A Guide to Understanding Depression Through the Eyes of a Patient and Things you can do to Help
An Overview of Depression
Depression is a serious mental health issue that affects thousands of people of all races, ages and backgrounds. There are many causes and symptoms associated with depression. Some are subtle while others are more defined and easily spotted. Some possible signs of depression are
- Overwhelming sadness
- Thoughts of suicide or bodily harm
- Extreme emotions
- Feeling angry or upset for no reason
- Muscle exhaustion
- Lack of motivation
- Nausea caused by the headaches
- Feelings of anxiety
- Inability to get into a REM cycle for a deep sleep
Sometimes depression is difficult to diagnose and can go untreated for many years. Those who have no experience with depression cannot understand how a person is unable to 'snap out of it and just be happy.' This is not possible.
Depression has two main roots of origin. The first is genetic predisposition. Finding if there is a history in the family line can determine if there is a possibility of of this predisposition. The other cause is known as a trigger. Trauma is usually the origin of this trigger. For some it is stress with work, others the loss of a family member or possibly an accident. Trauma is defined differently for each person, but all can cause depression.
In some cases depression can improve with counseling. Other cases require medication. Regardless of the type of treatment, every person needs extra support from those around them. This can be difficult as family members may not know how to assist or are afraid to help.This article is a doorway to understanding how a person with depression feels and how as a loved one can offer your support and love.
How Depression Feels
Depression for those who are diagnosed is not immediately apparent. Because there are so many different symptoms it can be very hard to pinpoint. As someone very familiar with depression, I would like to share how depression feels emotionally, physically and mentally as a small window for others understanding how their loved one is feeling.
In some cases such as mine depression is caused by both genetic predisposition and trauma. When examining my family line, it was shown that one side of my family does have a very serious association with depression. I also underwent extreme stress and trauma for three years as a teenager. It was seven years before I sought help.
During the years of trauma, my depression began as extreme anger. I was never satisfied and always upset with the circumstances in which I found myself. I was not sleeping at night and had a difficult time staying awake to focus during the day. My body and mind always felt exhausted and my muscles felt heavy.
As my depression worsened, I developed constant headaches through my entire head. My muscles were always tense and tired and I began to have issues with balance. This increased to being nauseous and constantly feeling as though I would vomit. I was hindered from daily activities and any physical activity was a struggle.
I grew increasingly worse I began to struggle with even opening my eyes to get out of bed each morning. If I managed to get that far, each task was a monumental struggle. Even something such as brushing my hair was an extremely daunting task.
I always ended up curled up on the couch and sleeping the majority of the day. My home was a mess and it was almost impossible to get in the door due to the clutter. I saw all of this but thinking about getting up was more effort than I could muster.
As far as my emotions, I was even more unpredictable than the weather. i would be seemingly stable and out of nowhere begin screaming in anger and picking a fight with anyone within my eyesight. Just as quickly I would begin to cry and feel that I was completely worthless. I felt as though I had no purpose and was of no use to anyone.
For months I had been treated for headaches. I had been given over a dozen different medications, had a spinal tap done, been in physical therapy for months and had both at CT scan and MRI done. With a lack of change I became more and more discouraged and retreated further into myself and lashed out at those who attempted to help me.
Have your ever been diagnosed with depression?
Do you have anyone in your life who is suffering from depression?
Depression and its effect on others
I was very much aware that I was affecting my relationships with those around me. I lost many friends, my relationship with my family suffered and I had many fights with my husband who at the time was my boyfriend. It was if I was watching myself be destructive from outside of my body and could do nothing to stop it.
I watched as friends slowly grew tired of attempting to understand my issues and left. My family was loving, but kept their distance as I would lash out them at any time. I was lost and confused as to why people did not want to help me or take the time to understand. I cannot describe the appreciation I now feel for those who stuck with me.
I am still unsure as to how my husband and I have made it this far. We fought constantly because I felt the need to pick a fight in order to get rid of my anger. I would always end up in tears and threatening to leave him and he would become so angry that he would stop speaking to me.
Those of us with depression do not mean to project our issues onto others, but are only semi aware of what we are doing. We know it is wrong. We just do not understand the problem or how to make it better.
Others become rapidly frustrated, hurt and angry and want nothing more to do with you. Looking back, this is quite understandable. I have had to cope with the fact that every relationship I destroyed was my fault and have spent years trying to set things right.
If someone seeks treatment and comes to you humbly to explain and apologize, just listen and try to come from a place of love and understanding. It will be difficult to forgive, I just request that you try. It will mean the world and it truly does help to begin healing the wounds caused by depression.
Since seeking help and therapy, I have completely changed my life. I could not be more blessed with my husband, dogs, cats, family, jobs and my new found path.
At a Glance
Antidepressants are very powerful and can have many side effects. If you are or a loved one is experiencing anything abnormal since beginning a new antidepressant, contact your prescribing doctor immediately.
Helping Someone with Depression
Unfortunately, helping someone who has depression is a daunting task. First it must be realized by that person that they are in need of help. Only that person can make this determination. No one can make it for them.
Usually the first step is finding a medication that works for them. This process can be extremely difficult and full of ups and downs. In order to determine if the medication is working, it is helpful to have someone other than the patient keep track of their moods and side effects. Possible side effects can include
- Worsening depression
- Suicidal tendencies
- Feelings of anxiety
- Extreme dizziness
- Increased heart rate
- Visible shaking
- Dilated pupils
- Slurred or overly fast speech
- Inability to wake up if sleep was achieved
Encourage the person to contact their diagnostician immediately should any side effects present themselves. Keep a record of what medications have been tried to be able to help in treatment.
Realize that not getting instant results and trial and error is extremely frustrating for both you and the patient. It may take weeks for side effects to present themselves causing many ups and downs during this time. It may take many different medication choices or dosages to finally hit on the one that works with the patient's chemistry. Even if this is achieved, it is possible that a few months the dosage may need to be altered. Continue to be observant to best assist the physician in making changes for the betterment of the patient.
The medication works! Now what?
Encourage the person to begin doing things they enjoyed doing in the past. At first the small victories will be just getting out of bed, but as the medication continues to take effect keep encouraging an increase in activity.
Another route to take that may help is to find a therapist. I recommend a LSW (licensed social worker) who specializes in either women's/men's issue or mental health. One of the most effective types of therapy is cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapy changes the thought process and uses natural methods of relaxation.
As a supporter, it will benefit the patient for you to be encouraging, but also keep the patient on track. If you see or hear them slipping back into old ways of thinking, help steer them back to the cognitive changes they are working to achieve. This may anger them, but truly is the best thing for them to help change the thought process.
Rebuilding a Life
The person with depression will need to start slowly rebuilding their life. As their loved one, encouragement and support is always appreciated. However, realize that this process may take months or even years.
The first step to rebuilding after seeking medical and therapeutic assistance is changing negative thinking to positive. This is extremely difficult for the patient and any help you give will be beneficial. When you see or hear them sinking back into their negative mentality, combat it with positive words.
Though the journey is long and difficult for both you and the patient, they will be grateful for your help and cherish your relationship. This is because you stuck with them and took the time to understand as well as support them in making the necessary changes.
I hope my article and my personal story have helped you gain a better understanding of how depression affects a person and what you are able to do to support them. Without the support of my loved ones, I do not know if I would have been able to pull myself out of the pit into which I had sunk.
Remember you are not just helping someone, you are helping them gain new life and hope.
Please feel free to share your story, advice, comments, etc. I always love feedback and please ask any questions should you have them!