Robert's Random Ravings

Depression – the silent ache

There is a problem which affects millions of Americans every day. Many people probably are not even aware that they are experiencing this problem. I am referring to depression.

Our society moves very quickly and places a lot of value on things that are not particularly fulfilling – money, status, number of friends, the type of car you drive, how big your house is, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with having a nice house or driving a nice car. But if you think that once you get these things you will be happy, you will be in for a surprise. “Things” cannot really make us happy.

When discussing depression, it is necessary to mention that there are many flavors of depression – from a one time feeling to an ongoing, life-long battle; from a chemical imbalance that can be helped by modern medicine, to mental illness that has no cure. Everyone deals with depression of some sort at some time in his or her life. But there are a lot of people out there that can barely face the day. It could be your closest friend and you may not even know. People are very good at hiding things when they don’t want other people to know about them. I can talk from experience here because I have battled depression and other related issues for most of my adult life.

How is it possible to live in a large city and feel completely alone, for example? The answer is that it is possible and it is very hard to explain. Whether you are surrounded by people or live in a small town, you can still feel lonely.

It is a common thing to blame our parents for problems that we face in our adulthood. And the reality is that our parents do play a role. But I would say that it is rare that our parents are 100% responsible for depression and other mental illness issues that we face as adults. It is important to talk to your parents if you feel that there are issues. They may surprise you. I have had many such opportunities and I have found them to be both liberating and enlightening. See, most parents do the best they can. They go with the information they have at the time and try to live according to their values and morality, and then pass that along to their children. Every generation struggles with the previous generation. That is just a fact of life. But if you live your life hating your parents because they have “ruined your life,” I would say that it is time to take responsibility for your own well being and try to do any and everything possible to move past it. If your parents are no longer alive, it is a little harder, but it is still possible. I think that we alone are responsible for our own well-being and happiness.

I have been taking a prescription anti-depressant for a very long time. I know it helps me and that I would be much worse off without it. But the medicine alone is not enough. Lately I have found that I don’t have a lot of people in my life that I feel that I can really talk to – really open up to – and trust with what I might say. I have been deeply hurt in the past by people that have been in the role of counselor who have decided that what I say to them in private did not need to be kept private. That is a real betrayal and it has made it very difficult for me to trust anyone now. But in spite of the hurts of the past, it is more damaging to keep everything bottled up. I have finally taken a step towards getting professional assistance again. I hope it goes well.

One of the things that makes it hard to get help is the “stigma” associated with it. I know that there is much less these days. After all, one of the most popular shows of the last decade was about a mobster that went to a shrink. But you may recall that even Tony Soprano did not want other people knowing that he was going.

I also have run into the attitude that saying you have a mental illness is a crutch or an excuse for not accepting responsibility for your own behavior. It is truly amazing to me how prevalent this attitude is. I still have to deal with it to this day in some people that are pretty close to me.

I know that there are not that many people reading my blog, but if I am able to encourage even one person to take a step towards getting help – towards realizing that he or she can get help – then sharing my own experiences will have been worth it.

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03/08/2009 - Posted by | General | , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. As a person who has battled depression, I found that self-awareness and self-honesty were more powerful than Zoloft, Effexor, and all that lot. My adult life and experiences with psychiatry and medication are a cautionary tale of trusting the medical professionals too closely.

    If I had to make several extremely important beat-it-into-your-head points, I’d write this:

    1) Eat healthier. I cannot stress how eating junk food, even sparingly, spikes one’s intake of fat and carbs. The stress this puts on the body translates into depression. Once I stopped eating candy and junk food, my whole outlook changed.

    2) Quit smoking. Smoking increases the likelihood of depressive episodes. Smoking is a good thing to quit. Even if you don’t always stay off of it, quitting tobacco will change the quality of your life.

    3) Supplement. The smartest psychiatrist I encountered put me on CoQ-10, Flaxseed Oil and Omega-3 supplements along with the multivitamin. The 21st century has fewer nutrients in food than the 19th century for several reasons, and the stress is extraordinary. And stress leads to … depression.

    4) Accept that you may never find the wonder medicine. I took Effexor, Zoloft, Lithium (briefly), Effexor XR, and Celexa, and all in varying dosages. Holy crap, did this cause my life to lose balance, and it lasted 10 years. If you have a condition requiring antidepressants and/or mood stabilizers, know that you can be seeking the right balance for YEARS. And your partner should know that as well.

    5) Treat the medication as if it is PART of a solution. Seek counseling. Find what motivates you. Exercise. Make a goal for yourself to get a reward. But do NOT treat the medicine as the panacea or you WILL get sandbagged by its side effects or the lack of complete understanding of the drug by the psychiatric community.

    6) Doctors are not omniscient. Graham Chapman of Monty Python fame, himself a medical doctor before he went into entertainment, said that one should not take doctors too seriously as they are only ex-medical students. Doctors with experience come with preconceptions and blinders on. Doctors without experience do not fully understand the incredible range of medication out there.

    7) Stay updated on what is learned about your medication. New information on medicines are surfacing daily. I was on Zoloft for five years before they found out the suicidal ideations experienced as a side effect if one remains on Zoloft for too long. Zoloft ruined my life because I failed to switch to something better.

    I am no longer on any medicine. I was misdiagnosed as having bipolar II disorder by doctors who had barely observed me. Only after talking to a counselor for an extended period did I come to learn I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. On the other hand, I see what happens to people not on any medication when they desperately need it.

    Don’t be a casualty. Life is to be lived, not endured.

    Comment by Neal Klein | 03/09/2009 | Reply

    • Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment. You mentioned one thing in passing that is an integral part of the whole situation – the partner. If your partner does not understand what is going on (or doesn’t believe it), you need to find a way to explain it so that they will understand. Otherwise, they will not be able to support you. I think your life partner’s support is an essential part of any person’s well being.

      Comment by rkurzweil | 03/09/2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Robert,
    That was a gutsy post. I hope people read it and heed it. The point is that there is a solution. It may not be immediate (and we all want immediate, don’t we?) but the point is to keep trying. And nobody knows how it is if you don’t tell them so thanks for telling us how it is.

    Kathy

    Comment by Kathy Carvell | 02/09/2011 | Reply


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