Do You Know Disguises For Depression? Well Maybe; and Maybe Not!


Copy of Copy of Wedding Pictures 9 12 09 170

Often asked about how depression works as well as how one can recognize the signs of depression, I decided to jot down what I know from experience, and through research and learning for you.  Depression can often feel like an intolerable sadness, and/or deep gloom that just won’t go away.  However, depression often is disguised as sneaky in symptoms that may be hard to identify.

If you have unexplained aches or pains, feelings of irritability or anger for no apparent reason, and when you cry at the drop of a hat — you could be depressed.

Common Depression Symptoms include feeling sad, hopeless and empty or having lost interest in the things which gave you pleasure. Do not discount, however, the less obvious symptoms including:

  • Anger, irritability, and impatience. You are irritated and angry at family, friends, or co-workers, or overreact to small things.
  • Sleep problems. You may have trouble sleeping, may wake up very early in the morning, or you may sleep too much.
  • Anxiety. Your symptoms include anxiety, worry, restlessness and tension.  Anxiety and depression often occur together, even though they are two separate problems.
  • Crying. Crying spells over nothing at all, and possibly crying about small things which ordinarily wouldn’t bother you may be signs of depression.
  • Inability to concentrate. Depression can make you forgetful, have trouble making decisions, or concentrating.
  • Pain.  Have aches and pains that don’t respond to treatment?  They could be signs of depression.
  • Substance abuse. Substance abuse and depression often go hand-in-hand and can hide an  underlying problem with depression.
  • Appetite changes. You may have no desire to eat, or you may overeat in an effort to feel comfort and happiness.
  • Isolation. Feeling withdrawn from friends and family right when you need their support the most is a definite symptom.

depression sad_sketch

Being depressed can be hard to admit to yourself let alone ask for help. However, there are good reasons you should consider depression treatment:

Treatment works. Even people with severe depression find relief, and so can you.

  • Early treatment is better. As with other health problems, getting treatment early can ease symptoms more quickly. If you wait to get help, your depression can become more severe and harder to treat.

Many people are willing to help you overcome your depression, but you must take the first step on your own.  In other words, let someone know how you are feeling. It may help to start talking to a close friend or family member. Ask for support in finding treatment. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you will feel better.  Don’t hesitate — call your doctor or a medical health professional if:

  • You think you may be depressed
  • You notice symptoms of depression such as sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness, or if you have less obvious symptoms such as trouble sleeping or vague aches and pains
  • Depression symptoms make it hard to function

Help yourself by spending time with supportive friends or family who will make you feel better — even if you don’t feel like it will.   The contact you get from others, along with depression treatment, can help bring you out of the dark and back into the light.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO:

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Has Suicide Affected Someone You Know? You Will Get Through This


Be Kind Fighting Hard Battle

Much has transpired since that fateful day back on May 4, 2010 when my husband took his own life through suicide.  And there isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t try to reconcile with myself all of the things I’ve felt, actions I’ve taken, tears I’ve cried and important lessons I’ve learned.

Because people often ask me questions about suicide and depression, I’ve often thought about how to impart helpful information and help folks understand the dilemma facing those of us who are called “survivors” of suicide.

For the first six or seven months after the suicide, I cried.  Not just off and on during the days and nights but a steady stream of weeping and wailing as an expression of the grief I was experiencing.  Finally I asked Hospice and therapists, “When will I ever get over this?”  The answer may surprise you.  I was told, “You never get over it.  You learn to live through it.”

Don't lose hope

My life felt hopeless and was spiraling downward as suicidal thoughts took over my thinking.  In fact, I even purchased the items in order to go through with it.  I wasn’t proud of that but rather just wanted and needed the pain to stop and the darkness to end.  I was so fortunate that something inside my usually positive self raised up and I wept (again) but this time with a realization that I could not end my own life when I had yelled out all these months how could my husband do this to those who loved him.

Since I became reclusive, I began to read articles, stories, poems, and my journal aloud.  Partly because I was so lonely, and partly so the deafening silence wouldn’t frighten me so much.  That’s when it happened – I changed.

Reading my journal helped me to keep time a bit more functional for me and also helped remind me how I was coming along in very tiny baby steps.  I read aloud the answer to when I’d get over this.  And repeated it aloud and slowly, “You never get over it.  You learn to live through it.”  I wept unabashed for a long while that day.  And I believe fervently that this was the beginning of my reality to live through this.

I needed to find little bits of happiness in my life – daily if I could.  And thankfully I believe there is a God and I also believe in angels.  Whether they come directly from that place referred to as Heaven, or they are those around us – a friend, neighbor, co-worker or stranger – there are angels among us.  And I always remembered to pray at night … not the usual way, for it would make me weep incessantly and I was always so worn out from the tears and raw emotions.

