Wednesday, April 4, 2012

D IS FOR DEPRESSION — AND "DIGGING OUT"

A lot of people don't realize that depression is an illness. I don't wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it.  ~ Jonathan Davis

Depression is the inability to construct a future. ~ Rollo May

Depression can seem worse than terminal cancer, because most cancer patients feel loved and they have hope and self-esteem. ~ David D. Burns
Quotes fromBrainy Quotes


Depression is an Illness

Most regular readers of Chrome on the Range know that I have lived with major depression, chronic depression, since I was in my teens. Probably about 50 years.

Depression is not fun. It runs from uncomfortable to disabling. I've lived through that whole spectrum.

In the U.S., about 16.5 per cent of adults will experience significant depression during their lifetime. In any given year, about 6.7 per cent of adults suffer depression; almost a third in are severe depression. (National Institute of Mental Health)

In Canada, approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives. (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Depression and Bloggers

I didn't know if it is just me, or if it's science, but it seems that a lot of bloggers are dealing with depression, or some other similar challenges. (I know several bloggers who live with Bipolar Disorder.)

I did some checking and found that writers, in fact, are in the top ten occupations likely to suffer from depression

So, naturally I asked, "Why?" There are variety of reasons which apply to writers, but not specifically bloggers. Though I suspect some sort of correlation. Lorelle talks about it, as do other bloggers. 
It is not fun, and it probably runs over into other aspects of your life. 

Moving Beyond Depression

There are some things you can do to tame what Winston Churchill called his "Black Dog." 

1. See a doctor

A knowledgeable doctor in a general or family practice can help a lot. It did in my case.

Besides, a doctor can check to see if there is something else that is causing the depression. Like a physical illness. I think of it as ruling out other possibilities.

2. Get a referral to a mental health professional.

As with any situation, getting to see a specialist is the desirable course of action.  It took a while before I was in a position to get this. But that has made a significant change in my life. 

3. Take your medications.

Medications are usually the first step for dealing with the problem. But only the first step. And the first medication you try may not be the best. 

I have been on several medications over the years. The one's I'm taking now are the most helpful. But they are newer and more focused. 

4. Eat well

I have found that, when I am depressed, I tend to eat protein and carbs. meat and bread. Bread as in donuts, particularly. 

While eating some meat and carbs are OK, fruits and vegetables are really important. They helped to break the meat and carbs cycle, and they provide important nutrients. I probably don't eat as many as I would find helpful, but I keep working on it. Like an unpublished book, I'm a work in progress. 

5. Get active

If the only walk I take is from your computer to the kitchen, I need to be walking a touch father. 

In my first post in the A - Z Challenge, I talked about the importance of curiosity. An easy way of satisfying my curiosity is to walk around the block and see what is happening. And let my mind play with what I see. (Once one had mastered the art of walking one block, or to the end of the lane and back, one might go a little further.) 

I did not notice any significant change in my life until I started doing this, regularly. 

6. Build a Support Group

When I'm having major problems, I get into contact with other, understanding people. That is not always possible. Some of your friends may think depression is contagious. Someone noted that she got really depressed, she went from having a lot of friends to very few. That's terrible, but it happens, sometimes. 

And then . . . ?

I'm not a mental health professional. I'm not saying this approach will work for you. But it has a worked for me. And it is consistent with what I have heard from many people, professionals and depression sufferers, about getting better. 

This, of course, is only the beginning. Remember, see your doctor. The depression may be coming from another problem — your doctor can sort that out. 

There is a more-than-average connection between writing and depression. I'm not convinced that depression helps writing. In fact, when I'm deeply depressed, I find it almost impossible to write. 

So, do yourself a favour. Get some help. Even if you need to have a friend take you to the doctor or hospital emergency department, and hold your hand while you're there.

39 comments:

Furtheron said...

might be me but I think those numbers are too low.

The rehab I went to at the start of my recovery from alcoholism essentially maintained all addiction issues are a form of self-medication to act against the symptoms of depression. I'm not sure I'm 100% in agreement with that, I know I was not satisfied with me and my being therefore I drank - if that is a definition of depression then I accept it.

Once in my life since I stopped drinking I realised I was actually depressed. It was when my son left home and went to university for the first time. Loss of need to be a parent, loss of a close friend, whatever I realised after some weeks I had the symptoms of depression... lethargy, lack of energy, feeling of emptiness etc.

