Understand And Manage Depression
Depression is a real hard topic. You add the different faces of mental health problems, and it gets even more challenging.Perhaps it’s hard for me, because this is the part of me that most people don’t know of. There are over dozen different types of diagnosis within mental health disorders . Within these, the more common mood disorders are, depression and bipolar (also called manic depression). You may occasionally feel down and gloomy, but that does not necessary mean you have depression. According to the American Psychiatric Association one in six people will experience depression at some point in their lives. To experience depression is more than the occasional pessimism or blues. It’s a darkness in the mind that can strike a young mother as well as a successful student or a working family man. The important thing is, to remember that depression is treatable.
History of Depression
Trying to make sense of the history of depression is totally frustrating to me. It makes me so sad to think how people for nearly 4000 years have been grossly mistreated for their mental health disorders. It’s only these last 50 years that we have gradually seen some progress in understanding and treatment of mental health. Still there is room for greater understanding and research in this matter. Researchers today know couple of things for sure about depression. It is twice as likely to see depression in women as it is in men and the onset usually starts in the mid teens.
Depression affects over 300 million people around the world according to the World Health Organization. Yet with this wide spread health problem, there is still a stigma about depression and mental health. Most people, including me, don’t like talking about the truth about living with depression. Because of stigma around the subject, sometimes it makes it even harder for patients to receive proper professional help or to maintain self-care, which can make the recovery even longer. Stigma or people’s views about depression can be very harmful and painful. I know first hand how hard it was after I was hospitalized due to consequences of my depression. Because of lack of understanding, some chose to ignore or acknowledge my depression illness. While others had all the answers that they thought would “fix” me. My greatest support ended up coming from someone whom I hardly knew. A neighborhood friend.
Symptoms will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the depression. Mood disorder does not only effect the mood of the person, but also his/her behavior and the whole function of the body. Some of these symptoms are feelings of hopelessness, sadness, apathy, restlessness, mood swings, loss of interest. Unfortunately depression can cause thoughts of death and in some severe cases suicidal thoughts, often times with initial thoughts of worthlessness. Insomnia and irritability are common, as well as diet changes. Typically a person gets diagnosed with depression when at least five or more symptoms are present and they’ve lasted for weeks or more. Living with this illness my whole life, has taught me that sometimes the symptoms come and go like a roller coaster, while other times there seems to be no sunlight in the horizon.
As mentioned before, research has come long ways in understanding mental health. But there is still much to be discovered by scientist. Up until two decades ago, scientist believed that depression was only caused by chemical imbalance. Recent years researchers have learned that there are several possible components to depression. Genetics, chemicals, physical health, side effects of medication and stressful events in life can all be triggers or contribute to a person becoming diagnosed with depression by medical professionals. This is why there is no one-fit-all approach anymore for treatment to depression. Treatment used to be medication and some therapy, now each individual is treated according to their needs and circumstances.
I want to address the importance of taking medication in cases where it’s possible. I am a firm believer that modern medicine is a blessing for mankind in our day. For some people suffering with depression, medication is the best method in alleviating some of the symptoms, along with therapy. While for others this might not be the case. Such is my case. During the course of my life, doctors have prescribed me with over two dozen different pills for depression and anxiety, with no success. Part of my issue is how medication effects my physical body. Traditional medication creates all kinds of havoc in my system (but that’s another subject). Decades ago this was a problem for me. Most doctors didn’t know how to handle a patient that didn’t respond well to medication. Today medical professionals offer alternative help more often than not, to those who don’t respond well to medicine.
My Journey With Depression
I’ve had three professional diagnosis over the course of my life with depression. In my youth doctors and family blamed all my symptoms on being a “teenager”, so I never got the care I needed. After the birth of my first child, I was diagnosed with Postpartum depression, ( lot of stigma around it at the time) and with each child I only got worse. Following our fifth and last child my symptoms got really bad. About a year after my last kid, I was treated for Major depression. I spent a couple of years receiving counseling and gaining some important tools, which helped me to move forward. Today I manage my symptoms of what is called High-Function Depression on my own, thru varies tools that I gained over a decade ago and thru professional counseling. Learning and discovering how to use these tools over the years, have been not easy, honestly, it’s been really hard, but rewarding.
