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Author Topic: PSA: It's not embarrassment
AvidReader
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Yahoo's got a story up on college students with depression, and they make one of the classic blunders.

quote:
She says there's lots of information and help available for students with mental disorders, but "there's still a stigma associated with mental health issues and so a lot of people don't want to go to those services. They feel like they're less cool or something like that if they go. It's like a sign of vulnerability."
Let me clariffy this point for everyone. It's not about stigma or embarrassment or anything else. It's that I don't know when I'm suffering from depression.

I find myself saying things like, "I'm almost depressed" or "If I'm not careful, I'll be depressed at this rate". It's not until the depression passes that I can look back and say, "Oops. That really was depression".

I'm not stupid. The rest of the time, I can look at that pattern and realize how dumb it is. But when my brain chemistry is out of whack, it's not that simple. It's like depression carves out a blind spot in my mind and keeps me from thinking about it. It doesn't want to be fixed, and it's in control.

Depression is not feeling sad. It's not a lousy way of coping with stress. It's a chemical imbalance that robs me of my ability to remember that life changes. I can't remember that things used to be good and will inevitably be good again. However things are now, that is how they will always be. There's nothing to change - life is just stuck.

Depression robs me of one of the basic abilities that make me human: the ability to imagine and work for a better life.

So please spare me the well-meant statements about how I should just get help. If I know I need help, I'm not depressed. I'm not doing this to myself on purpose, and I certainly don't enjoy living with the creeping uncertainty in the back of my brain that one day this will happen again. Seriously, how often do the rest of you wonder if one day you'll screw up and kill yourself?

If you really want to do me a favor, just be positive. Remind me that life really is good, even if this particular moment isn't. Remind me I'm human. That's what I really need.

Thank you.

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scholarette
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One of the why people don't get help did actually make sense to me- it was talking about grad students and how they are massively depressed but don't use the free resources. Depression is viewed as a weakness, as a statement that you aren't up to the "challenge." So, by going, you admit you are weak, which in grad school can be devastating. No one wants to admit they are weak (though of course, having lived with someone with serious depression as well as having some minor problems myself, I know that it isn't weakness, but I do see how comments from faculty about needing a tougher skin etc would reinforce those ideas).
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Stray
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:

Depression is not feeling sad. It's not a lousy way of coping with stress. It's a chemical imbalance that robs me of my ability to remember that life changes. I can't remember that things used to be good and will inevitably be good again. However things are now, that is how they will always be. There's nothing to change - life is just stuck.

Depression robs me of one of the basic abilities that make me human: the ability to imagine and work for a better life.

Word. The way I put it once is that once I fall down the hole, suddenly I've always been down the hole. It distorts my entire cognitive process and I can't remember or imagine ever having felt any other way. Which of course makes it seem impossible that, were I to get help, it would actually have any effect.
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Fyfe
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AR, I don't mean to belittle your experience, which I'm sure is true for you and for many people, but what she's saying is also true. In the past when I've been depressed, I've known that I need to get help, and it's been very, very hard for me to admit that. The stigma isn't so much of a problem for me (though it is for many people I know), but the feeling of failing at this simple, natural thing of being happy is difficult for me to overcome.

Depression interferes with your cognitive processes and makes it harder to make good decisions, but the good decisions can still be made. Suggestions about getting help are good ones, made by people whose brains aren't being thrown out of whack by deficiencies of seratonin and dopamine.

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katharina
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I agree with the original poster and with Stray. Getting help means that you think there is a chance for things to get better. When I was depressed, the main point is that I had no hope and I didn't think things would ever be better. Reaching out is an act of hope, and I didn't have any. For the longest time, it had nothing to do with the stigma. It was because the very thing that caused me to need help had convinced me that there was nothing anyone could do and I was stuck, abandoned, drowning.

What did finally push me was a physical symptom: I started having panic attacks. That took me to the doctor, who wanted to put me on mood stabilizers. I didn't want that to be the first thing to try, so I went to a therapist instead.

That was AMAZING. I only went for five months, but I dealt with things that had been burdening me for years. I learned what I do when I get depressed, and we came up with techniques to prevent it and get out of it if it does happen. It was fantastic, and after about five months, there was nothing left to talk about and I was okay.

One of my all-time favorite scriptures is from Romans 5: 3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope.

