Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Dilemma With Depression

My doctor’s appointment is tomorrow morning to see about new medicines to treat my depression. I was on Zoloft most recently, and it made me feel terrible!!! So when I stopped taking it, I had some time where I felt so much better…and then I was really keeping myself busy with exercise, chores, and art projects…I could literally “feel” my depression underneath the surface…like a sense of this imbalance…and I was dreading when I might start feeling the symptoms more intensely…hoping that I would get to the doctor before it got out of control. It is so important to stay on your medicine when you’re being treated for depression…your doctor needs to be the one to help you transition to another medicine or off the medicine all together. I told y’all before that I went about this the wrong way personally…I stopped taking my medicine before talking to my doctor. This was definitely the wrong thing to do and could have potentially been dangerous. I’m lucky that I’ve been okay, but the last few days have been another story. I could feel myself losing my grip…it’s like starting to slide without being able to stop…and then hitting a wall! I hit the wall today.

Sometimes there are moments or situations in our lives that act as a sort of trigger that cause us to lose that stability…even with medicines or alternative treatments. Sometimes something happens that causes us to feel those symptoms of depression a little more intensely than what we’re use to feeling when we’re being treated. It’s just a part of living with this condition! If you think about it, anyone living with a medical condition, and being treated, will still have days when they experience symptoms of their medical conditions. My trigger has been exhaustion! My husband has been gone on underway for more than a week, and this always messes up my ability to get an adequate amount of sleep…mostly because of our 1 year old puppy. It takes more energy and attention with him when my husband isn’t here to help. I feel silly talking about this given than we don’t have children…but a puppy is still like a child to me…I have another living creature I have to take care of! Lack of sleep Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday night caused a break down today. I spent most of the day crying for no apparent reason…and I couldn’t stop! I also wanted to just scream at the dog, curl in a ball and sleep, and eat junk food…I couldn’t shake the deep sense of sadness all day. Depression just sucks…simple as that…and today has been a sucky suck day…yes…sucky suck. I took a two hour nap and ate a hamburger and fries…I also received a very brief phone call from my husband…all of these things made me feel a little better today. So I decided it was time to share my college paper with y’all!

I wrote this paper earlier in the semester, and I edited it later for my portfolio in the class…it was a freshman level English class I took my sophomore year (my freshman year was focused on math and science classes due to my major before changing it for my sophomore year…just so y’all know). I was really proud of this paper…it was written only a year and a few months after my diagnosis with clinical depression. Luckily for me, I never went through a period of time when I didn’t feel like it was something I couldn’t talk about. There was a time when I didn’t understand it and a time when I didn’t want to acknowledge it, but I always knew that my mama was there to help and support me with whatever was going on in my life! So I believe that when I finally opened up about everything to my mama and went to the doctor, I had accepted the condition as a part of my life (even if I did spend years on and off my medicine like I told y’all before). Writing about it then was a way for me to research it and share it with my classmates hoping to shed some light on anyone who was questioning the possibility of depression in their lives. I’m going to share my summary about the paper…this was a way for us to identify our audience and keep our minds open to the varied opinions we would receive on our topics in that class. There are notes on my paper from my professor as well, so periodically you will see parenthesis and italics where I will clarify or amend something from my original paper. My hope in sharing this paper with you all is that you will see that after almost 10 years since I wrote it, the same symptoms and thoughts are still relevant today…it is a war with the same battles over and over…but every victory means something, and those of us with depression are just going to have to keep fighting! DON’T GIVE UP!

A Dilemma With Depression

My audience is anyone interested in depression on a level that can be easily understood by anyone. Doctors, nurses or anyone in the medical field might notice the lack of professional terminology, but they will understand the symptoms of depression and how they affect their patients’ lives. The audience can be seen as a worldwide audience except for the fact that a statistic specific to the U.S.A. is used and except for the lack of any mention of worldwide issues that may cause depression.

I hate this feeling. I can’t control it. It plagues me like an infinite time of darkness. But, this feeling isn’t present all the time, and the darkness isn’t infinite; however, I’m always aware that it’s somewhere inside. Despite the medication and support, the depression is there. It’s a clinical diagnosis; it’s one that is hereditary and unavoidable, it seems. People look at me, and they hear this story, and it doesn’t make sense to them. “She’s always so happy. There’s no way that this girl could be depressed!” We that are depressed are either really good at covering the illness up, or we can’t help but show it. No one knew that there were times when I would curl up tight in a ball at night and wonder about the most painless ways I could kill myself. No one saw behind my eyes that need to escape the endless mood swings and feeling of little control. But, it was there. As I write this paper, I wonder how free it would feel just to let go of life. You read this and you either feel a distant pity, or you want to reach out to me. You may be clinically diagnosed with depression. You may know someone who is. In general, I am a positive, open-minded, outgoing, and optimistic woman. Why am I depressed? Maybe knowing the facts and the sources will offer some kind of hope or help to those of us who are depressed and can’t seem to understand why!