Daily family Life
So what has it been like or still is like for me, living with this illness? Well….sometimes…it’s like HELL! I have prayed so many times that I had been given a different disease (how ironic – I have other diseases too). One that I could speak of more freely and open. Or perhaps an illness that there is greater understanding in. I remember when our kids were young, I used to wake up and wish I was, frankly, dead. I would look into my beautiful children’s eyes and wonder, why in he… do I feel this way? Why can I not “snap” out of it (as so many people would “lovingly” tell me). I would force myself up and take care of my kids and whatever else I needed to. By the time Robert would come home, I would be so exhausted from “trying”, that I would leave and go to my room for the rest of the evening. Today, I only have two teenagers left at home, and they are very understanding. I’ve been able to find a balance between my own well-being and time with family. I now allow myself time to retreat if I need to.
Trying to make a living while living with major depression is tough. I don’t know of many employees that would give you time off when you are having a real bad day. This creates a challenge that exist and is real, yet most of the time never really addressed. This makes it even more important to learn some self-managing techniques, as hard as it may be. I know this, from my own inability to stay on a full time employment outside my home for longer periods of time. That’s why being self-employed these past eight years have been the best thing ever for me. Each individual has to figure out what works for them. And sometimes that’s easier said than done, but it’s doable with trial and error.
Effects on Family and Friends
I have always thought that at least I am lucky enough to be married to someone who has been very mindful of both my mental and physical limitations. This does not made it any easier on him or me, just comforting. Robert has tried so hard and too often to solve or take away all my health problems. But most of the time I just remind him, that there is only one thing he can do and that is to accept and love me unconditionally. The word unconditional is a big word. To love someone unconditionally means to love without conditions or limitations. That can be real hard when you are faced with a spouse, friend or co-worker that seems to hate everything and everyone at times. This can lead to the person on the sidelines to perhaps feel rejected and ignored. For this reason open communication is vital. It’s also real crucial that the caregiver takes care of themselves and does not push him/herself to the side, but remembers to be mindful of his/her health.
Facing Your Challenge
Facing and accepting my depression illness has truly been one of the hardest battles in my life. Although it has been challenging, I have come to gain a deeper understanding of the value of awareness. This is not only awareness about my own personal needs but also for those around me. I know now that I am not alone in suffering from depression. Actually it’s wider spread than I ever thought. This is why trying to write this post has been really difficult for me, yet I feel the importance of sharing my story. I have always appreciated others who have been willing to help me thru their own personal journey with mental health, as was the case with the neighbor who helped me a ton, over a decade ago. For me facing my depression means accepting the condition as I accept all my other physical conditions.
How Tools Help
Let’s get something clear here, just because I have learned and gained some tools that have helped me to cope with my depression, does not mean my symptoms are gone forever. For me it just means, that I can keep my head up and notice the sunrise and find joy and feel gratitude in the simple things in life. I know when things are the darkest and I feel like I’m in hell, thinking of eating healthier or going for a walk to alleviate my symptoms are just ridiculous suggestions. But honestly, with time and experience I have discovered that it does help.
Tools That Other Say Works
There are many tools that can help patients cope and manage their symptoms on their own, after receiving professional medical help. It is real important to remember that regardless what others may think, that you first address your honest feelings and condition to someone professional in the mental health field. Do not brush your feelings or other signs of depression off. But once you have clearly understood what you are up against, you can learn to managed it on your own, especially in case of chronic depression. You really have to discover what works best for you. Here is a list of tools that I have been told and read that others have used…(I’ll share below what’s worked for me)
- Reduce and manage stress
- Talk to a consular
- Change your diet
- Avoid negative people
- Join Self Help Group
- Educate yourself about your illness
- Stick to a schedule
- Keep a journal
- Get good sleeping habits
- Avoid alcohol
Before I go on with my suggestions, let me say I REALLY KNOW AND UNDERSTAND IF you are thinking “really! you want me to do these things when I don’t even feel like getting out of my bed?”. Let’s take a look at this from another perspective. When a patient gets treated for a coronary heart condition, the one thing the person can do after receiving medical help, is to mange their lifestyle, enough to avoid another heart attack or heart failure. Does this mean this person will always follow a perfect Mediterranean diet or exercise every day because they love it!? NO! Regardless what doctors, counselors or even friends and family may say, change is HARD. Self-Care is even harder, because the results do not come overnight. As matter of fact, results vary so much that we might even question if our changes are doing anything.