I don't know about glorying in tribulation, but I love the part where experience leads to hope, because if it got better before, it can again, should I find myself in that situation again.

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Tara
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Life really is good [Smile]
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scholarette
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Looking at what the woman actually said, I would be shocked if anyone out there did not go to therapy because it was not cool. I do know when I was in group people admitted to having trouble going to therapy though because it was admitting that they could not handle things on their own.

Though probably the biggest reason people don't go is because they don't realize just how bad it has gotten. With my recent decision to get a master's instead of a phd, it has been like, omigosh, I did not realize I was so massively depressed. It's like suddenly I have emerged from this tunnel and am excited and happy again about so many things. I didn't realize just how much I was missing. But even though I have been in and out of therapy since I was 16, I somehow missed that I was that depressed (though it is somewhat different because it is situational, not so much chemical, otherwise I would expect a slower response).

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maui babe
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I've never really experienced long term depression, but I did have a short bout of postpartum depression after the birth of my 3rd daughter. I remember feeling some of what Kat, Stray and Reader have described here... the feeling that things were terrible and there was no chance of ever having them be good again.

Even at the time, I knew that my feelings didn't make sense, and as I mentioned, the PPD didn't last more than a couple of weeks, but the feelings were real and very intense.

Remembering that short period of my life may help me deal with family members who do suffer from long term depression.

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just_me
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quote:
what Kat, Stray and Reader have described here... the feeling that things were terrible and there was no chance of ever having them be good again.
.

This is what's so scary...

and why those of us who aren't depressed but love someone who is have to learn to recognize the signs of their being "in the hole", and to remind them that they weren't always there and that we're standing up top with a ladder. It's also why we need to go ahead and fight the battle to get them to accept help, even if they say it won't do any good. It's cliche, but they really will thank you later...

At least that's been my experiencing battling depression from this side...

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Itsame
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My friend was suffering from severe depression and refused to see a psychiatrist. After a while, I finally convinced him that he ought to. He's doing much better now.
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dabbler
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Close friends or your significant other are probably the first to notice. I definitely check in with my boyfriend to see if I'm being extra irritable or stressed.
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AvidReader
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quote:
In the past when I've been depressed, I've known that I need to get help, and it's been very, very hard for me to admit that.
That's interesting, Fyfe. I wonder if depression comes in different flavors. It would make sense that some people know and some don't.

quote:
Life really is good
[Smile] Thanks, Tara. I agree.
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Puffy Treat
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One of my younger siblings once asked me why I just couldn't "try not being depressed."

I avoided talking with them about it, after that.

Getting myself to admit I had a problem was insanely difficult. Explaining the problem seems just as difficult.

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maui babe
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quote:
Originally posted by Puffy Treat:
One of my younger siblings once asked me why I just couldn't "try not being depressed."

I avoided talking with them about it, after that.

Getting myself to admit I had a problem was insanely difficult. Explaining the problem seems just as difficult.

Honestly Puffy, without thinking back to my experience with PPD, I would be just as stumped as your sibling. Because I don't suffer from clinical depression and never have, there's a part of me that wonders that too about my husband's depression. Maybe because of an imprecision in language - we use the same word for a chronic mental illness that we use to describe feeling in a funk. [Dont Know]

But for people who CAN talk/work/exercise/shop etc themselves out of a down day, it's hard to understand the difficulty for someone suffering a major depressive episode.

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TomDavidson
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Note: this is my personal story. I am not recommending that anyone take this approach.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression nearly two decades ago now, and given pills that, quite frankly, successfully -- and wonderfully -- removed the symptoms of depression but provoked in me a bit of a philosophical crisis. In a very short time, I began to resent taking them, in what I understand is a pretty common outcome; as you get "happier," you see less and less need for what's keeping you even.

So I went off the medication, and things immediately went to hell. But I thought about it, and concluded that my original decision to quit the meds was founded on a set of personal priorities that were not inherently flawed. Moreover, the fact that I had been temporarily happy could be construed as proof that happiness was something of which I was capable. So instead I immersed myself in what I can only describe as an informal study of my own brain. I wanted to learn its triggers, the stimuli that made me perceive certain emotions, so that I could manipulate myself in roughly the same way some third party with chemicals might; I saw an ethical dilemma -- a question of authenticity, in a way -- present in chemical treatment that didn't seem to exist in conscious internal tugging on those same levers.

