Category Archives: Depression

World Mental Health Day #wmhd14

If you haven’t seen it mentioned on other blogs, today, Oct 10, 2014 is “World Mental Health Day”. The fine folks over at Psych Central are throwing a “blog party” to celebrate, getting bloggers to write a post about mental health and linking to it from that page.

One of the things you can see on that page, or looking at Twitter for the #wmhd14 hashtag, it becomes pretty obvious that there are a lot of people writing about mental health today.

I think that’s fantastic, for one very big reason. When I was in the midst of the worst of my depression, the one thing that I remember most clearly is the feeling of being utterly alone. That’s one of the lies depression tells you, that no one will understand, no one knows what it’s like, and no one can help you. Looking around today, I can see just how untruthful that is. There are resources, (Though we need more!!!) there are people who care and, most importantly, there are people who’ve been where you are, and survived.

Today is also a day that I saw an article about the 40,000 people we lose to suicide every year in the US. How many of those people would still be with us if they could have known how many others are out here dealing with the same thing they are, and offering support for one another. So do me a favor, ok? Share what we’re seeing online today with the people you care about. You never know how many of them might need to know.

TED Talks on Mental Illness

In light of yesterday’s news about Robin Williams, lots of folks have been reaching out on Twitter, Facebook, and other social media to share their own stories of depression and other mental health issues, or make sure folks know where to go to get help, and that there is help for mental illness.

I even shared out my post from a couple of years ago about my story with suicide on Twitter and Facebook as well. It has been heartwarming to see so many, from all walks of life, coming out of the darkness and sharing their own struggles. I hope it’s something that continues. We all could do with feeling less alone.

TED Talks shared this playlist that I thought many of you might want to take a look at.

7 talks on the struggle of mental health.

There’s quite a lot there, real stories from real people dealing with metal health issues. Exactly more of the kinds of stories we need to be talking about if we hope to stop losing good people to the lies their illness is telling them!

Career Advice That Is Relevant to Healing as Well

appreciationIn my quest to try every new piece of social media tech that exists, (that might be a bit of hyperbole, but not by much!) I have penned a piece with some career advice called The Appreciation File over on LinkedIn.

It did not escape my notice, however, that this same bit of helpful advice could also apply to healing from abuse, or helping with depression, or whatever else you might be struggling with.

So, fellow survivors, start hanging on to cards, notes and emails thanking you for something. Then on the rough days, go back through the stack and remind yourself of all the good you have done, and continue to do, all the worth you have and all the value you bring to others. Also, make sure you’re letting people know the value they have, so they can start building their own file!

If you’re so inclined, I’d appreciate it if you went over to LinkedIn and shared the plan with your own contacts! Thanks!

Even The Little Things Are Too Much

BW Ice

I really liked Natasha Tracy’s description of depression when I read it.

I have problems with lots of the little things. Opening mail, for example. You would think that tearing tiny pieces of paper and reading letters would be relatively simple, but it’s not – at least, not for me. For me, I just think about the mail and I get overwhelmed. I actually have to talk myself into actually opening little envelopes.

And while this could be driven by, say, an inability to pay bills, for me, it’s not. For me it’s just mail, in and of itself. For whatever reason, I just can’t do it.

And I know I need to do things like shower and open the mail. These are normal, everyday activities that need doing. But so often, at the end of the day I find that I haven’t done them – again. And this knowledge of failing at the little things is so depressing. I tend to beat myself up about it.

I think anyone who has ever suffered from depression can recall those days. The days where you really just get overwhelmed doing the smallest little thing, and then feel like a failure because you couldn’t even do that little thing without getting overwhelmed, thus leading to feeling more overwhelmed, and so on and so on.

I don’t think people who’ve never had, or were close to someone who had depression, understand this. You go to the mailbox and get the mail without a second thought. You get up in the morning, shower, make some coffee and so on. When you have depression, nothing is that easy. There aren’t any activities that you can do without a second thought. Everything is a struggle, everything requires monumental effort just to even attempt to do it.

I can remember, for example, trying to boil water after I was released from the hospital. Granted, I was both depressed and physically unwell, recovering from a 9 day hospital stay for a virus. Anyway, I tried to just boil some water to make some pasta for myself, and wound up spilling it. The only thing I could do was sit on the kitchen floor and cry. It was at that point that I realized that was about as low as I could get, and much like Natasha’s advice, if I saw someone else suffering in this same way, I’d help them up and walk them through doing what they were trying to do, all the while telling them it was ok, they could accomplish this, and then they could accomplish the next thing, and so on until they were doing amazing things. Needless to say, while I thought that, actually putting that thought into practice was hardly an overnight thing. Overcoming depression doesn’t happen all at once. You don’t suddenly snap out of it, for the most part. You start to build yourself from the ground up. You hit bottom, and then you figure out what you need to do to get the mail and showered today. Once you’ve started accomplishing that, you move on to the next thing, and before you know it, you’re living life and doing the little things again.

