- Mental Health
How I Found Help For Depression-My Story
Reasons for Depression
There are many reasons why people become depressed and the reasons may vary within one person’s lifetime. Some of these reasons include having a chemical imbalance, experiencing a seasonal disorder, a family genetic component, situational depression, depression that is linked to a life changing event, such as a major loss or pregnancy, and depression that incorporates anxiety or psychosis.
I recall my maternal grandmother having a general negative personality. Everything was doom and gloom. Since she lived with us, and actually shared a room with my sister and me, it was a strong influence. I didn’t understand it, nor did I ask my parents about the hardships of her life as a young girl and later, as a single, divorced mother of the 1930’s. Certainly, that could not have been easy.
My mother was diagnosed with clinical depression shortly after my youngest brother was born. I was six then and recall sneaking into her darkened room as she lay in bed, only to be shooed out by my grandmother. Looking back on this I would venture to say she was experiencing a postpartum depression-a common occurrence following the birth of a baby when the body experiences the fluctuating hormone changes, along with emotional feelings of being anxious or overwhelmed.
Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can result in hospitalization if untreated. Approximately 13% of pregnant women experience this. It is also important to note that many mothers who experience postpartum depression are at risk of acting out towards the infant in an irrational manner, putting the baby, and possibly other family members, in harm’s way.
My father did not believe in psychiatry and was a very stoic man who had a strong personality. I’m sure he frowned on this ‘bed rest’ as unnecessary and weak. He did not support going to a mental health specialist, and back in the early 1960’s, this was not common, at least not among the working class-there was always a better place to spend that kind of money than to squander it in front of a counselor talking about what bothered you. Or, at least that is what my father felt. Years later, after he realized his error in thinking, we had many discussions about this early time of his marriage. So, my mother was unsupported, for the most part, in struggling with her illness of depression until it eventually passed.
Symptoms of a Panic Attack
Although I had the typical feelings of adolescent uncertainty, I did not experience my first real set back with depression until my first marriage failed and I was experiencing panic attacks. This was in the early 1980’s. I had no idea that it was a panic attack or that I was even feeling anxious, but thanks to my oldest brother and a very timely phone call, I did not rush out the door to the nearest emergency room. Instead, I very methodically followed his instructions and got through it.
When it first began I was doing a mundane household chore of vacuuming. By the time the anxiety was at its peak I was in a full blown panic. The symptoms of a panic attack are mostly physical and can mimic having a heart attack. In fact, I truly thought that was what I was experiencing. My mind was racing as I envisioned my two little girls having to grow up without their mother. My heart was pounding, my chest hurt, and my breathing was quick and exhilarated. My mouth was dry and I could barely speak when the phone rang.
After my brother talked me into a calm state I made an appointment with my family physician to have a physical, which checked out just fine. We talked about the emotional state I was in and she referred me to a mental health therapist. It was a necessary step to deal with the anxiety and depression brought on by the conflicted divorce and the genetic disposition I inherited toward depression.
Light Therapy for SAD
Have you ever experienced not wanting to live anymore?
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Years after my divorce and remarriage I would periodically go into a low energy state in which I did not feel happy. These emotional times would usually hit in the fall and winter months, when sunlight would decrease in Michigan, where I lived. Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, affects approximately 500,000 people annually, throughout the United States.
Treatment for SAD is often light therapy. Other forms of therapy, such as cognitive therapy, along with anti-depressant medications are also commonly used in conjunction with the light therapy. While living in Alaska, I was directed to add light therapy bulbs throughout the house to combat the winter blues that is so prevalent in that state.
Depression and Suicide
On at least three occasions my feelings of hopelessness became so strong that I entertained thoughts of ending my life. I had no will to get up in the morning; I had no thoughts of a bright future; I had no energy or interest in anything. I was saved by the love I had for my children and the knowledge that I did not want to bring them the pain of living without a mother. During those times I never shared my thoughts with my therapist. I was a nurse working in the mental health field and knew that I would be committed if I gave any inkling that I felt I did not want to live. Irrational, and perhaps irresponsible as this may have been, it was probably shame that kept me from voicing my true feelings. In the end, I was able to work through that particular time of unhappiness without medication or hospitalization. I don’t necessarily recommend this to anyone who needs either or both; however, it is how I happened to handle my personal situation.
How to Treat DepressionClick thumbnail to view full-size
How I Overcame My Depression
During one particular bout of depression I was working an afternoon shift. I was deeply troubled by a situation that left me knocked to the ground emotionally. I knew I had to treat myself with the same care and compassion I would when giving advice to the very patients I cared for. I followed a very simple modality of tuning into my inner guide and nurturing myself. I slept when I felt fatigued; I ate something each day to maintain my strength; I sought company when lonely and solitude when overwhelmed by social groups.
Each afternoon I would go to work, rewarding myself in the evening with a comedy. At first I didn’t feel like any of the movies I selected were funny, but I knew I turned a corner when I laughed long and hard out loud. My funny bone was being tickled once again. I danced, I drummed, I chanted, I sang…and I screamed loudly when I was alone in my car. I also utilized the wonderful support group of family and friends alternating their listening ears when I needed to share.
