I see a naturopath MD as my PCP, and she's got me on supportive supplements in addition to wellbutrin. I accidentally ran out of the supplements and it took me a few weeks to replace them. I didn't realize how much they were helping until they were out of my system. Maybe find a naturopath MD and ask if they can help you navigate less intense options. Mine said some of her patients use the same supplements I'm on just on their own to manage seasonal depression. Also, are you familiar with The Depression Cure? It's a lifestyle-based approach, but when I took it to my naturopath she said it sounded good and added the fish oil suggestion in that book to my supplements. There's a lot of tools to treat depression, if you don't want to go back to meds, find someone qualified to help you navigate the rest of the options so you can figure out what works for you.
Background: Raised by abusive, pretty much white supremacist assholes. Dad was the abuser/narcissist, Mom enabled. Despite them both being sober my entire childhood, the golden child/scapegoat dynamic emerged with me as the scapegoat or can't do anything right child, despite doing extremely well in school and extracurriculars. Gaslighting was the norm, and despite having a solid union job, my dad kept the house in such a state of squalor that it worked very effectively to isolate all of us and background enforced the idea that we weren't worth anything.
I sank into a suicidal depression young - went away to camp for a week at 13 and hadn't realized how cruel my home life was until I was in that completely different environment for a week straight. That realization spiraled me into a suicidal and self-harming depression until I moved out of their house to go to college at 18. Didn't help that my mom just never talked about our family history of mental illness (including a murder/suicide in the family that I didn't find out about until a year or two ago) and my dad's opinion that mental health is bullshit prevented me (and my brother, who also has depression) from getting any care at all for it. Since leaving their house, my depression has never been that bad, but I still suffer periodic episodes throughout my life, sometimes without trauma/cause.
Recent life: Great job (finally!), social network is scattered and non-cohesive, but studded with excellent people. Making enough that I'm realistically putting together a down payment and want to buy a house in a year or so on my own. Interview next week for what would be a fat promotion. I haven't had a relationship last longer than 7 months in the past 9 years, but I'm currently seeing a super sweet guy I've known for years who is kind of just off a big break up, but I'm not looking for kids so I lack a timeline for relationships and am going for "let's just enjoy this/each other." That has been a little difficult given my depression flared up recently (see below), in addition to the fact that I moved back in with roommates, and while they're great, I've synced to the one girl's cycle and now experience an emotional PMS on her cycle.
What I've tried: Suffering, self harm, radical life changes, exercise, therapy, EMDR, anti-depressants, The Depression Cure (highly recommend), LSD
What actually helps me (just for me, this is not advice): I tried LSD for the first time last May, and after I recovered from the sleep deprivation, my depression was completely cured ... for about 3 weeks. Then it came back. I can't do acid that often, nor do I want to, so I finally tried antidepressants last September, when I felt like I was going to spiral out and lose my awesome job if I didn't do something, and I responded pretty well to it. Didn't like zoloft's side effects, moved to wellbutrin, which works great for me.
I'm also on additional supplements for it (omega 3/fish oil, methylfolate, and travagen [neuro nutrients]), which I ran out of about a month or so ago, and took a few weeks to re-up on, which has caused what I'll call a 'flare up' in my depression. It's like wellbutrin put a floor beneath me, preventing the usual depressive pull straight into the bowels of hell over anything or nothing at all. That is great, but going off the supplements was like leaving the floor there, but putting a very low, dark ceiling over me, making me over emotional and irritated all the time. It took a few weeks for me to figure it out, but I'm all stocked up again and have made a concerted effort to exercise harder/more frequently in general, especially until the rest of the supplements are fully back in my system and working again. Also amped up my socializing a bit more per The Depression Cure (linked above).
ALSO, curbed/nearly stopped drinking because it made me so groggy with the zoloft, then realized how unhealthy my relationship with alcohol had become. Did dry January and still read r/stopdrinking on the regular, even though I moderate effectively and that's almost unheard of there. Dry January wasn't difficult for me since I wasn't depressed any more, and I learned that I'm not an alcoholic, but I turn into one in response to my depression in the absence of effective treatment. Glad I figured that out in my 30s before that could yield major medical problems or other consequences for me.
Therapy and EMDR are helping with my past traumas, but the depression is so deep that it functions independent of that.
The hardest part about depression for me: Knowing that I'm never going to be free of it. My therapist thinks I have unipolar depression, in that I have recurring depressive episodes but no manic episodes in between, often without cause. When I finally restocked my supplements to refill my pill organizer, I just sat on my bed and cried at the realization that I'm forever beholden to this thing, even when I'm managing it and doing really well, kind of like how an alcoholic can be dry for 50 years but will always be an alcoholic.
One good thing about my life/me: I have a high enough salary that I can easily afford the care I need (fuck 'murica). I'm incredibly resilient and independent, and finally finding an effective treatment freed up so much of my mental and emotional energy that I can really, truly function. I'm doing great at work and am back to writing and doing my own creative projects, which I had basically abandoned for 10 years after college. It's like I can finally apply myself.
Read "The Depression Cure"
You might want to rethink overlooking this.
One key point to take away from the book if you decide not to read it is that although depression has a basis in chemicals in your brain, chemicals are not the only thing that can "cure" depression. It's a great read; it taught me a lot about my depression. I highly recommend you read it.
^ was recommended to me by a coworker and I was really skeptical but super happy I tried it. GL!
I decided late 2017, after a major depressive episode, that I needed to get help after 12 years of dealing with this depression. I kept thinking that I had a handle on it, and then it coming back weeks, months or years later.
I read The Depression Cure (https://www.amazon.com/Depression-Cure-6-Step-Program-withou...) about 5 years ago, and it helped for awhile, but it started to worsen again, and after awhile, getting the right diet, exercise and sleep seemed impossible because of the depression and anxiety.
I started therapy about 3 months ago, and finally agreed to try medication. I started taking Zoloft 3 weeks ago, and the side effects are downright awful. I made it through the first 3 weeks though, and I'm starting to feel a lot better.
Zoloft might not end up being the right medication for me, and there might be a better one, but my goal is to find something that takes 10%-20% of the depression and anxiety symptoms away so that I can start my path to curing this beast with the methods Dr. Iliardi outlines in The Depression Cure. Once I'm at a point where I'm better, I'm going to try and ween off the medication and try to live a healthy, great life without SSRIs.