In the end because I acknowledged it and used the tools that helped me get and keep sober I came through it reasonably easily for which I'm grateful... but I hear many many people on blogs or in AA meetings talking about depression and/or symptoms of depression.

Rubye Jack said...

Over a lifetime of depression only 4 and 5 have helped me any. I find doctors totally useless for my depression, but understand that others find help there.
For some reason, my depression has become less the older I get. Writing helps me immensely, more than anything else actually.

Snowbrush said...

I think you've hit it right here, Rob-bear.

Stephanie V said...

Yes, to the food making a difference statement. I am prone to depression - it is a family characteristic. In the past two years I have completely changed how I eat. What a difference it makes to switch to unprocessed foods...mostly fruit and veg!

Irene said...

Yes, I do have my Black Dog too, mostly in the wintertime. It tends to approach me in the fall. It helps to blog about it and my other feelings and moods because there are many. There's not only depression. It's good to write about them and get a perspctive and to later read the posts again. You learn from your own experience, after all.

The Blog Fodder said...

Great post and sound advice. Will print it out and make sure I am doing some of the things I now don't do enough of. Exercise and fruits and veggies. I am a meat and potatoes man. Tanya is a fruit and veggie person. She is healthy. Also exercise is so necessary but hard to get started. Once you start, you dare not quit or it is even harder to start again.

Rob-bear said...

® Furtheron: Thank you for sharing your story.

I agree with you on the perceived inadequacy of that particular alcoholism definition. But I am confident there is a significant connection between depression, and self-medication, and alcoholism.

I also think that, as we learn from our experience, we can "catch" ourselves, and begin some re-direction in our lives. As you did.

Thanks again.

® Rubye: Thanks for sharing your experience.

I saw a blog once about "Blogging Calms the Demons in my Head" or something like that. I should have noted the obvious when I created the post.

I wonder about the "older" and fewer problems. In my case, it's not so much the older, as having time to slow dow, and thus live with less stress. I need to think more about that issue.

I'm glad something is working for you. All our experiences are different. Thanks again.

® Snowbrush: Thanks for sharing your thoughts, too. I appreciate your saying that.

Rob-bear said...

® Stephanie V: Thanks for sharing what you've learned.

From the 1960s: "You are what you eat." That brings back memories. And some wisdom.

Thanks, again.

® Irene: Thanks also for sharing your story. I think it's good for us to support each by sharing these experiences. We become a virtual support group, getting by with a little help from our friends.

® Blog Fodder: Thanks. This is a very minimal list of things. But it does cover some of the basics. And as RJ, noted, blogging is a help, or can be.

Rob-bear said...

I don't want to make too much of anecdotal information, but six of six respondents to this post have all had experiences with depression. It simply confirms my note about writers/bloggers and depression.

Which may not mean a lot in the long term, even if I find the coincidence interesting.

kj said...

aw bear, i didn't know...

i'm not surprised because of all the reasons you refer to, the biggest one being we writers, but i felt very proud of you as i read this post, proud that you shared this part of you and proud of how well you provided great suggestions.

it always amazes me that even though ALL of us have been touched by the depression of ourselves, family members, friends, colleagues, neighbors, we still want to believe it's a weakness to be 'toughed' out.

i am one of those mental health counselors and i confirm how much of a difference support and the right meds make.

and for anyone ashamed of taking meds, i often point to the glasses i wear. i can try to will my eyes to see better than they can, but isn't it better and more realistic to use what helps?

good going, mr. rob bear.

oh and emily rabbit says she plans to teach you a thing or two. oh dear god.

love
kj

Heather Murphy said...

I love the honesty and truth in this post. There are several people in my life that suffer from depression and it is such a difficult disease.

ReformingGeek said...

I'm glad you have medication that helps. I think the reason friends disappear is that many people cannot handle being around someone that is depressed as it tends to bring them down.

Thanks for sharing your story, Bear!

Kristy said...

I also think from my own experiances people with depression and mental illenss lack coping skills that other people have. They are also tend to be more sentive to things also. When I use more coping skills the depression tends to lessen. Doctors haven't been much help. I have had to crawl out of it myself or wait it out. You are very right about exercise and eating also. I just tend to be very lazy about it when depressed. Climbing out of it I'm very aware and can make myself do it more.

KarenG said...

