Clinical Depression: How to Deal and How to Help
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Unfortunately, that point was driven home by the tragic suicide of former NFL icon Junior Seau. Seau's death is not the first death of a former sports legend and sadly it may not be the last. But as heroic and inspiring as he was on the field, off the field he could not beat his own struggles.
We cannot specifically speculate as to what lead Junior Seau to commit suicide but it is obvious that there was something that was affecting him that he could not share with those closest to him.
I watched some interviews and insights on ESPN and from what I can tell Junior Seau was a great person as much as he was a great football player. He helped to raise money for less fortunate kids to go to college, he had his own restaurant, and he was a true friend to those around him. However, they did not know the pain he was going through off the field-what really kept him up at night.
Back in 2010, Seau had a domestic violence incident against his girlfriend and soon after drove his car off a cliff. The charges were never filed and Seau claimed he fell asleep at the wheel. After that, life went back to normal.
However, as someone who has deal with depression, the truth is normal is relative to what you make it.
Dealing with the harsh realities of depression is something that friends, family members, and co-workers need to be aware of. However, depression is just like other illnesses that take away our loved ones too soon, it is a silent killer.
But with this hub, I hope to help and inspire those who may be struggling or know of someone dealing with depression to move beyond the sadness.
One thing I think that is very helpful in talking about depression is really being honest about my experience with it. I will not fully elaborate on what transpired but I want to share what helped me out of the dark moments of my life.
Growing up, I was great at a lot of things but I also had trouble as well. I never really have acted my age-part of that has to do with my parents being a bit older than my peers' parents and the other part had to with me not easily fitting in. As a result, I was bullied through a good bit of my early adolescence. I did what I thought was right in telling my parents but unfortunately their was no policy at the time to directly deal with bullying.
I also had family struggles. I lost some very special people in my life and while I was old enough to understand death, I was not mature enough to face the after effects of grief. All of these things eventually took a toll on me and by the time I was 16, I realized I was depressed.
My parents were very supportive. They knew I was hurting and the last thing they wanted was for me to continue feeling like it was all my fault. However, I did have to take responsibility for my feelings and my actions- so I got help.
It was never a quick fix, I had to let parts of myself go to truly heal myself of the emotional wounds that I had and leading a life of freedom.
Since I have dealt with depression, I always feel like I have a special understanding of kids who go through life feeling like it's their fault for being who they are. I was never bullied to the extent of teens like Phoebe Prince or Tyler Clementi- but I understood how they felt so low. They have been felt to made as an other by their peers simply because they do not fit the stereotypical standards of kids their age. And the kids doing the bullying usually are not much better as they are dealing with their own issues.
So in order to move forward, I feel like depression is definitely something people of all demographics have to take seriously and no longer hide behind the guise of unspoken rules, codes, or stereotypes. Wanting to live should shatter all of those idiosyncratic ideals.
Community Stigmas about Depression
Dealing with depression is not easy. It is not like when you have the flu and can explain your symptoms without feeling vulnerable or judged. When you are depressed, it is like living with a wound that only you feel like you should see. But it should not be that way, mental health is just as real as physical health and everyone should be aware that getting help is not a cop out or a joke.
Some communities in particular have a hard time with realizing that depression and non-physical health issues require the same type of attention as physical sickness. But your overall health is intertwined. The mental, physical, emotional, spiritual, and sexual health of a person connects in a way medicine will probably never be able to simplify but we have to be open to moving forward in a way that is productive.
In the discussions I have heard about Junior Seau and the life of an NFL player, it is quite clear that the stigma surrounding depression has to do with the fact that sharing one's feelings in some way makes you less tough or less of a man. That could not be more ridiculous. When most of us were children, we always told our mom when we suffered a boo-boo. She would kiss it and make it better. But somehow as we got older, it became less okay to see you had a scrape or anything else. And in sports culture where traditional masculinity is emphasized, being tough means not letting anyone see you sweat much less cry.
However, the same thing is bound to happen if no one speaks up and says how they feel. And it may not be an NFL athlete. It might be a straight A student at Yale. It does not matter.
Another community that has a hard time dealing with mental health issues is the African-American populace. And I am not stereotyping black culture, I happen to be African-American and well aware of what is said about mental illness. Usually when someone acts out, they are considered messed up or not right. It is an oversimplification of what is really happening.
