Many years ago, I came across a quote from a letter that Abraham Lincoln wrote to a friend in 1841:
“I am now the most miserable man living. If what I feel were equally distributed to the whole human family, there would not be one cheerful face on the earth. Whether I shall ever be better I cannot tell; I awfully forebode I shall not. To remain as I am is impossible; I must die or be better it appears to me.”
That was me. Everyone gets sad sometimes. But, mine was different.
When I got sad, I got afraid, too. I was afraid this sadness would not be temporary – that it would stay for weeks and weeks. During these periods of depression, every single day was a struggle.
I missed a lot of my children’s school and athletic events. I could not make it to Model UN debates or basketball or hockey games: I was in bed. On most days in fact, I got them off to school, then climbed right back into bed where I would stay. Most days, I would drag myself out of bed, ready to greet them when I heard the school bus bring them home at 3:30 p.m. Then I would pretend that I was ok until we got through dinner and homework.
Yet, the whole time I was just looking forward to going back to bed.
When I wasn’t struggling with depression, I was fun, social and very outgoing. I was deeply involved in the founding of The Children’s Inn, a residence for families with children participating in research studies at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda MD.
And I was married to a member of Congress. Campaigning was second nature to me, as was the social schedule one was expected to keep in Washington.
I would bet that most people who knew me would never have guessed at the depth and breadth of my depression.
My psychiatrists, as well-trained, well-meaning, hard-working and dedicated as they were, were really only able to guess about which antidepressants may help me. It was a lot of trial and error. And we had lots of errors.
After my husband and I moved to Charlotte, NC, I saw a new psychiatrist there. He introduced me to the GeneSight test, which he had studied thoroughly. He thought it may give him some insight based on my personal genetic make-up.
Personalized Medicine via the GeneSight Test
The GeneSight test made such a difference in my life. The results I got from this personalized genetic test helped my doctor and me to finally find the medication that worked for my depression.
I felt awake and alive. My life contained more thoughtful action and possibilities than ever before. Just being able to speak about my depression and my mental illness was a huge accomplishment for me.
Then, as quickly as the antidepressant had worked, it stopped.
I was heartbroken and defeated. I had a new grandchild and another on the way; yet, I couldn’t muster the energy to be excited.
My doctor refused to give up. Even though we had moved again, this time to New York to be closer to family, we continued our sessions using telemedicine. He recommended adding a new medication to the one I had been taking, using genetic information from my GeneSight test results. I agreed to try it.
It took me a long time – about six months – for the new additional medication to work which was much longer than my recovery the first time. But, at age 74 and having had earlier success with the first medication, I had the wisdom and the patience to hang in there and wait. So, while I was sad (and actually kind of mad) that the depression occurred again, I was patient. Eventually, the new combination began to work and now, over a year later, I’m doing great!
Here I am – at last!
Thanks, Science! And, thanks, GeneSight! I am very grateful.
This story is one patient’s personal experience. Other patients may not have the same experience or outcome. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.
The GeneSight test must be ordered by and used only in consultation with a healthcare provider who can prescribe medications. As with all genetic tests, the GeneSight test results have limitations and do not constitute medical advice. The test results are designed to be just one part of a larger, complete patient assessment, which would include proper diagnosis and consideration of your medical history, other medications you may be taking, your family history, and other factors.
If you are a healthcare provider and interested in learning more about the GeneSight test, please call us at 855.891.9415. If you are a patient, please talk with your doctor to see if the GeneSight test may be helpful.