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Living a Productive Life with Chronic Depression

Updated on September 5, 2014
Paula Atwell profile image

Paula Atwell is a freelance writer with WriterAccess, webmaster, member of Pinterest Party on FB and the owner of Lake Erie Artist Gallery.

Beating the Blues: New Approaches to Overcoming Dysthymia and Chronic Mild Depression
Beating the Blues: New Approaches to Overcoming Dysthymia and Chronic Mild Depression

This book is my favorite one on this topic. I think it is a great place to start looking for answers on depression.


Depression Does Not Have to Control Your Life

When I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with dysthymia (chronic depression). At the time of the diagnosis, there was no way to treat chronic depression other than psychological therapy.

However, over the years I have learned that psychological therapy is not enough to keep my depression in check over long periods of time. While it can help for short periods, mostly when things are going well for me, over longer periods of time it is not enough. Depression tended to run in cycles for me. I would do well for a while, a year or more, then something would happen to knock me off my pattern of success, and I would sink into depression lasting months.

It was only in my 30's that I really started to understand what was wrong with me, and that it was really a physical or chemical problem, not anything to do with how I thought about myself. During this time, medication finally started to be developed and with a referral to a psychiatrist from a psychologist, I started a course of medication.

My psychiatrist was the person who explained to me that what I had was a condition, similar to diabetes in a sense, in that something I needed was missing from my body that would allow it to function normally. While I might need medicine for the rest of my life, it was something that could be corrected.


Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Depression, like other mental health issues, has often carried a social stigma that made it hard to understand or treat. However, I have learned over the years that depression and its sister condition, anxiety, are suffered by many, many more people that I ever knew. While some people have a lifetime condition like I do, others develop these conditions due to a triggering event or a build up of stress over a period of time. Any type of depression should be treated seriously as it affects the lives and decision-making abilities of the sufferer and all those people that surround them.

We are lucky to be living in a time period where there is help for most people who suffer from depression and anxiety. Medications have been developed over the last 20 years that can treat a person for depression while allowing them to live regular lives. My biggest concern when I started taking medication for depression was that it would turn me into a happy giggly-type person that I was not. However, that is not what the medication does. Instead it levels out the lows of depression so that they are much easier to handle. I still feel the full range of emotions. I am sad and happy, and everything in between. What I don't feel is the bottomless pit of depression that alters my behavior and is so very difficult to climb out of.

Medication allows me to live a regular life with all that life brings to me without the vast influence of constant depression.

How Does Depression Affect You?

Depression and anxiety are more prevalent that most people know. Someone you know may suffer from these disorders. Do you know someone personally who suffers from depression?

See results

Medication is Not the Answer for Everyone

Although I have found that medication is the answer for me, that doesn't mean that it is the answer for everyone. There are many psychological therapies, herbal therapies and nutritional/exercise therapies that can help soothe or alleviate depression. Many of these can also be used in combination with medication.

You have to decide which type of help you need, however it is important to realize that you need to ask for help and keep asking until you get the help you need.

Understanding Depression

Understanding Depression Anatomical Chart 2nd Edition Poster Print
Understanding Depression Anatomical Chart 2nd Edition Poster Print | Source

Support System

Whether it is your spouse, partner or friend, find yourself a solid support system. Having someone who accepts you unconditionally will help you immensely when you do suffer from bouts of depression. Depression is a condition that isolates you. Often people who are depressed just want to hole up and be left alone, sleep or hide. Having someone else who is consistently with you will force you to interact with someone else even when you are depressed. This will help you recover faster.

If you don't have someone like this in your life, then look for an external support group that you can join.

Is There a Cure?

While symptoms of long term depression can be alleviated, it is rare that it can actually be cured unless is it due to another physical problem that is curable. That means you may still get depressed for periods of time.

Other issues that can crop up are growing tolerances to medications or other supplements that you are taking. Over time, you may need more and more of a medication to get the same result. When this happens, you will need to consult with your doctor to replace the medication with another one. Or they may add a supplemental medication.

It is helpful if you create a plan with your doctor so that you use more than one technique to combat your depression. Many therapists advise healthy eating, exercise for more overall good health. Better physical health will support better mental health.

The complete answer is different for each person. I have provided resources to help you learn your options below on this page. Good luck.

"Changing Our Minds" movie trailer: Depression & Dysthymia - information, drug facts, therapy

Depression Resources and Help

The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Book & CD)
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness (Book & CD)

Not all depression is the same. There are numerous resources on Amazon that you can take a look at on video and in books. This list is just a few that I like.


© 2014 Paula Atwell


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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 2 years ago from Canada

      My mom spent most of her life extremely sad. She had gone to a doctor only once about it when I was very young and refused to return again. It was only in her last years in dementia that she seemed to forget why she was unhappy and to live in the moment. My sister said that in these years my mom was the happiest that she had ever seen her.