During that period, I had several people tell me "just be happy!" -- or things to that effect. At the time, I didn't know how to explain to them that I was trying as hard as I knew how to construct a mechanism by which I could be happy while remaining essentially myself, an entity independent of external meddling.

I'm sure I haven't entirely succeeded. Certainly there are still some self-destructive behaviors I retain -- a certain idleness, a tendency towards thoughtless gluttony -- that I haven't been able to address in quite the same way; clearly the buttons for those things aren't in the same places. But the amazing rapidity with which things finally turned around for me once I found certain buttons has inspired me to keep looking for the other ones. I mean, seriously, I did just wake up one day and decide to try not being depressed, and it worked. It's just that before it worked, I had to spend three years figuring out how to do it.

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Teshi
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It's crazy how many people are depressed frequently and deeply.

I'm not trivializing depression, but I feel like there might be something that we as a society are failing at for so many of you to have suffered from this.

If people tend to get depressed in grad school (as is suggested above), perhaps we can use that to, in a non-scientific fashion, figure out what drives people into deep, unrelenting depression. Lots of hours studying or working indoors, low exercise, high intelligence and thus an unhealthy level of self-introspection, competitive atmosphere, poor nutrition, sensations of purposelessness? This is entirely idle speculation.

Do people think that depression is inevitable in certain people, or is it something we can try, as a society, to teach people to avoid by taking certain precautions to avoid the conditions of depression?

Do people think there is more depression now than twenty, fourty, sixty, one-hundred, three hundred years ago? Or do you think that, absent other tragedies, we are simply more aware of it?

The idea of "just be happy" may seem to trivialize the difficulty of extracting yourself from depression, but perhaps it has meaning in terms of avoiding depression when work and/or personal issues become difficult. (EDIT: That is to say, that these issues can compound a pre-existing condition and begin a tailspin, not that depression is "work is hard"!)

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Puffy Treat
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I tried for eight years to overcome my depression without medication. I ended up hating myself, hating my feelings, hating life. Obviously, if I couldn't make myself happy, then I was just not worth it. I thought of suicide almost every day.

I hate taking it. But...I need it.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I'm not trivializing depression, but I feel like there might be something that we as a society are failing at for so many of you to have suffered from this.
I'd imagine that there's a fair bit of self-selection involved here, in a thread about depression on a nerdy Internet site for nerds who read books about nerds.
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Amanecer
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quote:
Do people think that depression is inevitable in certain people, or is it something we can try, as a society, to teach people to avoid by taking certain precautions to avoid the conditions of depression?
In myself, I have found that the bigger the difference between who I want to be and who I am, the more likely I am to be depressed. I'm sure there are many other reasons that people get depressed, but I have found this to be at least one cause. From this dissonance between values and the life actually led, I have sometimes fallen in to a cycle of self-hate, hopelessness, and apathy that can be very hard to get out of. For me, I've found that trying to make and keep small commitments is helpful. Planning to take the dog on a walk and following through, offering to help somebody with a project and then doing it, etc. I'm not trying to claim this is the solution, but I think it might be a small piece of the puzzle.
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Saephon
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I was diagnosed with clinical depression about ten years ago when I was 11. For me, the biggest feeling of "no one can help" has always been the belief that I am depressed because of certain things/events/situations.

Granted, at eleven years old and for quite some time after that, there really WAS no reason for me to feel so down. And I'm glad my parents saw the signs and took me to get help. But as I've aged and gotten pretty intelligent and experienced some crappy things, I ask myself from time to time: "How do you solve crappy luck?"

It's not just a bad feeling, but crummy things happen to you, things you have no control over. Like working out a lot and eating less but not seeing much a difference in your body. Or even when actively trying to seek companionship, only ever finding people who eventually treat you poorly, if you find anyone at all. Anyone else know what I'm talking about? "How can a pill make me not alone? And if it can't, but just gives me chemicals that make me not care so much, is that really a solution?"

That's what I asked myself every now and then growing up.

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TomDavidson
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I know it's going to sound silly, but that's how I dealt with it. "Crappy things happen that I can't prevent. But my feelings about these crappy things are generated internally. My emotions are sense impressions sparked by chemical triggers and rationalized by my brain. Insofar as I can said to be a bundle of chemical triggers and rationalizations, this means that my emotional reactions are purely products of my self."

