I think most people feel that antidepressants are not a good option for someone suffering from depression. The old idea that antidepressants make you foggy and sluggish and “zombie” like is not true. There are many new medications that can be taken to help find your way. Depression is not always cured by talking because it is not always caused by trauma. What I find hard to understand is why we tell someone with diabetes or heart disease to take the medication but if you have depression then no don’t take the medication. It is a brain disease.
I thought I would share this article and hopefully it will help.
I hope that so far I have made it clear that having depression is an illness. I guess the issue is that people can’t see depression and we tend to think of the brain as our being and not an organ so this makes it difficult for others to truly understand. Also because there is not a one size fits all solution, people have a hard time understanding that it is truly a disease. Think of depression like a cold. There are many different types of cold viruses and they are not all treated the same.
I also want to make it clear that I have shared my journey. It did not happen for me all at once. It was a process. I sometimes wonder if I had realized sooner that I suffered from depression or that it was in my family would I have avoided a “breakdown”. All I can say to anyone who is suffering or wonders if they have a mental illness, get help. It will save your life. There is help but I know it can be difficult and hard to find. But do try. I have come across a wonderful support community called #sicknotweak. Go to your doctor, get to a psychologist, most Health units have a mental illness section where you can get help, find out what your work provides and use the resources. Tell a friend. Oh yeah and begin Mindfulness. This is an very helpful program. It’s really about retraining your brain. I know that at a time when one is ill fighting to get help can be exhausting. I have experienced this both with a physical illness and now a mental illness but I can also tell you that in both cases it is worth the fight. When you get the help you need you can live a more positive life. For those of you who do not suffer from depression please listen when someone comes to you. Please do not be judgmental. It is extremely difficult for us to ask for help and if we are asking you that means we trust you and are feeling hopeless and lost. Don’t be afraid. We will not ask too much of you, we are not clueless or unaware of your feelings. We are not “crazy” and will not hurt you and will not expect you to take on our burden. We are just looking for help and not sure where to turn. To someone suffering from depression I say there is hope. As my daughter told me “Think of this as your new normal.” I can do that.
Now began the hardest thing I have ever had to deal with. I began to recognize the fact that my brain was “firing on all cylinders” as is said and that most people are able to control this or make it stop. I could not. I learned10. that people react with varying degrees. Some colleagues and friends are very understanding and listen when you want to talk, help you leave the house and support you as much as they can. Then there are those who stop talking to you, ignore you and feel uncomfortable around you. The hard thing for anyone to realize is that family can also react the same way. For me the family members closest to me were and still are very supportive. Then there are those who feel that you are just weak and need to toughen up, those that don’t even try to understand and then so many who never ask about what you are going through or how you feel. I have learned 11. that this is not about me and it is okay to feel whatever I am feeling and that it is okay to take care of myself. I am sick and like any other illness I should do what needs to be done to get well.
I have always known that depression is a family’s dirty little secret. It is something people don’t talk about. It’s a shameful thing to have in your family. And now, I was my family’s dirty, little secret. I forced myself to talk about it but I was very cautious about who I was willing to tell. Again, I know how lucky I am. My husband is from a culture where mental illness is not shameful or an embarrassment to a family. In his culture people accept mental illness as just that, an illness that one has no control over. It is as “normal” as cancer or any other disease. He encouraged me to talk about what I was feeling and to take the help I was being offered. To try my best to heal. Through all this I began to realize depression was in my family. I began to think about the stories I had heard over the years and started to put together information and found that I could go back 3 generations and find family members who had suffered from depression. No, it was not talked about, for obvious reason in the early days but not even now. So many people feel that someone with depression is weak, needs to toughen up, just move on, are craving attention, are unpredictable, scary, or just plain “crazy”.
There are two people who had a huge influence on my recovery. One is a nurse who helped me see I was okay and that I should be gentle with myself. She reminded me that people use to whisper about breast cancer. Now, we talk loud, don’t think of it as an embarrassment and even run for the cure. There is no shame in mental illness. The second person is Andrew Solomon. I listened to his story about his struggle with depression and it sounded so much like mine. It encouraged me and made me feel that I would be able to move forward into a new life. “The opposite of depression is not happiness. The opposite of depression is vitality.”
Let me say again: Depression is not ordinary sadness. Most people go through a sadness or depression when something big happens in their life. A death, a divorce, an accident etc and then usually within a few months they feel better. Are ready to resume life and be themselves again. Some of these people get help, use medication or just naturally work through the issue. Experts say that on average someone with this kind of depression will get better within three months. Let me share what the experts describe as the symptoms of depression.