So, feel some compassion for yourself, find the correct treatment, and start with one accomplishment today. Then go from there. At least, that’s what worked for me!

What is it Like to Not Have Depression?

Children's Grave Marker

Last night, I came across an interesting article about depression, titled 50 Sufferers Describe Depression For People Who’ve Never Been Depressed

In response to sharing that article, on Twitter, Reine Jade had a wish that took the concept and turned it around.

An interesting idea to be sure. So, here’s your chance. If you have either never suffered from depression, or have come out of depression, what does that look like?

As for myself, the big difference that I see about when I had depression, and now that I really don’t, is balance. When I was depressed, I was really unable to feel happiness or joy about anything. It was all about what was wrong, and how everything that was wrong was specifically targeted at me. (Depression is actually a very narcissistic disease, everything negative effects you, directly, even when it has nothing to do with you.)

Not being depressed means having things that I enjoy, and the freedom to enjoy them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have times of feeling sad, lonely, or stressed. Life is full of those emotions, but it is also full of joy, excitement, happiness, love and contentment. It’s when I can experience both positive and negative emotions without fear of being overrun by negativity that I know I am living a healthy emotional life, not suffering from depression.

In other words, when I get a good evaluation at work, I’m happy, and when I get a flat tire while driving, I can deal with it and take care of the situation in some way, I’m balanced emotionally. When my tie goes flat and I sit in the car and cry, unable to do anything about it, not so much.

Now it’s your turn? What does a life free of depression look like?

Mental Health and the Media

Over the weekend there was a number of media outlets that reported on a new study linking marriage and depression. Unfortunately, many of these so called reputable outlets, wnet with a sensationalist headline, that did not actually match up the results of the study in question.

Case in point, The UK’s Daily Mail went with this headline:

Being married makes you MORE depressed: Constant nagging triggers deep-rooted stress, study reveals

Except, if you read deeper into the story, that’s not really what the study says at all. What it really says is that people in bad marriages, ones that are a constant source of stress in their lives, are more likely to show symptoms of depression.

Frankly, that’s not exactly earth-shattering news. Of course, you are going to show more signs of stress and depression if your marriage is ma source of stress and depression as opposed to a marriage that isn’t. But that wouldn’t make for a very interesting story, so they spiced it up a bit to make it seem like all those studies that talk about how married people are generally healthier and happier, must be wrong. Except they aren’t. Those studies also give us the not exactly surprising result that people in a happy marriage, tend to be happier and happier people are generally healthier.

This isn’t exactly rocket science here.

The Daily Mail wasn’t alone either. I saw a number of articles and blog pots with similar headlines, indicating that marriage causes depression. Most of them went on to the details of the study, contradicting their own headline, but in this day and age, how many people read the headline and will take away the “knowledge” that marriage causes depression. This is why we cannot trust the media when it comes to mental health. They have a vested interest in sensationalizing the story, to grab readers attention, not in presenting a fair, balanced view of the matter. This is why we have stigma.

For a more balanced view, check out the Psych Central article, Forget Wedded Bliss: Marital Stress Linked to Depression

See how that slight change in focus changes the entire assumption of the headline?

Mental Health Stigma in the News

Sure enough, last week, one of the first tidbits of information that was given by the military, thus becoming the focus for the tragic shooting at Fort Hood was that the shooter, Ivan Lopez, had been treated for “mental health issues”.

John Grohol has the run down of the various news stories that came out in the wake of that information, blaming these mental health issues, or the lack of proper mental health care, as the reason for the shooting, when in fact, that probably had nothing to do with it. He also explains that the issues he had sought help with, probably had nothing at all to do with this.

We talk a lot about encouraging people to get help when they are suffering from PTSD, depression or any other form of mental health problem, but then we turn right around and make these connections between those who might have mental health problems, and violence.

Imagine if we told people that they should speak out about being victims of abuse so that they can get help in healing, and then every time a violent act occurred, we proclaimed that it must have been a result of them being abused as children, because “you know how those people are”. Would any one want to come forward and admit that they are, in fact, one of “those people”? Yet the media does the same thing with mental health issues all the time. Sure Ivan Lopez spent time in Iraq, and had sought treatment for some sort of mental health issues. So do thousands of other people, every day. Are they all just a mass shooting waiting to happen?

I don’t think so.