So it became a matter of saying, "What am I feeling right now? What caused it? Now that I'm aware of it, is it useful for me to continue feeling this?" And -- and this was the hard part -- figuring out a way to stop feeling something once I'd decided that it wasn't what I wanted to feel.

Realizing that I was completely to blame for my own feelings was hugely liberating for me, but I can certainly understand why that wouldn't necessarily be the case for someone else. Even a very slightly more severe chemical imbalance, for example, might completely prevent this approach from working; there might be no rationalization powerful enough to short-circuit the physical stimulus.

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advice for robots
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Teshi:
quote:
Do people think that depression is inevitable in certain people, or is it something we can try, as a society, to teach people to avoid by taking certain precautions to avoid the conditions of depression?
I could be stepping in over my head here, but what I've learned about mental illness so far is that it's not always a product of our environment, but really and truly an illness that some people are going to suffer. I think where society can help more is in being more supportive of those suffering mental illness so that it is less destructive in individual lives and families.

One of the biggest tragedies I've seen connected with mental illness is how families are torn apart by it--when there is the stigma, and nobody wants to acknowledge it, and the person suffering the illness loses the support of the people who care about them most, and basically sink. Society can provide much more support than it does for those who would otherwise fall through the cracks, and greatly enrich itself in the process.

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AvidReader
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quote:
The idea of "just be happy" may seem to trivialize the difficulty of extracting yourself from depression, but perhaps it has meaning in terms of avoiding depression when work and/or personal issues become difficult.
My depression has always been triggered by other peoples' behavior that I'm powerless to change, so that would mean quitting every job and avoiding all people. I suppose it's an option, but it's not a very good one.

I find it's better for me to get the pills and ride out whatever drama someone needs to play out. Usually, things will go back to being normal after a few months. If not, then I look for another job.

The trick is to get the pills so I don't waste a year and a half in a crappy job with an unprofessional boss who makes me miserable. Depression's a little like glancing over and trying to beat a bus while you cross the street. If it's moving slow, you can do it no problem. If it's coming up fast, it'll smack you when you step off the curb.

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katharina
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The trick for me is, no kidding, excercise. When I start getting depressed now, returning to regular (3+ days a week) workouts have reversed the slide every time so far.

One of the contributing factors to me becoming depressed in the first place was a car accident that damaged my leg, so it was just about impossible for me to excercise in the ways I knew how. I didn't know then that would be worse consequences to my suddenly-sedentary life than needing to buy bigger clothes. I know it now, and it's why a gym membership is as important as paying the utility bill.

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Kwea
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You know, BOTH viewpoints are equally valid, and are not mutually exclusive. Some people DON'T know wthat they suffer from depression at all. They think it is "normal" to have those feelings, and since they don't realize it (because the very action of the depression prevents them from seeing it for what it is) they can't seek help.

They don't realize they NEED help most of the time. Maybe all of the time.


BUT....SOME people DO realize it. Either as a pattern after the attack of depression passes, or even while they suffer from it. This doesn't make it easier to seek help though, because of the reasons listed in that article.

Or they may not realize WHY they feel like they do, but still feel so out of control they KNOW they need help,....but are ashamed they are need it.


Please don't belittle that article because the facts don't align completely with YOUR symptoms. Depression hits everyone differently.....and it is a well known and well documented fact that a lot of people who need help for diseases like depression don't seek help because of the social stigma attached to these types of issues.


And almost as many people STOP treatment once begun because of the stigma, which is a related issue.

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Kwea
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I'm not trivializing depression, but I feel like there might be something that we as a society are failing at for so many of you to have suffered from this.
I'd imagine that there's a fair bit of self-selection involved here, in a thread about depression on a nerdy Internet site for nerds who read books about nerds.
Tom, I find your approach interesting, but I am not sure I understand why there was an issue with drugs that fix a chemical issue in your brain. Anti-depressives don't make you high, or release euphoric hormones... they usually work by suppressing something that your body is producing too much of, or something your body is hypersensitive to.


I worry about the long term effects of trying to "do it yourself", which is why I appreciate your candor....and your disclaimer.

But your rationale is a very common one...and quite often is heard as an excuse why soeone isn't taking very necessary drugs. I am probably too sensitive to this....I heard it from a friend who went off his drugs, then 3 weeks later killed himself, so it scares me a little bit.

I am not saying "take drugs, dammit!"...lol.....if what you are doing works for you, that is good.

