In my first session with my therapist, while looking at the floor with tears in my eyes, I said, “There is no one in the world that hates me, more than me”.

Last year, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. This is not the first time I was diagnosed with depression.

My diagnosis this time came after when my “normal weekend” was filled with crying and loathing everything about myself.

In order to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5, lists that you need to have five or more of the following symptoms during the same two weeks.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

Over the years, I’ve seen many therapists. I hoped and prayed that one of them will say some magical words to me that would make my depression disappear.

After few sessions with my new therapist last year, I still wasn’t making any progress. My thoughts put up a brick wall that I couldn’t breakthrough.

I knew I needed something more this time. My therapist and I found a psychiatrist for me to see, with hopes of starting medication.

I was prescribed anti-depressants in my first session with my psychiatrist. The anti-depressant I started taking was Sertraline. Its brand name is Zoloft, which is a common anti-depressant brand.

I learned that Sertraline is known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors treat depression by increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is one of the chemical messengers that carry signals between brain nerve cells. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. My psychiatrists informed me that sometimes lack of serotonin is biological and we cannot help it.

It’s hard for someone without mental illness to comprehend the need for medication. If someone breaks their arm, it’s normal to say that they need a cast. If someone breaks their leg, it’s easy to say that they need crutches. Mental illnesses however are invisible. Since you can’t see the problem, it’s hard to understand it. Simply saying, “stop crying” doesn’t work.

There is so much stigma associated with mental illness. I fear the judgment I will face once others find out that I need a pill to be happy and get away from my negative thoughts.

In the year I started treating my depression, I learned one important thing. Just medication is not going to work, it’s important to follow up treatment and see a therapist to deal with underlying issues I have about my self-image.

This Valentine’s day, I want to start loving myself.