Dear Dr. Archer,
Thanks for following me on Twitter. Man, I have so many issues! I am seeing a counselor, and I've seen a few other folks over the years, but they never lasted very long and I received no help.
My counselor says that I suffer from PTSD from childhood trauma. I was abused, beaten, and locked in a closet off and on for two years. At age 5 I was taken to an orphanage, as my birth mother was in and out of mental institutions.
At 7 my birth mother and her new husband came to the orphanage and took me back. They took me to Michigan, where I suffered both beatings and rapes by my step-father and two other marines.
After a particular beating that landed me in the hospital with a cracked skull, I was returned to the orphanage where I stayed until I left for college. I graduated, and since that time my adult life has been very high or very low. I've always worked well, but once I'm alone at home I tend to battle my demons.
I have been homeless three times, most recently in 2008-2009, while the longest was in 2000. After I got on my feet in 2000, I was able to be settled until 2008. Since 2009 I have been working and having a fine living situation.
I consider myself bi-sexual, but know that it is from being raised in the conservative south that stops me from identifying myself as what I truly am -- Gay.
I've had relationships with both men and women, and have been in love once. My longest relationship was one and a half years. I'm 47 right now, and I've been celibate and not in a relationship since I was 30.
I have a dog that has been with me for seven years that is the love of my life. Last May I had a six-way heart bypass surgery; it's been a tough medical year. I've been fighting depression that came to a head with thoughts of true suicide in December.
I have a severe anxiety disorder which led to my homelessness in 2000. I've been on Paxil since 2001, and it really saved my life. Although I haven't had a true attack since then, it does nothing to help with the depression.
I have always had trouble sleeping, and as a youth I would be scared to get up and go to the bathroom, as I thought my mother would be there. One of the most brutal beatings I received was when I accidentally walked in on her one night. She ended up burning my hands on the electric stove grill.
I guess I'm writing to you to see if there's a medication that I should try that combats both anxiety and depression. My counselor does not have prescription authority, but is part of a group that has folks that do. In counseling, she feels I need to get back out there and find relationships.
Although I am friendly and outgoing at work, after work I'm a loner. I told her I have no interest in finding someone. My philosophy on myself is that with everything I've been through, I've accomplished plenty. I don't mind being "not happy or thrilled" with my life. I think being OK is a huge victory.
I fear depression will overcome me again and I'll end up empty. I have a good job, and live little more than check to check. I have very bad credit after my heart surgery and my down times leading to homelessness. I love giving gifts, but do not like receiving them. Yet, Christmas and the birthdays I have spent alone make me sad.
Holidays are terrible; I have no work to distract me. I find clinicians at work and have had great success the past two years. However, I may lose my job due to state budget cuts and healthcare reform cuts.
I feel my depression worsening and want help before I end up on the bottom again. Any thoughts?
First I want to tell you that I, too, consider your life to be a victory. Child abuse can cause huge devastating effects on the victim's life. What you endured as a helpless child and what you are doing now proves to me that you are a survivor. You are truly to be commended, as you have overcome much.
Researchers have found that childhood victims of sexual abuse were four times more likely to suffer from depression. Furthermore, when a child is abused by someone who should be protecting the child instead of hurting him -- such as your mother and step-father -- the feelings of betrayal are much, much greater.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is very, very effective in helping someone overcome not only depression but the lingering effects of child abuse. I'm glad to see you taking advantage of that, and I would hate to see it end.
Joining a support group would also be very beneficial, Robert. You'd be in a group of individuals who have had similar experiences. Talking about these experiences offer help and healing. Some of these groups focus on depression; look for one of these. Ask your counselor or call your local hospitals who can put you in touch with such a group.
I am glad to hear you have a dog who is the love of your life. Animals bring so much good into our lives, and they do so without expecting anything in return. Studies have proven that the beneficial connection between people and their pets are very important, but this is doubly so when it involves a person who has suffered from child abuse.
These relationships are built on trust and love, and I am very happy that you have that. Your dog gives you the responsibility to look after someone besides yourself, and that is very healthy for you.
I tend to agree with you, Robert, about relationships. If you aren't interested in one right now, that's fine. Take care of yourself and your dog. The two of you can go on adventures together, and meet people along the way. I always encourage making new friends, but it doesn't have to lead to a relationship unless YOU want it to. Rather than focus on creating a relationship, I'd rather say get out and have fun.
Lastly, let's talk about medication. There are many excellent, proven antidepressants on the market today that target both anxiety and depression. I would suggest you speak directly with the doctor and tell him you fear that your symptoms are getting worse.
Sometimes it's a game of hit and miss, with you and the doctor trying out a few before hitting on the correct med or combo. Please always remember to keep your doctor and counselor informed as to how you're feeling and what's going on.
I truly wish you nothing but the best, Robert. Your letter was a welcome one, and one that I believe will help others. Remember that even if you do fall victim to budget cuts, there are community health clinics that should be able to help you.
Don't dwell on the unknown, but rather care for yourself today. I truly wish you nothing but the best.