But for MOST people suffering from clinical depression, your way would be an unmitigated disaster, and could lead to further self hate and even self destructive behaviors. I have seen it happen, and as I work more and more with people who are going though these types of issues I see more and more people using excuses like this to take themselves off their meds....and doing irreparable harm to themselves and their loved ones.

I see it as your BRAIN making the wrong chemicals, and the meds stopping it from doing so....not as the meds creating anything that is false.

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katharina
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I think people get depressed in graduate school because all the things nudge people towards happiness are not available.

Social relationships - hard to do that when you're always in the library.

Sense of security - you are poorer than your contemporaries, too old to be babied, and often in a grueling and demanding atmosphere with a far-less-than-certain future.

Good eating and sleeping habits - Students are notoriously bad at this.

Sense of control - there is almost nothing external within your control.

I'm honestly surprised that not ALL graduate students don't get depressed, not that just a lot of them do.

Slate's Happiness Project

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scholarette
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Kwea- I think that the stigma problem is real, but I think saying people don't get therapy because they think it isn't "cool" does not actually cover the stigma issue. Using that word minimizes the reason people aren't going in to therapy and is not going to actually help.
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Tara
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Kwea- I could understand somebody feeling uncomfortable using drugs despite the logical reasons to do so.

I read a book about a woman with schizophrenia who repeatedly tried to stop taking the drugs because she thought they made her "less herself" and she wanted her brain to be free of the "strange chemicals" -- even though the drugs actually did a good job of returning of brain to its "normal" state and letting her live a normal life. It was a contridiction that she kept falling prey to even though she was aware of it.

I feel like there are lots of issues like that when it comes to mental illness. It's hard to understand taking a drug to radically change something that happens entirely "in your head". You feel like you should be in control of what's happening in your head.

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Puffy Treat
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When this all started, there was no reason for it. At all. Which is part of why it took me so long to admit it was a problem, much less take medication for it. There was no apparent mental, emotional, or physical reason for my constant, crushing depression.

Put me in the "chemical imbalance" camp.

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DDDaysh
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I've suffered from severe anxiety since I was a very small child, and the anxiety inevitably leads to depressive episodes. I have to admit that "it sucks!".

I have two major problems. Number one - one of my major anxiety triggers is doctors. I don't like going to them. I don't like talking to them. Even if I do manage to get myself in the office, I can almost never actually manage to force the words out about what's wrong. (Note: this is only if I'm going to the doctor for ME. For some reason making appointments and going for my son is entirely different - go figure.) Thus, getting professional help is pretty difficult. My anxiety has quite a few physical symptoms, most noticeably a nervous system disorder that has never been properly diagnosed, but mimics epilepsy if people could be conscious during epileptic seizures. I actually had one doctor think that I was trying to fake epilepsy, but since the "spasms" had been going on since I was 6 or 7 (well before I knew what seizures or epilepsy WERE) that theory didn't hold water.

My second problem is that therapy has never successfully worked for me, so I have little faith in it as a treatment method. I have actually gone several times, starting with school group therapy in middle school. The problem is, I've read enough psychology books that I've already tried most of the methods they talk about on my own. I've tried self rationalizing 'til the cows came home, but no matter how much I tell myself that there is no reason to be having an anxiety attack over <insert variety of triggers here>, I still can't make my heart beat calm down, my brain start thinking in a strait line, or my stomach from feeling like it's going to vomit up everything I've eaten in the last decade. One of the earliest triggers that was noticeable to others in my anxiety was over phone calls. I had terrible anxiety over making phone calls. My mother thought I was just nervous and could be desensitized to it if I just practiced enough. We were in activities and clubs as kids, and anytime there was a list of people to call for something or other, she'd volunteer me for it. I can't tell you how many afternoons I'd spend huddled against the phone, taking an hour or more to work up the courage for a single phone call and all the time be praying that they'd have an answering machine that would pick up! I went through YEARS of this and it never got any better!

Some of you seem to have had better luck with therapy. Can you tell me, as specifically as you feel comfortable with, what in therapy helped you? I "think" I'm doing mostly ok right now (though as others have said, it's difficult to tell without hind sight), but I go through cycles, so I'm always looking for a new stash of data/info.

Also, do any of you belong to NAMI. I haven't found it particularly helpful for me personally - but it did help my aunt and uncle when pursuing options for my cousin earlier this year.

