12. When I left home at 18 I went through another rebellious stage (like when I was 11-14 when my Mum was out of control) where I drank a lot, smoked pot and several times took LSD. Now I am working full time, living with my mother and still have one subject left of my degree and feel as though I am such a failure and want to become happy but am scared of so many things. I don't trust my ability to make major or even minor life decisions anymore because of all the "mistakes" I have made in the past. I have ostracized a family member my age because I am not good company to be around. I have gotten drunk several times and cried and yelled at her and generally behaved appallingly. I want to take responsibility for my life but I find it hard admitting that I have problems because I have always liked the idea of being the one who can help rather than the one who needs it. I have never even had a car license because a car accident on my learners license made me too terrified to keep driving. I know from my Mum's experience what the stigma is like having a mental illness which is why I never wanted to have one. I myself was bullied at school for several years because of it and had no close friends until I went to Australia to escape that. In the last year I just feel so much anger because there have only really been several years in my life that I was truly happy, in high school. I had a stable home, friends, excellent grades, played sports and a job. Now I just feel like I am the product of my life, a failure because I wasn't given the chances I deserved. Like I had potential but all the knock backs have finally drained all the goodness out of me and that I have thoroughly wasted my 20s and will never be good happy or successful again. How do I change without causing my family further pain and/or shame like they have already experienced through my mother's illness, uncles suicide and grandmother's death? I need help but nobody has the energy to give me that as they have their own problems and cant shoulder mine. Any advice for me?

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