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I Just Feel So Depressed


Dr. Schwartz,

I have been so depressed over the last 7 months. I don’t understand how to explain it. I think it’s mainly a cultural issue. When I was 7 years old I moved to America from India and I had major culture shock. Also, I was totally bullied and hated by all the kids in my school. I didn’t even have one friend, not even partners in partner activities, until I reached the 8th grade. Even then, I just had one friend but was left out most of the other time.

This friend she wasn’t a very good influence on my life. I got into lots of bad relationships with bad guys and that just lowered my self worth even more. She was a good friend but basically a very very bad influence but I clung to her then and even now because she was the only person to show me kindness.

Meanwhile at home, my mom is really caring and I guess wanted me to have a good life but she is kinda violent, more so when I was a child, and me being sensitive, I didn’t respond well to that. So then, I basically didn’t have a very good relationship with my parents because I lied to them all the time and was just looking for a way to escape from them.

Then I graduated from high school and I was doing an undergraduate study in psychology and literature (dual degree). My wanted me to get engaged to this guy she found for me. I was pretty sick with everything and so I just said yes even though i didn’t think that guy would have suited me at all but didn’t realize it then. Then my mom herself realized he wouldn’t work and broke the engagement by kicking him out in a fight.

It made me really upset and I started having panic attacks. At the same time, my mom decided it would be good for me to enter college in India and do medicine.

So now I’m in medical school. The first year was great. I studied really hard and did really well but, I’ve been on the decline. I feel depressed, I’m not sure if this is the right decision for me. I can’t study. Weird stuff goes through my head all the time. I’m depressed. I want to quit. The only thing that keeps me going is thinking about the job security and money. But this is never how I wanted to live. I don’t know, I just go back and forth in my head all the time.

By the way, I was diagnosed on 3 separate occasions with bipolar disorder. Once, I spent four days in a psychiatric hospital.

I need help. I want to feel happy with where I am. I don’t want to be confused with life. I feel dead inside, passionless but this is not me. I don’t know what happened.

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You have been through a lot of stress from early childhood until now. You left India at an early age and had to  settle into the United States and learn to live in an entirely different culture. In school you were bullied and rejected by your peers. At home you experienced abuse and, because your background is Indian, you remain loyal to your parents. In addition to the fact that you have Bipolar, it is little wonder that you feel depressed and empty inside. In fact, the term, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder comes to mind for you and your problems.

First, I am assuming that you are taking a mood stabilizing medication for your bipolar diagnosis. However, medication by itself, is never enough. I strongly urge you to find a good clinical psychologist so that you can begin to work on your troubling past and present. Talking in therapy is very effective in treating depression, even in the presence of a bipolar disorder. I also recommend that you find a psychologist who is also Indian. There are so many culture issues involved here that you really need someone who understands Indian culture. I am sure there are plenty of fine mental health practitioner in your medical school.

Another good reason for you to see a psychologist is that medical school is extremely stressful. There is a high percentage of students experiencing depression dropping out of school. If you truly want to become an MD you will need the support of a mental health expert.

That brings me to the next point. Do you want to be a medical doctor. Practicing medicine is a major life commitment. That is why motivation is such an important part of being an MD. The fact that you have bipolar disorder will not prevent you from being a medical practitioner. Remaining stable on medication and psychotherapy as well as determination, will help give you the endurance you need for the rigors of medical training and practice. Earning money is one reason for entering the field but it cannot and should not be the only reason. Of course, you were accepted into medical school and did well in your first year, indicating that you have the intellectual capacity and talent for that career. still, it’s up to you.

I am venturing to guess that a large part of your confusion about medical training is the fact that your mother selected it for you, just as she selected a fiancee for you. That fits into Indian culture but no American. As a woman living in the United States, you have the right to marry whom ever you want and to study anything you want. Today, there are many Indian women who are doctors.

So, what I am pointing out is that you will have to rebel, at least somewhat, from your mother and father. That is part of the reason I am suggesting you see an Indian psychologist.

In any case, do not wait to get help for yourself. I agree that you need and should feel happy. Therapy can help you find what you want for yourself. It will help you become the person you want to be, separate and apart from your mother.

I wish you the very best of luck

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