Monday, July 17, 2017

Open letter to "Want to be helpful" about depression

Dear "Want to be Helpful,"

I do believe your intentions are good and I appreciate the suggestions for improved nutrition, various natural supplements, and a closer relationship with God. Let's add to that recognizing and countering cognitive distortions, exercise for increased endorphins, meditation for it's many benefits, and the value of friendships and support networks. I could go on.

I understand the reasons you doubt the value of psychotropic drugs and talk therapy. Yes, I really do. I know that women are more often prescribed drugs for depression than are men. I know drug therapy is not always an answer. Believe it or not, I have done extensive academic research on depression, most of it before chronic depression became a personal companion. I have an undergraduate degree in psychology and a Master's degree in Sociology with emphasis on mental health issues. That might not mean much to you, but it should let you know can tell the difference between situational depression (the so called "common cold" of mental health) and depression caused by other factors.

Not only do I have an educational background that has informed me, I have a family history and genetic history that reinforces (I won't say proves) that the depression I suffer from is bio-chemical in origin. It is literally in my head (decreased neurotransmitters) and in my genes as there are 9 of us on my mother's side of the family who have been diagnosed with bio-chemical depression. May be more. The majority of that 9 also suffer from migraine headaches, another disorder related to low serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter).

That said, there is nothing wrong with your suggestions, other than the need to discuss supplements with your doctor, if you are taking medication for depression, in order to guard against possibly dangerous interactions. In fact, I don't know many people who couldn't benefit from improving their nutrition. As for God, personally She/He is important to me. I attempt to meditate but my mind is overactive and stillness is hard to come by. My family and friends mean so much to me and I try to walk a fine line between calling on them when I'm blue and keeping it to myself as much as possible. I have repeatedly tried to come off my antidepressants and, having followed all the protocols, reached the point where it was clear I cannot do without that help for more than a few days at a time. I refuse to be embarrassed about it. Taking my antidepressant is no different that taking an antibiotic for an infection or a diabetic taking insulin. Please learn more about this and reconsider your position and advice to those in need.

Here are some practical, non-medical suggestions you can offer to family and friends who are depressed:
1) Stop feeling guilty. You feel what you feel and denying it or beating yourself up over it will not help.
2) Buy some 3"x 5" index cards. On really bad days when you have to drag yourself out of bed, jot down things you do. All the "little" stuff matters. Write down that you got out of bed, washed up, dressed, and whatever else you do. Eating meals counts. The idea is that at the end of the day, before you go back to bed, you don't want to bash yourself for not having done anything. Look at your card and give yourself credit for whatever you accomplished. Didn't get your chores done? But you did get out of bed, dressed, had meals and that alone was hard, wasn't it? Add something to your next list.
3) Your usual pleasures may not interest you when you are really down. Try to find a thing or two you can do that distracts you and that you can push yourself to do on bad days. For me it is reading and Photoshop. Once I start with either it might be slow going but next thing I know I'm distracted. (I use these for pain management too).
4) Learn about cognitive distortions. You don't have to see a therapist for this. You know that mental "talking" you do in your head? Cognitive distortions are negative self-talk telling you things that aren't true and they will increase depression and lower self-esteem.. Check out these links for useful information on types of cognitive distortions and how you an correct theme.

It might sound simplistic but when you're down and you start noticing negative self-talk, the sooner you can correct it, the better off you will be. Don't let it escalate.

For good information on depression, visit the website for the National Institute of Mental Health:

And remember, if someone has symptoms of depression more than two weeks, it is time to seek professional help.

Healing hugs,

1 comment:

Molly said...

What a clear and concise view!! I suffered with depression for as long as I can remember; and struggled to keep a happy face showing to all. I got to 50yrs and finally threw the towel in and sought help, I decided I deserved the best life I could get. Now at 64, I happily take my medication (having tried to wean myself off a few times .. with medical advice on how to do so ... and eventually came to the conclusion that medication was the only way forward. I refuse to feel embarrassed or awkward about talking on this issue .. it is only going to be an accepted illness if we stop hiding. I still get depressed sometimes, as does everyone, I am not living in a fantasy bubble, but I am much better able to cope with the ups and downs of life. Best wishes to you, and thank you for the Little Sailors gift :)