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Keep it to yourself.

I readily admit to being pretty opinionated.

But there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to provoke a visceral reaction in me, which I can’t promise won’t end up in my punching someone in the gut. And so I’ll share a piece of wisdom, to protect you from future harm should you ever venture into this territory in my presence:

Don’t EVER say a single, solitary word about medications others take to help them deal with brain illnesses. 

You have the right to choose NOT to take antidepressants, anti-anxiety meds, ADHD medications, etc. And each other individual has the same right to make that decision.

Want to know what you don’t have the right to? An opinion about other people’s medication choices.

There are many, many people out there for whom these medications are literally saving lives. People in my own family are in this category. Yes, it would be a lovely, sunshine-and-rainbows world if they didn’t need meds simply to have a normal, productive life. But that’s not the real world for many of us. And those of us who need brain illness-related meds absolutely do not need to hear anyone else’s opinion about the medications we decide to take.

Here’s an analogy for you. If you heard someone ranting derisively about  a cancer patient’s decision to undergo a course of radiation and chemotherapy, you’d assume the ranter was a fringe freak. Cancer is often a life-threatening illness, and we support those who receive the problematic treatment for that illness. In the same way, mental illnesses are often life-threatening, and the medications that treat them are often problematic. It is simply cruel, thoughtless, and damaging to speak out against undergoing a course of treatment for an illness of the brain.

And yet, many, many people out there do just that.

Seriously – keep your mouth shut.

-Amy

 

 

Welcome to the Kick Depression Party!

Welcome to the Kick Depression Party!  At this party, we hope that those who join us can help those not here to realize that there are big and little times of hope and change and wellness when it comes to depression and mental illness. 

And the sharing is lively and honest:  

My mother suffered terribly from depression until her death.  In her worst times she wouldn’t get out of bed, would not eat, and withdrew from the world.  I’m lucky because observing her gave me the determination to deal with my symptoms.

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Anyone dealing with a mental illness knows that it is a daily battle.  Sometimes it is you that has to fight or you have to help someone fight it.  Nevertheless the feelings are overwhelming.  It has been difficult to reach out to others and truly express how I feel but I have done it and will continue to do so. 

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I want you to know that there is hope for you and your loved one suffering from depression.  My husband and I have endured a lot.  He is better.  We’ve survived and through this long process I realized how resilient we have been.  

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For a time I was on medication to keep me stable enough not to jump off a bridge.  The pain and anxiety were pretty bad.  But I’m here today.  

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I realized that there are times when it is okay to be down because life is difficult.  I have to fight daily to latch onto the things that matter the most to me.

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I started researching other alternative treatments which my husband thankfully agreed to try.  Since then we have learned a lot about the brain, intestinal health, nutrition, trauma and how it can affect a person’s emotional health.  We are happy to report that since last November, life is so much better.  My husband has his sense of humor back, is self motivated and is enjoying life again.  

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I learned breathing techniques, mind games, to keep me in the present moment, and I learned to be grateful.  Through therapy I learned to accept that I am a depressed person and that each episode does not have to take me out.  

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I am at this party hoping that it will help someone out there feel connected.  Perhaps, it will help me feel connected to others again because I know there are many going through similar struggles.  

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We’ve learned that Zinc is very important for proper brain functioning.  He’s also had to make changes to his diet, eating high protein, low carbohydrate, gluten and dairy free.  He takes many supplements to improve his gut health.  Did you know that it’s estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract?  

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Some days I just let the depression come.  I submit but not without setting a time limit on how long I intend the depression to take over.  When the time limit is reached most times I can get back into the game with conscious determination.

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At different times during my loved one’s depressive episodes I’ve seen a therapist and was always told how important it is to take care of myself.  This is a challenge, but I’ve tried to do it.  I’m glad I could go to work every day and get a break.

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I still wake up a lot of mornings in fear, not liking myself, guilty for whatever reason, overwhelmed with hopelessness, but I realize it is not a permanent state.  It would be easy to give in and give up, but I also have experienced peace, joy, comfort, love and those things are worth fighting for.  

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I’m grateful for all the things that can  help in some way – breathing, meditation and yoga and brain games.  They all help.

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I think that success is having available a multitude of tricks in a bag, not just one.  If one doesn’t work, I try another.  Recognizing and believing that life is fluid with ups and down is also helpful.  

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It’s been stressful being a caregiver these past years.  I often questioned what was happening to our marriage because depression  is also a very selfish illness.  The depressed person is always wrapped up in themselves.  I often had to tell him that I’m not his therapist, but I was willing to be his advocate.  

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I can understand others’ reactions better now.  Close friends knew about our situation but sometimes they didn’t know what to say or do.  My therapist help me understand that many people feel inadequate in how to respond.  And then they do nothing which can seem so cold and uncaring.  We need to learn to me more empathetic and I’m am thankful for those who have responded with empathy to us.  

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hope4We have both counted our blessings and we are thankful that we have survived.  We’ve learned some tools to keep our brains healthy.  You and your loved ones can survive too.  By all means take care of yourself.  I wish you peace of mind.

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It’s an amazing adventure we are on – this thing we call life.  I’d rather play and participate than sit out whatever days I have left.  That’s my feeling as I struggle with depression.  I’m pretty positive that tomorrow may or may not be the best but I want it anyway. 

Thanks to all of you who came to the party to share your insights.  We are grateful for our readers and for all those who are working together to kick depression for themselves, their families and their communities. 

What Can I Do For You?