It was a time of intense self-examination…the dark night of the soul, and a time of deep, emotional healing. It took approximately four months to feel like my feet were solidly back on the ground and I could move forward in a healthy way. It was one of the most transforming and life changing times I experienced; one that I will never forget or regret. Although I did not use any medication, I also was careful not to self-medicate. Alcohol and street drugs are depressants and would compound the depressed mood.
A final word about my experience with thoughts about wanting to leave this world: The last time I felt the overwhelming feelings of hopelessness I had a shift in my perspective. It was, as best as I can describe it, a spiritual experience. In a moment of clarity I realized that I, personally, could not accept suicide as a solution to any emotional experience I was having at any given moment. I knew, without any confusion or doubt, that there was a purpose for my being on earth; and, although I may never know that reason, I could never abort my life prematurely. I was committed, in that moment of insight and translucent thought, to seeing that my life would end by natural causes, not by a strategic plan I laid out for myself. It is what I recognize as the soul’s promise of fulfillment.
These suicidal experiences have made me a more compassionate nurse, and one who can reach a depressed and suicidal patient in a way in which they can hear. When I offer a listening ear and shoulder to lean on, it is from one who has been there.
Methods of Treating Depression:
There are many methods to treat depression. The first, and most important thing to remember, is to get a thorough evaluation from a doctor. There are several medical conditions that can cause symptoms of depression or that can mimic depressive symptoms, such as a thyroid disorder, or low levels of Vitamin D. By getting a sound physical you can rule out any medical causes for your low mood. This may be as simple as getting a series of lab tests completed. Next, talk with your family physician and see if she will make a referral to a psychiatrist or psychologist. Only a psychiatrist, primary physician or Registered Nurse Practitioner can prescribe anti-depressants, if necessary, so it is important to have that referral in place.
Depression and Food
What we eat can greatly affect our moods. Eating sensibly, lightly and with nourishing, healthy choices is the solution to helping to stabilize your mood. Care for yourself in ways you would care for a child or special friend.
Eat right to improve depression
Depression and Sleep
People who are depressed will often sleep too much. They consistently complain of feeling tired throughout the day despite the number of hours of sleep they get. They experience low energy and an overall lethargy and slow motivation. Conversely, they may also experience bouts of insomnia, waking up in the middle of the night and being unable to return to sleep. Practice listening to your body. If it says to move, force yourself to get up, even if it is just moving from the bed to the living room couch. Then, set a goal to move off of that couch and walk through your home, get the mail, or open the back door and check the weather-something to break the cycle. Also, sleep when you are tired, but if you are sad, don’t stay in bed…better to move.
Exercise and Depression
Most people understand that one of the benefits of exercise is that it increases the serotonin uptake into the brain, as well as releasing the endorphins into the blood stream. In addition to this, exercise will help to maintain a weight, or even lose a few pounds. Since weight gain is often a side effect of depression, this is an important bonus.
Depression and Social Support
Psychotherapy is important at the time of a depression cycle, as is listening to the need of social support. I recommend having at least three supportive listeners whom you can call and lean on to talk with, visit, or have visit you. Social isolation is very common, and therefore, it is vital that you do the opposite of what your thoughts want to guide you in doing.
You can connect with a psychiatrist, or therapist: psychiatric nurse, social worker, or psychologist, through your family physician, the local yellow pages in the telephone book, or online through search engines such as Google.
For Emergencies and ongoing depression:
If all else fails and your depression has lingered, without visible signs of improvement, longer than four to six months, you may need to discuss further treatment with your psychiatrist. Perhaps a brief hospitalization is in order.
Here is the name and phone number of a helpful resource:
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Helpline: (U.S.) 1-800-950-6264
Famous Depressed People
Writers and Artists
Adam Duritz (Counting Crows)
Edger Allen Poe
Vincent Van Gogh
Terry Bradshaw (football)
Frank Bruno (boxer)
Statistics about Depression
Depression affects nearly 10% of Americans annually between the ages of 18-65
More Americans suffer from depression than they do cancer.
More than 30% who suffer from depression admit to suicidal ideation.
Depression is among the most treatable psychiatric illness with 80-90% responding well to treatment.
Each year approximately 2 million U.S. adolescents attempt suicide.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S.
4:1 males to females complete an act of suicide
Females attempt suicide three times more often as males
Firearms account for 50% of suicides
Alcohol is a factor in approximately 30% of suicides
Other hubs about depression
- Beating Depression with Laughter
By Dexter Yarbrough. Laughter can reduce depression? Absolutely. The importance of laughter in our lives can help us to be happy and calm. Does this make any sense to you? It does to me.
- 10 Ways to Overcome Depression and Sadness
Depression and sadness are often the result of traumatic and difficult life experiences. The good news is, there is hope. Read to find out 10 great ways to deal with depression and sadness.
- Depression: The Bell Jar
From the time I was a small child, I experienced bouts of depression, "the plague" I've always thought of it as. When I was a child, those dark days were worse than any boogey-man. I have left most of it behind after a lot of hard work, but I think i