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Mental Health - My Story

Mental Health - My Story

I've fought depression all my life.

I'm telling my story in the hope it will help others. Of course, these are just my personal recollections, they are not intended as medical advice. So with that caveat, here's the scoop on depression from my perspective.

I was born near Stockport in the UK. I was the eldest of 3 kids. I have 2 younger sisters.

I suffered from bouts of depression from an early age. I still vividly remember the first time when I was just 10 years old.

But I had lots of friends "on the block" and we got up to many adventures. We created our own bows and arrows and catapults. Every Nov 5th we would build a huge fire for Bonfire Night.

There was a critical exam at age 11, it was called the "11 Plus". If you passed you went to "Grammar School" and on an academic track to university. But if you failed you went to "Secondary School" - with no chance at university and you were prepared for the Trades.

I failed.

So I went to "Secondary School" and learned woodworking, metalworking and gardening.

I complained, so my folks got me a private tutor. That year there was a new program.. you were allowed to retake the 11 Plus a year later if approved. I was one of just 3 students in the entire school that was approved.

So I took the 12 Plus, passed, and was transferred to Grammar School. I studied like crazy and at 18 I won a place at Sussex University where I got my BSc in Physics.

From there I went to Cambridge University where I did my PhD in Physics. But depression followed me all the way. At Cambridge University I sometimes could not get out of bed until midday or later. I missed quite a few Physics lectures.

But after 1 year in Cambridge I was transferred to the experimental Lab which was near Oxford. It was there that I lived in Coseners House. Amazing. I was ultra busy so my depression subsided but never really left me.

I got my PhD in 1975.

So I had a PhD. I applied for jobs. But no jobs in Physics. But as soon as I applied for a job in computing I was snatched up by a London based computing consulting firm.

I went on a few adventures, including working in Holland on computer control for a North Sea Gas Pipeline. Then I was sent to Chase Manhattan Bank in NYC to work on money transfer systems.

I resigned from the London consulting company and got married. Then I went into business with my brother-in-law to build a new Personal Computer App. IBM released their PC in 1981, but it could not do what we needed.

So I went out and became a print salesperson in order to sustain our business. I met an interesting woman on the train. She worked for Hertz Corporation and gave me a ton of printing business. That helped us through a rough financial period.

Then in Jan 1984 Apple released the Mac. It was exactly what we needed. We shipped our App in Jan 1985. It was a success.

It's strange, but during all this time I did not seek professional help for my depression. But finally in the 1990s I did seek help. First I tried talk therapy. Over the years I've seen several therapists and I still do.

The other professional I saw was a psychiatrist who prescribed Venlafaxine which is an SNRI (Serotonin Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhaibitor). That helped but of course did not "cure" the depression. I still got bouts of depression but they were not as severe. I take Venlafaxine daily. It helps.

Over the years I've learned that my depression is less when I'm actively involved in a project and mentally challenged. Of course such projects are not always easy to find.

I sometimes get angry with myself for "allowing" depression to affect my entire life. But that's a negative thought and almost always triggers a bout of depression. I try my best to stop analyzing the past with constant "what if" questions.

So what's the bottom line? I'm 73 now and I've had derpreesion since I was 10. Did I find a cure? No. But talk therapy has helped me manage my mental attitude towards depression. And medication has helped manage the mechanism of the disease. I have a wonderful wife, 2 great daughters and 4 amazing grandkids. I totally believe in science. There will come a day when sophisticated treatments eradicate depression and a lot of other things. I will not be around to see that. But my grandkids will.

Tech Note:
Serotonin and Norepinephrine are chemicals in the brain that are known to be involved in mood. It's generally agreed that increased concentrations of these chemicals can help reduce depression. And that's exactly what Venlafaxine does - it simply increases the concentration of Serotonin and Norepinephrine. It's a "sledge hammerreduce" approach, but that's where science is right now.

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Content written and posted by Ken Abbott
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