“Sometimes depression seems to happen because of a stressful event. Sometimes it seems to happen for no reason at all. Today, it is widely recognized that depression is a medical condition that may be associated with an imbalance in the delicate chemistry of the brain. It is thought not having enough of a brain chemical called serotonin may play a role in depression.” (Zoloft) I visited four web sites, and they all said the same thing. I’ve always heard these kinds of statements, and I’ve always accepted them with a strong conviction. It makes sense. But, no one can walk into a doctor’s office and say that losing their job, a loved one, or something as emotionally draining has caused them to have depression (I mean that yes these situations can cause depression, but a doctor must diagnose clinical depression). It would be even more ridiculous to approach a doctor saying, “You know, I really think the neurons firing around in my brain are just a little off balance. I think I’m depressed.” Neither of these scenarios would work. A doctor has to hear about your symptoms, and then tell you if you are clinically cursed or currently experiencing an unpleasant part of life at the moment. These were my symptoms, and these are just a few of the common symptoms of depression: “Persistent sad, anxious, or ‘empty’ mood; insomnia, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping; decreased energy, fatigue, being ‘slowed down;’ thoughts of death or suicide attempts; difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions; and persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic pain.” (Depression Alliance) These symptoms are experienced on the down days, and the days that I am feeling good are still haunted by the question of when the next down day will occur.

My doctor in Oklahoma, the doctors I’ve seen in this little college town, Lamoni, and my neurologist up in Des Moines, say that I’m depressed. There are many different types of depression; some of these are Major Depression, Dysthymia, and Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood, and each has its own diagnostic criteria. Luckily, my own depression doesn’t seem to be as severe and just scanning over the symptoms of these major depressions make me shudder (My recent research indicates that “Major Depression” encompasses a variety of different types of depression. I’m not sure how I grouped that particular one here because clinical depression was listed as part of the definition. Huh!). Check out for the many symptoms of these types. “Depression comes in many forms and in many degrees.” (Depression Alliance) (My professor wanted me to elaborate more on this point, but I’ll do that later on or leave it up to y’all to look up!) With this in mind, doctors have to prescribe the appropriate kind of treatment for each patient’s case. There are antidepressants, cognitive behavior therapy, interpersonal therapy, and problem solving therapy. (Treatments for Depression) In extreme cases electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is needed (My professor asked if this was still controversial. The answer then and today is still yes! Dr. Oz just had a show about it, but I didn’t catch it. If you want more info, I recommend Google, but it still scares the crap out of me!). It’s important to find which treatment will provide the most help. Knowing if you’re depressed or not requires personal reflection because unless someone else notices, we may be living our lives with a controllable illness that we don’t realize is present (like missing out on living life to the fullest!). Too many bad days can add up! I had to figure out why I wasn’t the same person for so long, which in turn led me to speculate depression. My mom saw it too because she had been there and still is today, so together we made the mature and responsible decision to seek help.

I’ve lost loved ones. My heart was broken by a boy I loved dearly. The path of my life seemed to go nowhere for so long. School was stressful. Did these things cause my depression? Am I depressed because it was bound to happen due to heredity? Why am I depressed? I’ve researched this topic, and I’ve learned things I all ready had a vague understanding of. I’ve talked with people before about depression and the ways they overcame it. I take medicine now, and the day s I feel down I reflect on what may be causing them. People who are depressed search for the source of their medical illness, and they try to find ways to escape the sadness and frustration. We look to facts about symptoms and treatments, and we take comfort in knowing the little pieces, like how one in every six Americans will experience depression in their lives. (Zoloft) We know that we are not alone. But, how do these facts, statistics, lists, opinions, and new insights help us understand our depression? They don’t. Scientifically, it all comes down to an imbalance of firing neurons in our heads (This statement is a little too simple. I can’t say that it “all” comes to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain…science is still researching depression to this day). We’ve seen the commercial with the bouncing smiley face that isn’t so smiley! It all happens in the brain. However, understanding why just doesn’t seem to offer any comfort. Let’s receive the treatment, and let’s try to be optimistic. Let’s not ask why, but instead let’s ask how to continue overcoming depression. Let’s take the facts and throw them away as soon as we know that we have the right stuff to make us better. Let’s be there for one another and help those who will come to be in our shoes someday.

Depression Alliance: Frequently Asked Questions – Symptoms

Treatments for Depression


When I read this, I actually feel a little proud of myself. I was 20 years old then, and I’ll be 30 this year. Then and now, I was rallying people to fight this illness…and it’s even more important to me now because I’ve only recently learned that so many people are afraid to approach this medical condition and the treatments available. I think I have 2, 3, or maybe 4 more posts to cover everything else I want to say about depression. There are different types of depression and different treatments to consider…and there are things like exercise, diet, meditation, and prayer that are helpful as well. Depression isn’t black and white…it’s a lot more complicated and involved. After reading this paper, I am even more fired up for the battle with this illness! I’ve been fighting it for more than a decade…and I’m only getting stronger. It’s time for all of us to get our war paint on!

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