And the problems only get magnified when people feel bound to not talk about their issues but hide them by indulging in vices such as drugs and alcohol or sweeping it under the rug. The thing is that the more something is swept under the rug, the more the dirt shows. If people really want to deal with reality, they have to face things as they happen. Depression is not only real but powerful.
Finally, men are less likely to be open about depression and are more likely to withdraw within. Many men in western culture are socialized to keep everything in and "be a real man." Sharing feelings is looked as being wimpy or acting like a punk-instead of taking it.
But let's be honest, with men having higher suicide rates than women, there is something obviously wrong. Depression and suicide are closely linked-meaning that depression contributes to suicidal thoughts. We should all be well-versed in trying to reach out to the men in our lives and let them know there is nothing wrong with sharing your feelings with those you love. It is much better than waking up one day to find them not there to say "I love you" one last time.
Symptoms of Depression
While it is easy to mask the symptoms of depression- it is still easy to tell if someone you know may be suffering from clinical depression.
- Fatigue, Lack of Energy- Everyone gets tired now and then but no one should be tired to the point they don't want to do anything at all.
- Lack of Focus- Everyone has trouble with small details, but if they cannot concentrate at all- it might point to something greater.
- Feeling Pessimistic/Hopeless- Think of Debbie Downer, except all of the time. Thinking they are less than enough or not accomplished, talented etc.
- Trouble Sleeping or Excessive Sleeping- This means there is something inherently wrong with this person making them not rest easy.
- Overeating or Loss of Appetite- Some may not want to eat while others cannot stop eating-both point to deeper issues.
- Suicidal Thoughts- This is a pretty obvious sign of trouble with someone.
- Lack of Interest in Hobbies- This can range from exercise to reading or whatever the person usually finds pleasurable.
- Aches, Cramps- Of course this may be a sign of a physical illness but it can also signal depression as it does manifest physically.
If you are not sure of the symptoms, there are various sources you can check to see if you or someone you know may be suffering from clinical depression.
The National Institute of Mental Health- NIMH.gov is known as the official government site for dealing with all issues related to mental illness and has information specific to clinical depression.
The National Alliance of Mental Illness- The nation's largest nonprofit organization devoted to awareness and activism for mental illnesses.
We all know that life is far from a fairy tale but it also is never cause to feel like your situation is hopeless or beyond reproach. With the proper help and assistance you can feel like your life is getting back to normal.
That does not mean there will not be down moments where you feel like you want to give into the sadness, but everyday should be seen as a fresh start to make yesterday that much smaller.
There are several ways to get help and used in alone or in some combination they can help you cope.
- Talk to someone you trust- I am not talking about counseling here with a professional but counsel with someone in your family, your spiritual leader, a good friend, or whoever you can talk openly and honestly about your life's struggles with.
- Journal/ Write Your Feelings- Sometimes it's very hard to tell everyone everything, so why not write it down and let it go. As you write thinking of it as passing gas-releasing the pressure of life and being able to breathe freely again.
- Pickup a Hobby- Have something you have always wanted to pursue? Do it. Life is all about trying new things and making fresh starts and what better way to do that than to establish a new hobby.
- Volunteer/Mentor in Your Community- The best way to forget about your own struggles is to focus on others. Volunteer in your local hospital, school, rotary organization or whatever strikes your fancy.
- Let It Out- Run, Take Karate, Start a Gym Membership, all of these things will get you moving and release endorphins which naturally boost your mood.
- Make New Friends/Reconnect with Old Friends- Of course when this is mentioned people automatically think of Facebook but sometimes it is better to build bonds in person to know you're never alone.
- Counseling- If this is feasible for your lifestyle and budget, you should definitely pursue counseling with a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist as an objective third party to talk about your life with.
Depression is not the end of the rope but a realization that you may need help dealing with life's issues. It is better to desire help and receive it than to continue suffering to the point you do something that you regret.
Life will never be perfect or ideal, it is not meant to be. But with the proper help and support, you can move through whatever affects you.
- CDC Data & Statistics | Feature: An Estimated 1 in 10 U.S. Adults Report Depression
Depression affects many Americans at different levels. Learn how you can work with health providers to treat and monitor depression. Depression can adversely affect the course and outcome of common chronic conditions, such as arthritis, asthma, cardi
- Signs of Clinical Depression: Symptoms to Watch For
Do you know the symptoms of depression? Find out more.