Opinion: An optimist's journey toward dropping the 'D-bomb'

Stephanie Gallman

Story highlights

  • CNN's Stephanie Gallman describes being diagnosed with depression
  • She reveals how family and friends reacted to her dropping the "D-bomb'"
  • Gallman says she was surprised because she thinks of herself as an optimist
  • "Depression, until now, was my dirty little secret," she says
In August, after several months of seeing a therapist and a psychiatrist, I was diagnosed with depression.
The news came as a shock.
"I'm not depressed," I said defiantly, shaking my head when the doctor deduced that must be what was ailing me.
"I hate depressed people."
She laughed at my strange reaction, but I was serious. I don't want to be in that category of people. Everything they take in and spew out just breathes negativity, and they are difficult to be around. I despise these people.
But as she went down a list of symptoms, they were all there -- loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, waves of irrational anxiety, crying for no reason, loss of interest in work and hobbies, isolation and seclusion. I had nearly every one of them.
We went over my personal history, which included severe bouts with anxiety as a child, teenager, college student and young adult. I told her I assumed all kids were scared of dying, all teenage girls struggled with weight and eating issues, all college students struggled leaving the nest and everyone had a quarter-life crisis. My severe highs and lows that spanned a long period of time were all red flags.
When I told her my family history of mental illness that included at least one suicide, she threw her pen down on the floor as if this years-long mystery had finally been solved.
"It sounds to me like your body just doesn't produce enough serotonin," she said, matter-of-factly.
Her diagnosis sounded quite clinical. We'd only talked for an hour, but she seemed certain, based on our conversation and the briefing she'd had with my therapist, that my body's chemistry was simply off, causing me to feel down. She threw in slight OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) for good measure, to which I scoffed, thinking of the clothes strewn about my house.
"Your OCD is in your thoughts -- you think about things to the point of obsessing about them." 
Well, that's just awesome.
I agreed with her that I had been going through a slump but wondered if her diagnosis was a bit dramatic. I've always been a firm believer that happiness is a choice. I'm an optimist, so if I'm not happy, there has to be a reason for it. Could these feelings be the result of job stress? The on-again/off-again relationship I'd been fighting to make work for almost a year?
She nodded as I posed these questions and then said, "Sure, it's possible that all of these things could've contributed to how you're feeling. But it's also possible, and quite likely for you, that none of them did."  
She advised me, as a frequent exerciser and fairly healthy eater, to continue those activities before she said what I'd feared the most.
"I think an antidepressant might help stabilize some of the chemicals in your brain."
I continued to challenge her, wanting to know how long I'd have to be medicated. She could tell I was anxious and looking for a solution to this problem that didn't involve drugs. But she was already writing a prescription and scheduling our next visit.
"For some people," she explained, "happiness isn't a choice. You wanting to be happy and expecting it to just happen is the equivalent of someone with brown eyes wanting blue eyes and expecting that to just happen."   
I wasn't thrilled with the