By Kelly Dunn
Living with mental illness has been a major part of my life. I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder when I was 12, and then obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) when I was 16. My chronic depression fed off the anxiety from my OCD, and I felt like I was in an endless cycle.
These compulsions included obsessive showering several times a day, to the point where I would rub my skin raw, as well as constantly fearing that my door wasn’t locked. The consuming routines resulted in feelings of uncertainty, helplessness and low self-esteem.
For more than 15 years, I saw different psychiatrists and tried multiple treatment methods, but nothing seemed to alleviate my symptoms. There would be glimpses of hope with each prescribed medication, but the medicine would soon lose its effect, putting me back at square one.
Eventually, I was diagnosed with treatment-resistant depression and OCD.
I’ve tried more than 20 different antidepressant medications and multiple anti-anxiety drugs, in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy, dialectical behavior therapy, exposure response prevention, psychotherapy and talk therapy.
I started convincing myself that I would have to cycle through different approaches for the rest of my life. I kept thinking to myself, “I can’t do this anymore, something’s got to give.”
After speaking with my therapist about how my medications were not bringing relief, she referred me to her colleague for deep transcranial magnetic stimulation (Deep TMS). I had not heard of this treatment option, but soon learned that Deep TMS is a noninvasive way to stimulate the deep structures of the brain associated with both depression and OCD.
Since I was eligible for the treatment, I figured, “what is one more treatment?”
When I started Deep TMS for depression and OCD, I was scoring at the top of the scale for severity of both disorders. After a few weeks, I could already feel relief. It was clear this treatment was making a greater impact than anything I had tried before. By the end of my sessions, I was no longer clinically diagnosable with OCD — this alone has given me so much of my life back.
Each Deep TMS session lasted around 20 minutes, and I was able to drive myself to and from the clinic. No hospitalization or anesthesia was necessary and treatment sessions fit into my daily routine, which was extremely important given my graduate studies. There are so many alternative mental health treatments, such as Deep TMS, that are not well-known, but can make a tremendous difference for those of us living with depression or OCD.
While life with a mental illness is hard, it can be especially brutal when you continue to fail treatment. It may feel like all your efforts — the doctor visits, the medication trials, the therapy sessions — are a waste, but they’re not. Arriving at the right treatment can take time.
As frustrating as it may be, there is a treatment out there that can help you, it may just take some trial and error. Look at it this way: if you try a particular treatment and it doesn’t help, you're that much closer to finding the one that will make you feel better.
Whatever you do, don't settle, and don’t give up. Never accept that there is no solution or hope for treating your mental illness. Mental health symptoms are unique to each person, and the same goes with what treatment will work best.
Kelly Dunn is a graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts Degree in marriage and family therapy/counseling, raising awareness and advocating for alternative mental health therapies for treatment-resistant patients.
We’re always accepting submissions to the NAMI Blog! We feature the latest research, stories of recovery, ways to end stigma and strategies for living well with mental illness. Most importantly: We feature your voices.
Check out our Submission Guidelines for more information.
Find Your Local NAMI