This was a really good post on Depression. I like how you said what worked for you, without telling others what they should do. The advice to see a doctor first is so important. A few years ago I thought my always-upbeat husband was depressed. He denied it but had all the signs. I insisted he see a doctor since that's the first bit of advice every book or article on depression gave. He did, and it turned out he had serious sleep apnea. The doctor couldn't even believe he was alive, his oxygen levels were so low.

Excellent D-word post, Rob!

Rob-bear said...

® kj: Thank you for such a kind personal and professional note. I've appreciated the help I've received from others. I figure if I'm going to be helpful, I need to be a bit gutsy. That gets easier as the years go on. Especially for Bears, but for people too!

I like the analogy of you and your glasses. That's very helpful.

P.S.: I'm glad you've got emily in your life; I'm sure she keeps things from getting dull.

® Heather Murphy: Thanks for your kind comment. It is a difficult disease. And then some.

® ReformingGeeek: Thanks for your note. I need to think about depressing people dragging others down. Healthy people are only dragged down if they let themselves get dragged down. It's a matter of knowing oneself, and listening creatively and supportively. It's not a matter of agreeing with the depressed person, but at least understanding what's happening to that person.

Rob-bear said...

® Kristy: Thanks so much for sharing your insights. I'm sorry, and a bit surprised, to hear people say they have received so little help from doctors.

® KarenG: Thanks for taking time from your task of keeping the blog challenge going to visit this Bear's blog.

I also suffer from sleep apnea — a "co-morbid condition" as the doctors say. There is a huge connection between lack of sleep (even from sleep apnea) and depression. I'm glad your husband took your concerns seriously! I also trust he is getting good care. Yes; see a doctor first!

Sharkbytes said...

Walking is my cure for almost everything. But when I get really depressed I have a hard time talking myself into that even. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge Blogs during April

Rob-bear said...

® Sharkbytes: Hello, and welcome to Bear's blog. So nice that you came by, and left a note.

I totally understand that, when you're low enough that you have to reach up to touch bottom, doing anything can be really difficult. I'm fortunate that I have a wonderful wife who helps me in times like that.

Blessings and Bear hugs! Hope you come back again.

Beau's Mom said...

You've helped me on many depressive situations and I've always remembered you for your kindness. Only the depressed can help another depressed person. I used to get so tired of hearing "Pull yourself out of this!" As if I just wasn't giving it a try!

I guess my lowest was when I was cleaning the refrigerator and laid my head on one of the empty racks and just wailed and shook from the dead future.

Rob-bear said...

® Beau's Mom: Thanks for the note. I hope things are much, much better for you now.

YvonneS said...

Thanks for the sensitive post. It impossible to know how difficult depression is without experiencing it. The sheer weight of moving around is difficult to overcome. The good thing about it is that when it is over it is easy to forget.

Rob-bear said...

® YvonneS: Thanks for visiting and for leaving your comment.

Yogi Brerra shares a useful thought: "It ain't over till it's over." For some, depression is never over.

Blessings and Bear hugs.

Melissa Sugar said...

This was an excellent post on depression and I hope it reaches many people. I just posted about depression on my blog. It is not technically part of my A to Z post because my theme is crime & the legal system, but today is the first Wednesday of the month so I also wrote my Insecure Writers Support Group post and the topic is depression. It is just a short paragraph, but I also suffer from depression and I shared a little about it. I have been told that my day job (lawyer) and my writing career are both contributing factors. I was glad to read such an informative post on the subject when I linked to your blog.

Thank you for visiting my blog. I have been swamped and am playing catch up so I am just now getting to read yours. I am a new follower & glad to be here.

Diana said...

Excellent advice Bear. I have noticed that the older I get, I do seem to get depressed more often but it generally only lasts a day or two. For the most part I am a happy person.
I left a comment to you on your last post and it didn't show up. That's the second time! I don't know why but I am sorry and wanted you to know that I have been here.
Love Di ♥

Manzanita said...

Hey Bear,
I checked in early this AM and you hadn't posted yet. I had to drive to Helena ..... where I am now.

Most of my life I've been surrounded by people who suffered from the dark periods of depression and your post is very telling.

All of your points are excellent. Looking forward to Letter E.
Take care...

V. Furnas said...

Man, I feel your pain. I have depression it hits like a mac truck every few years. I am not on medication but am thinking it would not be a bad idea.

T'Laina said...

