The Elusive Illness of Depression

thermometer-833085_1280Depression is an illness that continues to amaze me. My husband has been struggling with it for almost forty years and still we can’t identify a pattern or a cause or what works best. There was a time early on where it seemed like overcoming depression was a piece of cake – he took the one pill and soon he was doing so well, feeling so good, that he thought he didn’t need the medicine any longer.

Surprise! That only opened the door for a deeper, more difficult depression. So the different medications began their parade and then the mixing of the medications to arrive at that elusive cocktail. And there were the therapist sessions and the tries at different possibilities – yoga, meditation, exercise. Even the magic light used primarily by those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder was used in the hopes that it would make a difference.

And always, when I thought we finally had it conquered, something changed, something went wrong, something happened whether that was the medicine suddenly stopped working or a fall that resulted in a concussion that caused all hell to break loose as far as the depression went.

Right now, we are still in search of that elusive cocktail and there are more moves to delve into understanding himself and the trying of new ways of dealing with the depression. And there continue to be surprises. My husband the other day announced that he had never really comprehended that depression was an illness. He had always felt guilty, that he felt he could have more control over it. Somehow, realizing that depression was an illness enabled him to say, “Today is a good day. I think I can do this and this and this…” and he would proceed to be engaged in life. The next day might mean hours spent in bed and he accepted that as a not-so-good-day of the illness. None of this behavior was new but what was new was the realization on his part and mine that depression was indeed an illness (before we only gave homage to the words) and as such, operated as most illnesses we know.

Someone with cancer has their good days and bad days. They go for chemo and they try to exercise and eat right but sometimes they just have to sit back and be, sometimes even feeling sorry for themselves. Someone with arthritis has good days and bad days. Sometimes the pain is so bad, the most they can do is sit and read; other days are so good, they play for hours with their grandkids. So too with depression which can give us energy and happiness on one day only to strip it away from us on the next.

Depression indeed is the illness that keeps surprising us day in and day out.

– Bernadette

Other Advice for Living with a Depressed Spouse

There’s a good down to earth article on living with a depressed spouse at Check it out.  Sound advice is always good to hear again and again and again.

– Bernadette

Truth or Fiction?

once-upon-a-time-719174_1280Do you believe that depression is not a real illness?  Or that if the person only engaged in hard work, he or she would beat depression?  Or worse, that depression is just self-pity?  And if you are familiar with depression, do you believe that getting help for it means drugs for life?  Or that talking makes things worse?

Those are just a few of the myths about depression that keep appearing in different places.  I have encountered so many in the past two weeks that it is time to set the story straight.

First of all depression is a real illness.  It took my spouse over forty years to realize and accept that.  It is an illness like cancer or heart disease and deserves to be treated as one.  People don’t plan on getting cancer or heart disease.  People with depression don’t plan on the illness coming into their lives.

Next, engaging in hard work is a variation of the “pull yourself by the bootstraps” theory.  Hard work might work for a mild case of the blues but not for depression and sometimes in men who overwork, it is often a sign of clinical depression.

People with depression are not caught up in self pity.  They are not lazy or feeling sorry for themselves.  Depression is a real health problem with real changes to the brain.   And being treated for depression does not mean that the person will be on drugs for life.  Some will, some won’t just as in other illnesses some people need to have radiation, some need chemo, and some need both.  Some stay on it for life.  Some only a few months or weeks.  When it comes to depression, medication can be a help and some people do maintain a regimen for life, others for only the time that they need, and still others opt for talk therapy or other methods to deal with the illness.

Other myths include the wild idea that depression is part of aging.  It can appear during the golden years but many navigate those years without depression.  People think depressed people cry a lot.  It’s true that some individuals do, but many simply feel worthless and think there is not emotion in them.  Some people believe talking makes the depression worse when in reality many depressed individuals find their salvation in talk therapy.

There are other myths, but maybe listing these few will make you think twice before you believe so called “facts” about depression.  Find out about the illness so that together we can make life better for so many individuals suffering from depression.


But It’s All In Your Mind…

“But it’s all in your mind.”

Yep. People say that to people who are depressed, and you know what? It is in their minds because depression is a brain illness!

