For 15 years now I've suffered with clinical depression, it was diagnosed years ago while Dan was commuting to Washington D.C. every week for work, this went on for three years and eventually my mind went into shutdown mode and I was unable to function normally. I went to my doctor and told him something was wrong, I just didn't feel well, I hurt all over and my mind didn't seem right, he told me it was stress from being a single parent all week, etc....he was right and I actually didn't give him symptoms so we left it at that. A few weeks later I was just a mess and starting chatting with our pastor and it was that evening that I discovered that I was in the depths of clinical depression, he'd seen it before so gave me some more info to give my doctor, I started on medication shortly thereafter.
A lot of people with clinical depression have it just for a while and can take the meds and after awhile go off of them, I am not one of those people. Through the years I've tried going off of them only to fall back down into the abysmal pit...no fun at all. Most of the year I am on a fairly low dosage and can cut it down lower sometimes, but unfortunately in the fall I always have a setback.
Generally I watch for symptoms and can up my medication and catch it before I fall all the way down, this year I did not. I'm currently in the midst of it right now, I've upped my meds but it generally takes a few weeks for it to kick in so I deal with the symptoms the best I can. I'm very thankful that I don't work so I can just do as much as I can daily, my family take very good care of me and try their best to make me laugh, they're very good at it! Christopher just says 'Judy' and cracks me up, Dan is hilarious and keeps me laughing, Katie's thing is to say 'Mommy, depression hurts, you don't have to'...now I know this is a commercial for a serious problem but the way she says it just cracks me up. Unfortunately I'm generally crying while laughing, that's just the way it is.
I thought since I'm in the worst of it right now I would give an idea of what it's like to live in the body of a person with clinical depression and give you an idea of how to deal with a person that is currently suffering from it.
First of all, the symptoms are:
- Loss of interest in normal daily activities
- Feeling sad or down
- Feeling hopeless
- Crying spells for no apparent reason
- Problems sleeping
- Trouble focusing or concentrating
- Difficulty making decisions
- Unintentional weight gain or loss
- Being easily annoyed
- Feeling fatigued or weak
- Feeling worthless
- Loss of interest in sex
- Thoughts of suicide or suicidal behavior
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
I will say that when I was initially diagnosed I had every symptom, it was both enlightening and terrifying. I was so glad to give my problem a name and know there was help but I hated the stigma of it. If you don't know about clinical depression it is a chemical imbalance, not just the blues, it needs to be treated with medication, it is an illness just as any other medical problem.
Now for my thoughts:
If you notice I am acting different than usual, say something, I may not even notice that I need to up my meds without those around me telling me. Then followup with them to make sure they did something about it. When you're so very down you just think nothing will help, there are plenty medications for it now so generally there will be med just for you.
If you know I'm in the middle of a setback and am waiting for the meds to work:
Don't tell me to cheer up, your normal mood is totally unattainable for me right now, sometimes it's more than I can do just to get up in the morning.
Don't tell me to have more faith, if the Lord chooses to heal me it will be His decision not mine, this is just being downright cruel.
Don't tell me to just smile and I'll feel better...won't work.
Don't tell me that you know this or that person that tried something that worked for them...I've been dealing with this for 15 years, I know what works for me.
Don't tell me horror stories of people you know with my illness, this will just knock me lower down in the pit.
Don't tell other people about my illness unless you ask me first, I know the look people give you when they think you are 'depressed', I'm not depressed, I have a chemical imbalance that needs to be fixed with meds.
Don't look at me with the look I mentioned above, I don't need your sympathy, I just need you to treat me normal and understand that I will be okay in a few weeks.
Don't tell me to see a psychiatrist, my doctor will know if I need that much help.
Don't stop at my home without calling, life is not great right now and I may not want to have any visitors.
Don't expect me to do something just because you think it will be good for me, when you are so very far down it's impossible to see the light, even looking at the sun is sad because I so love the sun but it just reminds me of how I cannot enjoy anything right now.
Now for the Do's:
Do pray for me and tell me you are, I love the thoughts of being lifted up the Lord when I may simply be unable to pray.
Do call me and talk, I'll let you know if I need to go....it helps to sometimes have someone cry with me just because they're sad that I'm sad.
Do tell me you love me, right now I feel so unlovable and truly I can't love back right now, that emotion is just too far away.
Do hug me, but gently and just for a second, a big part of clinical depression is the physical pain...I compare it to what I've heard of Fibromyalga.
Do help me if I have no one else, so many folks suffer alone and my heart breaks for them, it's simply hard to function right now.
Do get others to offer to help me, I can use all the help I can get right now. (Not me personally, I have my family that caters to me right now, as I would them if they were ailing).
Do demand that I see a doctor if you notice the symptoms and know I'm not getting help, the symptom of thoughts of suicide are very real and sadly take too many folks that just needed a diagnosis and some meds. (again, not me personally)
Do remember when I'm better to start including me again, this is only a setback and in my case I generally only have one a year just for a few weeks.
Remember, that I will be myself again soon, don't pity me, just quietly understand and once I tell you I'm better treat me just as you did before...unless you didn't treat me well, if you did you might want to be nice!...LOL...see I can still have a bit of humor!
Also remember...these are just my thoughts but I know from all these years of having clinical depression what helps and what makes things worse.