Household duties were difficult at best as were outdoor gardening and pool cleaning.  But I began to be thankful that I had such things and not that I couldn’t care for them.  I began to realize there would come a day when things would improve.  In fact, for my personality, I found it was a necessity.

Girls closeup in office

With time, the tears lessened just a bit.  I was able to bring something new into my life.  I rescued two female dogs – or they rescued me – and opened my heart little by little.  I zealously believe that’s when my life began to change for the better.  It was now a year after Martin’s death and I was learning to live through it!

Often I’m asked so many questions because people are eager to learn.  It is amazing how many of us know someone, relatives, neighbors, co-workers etc. who have been affected from suicide in some way in their lives.  I’m making it something on my bucket list to continue to help educate and spread the correct information on mental illness, depression, and suicide.  These people aren’t crazy any more than I was in contemplating such an act.  They have an illness and need help – just as anyone would and should seek help for a physical illness.

This is Part 1 of what will become several parts, no doubt.  Truths need to be told, not false information given and I know that it takes time – baby steps – to understand and take it all in and learn from it.  If ever you have questions, please ask them.  I’ll do my best to honestly explain to you what I know from my experience and my research and learning experiences.  I do not claim to know it all – never think that.  However, I know that to “live through it” we must help one another to understand coping with this disease by gathering the tools you’ll need someday.  And if I can help, I’ll be pleased to do so.

Have yourself a great weekend.  Please come back to read more of my experiences “living through this.”

 JSpic

 

Bet You don’t Know Who’s Depressed?


You may be surprised by who in your immediate realm of friends, neighbours and co-workers may suffer from depression.  In fact, your family could certainly suffer as well.  There are a few things which could help you with any of them and that’s why I’m writing about it here.  I’ve been asked fairly often enough questions of friends and acquaintances that I’ve decided to let folks know whatever I have learned in order to help them cope with others who either have this illness or help others dealing with family who have the illness.

Please realize you cannot cure someone else’s clinical depression.  It’s not just sadness which can be waved off with a few kind words.  And “no” you cannot “just get over it.”  It goes far deeper than that.  If you’re going into this with the heroic notion that you can somehow “fix” it for your friend, spouse or relative, then you need to disavow it immediately.  Operating on this assumption will only frustrate you and does no one any good.

There are ups and downs in depression recovery.  It is neither swift, nor steady.  Your friend or relative is going to go on the decline now and then.  Don’t think it’s because you are failing them or they are not trying hard enough.  The “roller-coaster” effect is just a part and parcel of depression.

Please don’t tell a depression patient that “you understand.”  Unless you yourself have experienced clinical depression, you don’t understand.  And your friend, spouse or relative knows it.  It’s not a bad thing as understanding depression means having it.  I’d rather no one, anywhere, understood it.  The point here is to be honest with your friend or relative and don’t profess things that aren’t so.  Sincerity will help him or her a great deal; it will engender trust, which every depression patient has a problem with, at one time or another.

No one wants to make your life miserable by being depressed.  Try not to view someone else’s depression as your own affliction.  Rather, be grateful you don’t have depression and try to realize what the other person is going through.  Don’t take the things your friend, spouse or relative says/does, personally.  They aren’t meant that way truly.

Recovery from depression is not just a matter of taking anti-depressant medication and going to therapy.  Both the depression and recovery from it can totally change a person’s life.  Treatment involves a lot of fundamental changes in a person.  At times, you’ll wonder if it’s the same person you’ve known for so long.  Believe me, it is–the depression probably hid the “real person” from your view, up to the point that he or she was diagnosed and began treatment.

At times, it may seem that the person is actually pushing you away.  This is very likely true.  Most depression patients believe that they unduly affect those around them and will do anything to prevent that from happening.  Thus they isolate themselves from others.  This kind of self-sabotage is actually a symptom of the illness itself.  Don’t let it overcome your relationship. Try to understand this is often involuntary and irrational, and act accordingly.

Can You Help Someone Who’s Depressed?  I cannot tell you precisely what is best for your friend, spouse or relative.  I can only give you some guidelines from what I’ve experienced and researched.  The rest is entirely up to you.

Don’t ask very general questions; you won’t get a meaningful answer.  As an example: Rather than asking “How are you?” ask “How are you today compared to yesterday or last week?” or something of this kind.  Make the question open-ended, so the person can say what he or she wants, but provide something specific for them to talk about.

