Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Great Depression - Part Six

Continued from Part Five:

I need to clarify here that I'm talking about chronic depression. There is also the short-term variety that is caused by a trauma like a death in the family or being fired from your job. The latter can be treated and "cured" - or can resolve itself without treatment. Chronic depression is much longer-lived (often permanent) and is usually a genetically inherrited chemical imbalance in the brain.

No two people will need exactly the same treatment for depression. This a very individual illness - and different people will accept different side effects and results. Again, I can only speak to my experience and make no pretense to telling someone what they should do. I know many people with these issues and we all treat it differently.

My own method of treatment is oriented a specific way because I don't trust the medical profession, and I don't trust pharmaceutical companies. So I don't trust that long-term drug use will be free from trouble. Because of that, I try to use medication only when I really feel it is needed. Don't get me wrong. I think medication is vital - particularly at times with accute symptoms or if the situation has gone on untreated for a long time. And getting off of medication can be a real problem if you are not carefully monitored or highly aware of your moods and actions, which is why they say never to go off your meds without supervision of your doctor ... and that is excellent advice, although I don't always follow it myself.

I've found that the solutions to this problem (or, more accurately, ways to manage it, because I don't believe there is really a "solution") take a painfully long time to produce acceptable results (with the exception of medication which I feel within an hour or so, but for many it is weeks before results are seen). Only after years of lifestyle changes, different treatments, and personal reflection can I now say that I manage my depression reasonably well ... most of the time. This won't be helpful to someone just starting on their own journey with depression. To think of something taking years to work does not exactly give one hope. That is why the medication is important. To take the edge off and allow yourself the time to change your life in necessary ways.

Firstly and foremost - be aware of your self-medication and get off those drugs. And by drugs I mean cigarettes, alcohol, overeating, sugar binges, overachieving, sex, shopping, marajuana ... whatever it is you use to self-medicate. Be aware of it. Do you go shopping because you NEED something? Or do you buy stuff because it makes you feel better? Do you eat sugar because it really tastes great, or because you have a high afterwards? For me it's been many things. Most recently I was self-medicating with sugar. Chocolate in particular. And it's like any other drug. It helps you to feel better for a little while - short term gain for sure. But afterwards I was a wreck - unless I had more. Really, a lot like an alcoholic, but the affects weren't as severe.

So, for me, it's vital not to eat sugar. My body needs for me to eat nutritious food. Moreso now than 10 years ago, even. So I have to think that things have changed with age - or possibly worsened. So my rule #1 - no sugar. And I've really only come to the realization that sugar directly and immediately affects my mood in the past year (I may have come to that realization in the past, but had forgotten it). I've been on a no sugar diet for at least 2 months now, and I've felt much better than the previous 6. And after somewhat avoiding eggs for a long time (the whole cholesterol myth), I'm now eating eggs almost daily and my thought processes are much clearer.

Rule #2 for me is to exercise. You've heard it all before, right - nutrition and exercise. Well, for me it works. I excercise on the stationary bike every day for at least 30 minutes (unless I am sick).

Rule #3 - take my vitamins. I take at least 1000 i.u. of Vitamin D every day along with Calcium/Magnesium, and a multivitamin.

Other than that, I do take a small dosage of medication when I feel I'm slipping. It's enough to take the edge off. Like I said before, I can also take it when I know there is going to be a stressful period in my life.

I don't really think that it helps for people to humour me. It certainly doesn't help if anyone tries to avoid the serious conversations just to make me feel better. The best possible way for me to get along in this world is to hear and say the truth. I guess this is because if there is a lie involved, it just makes me more confused about how I am currently reading the situation.

And it's vital for people who are dealing with me (the ones who do it most often) to realize that I may not be acting in a rational manner. So if I come up with some over-reaction seemingly out of thin air, it might be because I'm "off" - not because of the something silly that seems to have triggered it. For example, I carried my husband into a long, irrational, involved discussion the other night about the economic disparity between our families growing up because he said that if we ever went to DisneyWorld, we'd have to rent a car. Okay ... enough said??

I have to say that one of the worst things I used to hear from people when I was trying to learn to deal with my moods and my reactions was: "but everyone feels that way sometimes". It's true, everone DOES feel down and lonely once in a while, but that one small, seemingly helpful comment (that came from many, many people) just served to reinforce my denial and made me so doubtful about how I was really feeling - well, if everyone feels this way sometimes, then I shouldn't be worried about it, it shouldn't bother me and I should just keep going - but then it gets worse.

None of this is meant as advice on how anyone should treat or deal with their issues. I just wanted to present mine to you to try and explain what CAN happen. If you think you have problems that need to be addressed, or a loved one does, go to your doctor. And then read whatever you can get your hands on about depression. There are a miriad number of ways to treat this illness. I've only mentioned a few. Don't just trust that your doctor will automatically know all the treatments or the best one for you. Get educated. Keep learning. Go to the Internet. Knowledge is power.

Just remember: living with chronic depression is a process. It doesn't end, but when you find the appropriate treatment for you and your situation, it's manageable. There are still hard times for me, but they aren't as hard as they used to be. Maintenence is the key.

When I was young, I used to think I was strong because I didn't succumb to the same problems my mother had. Now I understand that true strength comes NOT from avoiding these issues, but from living through them. I wish you all inner peace. That's all any of us wants.

Post Script: I can't help but feel that I've missed something important in these six postings. That something vital has been left out. If it has, I'll do another post down the line sometime. Thank you all for your time, your support and your patience in reading this.

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