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We start the series of articles with a difficult but important problem: “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” talked to people who have lived through the experience of being in psychiatric hospitals or faced mental disorders. This topic has been quite taboo in our society for a long time. But today we are seeing a trend where people are starting to talk more openly about their diagnoses. In this new edition, we publish stories about struggles with mental illness.

Our first interviewee, Georgy*, was born in Georgia, then went to university in Moscow, where he met his Belarusian wife. At the end of the 90s, he moved with his family to the United States, where he was first diagnosed with depression.

* – name changed

In Russia, I was head of a laboratory, a senior researcher at the chemistry department of Moscow State University. I emigrated because it was very difficult to live in Russia. Both in terms of money (I received $50 at the university) and in terms of work – science, like many other things, was no longer financed, there was nothing to pay employees, nothing to buy reagents with.

In the USA, I was a scientist at Carnegie Mellon University for about 5 years. For the last 17 years I worked as a senior imaging specialist at Nikon.

I was diagnosed with depression in my first year in the USA – 1998. But I had it before. In my time in the USSR, and later in Russia, depression was not diagnosed. It is understandable, how can a person be depressed if he lives in “the most advanced, the fairest, the happiest country”? Our doctors diagnosed astheno-vegetative syndrome and, if you were lucky, sent you to a sanatorium. But mostly we were treated the old tried and tested way – a bottle with friends.

In the USA it is not usual to complain about life, here you should always be fine, you talk about football (American, of course) with your buddies over a beer. That’s why psychiatrists and psychologists are in charge of treatment, the first prescribes medicines, and the second talks about life, but for a lot of money.

In brief what I felt: general dissatisfaction with life, lack of pleasure from it, apathy, a sense of hopelessness, sleep disorders. Once I didn’t sleep for almost 20 nights in a row. There was also a very low energy level, a feeling of fatigue, sadness-sadness. But I had no guilt, no physical pain, no loss of concentration, no feeling of being unwanted. My appetite didn’t change either. I never stopped looking after myself: even in my worst moments, I looked great in terms of clothes-shoes-accessories, was cleanly washed, cut my hair, and smelled of expensive French perfume. However, it is clear that such a life is not a joy. It really interferes with work and also has a negative impact on loved ones.

Abstract animation “Depression”. Author-Morgur_art

The most common theory is that depression is caused by a lack of neurotransmitters. Therefore, the preconditions for depression are definitely internal. Another thing is that a person even with low serotonin may not experience depression. I can tell you from myself that the most acute attacks of depression were stimulated by negative external factors.

Often the external circumstances simply change and the factor that stimulates depression disappears, and with it the depression gradually disappears. Yes, I can exist without pills, but as soon as I feel the signs of the beginning – I start taking them. There are a lot of different pills, affecting completely different systems of the body. And accordingly, they have a completely different effect on life activity. I have tried about 30 drugs. Many of them start to work only after a month, and side effects – much later. Some drugs made me a vegetable, others made me lose libido, and others made me addicted.

In the USA, there is no such thing as sick leave. Depending on your contract, you have a certain number (about 10) of sick days, which are paid. The rest is at your own expense. Medical support is full, just pay the money. You may have to wait up to six months until the doctor of your choice can see you. Yes, most plans cover treatment for depression, of course they do, half the population has it here!

I had a suicide attempt about a year ago, I put a bullet in my head with my gun. Luckily, firearms are free to own here and I didn’t have to get arsenic poisoning or open my veins, although when you want to, you can do more than that. The conditions for purchasing firearms in the USA vary from state to state. In California or, for example, New York is more complicated, and in Texas – quite simple. I just walked into a store and came out an hour later with a new Smith & Wesson revolver. They checked my criminal history and that was it.

The causes are a combination of many factors, both internal and external. The trigger was an ice cream dropped in the car. That was the last straw.

I don’t know how I survived, the caliber is huge and the cartridge is reinforced. Luck, if you can call it luck. T The shot did a lot of damage to my face, but not to my brain. I was in the hospital for about 100 days, had several operations.

Abstract animation “Dopamine delivery failure”. Author-Morgur_art

TThat’s the kind of thing that happens to anyone suffering from depression. Life is hard, so why suffer? Yes, and depression is either impossible or quite tolerable. So I can say that the plans are long-term, but from the decision to its implementation was about two hours of doubts and metamorphosis, because I have children, wife, mother. But then I decided that I’m dead – it’s better than a loser on the whole head sick, well, and pulled the trigger. At the time it seemed to me the best solution. I do not regret anything, on the contrary, sometimes I regret that it did not work out. 

Right now the condition is bad, there is a lot of physical discomfort and pain in addition to the depression. And the depressing thoughts are like fleas on a dog named Barboska. I would advise people with depression to find a combination of medication and psychological support that works for them. I haven’t been able to do that yet.