Try to get the person out.  They will want to isolate themselves –hibernate, even– but this is exactly what should not happen.  Try to take walks with them, or go shopping or go to a movie, whatever you have to, to get the person out of their environment they’re trying to take shelter in.  You may get some resistance, and even complaints; be somewhat persistent but not unreasonable.  You don’t want to push them away.

Don’t be afraid to let your spouse, relative or friend talk about whatever they want to.  And this is important: Even if they mention self-injury, or they are suicidal, you are not endangering them by listening.  Actually, you are helping to protect them from those things; talking helps them deal with these feelings.

Keep an eye out for any changes in their behavior.  These can include loss of or heightened appetite, sleep habits such as insomnia or sleeping too much, over drinking of alcohol or drug abuse, anything at all.  Any major changes may be a sign of trouble.

Little things go a long way for someone with clinical depression.  Small gifts and favors seem much bigger to them than to you.  Don’t be afraid to (for example) leave the person a short note with a smiley face on it.  Even if it seems silly or hokey, small considerations will help.

 

Non-depressed people have a difficult time understanding depression; which is completely understandable.  Depression is not a weakness, a character flaw, a personality trait, or anything of that kind.  It’s not God‘s punishment for past sins either.  It’s not karma catching up with something the person did in a past life.  It’s not someone just being too sensitive, believe me.  It’s not laziness or even immaturity.  It’s exceedingly real and very terribly serious.  No one does anything to deserve it.  And you did nothing to cause someone in your life to become clinically depressed.

Depression is also not just the emotion of sadness.  In fact, many people suffering with depression experience numbness, or no emotion, rather than sadness.  It is called a “mood disorder” but this is a misnomer, in that it can go way beyond someone’s mood.  Depression can totally disrupt someone’s thinking, in every way.

Depression is also not an excuse.  Having this illness doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility for themselves.  Don’t make the mistake of letting a depression patient “off the hook” because of his or her illness.  Point out any transgressions and explain what went wrong, and make sure the person understands it.  However, getting angry or vindictive does no good either. Keep criticism constructive.  And stick by your friend or relative; you will find that it pays off in the end.

It’s difficult accepting depression in someone else.  Just as any depression patient must learn to accept his or her illness, and work on overcoming it, so you must accept that they have a mood disorder.  Since recovering is really a matter of work on the patient’s part, it’s impossible to start doing this work until one accepts that one must do it.  By the same token, you will find it impossible to deal with someone else’s depression, unless you accept that he or she has an illness–a very real one.

From what I’ve seen, this is one of the hardest things for friends and family to do.  I will not kid you into thinking that this is easy.  It’s not.  Accepting an illness in someone else, that you don’t understand and never will (hopefully), is not a simple or trivial matter.  Above all, don’t blame yourself for it.  No one can “make” another person depressed, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you caused it.

This is just as important as anything else!   You offer nothing to someone else if you’re stressed out.  If you need to, take some time away from the depressed person.  It will give you a better perspective on things and unravel frustrations and tensions.  Just make sure that your friend or relative knows that you’re still committed to him or her, anyway.  You can even tell him/her that you’re taking “time out” for yourself, so you can better help. (It’s true.)

Do Pets Help With Depression


Could the warmness of a cat or a dog, or the purring of a cat or wagging of a dog’s tail and cheerful smile help with your depression?  It certainly can and does.  I’m living proof since I’ve rescued three female dogs and nothing has brightened my outlook more.  I’m now happier, look forward to my time with my “furry kids” along with smiling and laughing more than I ever thought possible while handling my depression.  There have been many baby steps which, in the aggregate, amount to much healing over the course of time.  I still have further to go for healing, but now I realize that I will be able to do so.

Being around pets indeed as some say can feed the soul and heal the spirit.  And pets offer us unconditional love and forgiveness in all we do or forget to do.  This can be extremely helpful to those suffering from depression.

The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.  The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well being.  ~Dalai Lama

You Don’t Have to Live With Depression

Understand the symptoms of depression, from sadness to hopelessness to headache.

Studies show that animals can reduce tension and improve mood.  Along with treatment, pets can help some people with mild to moderate depression feel better.  If you’re depressed, here’s a rundown of how pets could help.

  • Uncomplicated love.  Are your relationships with family and loved ones complicated and frayed?  A pet can be a great antidote.  With a pet, you can just feel.  You don’t have to worry about hurting your pet’s feelings or getting advice you don’t want.
  • Responsibility.  You might not think you can take care of a pet right now.  I didn’t at first.  My dear friend tried to be helpful and brought me a pet.  However, it was too soon and I became so anxious and afraid, she had to return it.  She now understands, however, and realized what I was going through back then and has seen the progress in me over time.

