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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Depression vs Depressed

Hello, Readers. This week I would like to share a few thoughts with you about Depression. Yes, the topic is prompted by the tragic loss of Robin Williams this week. The world lost a bright light in the entertainment business, as did the many charity organizations he helped. Robin Williams worked with the Comic Relief USA, Red Cross, the USO, and St. Jude’s Research Organization (to name just a few).
    Yet again this week, I found myself trying to explain to someone the difference between being depressed and suffering from Depression (capitalized for my own emphasis). Many folks don’t understand that there IS a distinction.
    One can be depressed for a short period of time from a life-changing event. The death of a loved one, the loss of a job or the break-up of a relationship. These are events. We have all experienced them to some degree, I’m sure. They mess up our world view (and sometimes our self-image) for a while and we work our way through the pain, confusion, and all the other emotions that pop up at the time. But we eventually work our way back to our own personal version of Normal.
     This is NOT the same as living with Depression. Clinical Depression has a huge range of diagnostic levels and symptoms. I won’t try to explain here in a short blog posting the entire range of symptoms a person can experience. There are numerous lengthy books for that. 
    Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. That would be the short answer, although not entirely complete. But for the sake of an explanation, this is how I try to explain it to people. Some forms of Depression are hereditary, some are not. Most can be treated with medication, if the person chooses to take them and accept the side effects that come with each medicine. For some people, the side effects are worse than the symptoms, so they opt to not take medication.
    For some folks psychotherapy helps them manage their symptoms. This is a sensitive area for many because they are opening themselves up to another person in a very intimate way. This person will be hearing all the secrets they would never voice outside the therapist’s office. Therapy is not a quick fix, though. You don’t sit down with someone for a one-hour session and walk away “cured.” It can be a lengthy process that leaves the patient feeling emotionally wrung-out on a regular basis. And even then, you are learning to live with your depression, not get rid of it.
Here is a list of Depression symptoms from PsychCentral.com:
  1. Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  2. Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
  3. Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  4. Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
  5. Decreased energy, fatigue, or feeling “slowed down”
  6. Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  7. Insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  8. Appetite and/or weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  9. Thoughts of death or suicide or actual suicide attempts
  10. Restlessness or irritability.
    Any combination of these signs can be applied to other issues in our lives, and still not lead to a diagnosis of Clinical Depression. That is why it can be difficult to diagnose Depression. Some people will also suffer from physical problems related to their Depression…headaches, chronic pain, etc. Depression is not a one-size-applies-to-all issue. Each sufferer has their own list of symptoms that has to be dealt with.
    My thoughts go out to Robin’s family at this time. They will have a tough road ahead of them as they deal with not only the loss of a loved one, but all the self-questioning they will do. By that I mean, they are bound to ask themselves, “What sign did I miss?”
    I wish I could tell them that this is a normal question everyone will ask themselves after a loved one commits suicide. While they may look back and second-guess themselves when they think of certain events, suicide is not a simple-to-explain act. Every person that chooses that path of action has his/her own reasons. And those reasons are not always shared with or understood by family after the fact.
    Thoughts of suicide are usually a last resort. However, they can also be caused by medication. A person doesn’t have to hit rock bottom before that thought pops into their head. Last year my doctor wanted to try new anti-depressants on me since what I was taking was considered an “old” drug. Placing my trust in my physician, I agreed.
    Although I have suffered from Depression since my teens, suicide has not been a part of my Depression. It popped into my head once when I was 15, but I talked myself out of it. Since then, it has never occurred to me, no matter what horrible thing life threw at me.
    Last year, however, this “new” medication had that thought popping into my mind one night as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep. I found myself thinking some pretty dark thoughts…My kids didn’t need me anymore, my husband could find another spouse, my life had no real purpose, so on and so forth. You name it and the thought probably came to me.
    As I felt the tears flowing down my face, I realized this wasn’t me…the real me. The medicine was causing this crisis. While I have struggled with issues involving my self-image most of my life, I knew that at the core of my soul, I couldn’t act on this horrible thought that was pounding away at me. Mamzell jumped up on my chest in the middle of my crisis…I truly believe that is what grounded me again.
    I guess my point is, I don’t want folks to judge Robin Williams for his choice. We haven’t walked in his shoes, we haven’t listened to his self-talk (those thoughts that we rarely share with others). Until my experience last year, I had no idea how hard it was for someone to manage with those thoughts pounding through their brain. By the grace of chance, that isn’t my demon to walk with. But I now have an inkling of how hard it must be for those that do have to deal with it. If I felt so desolate for just that one night, until I realized it wasn’t ME talking, just how hard must it be for someone if their self-talk throws the thought of suicide at them constantly?
   Use this time to make sure your loved ones know you are there for them. Don’t shy away from such a sticky topic. Bring it out in the open, air it out, beat the dust off of it, confront it. Don’t be afraid to share your pain or to let others share theirs. We all need our support system. Who is yours? And who counts on you to be in their support system?
   As always, please feel free to leave your own comments, questions, stories. Everyone that leaves a comment will go into the August drawing.
Until next week, be kind to each other…and yourselves.

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