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Anthonie
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Depression affects individuals differently: some mildly, others very severely. I would suggest we do NOT tread too carefully when deciding whether to approach treatment--or to what degree we approach treatment--for depression, whether personally or for others dear to us. Due to the fact that stigma exists that often leads people to UNDER-treat it, I would hope that we will err on the side of OVER-treating, even if we "way over-do it."

posted by just_me :
quote:
and why those of us who aren't depressed but love someone who is have to learn to recognize the signs of their being "in the hole", and to remind them that they weren't always there and that we're standing up top with a ladder. It's also why we need to go ahead and fight the battle to get them to accept help, even if they say it won't do any good. It's cliche, but they really will thank you later...

I cannot agree more. I don't pretend to know the balance of vigilance about being aware of depression and taking it seriously, versus blowing common disappointments and sadness out of proportion. However, I cannot assert strongly enough my personal pitch for vigilance--especially for others who are "in the hole" and may not recognize their need.

I have experienced this from the side of the largely oblivious person in need. Forgive a rather strong personal allusion here, but I think it is appropriate. Three months ago I took a large dose of sleep medicine, disrobed, and laid down in sub-freezing temperatures in the snow on a river bank to die. It was among the most deliberate actions of my life, done without hesitation, under absolute intent. (By sheer luck and/or stupidity I did not die, as it was too cold for the the sleep medicine to correctly take effect. My body kicked into survival fight-or-flight adrenaline mode when I woke only 1.5 hours later, and I ran sort of semi-consciously for help.)

What was very disconcerting about the circumstance to those close to me--perhaps just as much as the suicide attempt itself--was that they felt "side-swiped" by it. It caught them off guard, out of the blue. Of course, most of this was due to my concealment of much of what was going on inside. Outwardly, for a large part I appeared my usual self. However, there were still unmistakable signs that others could notice, like my withdrawal from most people close to me.

I have learned that even apparently minor signs can and should be taken seriously by one who suffers with depression as well as by their friends/family. Even if it means embarrassing oneself or annoying others, I believe it is better to sound all the alarms and call in the troops at the first sign of trouble. The alternative of understanding the severity of someone's depression only after they are gone is too high a price.

I have had at least two previous bouts of serious depression over the past several years. I would not wish the experiences on anyone, but without personal experience it is hard to understand how oblivious someone with severe depression can be to their own situation. I knew things were not good, and I even knew I was suicidal, but I still didn't think/realize/believe/understand I needed help. My roommate at the time told me I was not well. He brought to my attention that I was speaking very slowly, like a record playing on too-low rpm's. I hadn't noticed until he said it. He pointed out to me that it took me 45 min to walk home from work on a route that regularly took only 15-20min. My roommate, family, friends "ganged up" to convince me to try medicine. It was a lot like a drug-rehab intervention.


There is one other important thing to me about depression that I would like to address. It relates to the sentiment from AdviceforRobots' post.

Posted by Advice for Robots:
quote:
what I've learned about mental illness so far is that it's not always a product of our environment, but really and truly an illness that some people are going to suffer. I think where society can help more is in being more supportive of those suffering mental illness so that it is less destructive in individual lives and families.
I agree.

One assumption I feel may be underpinning much of the discussion in this thread is that happiness --or at least the lack of depression--is the "natural, normal" human emotional state (or if not "natural and normal", at least preferred). It seems that there may be the expectation that those suffering with depression will be able to rise out of the depression back to said "natural, normal, happy" state. But we must exercise caution in expectation when confronting depression.

For some/many cases we MANAGE depression rather than eradicate it. To better help those who suffer with severe depression as well as their families, it may be a good idea to lower our expectations of "cures". For some, society must accept depression as a long-term mental ILLNESS and learn to approach it as other long-term physical illnesses. Of course, we do hope that it does get better and go away.

But in some cases it DOES NOT. In these cases, we treat ourselves and others with depression as we would someone with a long-term, permanent physical condition. We love ourselves/others AS WE ARE. It means doing all we can to function to our highest capacity, or to assist others dear to us who suffer from depression to achieve their highest level. This often means we cannot hold as an expectation achieving the pinnacle "natural, normal, happy state." Such expectations create frustration and do not allow appropriate grieving and acceptance that things may not ever be perfect again.