Feeling sad or down most of the time.
The person looses interest in the activities they enjoy.
The person feels tired most of the time.
The person has trouble concentrating and staying focused.
They seem to enjoy life less and less.
They feel worthless and hopeless.
The person feels this way everyday, all day for at least two weeks.
I had everyone of these symptoms. For me it was very gradual and with each new symptom I told myself it was my surroundings that were changing. I never thought mental illness was a possibility. In some ways I am sure I didn’t want it to be a mental illness. I knew it was in my family. I knew it could be hereditary. But I assumed I was not at risk. It would never be me.
4. I learned that in order to heal I had to be off work and take care of myself. I was sick. Not an easy lesson to learn for me. I had always faced my issues head on and kept going. I had always striven to take care of my husband and children, to be a support for people I worked with, teach those children that didn’t like school, to try and get along with everyone in my extended family, work hard in the church and basically be a rock for those who needed one. 5. I have learned that I am a perfectionist. Yes, me! I never thought of myself in this way. I didn’t do well in school, I didn’t care if my house was clean, I didn’t strive to be successful: all signs of being a perfectionist or so I thought. 6. I have learned that perfectionists do not want to be the centre of attention in social settings because they fear doing something others will consider stupid. 7. I learnedthat what I was going through, the depression was not my fault. I was sick. I began to call mental illness “brain disease”. Why not? Every organ in our body can get sick, why not the brain. It is an organ.
I knew for sure something was wrong. 1. I have learned that I am one of the lucky ones. My doctor took me seriously. At work I had access to an online help site and some counseling. I was encouraged to meet with a psychiatric nurse, put in touch with some great online resources and had awesome support at home.
At this point I want to say that workplaces are doing a much better job providing resources for mental health but for me the online counseling was too little. 2. I have learned that this type of counseling is great for someone who needs to vent and I would encourage every teacher to access it because we all need to express ourselves in a non judgmental place.
I am wondering if I make this sound like it all happened quickly but that is not true. For me it was gradual over a period of time. At the moment of my breakdown it felt sudden and uncontrollable. As I began the healing process I realized the anxiety and depression had taken hold long before the breakdown. It started with my brain telling me I was worthless, I couldn’t sleep, I was afraid and I isolated myself.
What people do NOT understand is that depression is not being sad. There is no sadness involved. There is Fear, Anxiety, Isolation, Misconception and a Brain that works overtime. Your brain never stops “firing”. It is a difficult thing to explain to someone because our brain does not sleep, it is always working. The person with depression cannot control where the brain takes you. For example, I know how to drive. I’ve been driving for 40 years but now when I get into my car my stomach is in knots, I want to throw up and then my first thought is how many people have died on this road. What if part of the road is icy? What if a crazy driver is out there? If I die will my kids be ok? Then, I don’t want to drive anymore. All irrational because I am a good driver and have always been able to make good decisions.
3. What I have learned is that depression is not being sad when something went wrong. It’s overwhelming sadness when everything is going good.
Christmas came and went without any issues. School began again so I went back to work. As I mentioned, work had been going good. I had been teaching for more than 25 years at this point and I liked my job. As the new year started I found myself angry at what I felt was my inability to get through to the students. I felt that the other teachers no longer respected me and that they basically didn’t like me. I assumed this was because I was now an older teacher and the younger generation of teachers only cared about themselves. They were not looking for wisdom. I was a failure. At home I began to yell at my husband about how he didn’t understand me and that he had changed. To myself I thought he didn’t love me anymore and I felt that my world was falling apart. What was I going to do? I had reached that time in my life when I should feel successful and content, instead I felt alone, trapped and like a big failure. I hadn’t been sleeping properly for months, I was afraid to drive, I felt like I was always in a panic, like my life was in chaos and I didn’t know how to make it go away. Then it only got worse. I was light headed, could not focus and began to pace. At work I started to think I was having a stroke. I had to get others to take over my class so I could go to the washroom. These are things that I had never experienced before. My hair had begun to thin out. I finally realized I needed help. I assumed age was my enemy, so I went to see my doctor. She was very concerned and gave me some medication for anxiety. I of course took a while before I even took the meds. Then there was a tipping point. When I woke up in the morning I felt sick, I could not move. I forced myself out of bed but only made it downstairs then onto the floor. I was missing 2 to 3 days a week of work. I had now proven that I was a failure.