Taking care of yourself may seem hard enough.  But give yourself a little time and after a while, experts say that adding a little responsibility can help.  It adds a new and positive focus to your life.  Taking care of a pet can help give you a sense of your own value and importance.  It will remind you that you are capable — that you can do more than you might think.

  • Activity.  Are barely getting off the couch these days? You need to get more physical activity.  Pets can help. If you have a dog, that dog needs to be walked.  A little extra physical activity is good for your physical and mental health.
  • Routine.  Having a daily schedule helps people with depression.  An animal’s natural routine — waking you in the morning, demanding food or walks — can help you stay on track.
  • Companionship.  Depression can isolate you.  It can make you pull back from your friends and loved ones. If you have a pet, you’re never alone.  That can really make a difference.
  • Social interaction.  Having a pet can gently push you to get more social contact.  You might chat with others while walking your dog at the park or waiting at the vet. Pets are natural icebreakers and other pet owners love to talk about their animals.
  • Touch.  Studies show that people feel better when they have physical contact with others.  Pets offer something similar.  There’s something naturally soothing about petting a cat on your lap.  Studies have shown that petting a dog can lower your heart rate too.
  • Better health.  Research has found that owning a dog can lower blood pressure, reduce stress hormones, and boost levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain. One study of Chinese women found that dog owners exercised more often, slept better, reported better fitness levels and fewer sick days, and saw their doctors less often than people without dogs.

Drawbacks of Getting a Pet for Depression

Pets aren’t for everyone with depression.  If you’re depressed, think carefully before getting a pet.  If you have a loved one with depression, don’t assume that surprising him or her with a kitten will help.  It could make things worse.  Here are four things to ask yourself before getting a pet to help ease depression.

  • Are you comfortable with animals?  A lot of people helped by pets had them as children.  They’re used to having an animal as a source of comfort.  If you’ve never had a pet, it may be less likely to help now.
  • Will having a pet make you worry?  Dwelling on death is a common sign of depression.  If getting a pet just means that you’ll worry constantly about it dying, that won’t help.
  • Is your depression too intense right now?  Taking care of a pet is not unlike taking care of a small child.  If your depression is so severe that you can’t take care of an animal, it’s not a good idea to get one.
  • Can you afford a pet?   The reality is that caring for pets can be expensive.  The ASPCA estimates that in the first year, a cat can cost more than $1,000 and a dog up to almost $1,850.  Yet the price of owning a dog or cat, not as expensive as dealing with serious major depression issues, can be a bargain at providing you with love, understanding and unquestionable forgiveness.

Even if getting a cat or dog isn’t wise right now, other animals could help. Birds can be surprisingly affectionate and cost only $270 a year in care. While you may not want to snuggle with a fish or a turtle, caring for them could also improve your mood.  It creates responsibility and a new focus. Studies have shown that watching fish can lower your pulse and ease muscle tension too.

Pain insists upon being attended to. 

God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences,

but shouts in our pains.  It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.  ~C.S. Lewis 

Depression Is Very Real


How To Help Someone Who’s Depressed

I’ve gotten lots of questions from friends and other folks of depression patients, as to how to handle it.  This article assumes that the depressed person has been diagnosed and is in treatment.

Main Problems for Friends and Family

Let me start by saying that I, for one, appreciate your wishing to understand someone else’s depression.  I commend you for taking an interest in a very difficult subject and for wishing to help.  In an indirect way, you’re a victim of depression too because this illness impinges on everyone around the people who have it.

Pardon my bluntness, but there are a few things you really need to know, before you get too far into this subject.

  1. You cannot cure someone else’s clinical depression.  It is not just sadness which can be waved off with a few kind words.  It goes far deeper than that.  If you are going into this with the heroic notion that you can somehow “fix” it for your friend, spouse or relative, then you need to disavow it immediately.  Operating on this assumption will only frustrate you and does no one any good.
  2. There are ups and downs in depression recovery. It is neither swift, nor steady. Your friend or relative is going to go on the decline, now and then. Don’t think it’s because you are failing them or they are not trying hard enough. The “roller-coaster” effect is just a part and parcel of depression.
  3. Please don’t tell a depression patient “you understand.”  Unless you, yourself, have experienced clinical depression, you don’t.  And your friend, spouse or relative knows it.  It’s not a bad thing since understanding depression means having it.  I’d rather that no one, anywhere, understood it.  The point here is to be honest with your friend or relative and don’t profess things that aren’t so.  Sincerity will help him or her a great deal; it will engender trust, which every depression patient has a problem with, at one time or another.
  4. No one wants to make your life miserable by being depressed.  Try not to view someone else’s depression as your own affliction.  Rather, be grateful that you don’t have clinical depression and try to realize what the other person is going through.  Don’t take the things your friend, spouse or relative says/does, personally.  They aren’t meant that way.
  5. Recovery from depression is not just a matter of taking anti-depressant medication and going to therapy.  Both the depression and recovery from it can totally change a person’s life.  Treatment involves a lot of fundamental changes in a person.  At times, you’ll wonder if it’s the same person you’ve known for so long.  Believe me, it is–the depression probably hid the “real person” from your view, up to the point that he or she was diagnosed and began treatment.
  6. At times, it may seem that the person is actually pushing you away.  This is very likely true.  Most depression patients believe that they unduly affect those around them and will do anything to prevent that from happening.  Thus, they isolate themselves from others.  This kind of self-sabotage is actually a symptom of the illness itself.  Don’t let it overcome your relationship.  Try to understand that this is often involuntary and irrational, and act accordingly.