A very dear friend to me suffers from chronic depression. She is on meds and has been for years. Even with medicine, many times (in fact just this week) she cannot get out of bed and sleeps for DAYS on end when her depression acts out. She simply shuts down. She is proactive with her illness, and loves to serve others, be active outdoors, ride huge biking courses and even venture on huge mountain climbs (the many-day sort where you camp at base camp to acclimate to higher altitudes). I strongly believe her activity and efforts do much to ameliorate the situation, but still we have learned that other crashes WILL come.

Last time I went to her house when she was really down, the best thing I could do was BE THERE. I created a make-shift nest, and lied down on the floor at the foot of her bed. I held no expectations for her to "pick herself up" and feel better. I didn't make requests or suggestions or demands from her. I sat with her to let her know that she was not alone and that she was special and valuable just the way she was. With her, many times we just have to wait for the clouds to blow over, and then cherish the sunshine when it shines.

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Lyrhawn
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Wow, this thread hits home with me in a number of ways, but I feel like to a degree my ability to add anything is somewhat limited. I have many symptoms of depression, to say nothing of the role that those symptoms have played in my issues with cutting, but I haven't the foggiest idea as to whether or not I actually have some diagnosable depression, so I feel silly talking about it as if I do, especially to people who have sought out treatment.

I've spent a vast majority of the last twelve or so years absolutely convinced that I either didn't need help or that there was no way anyone could help me, and thus seeking help would be useless. A year or two ago I started to shift to thinking that maybe I did need help, when problems I thought I'd left behind came back. I had all sorts of excuses to fend of concerned friends and the nagging voice in the back of my head, the biggest of which was that I simply couldn't afford any sort of help. Then I found out my school offers a limited number of sessions in the counseling center for free, and that excuse evaporated.

I'm sort of in a holding pattern at the moment. I don't really have any excuses left, I think I probably should go, even if just to find out it's useless so I'll stop kicking myself, but I can't quite get myself past a wall of fear, apathy, self loathing and stubborn pride that has been my stumbling block for quite some time now. I inch closer on a daily basis. Maybe I'll still make it in before the end of May, or before the end of June.

I don't ever see myself taking medication though, not only because I have zero dollars with which to purchase said medication, but because I'm extremely leery of not being myself anymore. I could logically be persuaded to do otherwise though I guess.

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AvidReader
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quote:
I don't ever see myself taking medication though...because I'm extremely leery of not being myself anymore.
Boy do I have a different opinion of that one. I went and got antidepressants because I'd been crying or conciously keeping myself from crying pretty much non-stop for a week. It was exhausting, and I couldn't deal with anything else.

When the drugs kicked in, it was like someone hit the reset button in my brain. All the effort and exhaustion of not crying was gone. I could think again. Which meant I could deal with the trigger and get past the depression. It was honestly a beautiful thing - once I got past the nausea and insomnia.

I suppose it's different for me because I've been on birth control pills since I was 15 to stabalize my moods and prevent excruciating pain every month. I'm pretty sure it's the lack of pain that trained me that drugs = good. [Smile]

So while I acknowledge part of mental illness is usually thinking you don't need the meds, it's not necessarily how you'll react to them. For me, I recognize that they let me be myself again when I need a little help.

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Lyrhawn
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Like I said, I could be convinced otherwise if someone presented a case, or maybe even if I tried them and was satisfied enough with the results.

But then, it would seem our problems, perhaps equally serious, are still like night and day enough to make a comparison quite difficult.

Maybe I should reword my leeriness though. I'm not saying that drugs necessarily make everyone who takes them no longer themselves, but I personally am afraid that if I were to take them that I might not be the me that I'm used to anymore, not that that is an automatic consequence for everyone.

Still, there are certain parts of myself that I could do without. I guess it sort of devolves into a philosophical question at that point.

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Anthonie
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Lyrhawn, if I may be so bold, I can express my vote for you in a word: GO! Investigate help with the resources available, namely starting with the free counseling. Take another step. It sounds like you have already moved further than you may recognize internally on a journey toward change/improvement/healing in an aspect of your life that could greatly affect you.

You can immensely assist counseling sessions by taking a few hours/days in advance and writing down as much as you can about your experiences, memories, motivations, feelings, and actions that you are concerned about. Be authentic. The effort of facing my true feelings with the assistance of a trained, professional counselor I found to be the opposite of what I expected in many ways. Rather than fear, pride, denial, minimizing, I experienced relief, gratitude, openness.

