I have recurrent major depression and panic disorder. (Both run in the family, but on different sides.) I started having panic attacks when I was about 14, and first got diagnosed with major depression at 18. But moved abroad shortly after that, and refused treatments for years—somehow forced myself through three or four more depressive episodes, plenty of panic attacks, and an undergraduate education. Then things got better for a while, until shit really hit the fan in 2001. Eternally grateful to a couple of individuals who understood the situation much better than me, who persuaded me to sit tight and to finally seek professional help, and who were there for me in the ensuing months (and years). (You know who you are. I love you, and I think you saved my life.) Also very grateful to the good psychiatrist I had the luck to be assigned—he didn’t give up when none of the standard treatment methods seemed to make any difference; nor, later on, when I prematurely and stupidly decided to go it alone again.
Since then I’ve had a couple of longish recurrences, but things are under control now and have been for quite some time. I hope—and plan, to the extent one can plan—for them to stay that way. I still get plenty anxious, and have various associated challenges (affecting me both on and off work). But this is nothing— things are fine—compared to when I’m truly depressed; then I can’t do anything much of a constructive sort at all: sleep, read, eat, write a one-sentence e-mail.
Like Carrie I don’t tick the ‘disabled’-box, and I’ve never talked about this publicly before—certainly not with colleagues (that aren’t also close friends). It makes me feel quite exposed. But a recent encounter with a younger philosopher who’s facing similar troubles made me aware of this blog and prompted me to submit a post. Time to get rid of the hang-up I still have about this, methinks. And the possibility that I could help someone, even just a bit, by sharing the outline of my story here, is obviously worth a little dent in my pride and my privacy.
Anna-Sara Malmgren Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Stanford University