    • annmackiemiller profile image

      annmackiemiller 3 years ago from Bingley Yorkshire England

      thank you for having the courage to share you story Paula. I am bipolar with depression being predominant on the spectrum so I can relate to this. There isn't a cure, there is just means of managing it.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Susan Zutautas Thanks for speaking up. I think by getting rid of the stigma, we can offer true assistance to those in need.

    • Susan Zutautas profile image

      Susan Zutautas 3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      So many, many people suffer from a medical depression at some time in their lives, me included. It's the hardest thing I've ever gone through. Articles such as yours truly helps people and thank you for writing this.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @David I think it is also the idea that it is chronic and must be managed. It never goes away. It is easier for people to understand something like diabetes which can be measured through a blood test.

    • David Paul Wagner profile image

      David Paul Wagner 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thank you for this important hub. One of the things that people with chronic depression (and those suffering from certain other health problems such as chronic headache/migraine) have to deal with is that they may not always "look sick" to other people (for example, their family members, their workmates or their friends). Many people who are blessed with excellent health find it difficult to comprehend that others may not be so lucky.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @MsBizPro Yes, and relative. Sometimes its the timing, the weather or the combination that triggers it. I always have more trouble in the coldest part of the winter.

    • MsBizPro profile image

      Anna Green 3 years ago from North Carolina

      I know what you mean. I like to explain it in terms of the diabetic metaphor. A non-diabetic could sit down and eat four candy bars with no real consequences. This could be very serious for someone with diabetes, however. The same thing with stress: A setback at work plus a minor argument with your spouse might be unpleasant, but "livable" for someone without depression, but with depression, these seemingly minor things can turn into something much more serious.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @MsBiz I think the hardest thing for me to explain to siblings is the need to manage stress. I know what types of things I have trouble with, but they don't understand.

    • MsBizPro profile image

      Anna Green 3 years ago from North Carolina

      I appreciate you sharing your experiences. I think the more we talk about depression, the more we can decrease its stigma.

      I'm a psychotherapist, but I also have Major Depressive Disorder, which typically manifests itself in its most severe form, although no one would guess that from normal social interactions with me. It took a long time for me me to accept that I would need to be on an antidepressant my entire life, but paired with talk therapy, it's quite manageable. Still, it's important for me to keep close tabs on my stress and contact my doctor ASAP when I'm dealing with exceptional circumstances so I don't fall too deeply into that dark rut.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Hi Barbara,

      Yes, thanks for pointing it out. In my case, anxiety was an adjunct to depression. They often go hand in hand. My meds take care of both. But anxiety can be debilitating.

    • profile image

      BarbaraCasey 3 years ago

      Anxiety is the "other" condition that often needs meds. Getting the right doctor who doesn't over medicate and who monitors closely is important for anxiety and depression. Fine tuning is needed, I've learned, in the case of a family member.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Thanks Lisa. There are so many possible conditions and chronic illnesses people can have, of which most can be treated or controlled. With the advances in medicines and knowledge, people can enjoy life and alleviate their own and their family's stress.

    • LisaDH profile image

      LisaDH 3 years ago

      Thank you for speaking out. I think a little bit of the stigma of depression is removed each time someone tells their story, and I hope that makes it easier for those dealing with chronic depression.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @CrisSp Thanks for your visit. :)

    • CrisSp profile image

      CrisSp 3 years ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

      Thank you for sharing your own experience Paula. I like reading true stories for the lessons that I may gain and most importantly the "know what to do" that I get particularly from credible sources.

      This one is very informative and useful.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @Hannah Yes, the medication makes a huge difference. I found myself going through cycles over and over throughout my life. I did okay for a while but eventually would come back to the same problems over and over. Now that cycle is mostly broken and if I start into it again, I can catch it much more quickly to stop it.

    • profile image

      Hannah Writes 3 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your story. I have a dear friend who needs to take medication daily for her depression. She is a different person without it.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      When I was first diagnosed there was no medication for it, only too strong meds that would incapacitate someone. Now there are so many options for treatment that people can really find something that works for them.

    • DealForALiving profile image

      Sam Deal 3 years ago from Earth

      Thanks for writing this up as there are a lot of people living with this. And I really am glad I saw the trailer you included - would like to see the movie.

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      @midget38 Thanks. I think the first thing is to realize that it is nothing to be ashamed of and that there is help.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 3 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Paula! Think that we all need to find our have proven that it works!

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      I'm hoping my son can find what balances him out too. I'm glad you feel like you're controlling it rather than the other way around!

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 3 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Everyone is different, but one of the things that I found a relief was that I learned it was a chemical imbalance, in other words there was actually something wrong with me. I need to take medication and feared that it would make me happy all the time. I learned that what it does is balance me out. I still have bad days once in a while but not too often and feel that I am controlling it instead of it controlling me.

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 3 years ago from U.S.

      Our 28-year-old son has chronic depression, and it breaks my heart that his life is difficult for him. He has had therapy and will be starting back again soon. He's been on some medication, but it hasn't helped much. He's in a study now that tries to match medications to different types of people. He has been thrown a few loops that makes things worse, but then there are times that he feels pretty good too. I wish things could be a lot different for him and for you.


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