It used to be that depression, for me, was pretty straightforward. I sounded depressed, I acted depressed, I looked depressed. I felt, well, depressed.
It’s not so simple anymore.
After dealing with it for over thirty years, I assumed I knew all there was to know about it. I’ve researched it, I’ve (over)analyzed it, I’ve lived it.
But the first couple weeks of this current episode were different. Even CeAnne thinks so. I didn’t “just” feel deeply depressed, I felt desolate, completely empty, devoid of any other feelings. It felt deeper than ever. I spent a crazy amount of time sitting on the couch, listening to Spotify, and just…staring off into nothingness.
And my God, did I sleep a lot.
On the rare occasion that I did have the capacity to run to the store for something, I would park, turn off the engine, and just…sit there until I snapped out of it.
Even when I needed to get to my meds, I – say it with me – just sat there for a few minutes, until I had – what? The energy? The motivation? The wherewithal? to actually stand up and walk down the hall.
So that’s been fun.
PROGRESS, NOT PERFECTION
Fortunately, I seem to have gotten through that part. I’m still spending a lot of time on the couch (or in bed), listening to music, but my focus and thoughts of actually doing something are getting *a little* better.
I am a little interested in watching tennis (my first real love) on TV, and I’ve had a few spurts of energy (if that’s what you want to call it) in the last week where I’ve actually gotten something done.
Not much, but it’s a start.
And I still have days where I can’t do much of anything, but for the most part, the utter feeling of desolation has gone away – or at least, taken a break.
More than likely, that’s because I started another round of TMS a couple weeks ago. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m a big HUGE proponent of TMS. I had my twelfth treatment on Wednesday, and I think my pdoc wants me to do 37 in total. So I have a ways to go yet. (Want some more info on TMS? Read this article from MinnPost or this bit of info from Mayo Clinic.)
Of course, it’s at 8:00 every weekday morning, but that’s okay. Somewhere along the line, I became a morning person. Go figure.
Oh yeah, and I was out of my Abilify for a couple weeks, which made my mood changes sharper and more frequent. Funny, I kept forgetting all about it. (Abilify is actually an anti-psychotic but is often used as an adjunct med for depression. It complements my anti-depressant, Cymbalta.)
I’m also doing therapy twice a week for now. I know, I know, it wasn’t that long ago that I told you all I was hoping to be done with therapy by the end of the year.
Yeah, not so much.
DEPRESSION DOESN’T ALWAYS LOOK DEPRESSED
This time around, my depression is pretty easy to notice – most of the time. Slowed thinking and movements, loss of interest in [fill in the blank], feeling worthless/hopeless/helpless, thoughts of suicide, not able to keep up with the daily duties of housekeeping and hygiene, sleeping way too many hours per day, no appetite, etc. Some of you know the drill.
However, I’ve also been pretty up-and-down. Well, maybe not “up”, but along with the depression, my anxiety has had a mind of its own, and, at times, I have experienced sudden bouts of pretty intense anger (with either no apparent trigger or a little, tiny one that leads to a severe overreaction) and unexplained irritability.
I’ve been talking this through with my pdoc (Dr. Nelson), and it turns out this kind of thing is not unusual. Many people who are going through a depressive episode have unpredictable and sudden mood swings, and their intensity can be alarming.
Now, I have had this happen before, but I’ve never been through it while I was seeing a competent pdoc. Dr. Nelson actually explains things during our THIRTY-minute sessions. We share opinions, thoughts, and theories, he listens, and we have great discussions.
It’s all very validating.
(That reminds me, sometime soon I want to write a post about how to spot the awesome shrinks and the red flags that can indicate a mediocre/barely competent/way-too-busy one that only cares about his paycheck.)
But I digress.
Mental illnesses and other diseases of the brain are no less complicated or complex than the kinds of diseases you can see with your eyes. I would never say something like, “Gee, I wish I had cancer or muscular dystrophy or whatever instead of depression,” thinking (assuming) it would be easier to get through or less painful. That would be disrespectful, among other things.
**Never discount anyone’s struggles.**
THINGS TO REMEMBER AS AN INNOCENT BYSTANDER (OR AS SOMEONE LIVING WITH DEPRESSION)
In my humble opinion, the best things you can do to understand someone who is depressed are to:
- Accept that depression is a mental illness and those mental illnesses are diseases. You cannot wish or pray them away.
