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Depression: Always lurking around the corner.

I know a lot about the illness of depression. I’ve lived with it in my household for 23 years, I’ve experienced it myself in the form of post-concussion depression and SAD, and I’ve done plenty of research.

And yet, I continue to be blindsided by its painful effects.

My dear friend is in the thick of it with her husband, in a terribly frustrating and long-term bout of the illness. It hurts me to know what she’s dealing with.

My own SAD is in a low point right now, as we’re trapped indoors for weeks at a time and as situations beyond my control get me down.

My husband’s recent amazing depression recovery is at risk. Forced inactivity for six weeks of recovery after a broken rib, compounded by uncertainty about the future of his new career due to that injury has produced anxiety and his most commonly-used depression defense – sleeping at every opportunity.

I know the right things to do: keep up consistently with medications, use the light therapy box daily, exercise, keep as busy as possible, talk about it and reach out for support. But even when we think we’re doing the right things to combat it, depression is always hanging around in the shadows, waiting to jump out at us.

I could really use a huge dose of warm weather, sunshine, and good news about now.

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Officially a success

I’ve been using a light therapy box for almost a month now, after having resisted the idea for two or three years.

imageWhy resist? Partly, I suppose, because of the inconvenience I thought it would cause. Partly because the directions included with my box were quite annoying, including a warning that light therapy can cause serious side effects in people taking antidepressants (tell me how many people NOT on antidepressants are using these!). And partly, I have to say, because I didn’t want to admit to the fact that I probably needed it.

Yes, that last reason is coming from someone who fights daily against the oppressive stigma in our culture associated with mental illness. From someone who deals every day with a husband who has struggled with crippling depression for many years and who would do nearly anything to feel better.

Well, I am a convert. I’ve been using my light box for at least half an hour in the morning and sometimes half an hour in the early afternoon. I find that I have more energy all day long. My mood is improved compared to the last few years of SAD. I’m able to be awake and alert until at least 10:00 in the evenings (as compared to 6:00 previously – no joke).

And so, here’s what I have to share: If your doctor or therapist has every recommended that you try a light box, go for it. There’s every chance you’ll be very glad you did. And if it doesn’t help, at least you tried. Best of luck.

A new SAD season

personal.psu.edu

personal.psu.edu

I don’t like to admit it, but it’s time to start thinking about dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder again. Sunlight comes later every morning. Darkness comes earlier every evening. As much as I love the season of autumn, I don’t love the accompanying dive in mood and energy. I’m especially concerned this year, with our new empty-ish nest life. There’s a lot less noise and activity in our home; a lot less laughter to dispel the gloom.

I’ll start taking a daily antidepressant in a week or so. My doctor suggested I double the dose if I need to. And she disapproved of my decision last year to dump the “happy light” I found at Costco. (The directions stated that the light can cause negative side effects in users who are taking antidepressants. Seriously? Is there anyone using one of these who’s NOT on antidepressants?) So “happy light” is back on the shopping list.

It’s time to get serious about this SAD thing. It’s no joke, especially when it’s experienced in close quarters with another family member with chronic depression. Is anyone else out there preparing for the SAD battle? I’d like to hear how you fight it.

-Amy

Return to Real (and new) Life

So the Big Leave is over. We’ve completed both moves (youngest to his freshman year three hours away and oldest to grad school, 16 hours away). Tear report: I was able to choke them back at the actual moments of leaving, but scattered tear storms have been reported throughout the viewing area.

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

The emotional gash (“wound” doesn’t seem strong enough) I’m currently dealing with doesn’t bode well for the coming SAD season – and believe me, I’m noticing every minute of sunlight we’re losing each day as the calendar marches on. Nor does the pain of the goodbyes and the removal of half the family (okay, not quite half, but since there are five of us half would be gross) bode well for my husband’s round-the-year depression. He’s had teary moments in the last week, too, and that’s always scary for me – who knows where those moments might lead?

It’s early days yet, but I’m thinking hard about what I – we – can do to keep from sinking into what could be serious depression around here. My short list:
-volunteering at one of the schools our kids attended
-digging into a book Bern and I have been toying with for a couple of years
-supporting husband to the hilt as he explores possibilities for a much-needed career change
-getting our younger kids’ new concert schedules burned onto our calendar so I can look forward to those special events
-throwing myself into a second blog, at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com . I’ve been looking forward to that for several months now, and had a blast putting up my first real post today.

Hope our friends in the blogosphere will be along for the ride…

-Amy

P.S. – Many thanks to Bernadette, who kept Depression’s Collateral Damage running at full speed while I was out of commission this week. 🙂

Beginnings and Endings

As a mom, I’ve always been acutely aware of the preciousness of every moment, every stage of our children’s lives. That’s not to say I’ve always enjoyed every single moment – there are quite a few tantrums, misbehaviors, and bad parenting decisions I’d like to have avoided entirely. But from the beginning I’ve had the sense that the time with our most bestest creations, our three kids, would fly by with breathtaking speed; that they’d be moving on to their own lives long before I was ready to see them go.