If other forms of treatment like medicine are recommended for you, cross that bridge when you come to it. With respect to money to afford medicine, you may be surprised to know it could be much less expensive than you may believe. For example, many pharmacies (following the lead of Walmart) offer hundreds of effective prescriptions for $4/month. Also, many areas have community health centers where people without insurance can see doctors/counselors for much lower cost. Here in my area, the community health clinic offers services to everyone and bills on a sliding scale based on income.

I don't know where your journey may lead, Lyrhawn, but I sincerely hope you take the next step. You are worth it.

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Tatiana
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I agree that it's most often a physical ailment caused by specific brain chemistry.

I've found that my own can be almost completely controlled by four factors. I call these the four pillars of good mental health.

1) Exercise: frequent intense exercise is the most important factor in keeping me healthy and happy.

2) Diet: You are what you eat, and when I eat well I feel well.

3) Sunshine: At least an hour outside during daylight hours each day is optimum. On days I can spend the whole day outside I usually feel gloriously happy.

4) Sleep: When I can regularly sleep nine hours a night of deep relaxing sleep, the other 15 are much better and happier.

There's also a 5th pillar that's available to anyone with humility sufficient to try it. Sincere heartfelt prayer is an amazing anodyne for most ailments, be they physical, mental, or spiritual.

A sixth pillar is rendering any sort of loving service to other beings.

A seventh is learning new and interesting things.

An eighth is accomplishments of any sort.

A ninth is creatively making something new and good.

If, though, all you can manage to do is to draw breath and let it out, then take courage and be glad for that. When you feel unequal to anything else, when you hit the lowest low point, just continue to breathe in and then out again. That's all you have to do.

But if none of these things does the trick, then do try the medicines. Sometimes they can help when nothing else can.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Anthonie:
Lyrhawn, if I may be so bold, I can express my vote for you in a word: GO! Investigate help with the resources available, namely starting with the free counseling.

Lyr, you already know I agree with this one.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
From Anthonie:
You can immensely assist counseling sessions by taking a few hours/days in advance and writing down as much as you can about your experiences, memories, motivations, feelings, and actions that you are concerned about. Be authentic.

That shouldn't be a problem, to say nothing of my infrequent journaling attempts, I have two Hatrack landmarks that more than cover anything that would required discussion.

::sigh:: I know it's time to bite the bullet, get over my hangups and just go, even if I never go back. But it's hard to get from realization to action, to fight literally a decade of ingrained resistance to the very thing I'm now resigned to do. It's a final admission that I can't handle this by myself, which might seem patently obvious to others, but for so long I've prided myself on being able to handle it at some of my most difficult times.

I'll go, and soon...ish.

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AvidReader
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It's ok, Lyr. Change is a process. The steps according to Linda N Edelstein in Writer's Guide to Character Traits are:

precontemplation - not ready to change
contemplation - you're aware of the problem but not ready to act
preparation - intention to take action (that's you)
action - you start to change
maintenance - work to prevent relapse
termination - the change is complete and you no longer have to work to prevent relapse

You're almost there. You'll act when you're ready, and you'll be fine.

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DDDaysh
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I know how you feel Lyr. When I was in college it took nearly failing a class I needed to graduate to snap me into the fact that I REALLY needed to get things sorted out.

As far as the medication stuff goes, I'm generally on the "meds are good" side of the line. I have to qualify that though - the RIGHT meds are GOOD. However with any mood altering drug, it will work great for some people, not work at all for others, and even make things worse for some people. I'm on Paxil right now. It's not the best solution in the world because it has side effects that aren't great. However, if I'm NOT on Paxil, then I'm not really "myself" at all. I don't notice it at first, but I start to have such severe anxiety that I'm going through life merely reacting to things instead of making actual decisions. On the other hand, I've tried a number of other medications over the course of time in an attempt to better control symptoms with fewer side effects. I generally have not had alot of luck with them. At best, they've done nothing. At worst they made me so physically ill and dizzy I couldn't get out of bed for three days (Clonazapam and Wellbutrin fell in this category). Thus, it really is hit or miss with the drug thing. You may have to try several before you find one you're happy with. Luckily, they're not nearly as expensive as you think. Ask your doctor to try medications with generic versions first, and you can probably get them for under $10 a month.

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Anthonie
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:

I'll go, and soon...ish.

[Party]

[The Wave]

Cheers!

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