- Be aware that it’s actually pretty common for someone to have more than one mental health diagnosis. But it doesn’t make them any more hopeless or less likely to find some sense of recovery than anyone else. I have three diagnoses, one of which can kind of “go away” as you mature and learn skills. None of it is a death sentence.
- Never compare your disease/circumstances/stressors/whatever to anyone else’s. I believe we are all more similar than not and that we can learn from each other if we listen (there’s that word again) to each other and try to relate rather than compare. If something is a big deal to you but not to your other half, for instance, that doesn’t make it any less of a big deal. No one’s problems are any less than anyone else’s. We all experience things differently. Have some compassion.
- Educate yourself. Yes, this applies to any kind of disease, but since this is a blog about depression…There is a ton of information out there. Most is well-meaning and informed, but there is some less-informed stuff, too. Personally, I don’t pay much attention to info put out by drug manufacturers, because I figure it’s biased so you’ll buy their meds. And there is no lack of personal blogs about depression, either. But be careful when someone says, “This is the way it is. Period.” Always consider the source. Opinions are not facts and personal experiences are different among us all.
- Please don’t be afraid to talk about it – out loud, in public, to the affected. Until very recently (and still, sometimes), “depression” used to be one of those words that was whispered, conspiracy-like. The only thing that does, though, is to perpetuate the #stigma associated with it. Having depression (or other) is nothing to be ashamed of. If you want to check out a book about depression at the public library, go ahead! Try not to worry about what you think the librarian is thinking. Chances are they’ll just scan it and hand it over, not study the title, the subtitle, the author, the blurb on the back cover, the reviews, etc. – and then look you up and down to see if you look “sick”. They don’t care. They probably just want people to r-e-a-d. 🙂
- Understand that depression is illogical. And it’s damn hard to be logical about something that, by its nature, is not logical. Many people have issues with this, I think. They are the ones that say, “Why don’t you just exercise?” or “I hear diet can really affect your mood” or “My cousin takes Prozac and now she’s fine”. And I can understand that. So many problems do have quick and simple solutions. But not this.
- Expect the depressed person to be moody at times. I explained this a bit above, and it doesn’t happen to all of us. Just don’t be surprised if you notice quick, possibly dark changes in mood and thoughts. **If you are worried about your safety or the safety of someone you know, do not hesitate to talk to them. Most mental health clinics have crisis numbers for emergencies. You can also call 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S.**
- Give (and/or accept) support. Does your loved one need a ride to the pharmacy? Offer to take her. Are they having other issues that could benefit from professional assistance (like goal-setting, financial problems, problems in school or at work, etc.)? There are a ton of resources in your local area. Personally, I have a case manager (HIGHLY recommended for those with disorganized thinking or a number of short-term needs), a psychiatrist, a therapist, and I spent a year in a DBT group. I am now doing TMS and may start attending their new support group.
- This goes along with #7 and does not apply to everyone, but I know many, many people whose depression or anxiety or other worries make it almost impossible for them to make phone calls. And I don’t know the stats, but I’m willing to bet that the majority of people who have clinical depression or even anxiety would consider themselves introverts – which just adds a whole other dimension to picking up that 50-pound phone. If you were on my team, I would love. you. forever if you would offer to call: The county, to set me up for an evaluation or a case manager; the pharmacy, to ask a question about side effects; my dentist, to schedule an appointment; the car dealership to schedule a time to drop off our SUV so they can fix it because some lady who wasn’t paying ANY attention slammed into our ass Thursday night on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner. Really. ANY help is appreciated.
- Just love them, and accept their love. It’s not always easy to show, but you know it’s there. A lot of the time when I’m in a depressive episode, I don’t want anyone to touch me and I cannot maintain eye contact, I feel so ashamed. But if there is love or friendship involved, know that it’s still there. It will come back out in due time.
THE QUICKEST WAY FROM POINT “A” TO POINT “B” IS NOT ALWAYS WHAT IT SEEMS
I guess this post is kind of all over the place, but that’s okay. I have a lot to say, and it’s not easy to organize it in my head – or on paper (to say the least).
I hope someone, somewhere finds something here useful. As always, if you have any questions or comments, let me know. If the only thing I’ve done here is confuse you, definitely let me know! I’ll do my best to un-confuse you.
Thanks for reading, and remember to Keep it Real.
Please share the love!
Originally published on Depression Warrior
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