Amy and I have five pages of type of things people should not say to someone who is experiencing depression. All of us have said some of them and all of us have caught others saying them to someone. We sorely need to erase those phrases from our speech.

The flip side is often we don’t know how to respond. What does one say in such a situation? Do you ask how is the depression today or do you suggest activities for involvement or do you just keep quiet?

Perhaps one of the best things to say, and to say it with sincerity is “What can I do for you?” For people who mean what they say, that opens the door for some real possibilities of help. And that means that the depressed individual or the caregiver must be ready to respond.

So I asked some people with depression and I asked their loved ones what could be done to help. Here’s some of the replies:

I could just use some space at time. I need to be alone. I want to be alone. I’m not going to hurt myself but being alone is a way I try to get myself together.  

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I need people around me. I could go to the local coffee shop but sometimes it is just nice if someone drops over or calls and asks to come over. Not only does it give me people, it gives me the feeling that there are people who care enough about me that they want to spend some time with me.  

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Bringing over dinner at times. I know that my overstressed and overtired family and I would appreciate that very much. Seems like people do that all the time for funerals or for people who are sick in the hospital. But depression isn’t a “seeable” illness so people don’t think we need the love and care that others in the hospital or at home with a physically-visible illness does.

and from a family member whose brother has depression:

Sometimes I just want someone to hug me. They don’t have to even say anything. I just need to know that I am still noticed, that my struggle in noticed, and that someone out there is willing to be there for me.hugging-571076_1280

As a depressed individual or as someone who loves a person who is depressed, what are you looking for from others?   The more all of us know, the more all of us can help stop the devastation being done by this illness.

– Bernadette .

Seven Hundred Dollars

pillSeven hundred dollars every 30 days.

That’s how much – with health insurance – one medication costs for my husband.

And that number does not include the other three that he takes.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days to have someone begin to feel the depression lift.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days taken off of the budget for food and other essentials.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days which is over 1/3 of his social security check.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days that takes the edge off the happiness because he knows the money is taken away from other needs and wants.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days for the chance to feel better.

“All magic comes with a price”…..Rumplestilskin in Once Upon a Time

– Bernadette

Shock waves from “Call the Midwife.”

Today’s definition of irony: When a character on a television show you love suffers a bout of PTSD and it triggers your own PTSD experience.

I don’t think I”m exaggerating. In last night’s episode of “Call the Midwife,” the doctor character dealt with an experience that triggered a return of depression. The actor portrayed such a breakdown beautifully. So well, in fact, that I could barely stand to watch.

As his wife supported him, tucked him into bed, and cried out her fears on a friend’s shoulder, I relived the long, desolate years of my own husband’s deep depression. Almost literally, the wind was knocked out of me as I watched. All that emotion was suddenly right there again, front and center.

Of course that’s a resounding endorsement of the power of this particular program and of the actor. But it also says a lot about how very deeply depression affects not only the depressed person, but also those who are closest to him or her, even years after recovery.

I still feel just a bit shaky today, but I’ll get over it. Things are much, much better now.

But I doubt I’ll ever fully forget that pain.

-Amy

If you’re not familiar with “Call the Midwife,” which is in its fourth season, I hope you’ll seek it out. It’s currently running on PBS on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central, with earlier season four episodes on http://www.pbs.org. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix.

To med or not to med…

Recently someone I care about a great deal asked for advice for a female friend of his who was struggling with depression. Just last evening he reported back to me that she did finally find some help; her GP prescribed medication and they were hoping for the best.

All well and good.

But then came the kicker: “But she really hates the thought of being dependent on medications for the rest of her life.”

FACE PALM.

I managed to temper my reaction. My exact words were, “Sometimes people are able to go off medication after a while, in consultation with their doctor and therapist. And she can think of it this way: Isn’t it better to feel good with a pill than to be miserable every day of your life without a pill?”

Here’s what really I wanted to say: “Would you really hate the thought of taking insulin every day to save your life if you had diabetes? Would you really hate the thought of taking blood pressure medication every day to avoid a stroke if you had high blood pressure?”

I am aware of and I support many of the caveats regarding antidepressants. No, they don’t work for everyone. No, scientists aren’t 100% sure how antidpresssants work. Yes, they often have side effects that require management. Yes, they work best in conjunction with behavioral therapy.

But it does not make sense to despise a medication merely because it treats mood and behavior, when we fully accept other medications that treat obvious physical problems. In reality, the root causes of the negative moods and behavior are physical, too. They just have negative mystique because we can’t “see” them.

We each must make our own decisions about medication when depression and other mood disorders are part of our lives. But we must make these decisions based on reality, rather than on the stigma that sourrounds issues of brain illnesses and their treatments. 

Speaking Out About Teenage Depression

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/22/opinion/depressed-but-not-ashamed.html

Not too long ago at a high school journalism event, two young high school women had the courage to share their depression with one another.  This sharing between the two of them gave them support from one another they hadn’t expected.  In addition, these two women wanted to help their community in the high school by publishing a school newspaper issue dealing with depression.  It would contain the honest stories of those who were dealing with the illness.  The school stopped publication.

Read the opinion piece in the New York Time (link above) and  consider what you think about this issue.  Studies are finding that when depression asserts itself in the early teens, one can expect the illness  to only worsen and be a life long struggle for the individual, particularly if a support system is not in place for the individual.

Amy and I have always talked about the importance of truth in dealing with this demon.  These young women have been truthful.  We need to let their voices be heard.  Maybe then, we will make very needed changes in how we view and deal with depression.

– Bernadette