Saturday, February 16, 2013

Depression IS real, and seeking medication is not a sign of weakness.

I've been reading some, well, depressing articles about depression.  This one, at actually managed to make me angry.  What made me more angry were some of the comments in related facebook posts that got me to the article.

First, I think a definition is in order.  Most people think of depression as being perpetually sad.  And it is.  But, if it lasts too long (more than 2 weeks), or is especially bad (as in, you can't function normally) it is classified as clinical depression.  For the sake of brevity, in the rest of this blog post I will refer to clinical depression simply as depression.

The thing that made me angry, specifically, about the article was the comments of people who had obviously not experienced true clinical depression.  It wasn't so much their judgmental comments that people should just "snap out of it", "try harder", or not use medications because "they are just a crutch", it was their dismissal of the notion that clinical depression wasn't real.  "Just be happy" doesn't work for someone who is clinically depressed.  "Try harder" is insulting to someone who is trying as hard as they can just to even approximate normality.  Try harder?  Oh yes, because if I will it, I can just think my way past depression. 

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain.  Diabetes is a chemical imblance caused by the pancreas.  Would you tell a diabetic to just "try harder"?  No?  Same thing. 

Can some people just snap out of depression?  I bet there are some.  Just like there are a fortunate few who, with a little change of diet, and losing some weight, can "cure" themselves of diabetes.  I say "cure" because it seems to me that those people would forever be teetering near the edge.  Gain some weight, go off the good diet, and you're right back where you started.  Possibly worse than before.

There are lots of things you can do to help move out of regular depression.  Exercise.  Eat right.  Change your situation (or avoid change, if that is the problem).  Make sure you are taking time for yourself.  Meditate.  Help other people.  Get a hobby you love.  Spend time with people you love.  See a psychologist, or counselor.  Play.  Get some sunshine. 

And when these are not enough, go see a doctor (in my case a psychiatrist), and determine whether you need medication.  Then, if you two determine you do, give the medication time.  Most of them take weeks, if not months, to kick in all the way.  And you may not get the right one at first.  It took me a year, and five different medications to find the right one for me.  Believe me, it was a very hard year.  Some of the side effects were excruciating, and that was the reason for dropping some particular medications. 

And just when I had been stable for a while, my life would change, and I would be catapulted back into depression.  Hormones were a big factor in this.  Pregnant?  Happy!  (but physically miserable).  Had a baby?  Depressed.  Weaned the baby?  Depressed. 

And then, after being stable on my medication for a couple of years, because I'm bipolar I flipped up, and became manic.  And, because I was on a medication meant to stave off depression (SSRI), I flipped WAY up.  I was "higher" than I'd ever been, and it was scary. 

So, yes, taking medicine can be scary.  But if you need it, not taking it can be much worse.  And some people won't understand, and they'll judge you for it.  I wonder if they would also judge a cancer patient for doing chemotherapy going bald.  It's possible they would  Here's the thing: they are NOT you, and they are NOT your doctor... so their opinion doesn't really matter.  You need to worry about you, and do what you and your doctor determine is best for you.  And I know it can hurt to be judged.  My own family tried to second-guess my doctor's diagnosis for me.  I didn't talk to them for a couple of months.  I wanted support, not nay-saying.  And it was because I was diagnosed with a mental disorder.  If I had been diagnosed with cancer my family might have questioned what kind of treatment is best, but they wouldn't have (without any kind of medical degree I might add) dismissed the diagnosis itself.

So, if you are stuck in that awful black pit that is depression, get the help you need.  And, if you are so far in you can't see out, get someone to help pull you to the doctor.  It won't make you high (wrong class of drugs for that), nor will it make you better at everything.  It will make it easier to live a NORMAL life.  You may still have bad days.  I do.  You may still find life overwhelming at times.  I do that too.  But you will probably find a lot more joy, and lot less deep sadness and overarching rage.  Yeah, few people talk about the rage with clinical depression, but it's there too.

Be brave, and get better.  I believe in you!