Imagine for a moment, that during the rainy days of spring, you feel unusually tired, have disrupted sleep and feel low in mood. Your motivation declines and you find little joy in your favourite activities for weeks, months or even years. These can be some of the common symptoms of depression.
The Canadian Biomarker Integration Network in Depression antidepressant medication study (CAN-BIND-1) aims to help predict response to treatment for depression. The research study involved persons living with depression and healthy participants who underwent a series of investigations such as brain imaging, blood tests and questionnaires.
Participants received antidepressant treatment and were assessed biweekly using a range of clinical and biological investigations over 16 weeks to monitor how they responded to the medication. -Dr. Shane McInerney, Study Psychiatrist
As the CAN-BIND-1 study comes to an end, we interviewed participant, Makyla Jabour, a 26-year-old Toronto resident about her personal journey of living with depression and participating in the study.
Makyla Jabour, Executive Project Specialist, Investments Inc., CAN-BIND-1 study participant
Q: Often people will feel reluctant to reach out for help. What encouraged you to seek treatment for depression?
A: Because of my depression, I lost my appetite. For months at a time, I was unable to eat or sleep and couldn’t focus on anything. I couldn’t even bring myself to wear anything besides a hoodie and sweats.
I was really down and unwell. One day, I came home and my new puppy, James, had destroyed my pair of TOMs® shoes. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t really care but instead, I threw a shoe across the room and starting crying my eyes out. It was at that point my partner and I started looking for help.
A: Finance is definitely one of my triggers. If I have to take a month off for whatever reason, mental or physical health, I’m not going to get a paycheque. How do you cope with that? It’s a vicious cycle: you feel depressed because you have no money and you have no money because you’re depressed and can’t function the way a healthy person would.
But overall, it could be a number of different things. I don’t know if it’s truly an imbalance of my brain chemistry or if there are small things that happen that build up to it.
A: I’d lie in bed for hours on end and have suicidal thoughts- that was my tipping point. When I told them (the CAN-BIND staff) what was happening with me, I got into the study immediately. It was a study where people are like-minded and understand what you’re going through.
A: Daunting. Because I was severely depressed, getting out of bed was difficult; then going for blood work and having Franca (the study coordinator) walk me through all the different tasks was daunting.
The electroencephalography (EEG) was my favourite! I liked them putting the gel on my head- that was my highlight. However, the first time I did the brain scan I had a little panic attack so they had to stop.
It got easier once I was on the medication and I was doing the regime properly. I was exercising (I’m terrible at exercising.) After a while, I saw the change in myself.
It was daunting but it was progressive and worth it. It went by so quickly. There was such a large difference from where I started to where I was at the end- it was almost inspiring.
Q: What were your thoughts on taking antidepressant medication in the study? How did the treatment affect you?
A: The antidepressant helped tremendously. But it was also very difficult adjusting to being on medication.
As a person, I think if you find the right medication for you, it feels as though you’re not really taking medication. Which in itself is a problem as well because a lot of people with depression will just stop taking their medication and this is how it (the illness) cycles and continues.
Q: How would you describe your journey in living with depression?
A: Have you ever been to Wonderland? You know the Behemoth? The big roller coaster? That’s what my life is like. It’s very difficult to deal with something when you don’t have the coping mechanisms to deal with it straightaway.
It’s not just difficult for me; it’s difficult for everybody around me. I’m quite fine being depressed and staying in my room for days- I can lock the world out. But it’s not logical. It’s not conducive with my life.
There are days I could wake up and I just don’t feel like getting out of bed. Thankfully, my work is very good with mental health – I mean I would never call them and say ‘hey, I just don’t feel like coming into work today’ obviously, but there are a lot of fields of work where you can’t just stop.
Q: Stigma refers to negative attitudes (prejudice) and negative behaviour (discrimination) toward people with mental health problems. How did this affect you?
A: If it’s one thing I’ve had to deal with, it’s the stigma of mental health.
People don’t realize that it’s insulting sometimes when they say ‘oh, but you just need to smile and sit up’ or ‘just perk up’- it’s not like that. If I could just perk up I would obviously just perk up. And no problem, I can put on a smile.
But it’s not about just smiling. It’s much more than that; it’s much deeper than that. It’s about figuring out how to deal with those emotions and gathering as many tools as you need to combat different parts of your life.
Q: What advice would you give to help someone who may be at a difficult point in their life?
A: Go out and get help. Do what’s best for you; don’t just do what’s best for other people.
A therapist once said something to me: depression is like having a friend from childhood that you don’t really like but have to keep around. They come over, sleep on your couch for days at a time, never clean up after themselves and just suck everything out of you.
And that’s what depression is to me. So find that one mantra that you can say to yourself – this is not me, this is a part of me. And go get help. You will feel so much better when you’re around people who’ve dealt with it or can appreciate what you’re going through.
Q: Finally, what inspired you to share your story?
A: I like talking about it. I like people understanding and knowing that people with depression aren’t people who are mopey all the time. People with depression are often people like me who are outgoing and social, the ones who are always up for a good time.
For more information on CAN-BIND’s current research studies, click here.
Editors: Shane McInerney, MD, MB, MSc, MRCPsych, Andrew Kcomt, BScPhm.