Very well written post. I had struggled with major depression for years as a teenager, and it led to many hospitalizations. My eating disorder only made my depression worse. I agree with all of your advice - I try to remember to take my medication, and struggle every day to eat well. It makes a huge difference, and I am now quite a bit more independent. I also have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, which I feel had a lot to do with my depression, as this was before my diagnoses. I am also an artist and a writer, which just backs up your point!

Dif-tor heh smusma

- T'Laina (vibrant-oxymoron.blogspot.com)

About Last Weekend said...

This is all great advice and writing like this take us all so much further in understanding depression. And just applying it to a lesser thing of just feeling down or blue. I agree with Furtheron, the numbers seem very low indeed...And agree with the advice also; once you start exercising you cannot afford to quit. It has to be non-negotiable. I quit for more than a year and it was so hard to start the routine again.

Rob-bear said...

® Melissa Sugar: Thanks so much for coming by.

Great minds think alike; both of us blogging about depression on the same day. That strikes me as a bit of a depressing thought in itself. I can well imagine how the depression and legal work could very well feed each other, and become a vicious cycle.

One thing about which I wonder: does writing cause depression, or does depression lead to writing. I'm inclined to think the latter, but I would't bet on it even if I were a betting Bear.

I said on the Insecure Writers blog some time ago, that I thought "insecure" and "writer" were the same thing! LOL

Thanks for coming by.

® Diana: Not so much advice as simple shared experience. One way of bearing one another's burdens (to quote Paul).

Your earlier comment did arrive, but later. What with a new computer, a new program, and a new Blogger, things here are a bit unsettled. Keep commenting; your thoughts will get to me eventually, thence to my blog. Thanks.

® Manzanita: Thanks for checking back.

There are lots of us who live with depression. I saw a Canadian figure today saying about 20 per cent of people here will suffer from depression at some point in their lives. That is so sad!

Cathch you tomorrow!

Rob-bear said...

® V. Furnes: Thank you for stopping by the Bear's den — I mean blog. (I hope I got your name write; the print here is pitifully small.)

Run over by a big truck — get's my vote. So sorry it nails you like that. I can certainly relate.

If you think meds might help, check them out. Just ask lots of questions before you agree to try any — questions about what the med will do and what side-effects you are likely to experience. And remember, the first or second med you try might not be the right one for you.

Hope things work out.

® T'Laina: I'm so glad you decided to come by to visit this Bear. Thank you.

You certainly have lived through, and are living through, some very significant challenges. I hope you can continue to find some things which can improve the quality of your life.

Jenny Woolf said...

All mental illness or disability is disabling and overlooked because it is out of sight. There's a line between being a glass-half-empty person and someone who needs meds, but as a layman I don't know what it is.

Tina said...

Great post. Unfortunately i can relate to way too much.

Margo Kelly said...

Great post. Mental illness is real.

I'm a new follower from the AtoZ Challenge. Nice to meet you. :)

Maggie McGee said...

I have determined that everyone suffers some form of mental illness. There is no norm only a social range of acceptable behaviors and impulses. I think our society reflects who we are as a whole community.

Good for you for doing whatever you can to feel okay and engaged. Life is too long when you suffer chronic pain of any sort and too short when you are having a good time.

Inger said...

It is wonderful to see how you are working with this major illness so that it does not ruin your life. 50 years is a very long time, indeed, and I think you are really inspirational.

Suburbia said...

I have noticed that about bloggers too, I count myself lucky. I suffered from postnatal depression with TG and so I have had a (luckily) brief taste of what it is like. It helped me understand my mothers inclination towards depression too which has helped a lot. I still remember her telling me that life wasn't worth living. Dreadful.

50 Years of depression dear Bear, yet so supportive of others.

Thanks for this post

XX

Cathy Olliffe-Webster said...

Wonderful post, Rob. Really. Sign me up as another writer who battles depression! The meat/carbs/inactivity thing is bang on the money. Great post.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Depression must be tough on the person who suffers as well as his family. Blogging about it helps make us aware of how we can help. Thanks for this excellent post.

Better is Possible said...

Excellent post. I too, live with depression. Life is more up than down, but at times I still feel the darkness chirping on my shoulder. It was when I had recovered from a profound episode that I decided to get my MA in counselling. Graduating was a huge step in my ongoing wellness. In working with children and teenagers, it is so helpful to read posts like this one to be reminded about the basics. Such pain, but also such hope! Thanks so much.
Carol