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Dealing with Depression: A Patient’s Story

young man sitting against lockers with knees up and hands to his head

What do you have to be depressed about?

It’s a frustrating question for people experiencing depression. It’s also a question that John McDaniel asked himself at one time.

“I’ve been blessed my whole life. I’ve had a successful career, my family is healthy,” he said. “I have everything in the world going for me. So I would ask myself that question a lot. Why do I experience these things?”

Born and raised in Kosciusko County, McDaniel married his high school sweetheart, Sheri. The couple has been together for 28 years and they have three adult children.

McDaniel entered the orthopedics industry at Biomet as a machinist when he was 19. Over the years, he’s worked in manufacturing, product development, marketing and sales, and he holds a number of patents for medical devices. He eventually worked his way up to vice president and general manager of global extremities.

He chose to leave the orthopedics arena in 2015 after Zimmer acquired Biomet. Today, he runs a consulting business and takes on freelance assignments. He also does organizational development and fundraising for Turning Point Counseling Center.

McDaniel’s struggle with depression began in 2008 when he began to experience a high level of anxiety that led to insomnia and, eventually, depression. Only his family and close friends knew what he was going through.

“I didn’t want anyone else to know. I did a fairly decent job of hiding that. And when I couldn’t hide it well, I just didn’t go anywhere,” he said.

Genetic treatment plan

Counseling, the support of family and friends and prayer helped him recover from that first bout of depression, he said. But when the familiar cycle of anxiety, insomnia and depression returned in 2015, it was more difficult to manage.

While he was initially resistant to the idea of taking medication to treat his depression, but it helped him “pull out of a nose dive.” He was doing so well in the months that followed that he decided to wean himself off the medication under medical supervision.

He was OK for a few months, but then the depression returned and “it was deeper and darker than before.” He knew that he needed help, so he went back on medication. It didn’t help this time.

McDaniel decided to have genetic testing done to identify genetic markers that indicate which treatments are likely to work as intended, have no effect or cause adverse effects.

His health care provider, Jeanette Cochran, a nurse practitioner at Parkview Physicians Group Mind-Body Medicine, has been utilizing genetic testing to treat patients since early 2016.

“Through this testing, we’re finding that a lot of people have a mutation with a gene that kind of predicts how well you’re going to respond to that medication,” she said.

The genetic test involves taking a simple cheek swab – 30 seconds on each side – and sending it to the lab. So far, 2,400 patients have taken the test at the Parkview clinic, mostly patients with depression and bipolar disorder, Cochran said. She added that the test has been extremely valuable, and the clinic is conducting a formal study to look at outcomes.

She said it’s important to note that a patient’s combination of genes – not just one particular gene – should be considered and interpreted appropriately.

It’s also important to note that this is not a test for depression or other mental health conditions.

“Everyone has gene mutations. It’s a matter of if these genes are active,” she said. “If someone has active depression, it’s pretty much understood that these genes are active.”

However, it’s also possible that someone without depression might have the same mutations but they might not be active.

McDaniel’s genetic test results led to a switch in medications that are better suited to his genetic make-up. The name of the test he underwent is called the Genecept Assay from Genomind.

While the testing provided additional insight into his mental health, it’s not a magic bullet, he said. His faith, the support of family and friends and ongoing counseling have helped him recover.

“As a Christ follower, I believe that all of those things combined together can result in a successful treatment plan,” he said.

There is still a stigma around mental health conditions, McDaniel said. He hopes that the more it is talked about, the more people will realize that they’re not alone.

“Because that’s the big secret – people think they’re the only ones going through this, that they’re the only ones who have experienced it. They tend to isolate. They tend to pull back. And that is probably the worse thing that you can do,” he said.

Not alone, get help

It can be difficult for individuals who are struggling with a mental illness to seek help, said Ken Shields, clinical supervisor of the Parkview Employee Assistance Program.

“We live in a society where we’re reinforced for being able to fix things ourselves. We feel like we should be able to handle it ourselves and, if we can’t, we’re weak or there’s something wrong with us,” he said.

The employee assistance program provides counseling for Parkview employees, as well as employees at 68 other covered companies across the region.

The service is offered to individuals, couples and families at no cost. The program works with employees and any person living in their household. Counseling is confidential.

Individuals who may consider counseling if they are experiencing symptoms that are typical of depression, like a depressed mood lasting most of the day, every day or an inability to experience pleasure or feel interest in daily life.

Individuals may also consider counseling if they are struggling to accomplish daily tasks or have difficulty getting up and getting to work, Shields said.

“It’s a struggle when people are up against something to admit that they need help or to seek help.

“It makes it that much easier when they know that there’s a source right at their fingertips that isn’t going to cost them anything, they’re not going to have to involve their insurance company, there won’t be any claims. It breaks down one of those barriers of having to take the effort to go and call and see if they take your insurance or if you can get in to see someone,” he said.

Such programs are also beneficial to employers, Shields said.

“Nationally, there are more and more companies all the time that are providing this as a benefit to their employees,” he said.

“It’s a benefit to their bottom line because if employees are struggling with issues outside of the workplace, that can affect their attendance, their being fully present on the job, their productivity, so it’s not only a benefit to the employee it helps the employer as well.”

Originally published by Fort Wayne Business Weekly.

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