Shared Diagnosis with Patient

This afternoon, I had my weekly individual psychotherapy session with a resident of a nursing home where I provide psychological services. One of her diagnoses is major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe. I happen to share this very same diagnosis, in fact.

This resident stated that she first started feeling depressed when her mother died. At the time, she was only four years old.

She has experienced multiple episodes of severe depression. She has also attempted suicide, multiple times.

I always feel an unspoken bond with residents who have suffered from severe depression. Nothing compares to the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness that accompany severe clinical depression.

This type of depression is a raw, searing pain. Your situation feels completely insurmountable.

At its most extreme, suicide itself feels like the only viable option. This absolutely doesn’t reflect a desire to stop living. It’s merely the conclusion reached by a mind that sees no way out of unbearable emotional anguish.

My episodes of severe depression have been characterized by pervasive suicidal ideation. The overwhelming majority of the time, this hasn’t been accompanied by a specific plan to engage in self-harm. Therefore, it can be said that I have suffered from passive suicidal ideation.

In 1997, my passive suicidal ideation took a dramatically dangerous turn. I actually poured an entire bottle of antidepressant medication into my hands. I fully intended to stop my pain, once and for all.

Nevertheless, something compelled me to look at myself in the bathroom mirror of the New York City apartment where I was living at the time. My thoughts gravitated to my then ten-year-old daughter. I knew that there was absolutely no way that I could leave her to deal with losing me in such a tragic way.

I feel overwhelmingly blessed that I never actually acted on my suicidal ideation. However, I will never forget this unspeakably painful episode of major depressive disorder.

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