We feel most comfortable if there is a wound or a disease that we can feel or experience in some way. If it is cancer we can ask about chemotherapy or we can ask how the radiation treatments are going. We can see the disease and we can respond with meals or take time to help clean the house or just stay around to talk a bit. Or we can say something like, “Cancer sucks and I’m sorry you have to go through this.”

The same is not true of depression and other mental illnesses.

Fears from who knows where creep up. Is this person dangerous? Will they go off in a rant that I won’t be able to handle? Is it safe to go in their house? We don’t worry about getting a bug, but perhaps we worry that depression will rub off on us. And we wonder what we will say, what we will do. And oftentimes we seek avoidance or we do nothing at all. If we work hard enough, we can pretend that it is all in the mind of the sufferer and “if they would just give themselves a kick in the rear, everything would be better.”

Oh, how I wish brain illness was as easy to deal with as physical illness

Looking for a Scapegoat

semi automaticAnother day and more gun violence and more people ready to blame those with mental illness. Talk about a sure fire way for people who are already reluctant because of stigma to seek help with mental illness, this will keep many from even thinking about going for help. And never do we pause to consider that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be allowed to have automatic and semi-automatic guns to “protect” themselves.  If you want to deter a crime, such power is not necessary.  In many cases only muscles will do as witnessed when unarmed men disarmed a threatened shooter on a European train.

Mental illness has enough stigma keeping people from seeking help. Let’s not add people around them thinking, “They are mentally ill! They’re dangerous. Do they have guns?” Soon people will rail against mentally ill people having jobs of importance or taking care of our children. Families will be separated “to keep them safe.” We will in effect begin a movement of serious prejudice against the mentally ill. And who’s to define who and what is safe and who and what is not? Will knives and ropes and cars be out of the realm of use by the mentally ill because they might go on a rampage and kill someone?

And all the while we will sit in our homes, protected by our guns, our semi-automatics, thinking how very well we are, how we are not like “them” and how we are now safe because we have taken care of “those people.” And we will choose not to remember that we looked the other way when children were murdered at Sand Hook Elementary or when we thought the story of the movie house shootings was more exciting than the movie. We will be safe with our guns, because our right to bear arms will be all that matters.   The mentally ill be damned.

And Jesus will weep once again.

– Bernadette

For another interesting take on things:

Wondering . . .

Recently I read one of the best articles I’ve seen on what depression is like.  Here’s the link:

It let’s a person look at the different ways that depression manifests itself.  I wonder what do you think of what he says?  Does you experience of depression fit into these comments?


What’s Good and Not So Good For Me About HIPAA

HIPAA is the acronym for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that was passed by Congress in 1996.  HIPAA does the following:

  • Provides the ability to transfer and continue health insurance coverage for millions of American workers and their families when they change or lose their jobs;
  • Reduces health care fraud and abuse;
  • Mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes; and
  • Requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information

On some days I am okay with HIPAA. I like the fact that people can transfer and continue health insurance coverage when jobs are changed or lost.  I am okay with standards for information and billing and other things.

But on most days I hate HIPPA. Like when I hear about the woman who did not know her son had said to his psychiatrist that he felt like killing people. He went out from that session and killed people. The mother wonders if she had known would she had been able to help?

I hate it when I hear stories that a husband or wife has gone to the psychiatrist or therapist and the story they present is far far different than the one that the household lives with day in and day out, but the family members are restricted from entering into the therapy because of HIPAA..

I get frustrated with the law when I hear of doctors who don’t choose to hear from other family members about the person who is seeking help. They feel that the patient will tell them all they need to know. And even when those who love the depressed individual are allowed to go into the session at the request of the patient, they often find that their contributions are given the polite nod and often dismissed.

HIPAA serves a purpose and back when it originally passed, many people were spared discrimination because the AIDS epidemic was so misunderstood. Perhaps we have to re-think HIPAA and see if there shouldn’t be more of an emphasis on reducing health care fraud and abuse – for example, when health care is denied or shortened at the whim of insurance reviewers and the needs of mentally ill more easily dismissed – and less emphasis on saving our “privacy” and more emphasis on all of us working together to help each other get and stay healthy.

– Bernadette


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