6 Tools That Have Helped Me
This one is the hardest but the most rewarding. Other than medication (for those who can) and therapy, this one is real critical. We have to feel that we matter and that somebody would miss us if we were not around. Everybody in this world need to know they are loved and accepted for who they are, and not for who others want them to be. In the case of a person living with depression, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy can become so strong that it can lead to darker thoughts. This is where having that support makes a huge difference. Since I have a very outgoing personality, an extrovert, it’s not hard for me to meet and associate with new people. But being surrounded with people that want to “hang out” or chat with me does not mean I can pour my heart out to those individuals. Sometimes the social aspect can get real challenging, even for me. Find friends that are willing to listen, love, and help you when you need it the most. That might end up being five or one person. A true friend will not judge or criticize you, even when your depression is talking.
Change in Diet
I know I talk a lot about this, but seriously it does work!
Create a Happy List
When you can, create a list of things that you believe makes you happy. It’s important to remember these things should be things that are small and accessible to you everyday. I mean most of us may wish we were rich enough to travel ten months of the year. But the reality is, when I am not feeling good, not even Bali or Hawaii sounds appealing to me. Strangely enough I have discovered small things that can brighten a bad day. Some of them are listening to music (love you both Josh Groban and Andre Bocelli), walking in a nursery or a garden and just breathing (I’m convinced there is medication in the aroma of plants and flowers), sitting in the sun (this is why we bought a tiny greenhouse for me-people think I am joking when I say, it’s my therapy room). Whatever makes you happy!! For some it can be reading a book, petting there cat or dog and for another it can be writing or going for a walk along the beach.
Simplify Your Life
I’m serious on this one. Long before being minimalist was on every once lips, my counselor told me to simplify my life. This included, what I ate, how I dressed, what I did, my home, how I decorated and so on. He told me that if clutter stressed me, then I needed to think in the terms of less is more. This particular tool is not a one time event, but a way of life that has become real rewarding for me. To feel gratitude and joy in the simple things have brought me a lot of peace. Simplifying has helped me with being mindful of that which I already have and less about the stress of accumulation.
Finding a Hobby
Finding a hobby that I love has been a journey. I talk about this on my about page. I love gardening!! Perhaps the reason for this passion is, that I can place my focus on something else and loose myself in it. To nurture and care for living, beautiful and tasty (don’t eat all your plants – just the edible kind 😉 ) plants is extremely rewarding for me. Finding a hobby or two is very helpful. Make sure it’s something that brings you satisfaction. You will need to be able to reach for your hobby even when you are not in a good emotional state. Your hobby has to be powerful enough to pull you in the right direction. I realize that sometime it feels like not much can pull me out of my depressed state. Trust me, I don’t live in la- la land (not talking about the movie – that one made me sad). But a hobby (something you enjoy) can help. For me gardening is a form of exercise, so I get DOUBLE REWARDS!!
Prayer and Meditation
It would be unfair of me not to mention how much prayer has helped me. I am a religious person. For me prayer and having faith is the very core of who I am. Taking the time to pray and meditate has been my lifeline to my existence. Even if you do not consider yourself as religious, try mediation and moment of mindfulness. Allowing ourselves to reach out to whether it be God or the Universe brings deep meaning and peace that is not equal to anything else in this world. Speak your heart’s desires and then take time to listen to that still small voice that will speak inside of you. I have found great comfort and love thru prayer. I have been able to understand and gain deeper hope than any other way, even when life felt hopeless.
Depression is a hard subject and there is much more that I could have addressed. But for me it’s all about finding that right balance between too much info and enough for that one person. I encourage you to seek to understand your own individual diagnosis and condition. Finally, DO NOT DOWN PLAY your condition or feelings. Seek HELP and advice! Regardless what you may have read here or there, you are unique as we all are. Get the help that is right for you. And for heaven’s sake stop worrying about what others might think of you and reach out for support. It might be a friend, family member or a professional counselor. You can also call hotlines in your local area. Sometimes it’s nice to have just a stranger to be able to express our deepest anxieties and feelings. Be patient and loving to yourself. You are not alone-regardless what your illness might tell you. YOU ARE IMPORTANT and YOU MATTER!