Until age 36, I never had a symptom that pointed to a mental health issue. I was happy-go-lucky, an extrovert and talkative.
That all changed when I turned 37. Suddenly, I experienced depression starting in November and lasting until the end of March. I was diagnosed with seasonal depressive disorder.
Things went from bad to worse when I turned 40. The depression didn’t lift in the spring like it had the past three years.
And it got bad. Really bad. I owned a construction business and we were finishing a major deck renovation for a customer. On the way to the job site one day, I pulled over into a parking lot. I couldn’t drive any more. All I wanted to do was sleep. I couldn’t move. My guys had to finish the job themselves.
I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD). For two years, I felt like I was in a glass box – I was watching everyone else live their lives. Every second of every day was pure torture. I became an unemotional, depressed person. I went from nonstop playing with my kids to doing absolutely NOTHING with them. I was barely even speaking to my wife, kids and family.
I couldn’t wait for 9 pm when the kids would go to bed. And every night I prayed: “God, if tomorrow is going to feel like today, please don’t let me wake up.”
I attended an intensive outpatient therapy group, but I wouldn’t engage or talk. I would show up and just sit there.
It was amid this depression that I lost my oldest son to an automobile accident. I was absolutely, hopelessly broken.
The Kindness of a (Near) Stranger
My sister’s friend – a person I didn’t know very well – suggested I see her psychiatrist. The psychiatrist was so busy that he didn’t take new patients, but my sister’s friend called in a favor. This act of kindness was the first step on my road to recovery.
When I met with the psychiatrist, one of the first things he said is: “You are not my guinea pig. I don’t like trial and error.” He saw the number of different medications I was taking – 18 different kinds over the past few years – and said he wanted to give me the GeneSight test.
When he explained what the GeneSight test was, I was blown away. It made sense to me – using my DNA to find out how my body may metabolize or respond to different medications. Still, I wasn’t too hopeful, because I was so down that I didn’t think anything would help.
When my doctor reviewed the GeneSight test results with me, I found that there were five medications in my green category (use as directed). I was surprised to see that one of the medications that I had tried in the past was on the green list. However, I had only given the medication three days to try to work, which my doctor explained was not enough time.
My doctor prescribed the medication again and, this time, he said I needed to give it a chance to work. He started me out on a lower dose of the medication.
I was skeptical, but I went along with it. A few weeks after taking the medication, I started to notice a change in me. I was becoming more social. I was engaging in conversations with my family and friends.
Helping Others Suffering from Depression
Within a month after starting the medication, I started engaging in my group therapy. And then I started helping other people in the group and explained how I was where they had been – and I had gotten to the other side. After a while, the therapist who led the group asked me: “What do you think about graduating from this group?”
I had another idea. The therapist was wonderful but had never personally experienced depression or anxiety. Wouldn’t it be great if there was someone like me here who could speak to his personal experience and help others going through this? The therapist suggested that I investigate becoming a certified peer specialist.
That’s what I did. I went back to school for training to help others with their mental health challenges. I started working in the very place where I received my treatment.
And I thank God every day that He didn’t answer my prayers to not let me wake up. Because now I can help others get the help they need.
Since taking the GeneSight test two years ago and getting on a medication that helped me, I feel like I was reborn. I am me again. I am amazed. And I am 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.