That has certainly been the case. In just over a week, our youngest leaves for his freshman year of college and our oldest leaves for grad school (thankfully our younger daughter has chosen to live at home for college – it’s a joy to have her with us still, though she’s got a very full academic, social, and community schedule). In my mind it was just a few days ago that they were splashing in mud pits in the back yard, covering Barbies in aluminum foil and launching them at top speed with a bungee cord, and filming their own versions of the Harry Potter movies.

As the day(s) of departure draw closer, I’m struggling. Tears are near the surface much of the time. And I’m already worrying about this year’s version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – my guess is that these life changes will make the season more difficult than ever. There’s definitely a “happy light” in my near future.

A post on “The Isle Child” hit me hard this week, as it addressed so much of what I’ve been thinking about. Check it out at http://islechild.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/the-940-saturdays-of-childhood/ and browse around while you’re there – it’s worth a good look.

one-story.com

one-story.com

We’re having “lasts” all over the place at this point. They started in the spring as we had our last moments and last events at the high school where we spent so much time over the years. This week there was our son’s last voice lesson at home (I listened carefully, enjoying his beautiful tenor/baritone voice, and knowing I wouldn’t hear it again until the first time I can make the trip to his university for a performance). Next week the lasts will flow constantly. I’m not sure Kleenex produces enough tissues to get me through the next couple of weeks.

Yes, I know there will be many “firsts” coming up, as well, and I will intentionally enjoy them as I always have. To be honest, I wish people would quit telling me that. I need to wallow for a bit. After all, a 22-year era is drawing to a close. It deserves some emotional attention.

But I don’t want to wallow for too long, because I know from experience that depression (the contagious kind that comes from living with a depressed person AND the seasonal kind that comes from my own body clock) is waiting to pounce. One way I’m planning to avoid prolonged wallowing and creeping depression is creating the diversion of a personal blog that I’ll debut once the two big moves are completed. If you’re interested, you’ll find it at http://momgoeson.wordpress.com/ For now it’s just a placeholder, giving me something to look forward to that’s fresh and new.

Here’s to all the first and lasts in our lives…
-Amy

There’s SAD, and then there’s sad.

image credit to Scott Macaulay

image credit to Scott Macaulay

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my intense relief at the daylight savings time and the resulting increase in evening sunlight.  I was thrilled by how quickly my energy returned and my mood improved.  Apparently I spoke too soon,.

There was the surprise Palm Sunday snow storm.  Then there were a couple of weeks of mostly cold, cloudy weather.  No good for going out for extra Vitamin D in the sunlight, or getting outside to walk in the fresh air.

And soon I realized that I was just as down as I had been all winter.  I was as irritable as my chronically depressed husband (about whose grouchiness I often complain…ouch.) I felt negative, had little interest in my work, and wasn’t sleeping well.  Seasonal affective disorder hadn’t magically disappeared after all.

Then, after several days of bad hews, stressful events, and downright gloom, I realized there was more going on than “just” my winter SAD. I had to sit down and admit to myself that there’s a whole lot going on in my life that was just plain getting me down.  Even without SAD, situational depression was a distinct possibility.

As a person who writes about and works in the area of depression and caring for depressed people  it’s a topic I”m immersed in a lot – occasionally more than I would like.  Then, too, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool navel gazer.  You know that Myers-Briggs personality thing?  I’m off the charts on introspection.  Pretty obnoxious, really.

But it all led me to this train got thought: how do you know whether your annual bout of SAD is over?  How does a long postponement of spring affect other people with the disorder?  When other issues come into play, how do you move on?  At what point is it time to dig further, consider medication adjustments, consult a therapist?

They’re all good questions, and I’d invite any readers who deal with SAD to share their thoughts.  Thankfully for me, spring did finally arrive in the last few days.  That’s helped a lot. At the same itme, I went out of my way to do some self-indulgence and self-care, and to increase my exercise   As a result of these efforts, I’m noting a distinct difference in my mood and outlook.  But what if things hadn’t happened that way?

-Amy

Fighting My Way Through SAD

For those of us dealing with SAD – seasonal affective disorder – we’re in the toughest part of the year. I’ve been on a low dosage of antidepressant since mid September, and I know it’s helping. But I also know I’m not doing my part.

I should be exercising more. But I’m having an awful time getting up in the morning (very not like my normal self), and that’s the time of day I’m most able to find time to exercise. The street and sidewalks near my house are completely torn up with construction, so it’s hard to get out and walk.

I bought a light box last fall, as my doctor suggested a year ago. The directions were so off-putting I returned it without ever using it. And I haven’t been doing my best to get outside and soak up vitamin D, which I know would help.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. In the meantime, my work is suffering, I’m probably something of a pain to live with, and I don’t feel all that great. And I know it doesn’t help that my chronically depressed husband had been in a low spot for months. Yuck.

Which is all to say depression is really rotten, no matter what form it takes. Too many people are dealing with this illness, too many people aren’t coping with it well, and too many people are afraid of the stigma attached to admit they have it. If you’re dealing with symptoms yourself, or you know someone who might be, here’s my advice: Get yourself some help. And be patient with yourself and with others. Who knows – that guy sitting in the cubicle next to you, the one who drives you nuts with his negativity and decreased productivity? It could very well be that depression is at the root of his problem.
-Amy