 

How To Help Someone Who’s Depressed

What To Say or Do

  I cannot tell you precisely what is best for your friend, spouse or relative. I can only give you some guidelines. The rest is up to you.

  1. Don’t ask very general questions; you won’t get a meaningful answer. As an example:  Rather than asking “How are you?” ask “How are you today compared to yesterday?” or something of this kind.  Make the question open-ended, so the person can say what he or she wants, but provide something specific for them to talk about.
  2. Try to get the person out.  He or she will want to isolate themselves–hibernate, even–but this is exactly what should not happen.  Take walks, go shopping, go to a movie, whatever you have to, to get the person out of the environment they are trying to take shelter in.  You may get some resistance, and even complaints; be persistent but not unreasonable.
  3. Don’t be afraid to let your spouse, relative or friend talk about whatever they want to.  Even if they mention self-injury, or they are suicidal, you are not endangering them by listening.  Actually, you are helping to protect them from those things; talking helps them deal with these feelings.
  4. Keep an eye out for any changes in behavior.  These can include appetite, sleep habits, drinking or drug abuse, anything at all.  Any major changes may be a sign of trouble.
  5. Little things go a long way for someone with clinical depression. Small gifts and favors seem much bigger to them than to you. Don’t be afraid to (for example) leave the person a short note with a smiley face on it. Even if it seems silly or hokey, small considerations will help.

What Depression Is Not

Understanding Depression

Non-depressed people have a difficult time understanding depression; which is completely understandable.  I ‘ve discussed these things elsewhere, but I think this bears repeating here. Depression is not a weakness, character flaw, personality trait, or anything of that kind.  It’s not God’s punishment for past sins. It’s not karma catching up with something the person did in a past life.  It’s not someone just being too sensitive.  It’s not laziness or immaturity.  No one does anything to deserve it.  And you did nothing to cause someone in your life to become clinically depressed.

Depression is also not just the emotion of sadness.  In fact, many depression patients experience numbness, or no emotion, rather than sadness.  It is called a “mood disorder,” but this is a misnomer in that it can go way beyond someone’s mood.  Depression can totally disrupt someone’s thinking, in every way.

Depression is also not an excuse.  Having this illness doesn’t absolve anyone of responsibility for themselves.  Don’t make the mistake of letting a depression patient “off the hook” because of his or her illness.  Point out any transgressions and explain what went wrong, and make sure the person understands it.  However, getting angry or vindictive do no good, either. Keep criticism constructive. And stick by your friend or relative; you will find that it pays off in the end.

Go here for a more in-depth look at depression and supporting a depressed person.

Accepting Depression In Someone Else

Just as any depression patient must learn to accept his or her illness, and work on overcoming it, so you must accept that they have a mood disorder.  Since recovering is really a matter of work on the patient’s part, it’s impossible to start doing this work until one accepts that one must do it.  By the same token, you will find it impossible to deal with someone else’s depression, unless you accept that he or she has an illness–a very real one.

From what I’ve seen, this is one of the hardest things for friends and family to do.  I will not kid you into thinking that this is easy.  It’s not.  Accepting an illness in someone else, that you don’t understand and never will (hopefully), is not a simple or trivial matter.  Above all, don’t blame yourself for it.  No one can “make” another person depressed, so don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you caused it.

 

For Caregivers of Depression Patients

This is just as important as anything else!  You offer nothing to someone else if you’re stressed out.  If you need to, take some time away from the depressed person. It will give you a better perspective on things and unravel frustrations and tensions.  Just make sure your friend or relative knows you’re still committed to him or her, anyway.  You can even tell him/her that you’re taking “time out” for yourself, so you can better help. (It’s true.)