Monday, November 07, 2005

When we dance to the seratonin tango...

At least two members of my original nuclear family, plus my wife and both kids, suffer from depression.

If you have no direct experience with depression, now is where you get to say that some people just need a swift kick in the pants, that they need to quit moping around being self-indulgent and feeling sorry for themselves when there is so much real suffering in the world.

And I will let you live because you speak from ignorance. I can see how it would be comforting to believe that determination and grit (what made this country great, etc) are enough to counteract the effects of depression. ("When I was a lad, we didn't have time to sit around on our cans complaining about how we felt that day -- we just got up and did what had to be done, gosh darn it...")

I mean, it would sure be scary to think that thru no fault of your own you could become emotionally incapacitated, wouldn't it? -- much better to believe that if *you* got depressed, you'd just turn that frown upside down, take your lemons and make some lemonade, click your heels together three times, and fly back to Happy Town. Or something.

And actually, there is some validity to the idea that getting up and doing what needs to be done is helpful. Some treatments for depression include just that: doing what you need to do, whether you feel like it or not. Activity often does help. But that's just a part of the picture -- activity alone does not approach a full treatment, and by itself seldom solves the problem.

As far as I can tell, treatment for depression (and emotional/mood disorders in general) is a pretty inexact science. There are wonderful drugs, but they dont' all work for everyone, and finding appropriate dosages can be tricky. Depression can be cyclical, coming and going in waves. External factors -- some of them beyond our control -- often contribute. All in all, I'd much prefer gallstones.

And just for the record, here is how you feel when someone you love suffers from depression:
- sad that they're unhappy
- powerless; frustrated that your attempts to comfort are useless
- impatient with them for their lack of ability to engage, to fight back, to DO something to try to get out of their funk
- annoyed with them for being self-absorbed, for being beaten down by (and complaining about) relatively minor issues/problems
- guilty for feeling aggravated with them when they are clearly in so much emotional pain
- guilty for wanting someone to take care of/comfort/coddle you sometimes
- tired

13 Comments:

At Mon Nov 07, 11:55:00 PM PST, Blogger jay are said...

Depression sucks. Whatever side of its fence you're on, it's not a fun place to be. It's draining and terrifying and darkness indeed to have it, but I think the side of the fence you're on is just as hard, maybe even harder in many ways. No one should ever feel guilty for wanting someone to take care of/comfort/coddle them---the one who's living with those who are depressed, the one who bears the greater burden of keeping life going.

I have a friend who's wife--the entire time he's been married to her--has suffered from severe depression. It's combined with a thyroid problem and has been an ongoing, years-long process of looking for the right medication, trying it, having it fail, and the cycle continuing. I know there are days when he wants to get in his car, drive away and never return. And then, of course, that feeling is quickly followed by guilt. He was never informed of this problem before marriage; in fact, you might say it was hid from him. I do believe she thought that she would be "happy" once she was married and what a shock when marriage didn't cure her chemical depression.

You've made some excellent lemonade, tho, with your lemons. Way to pull up your boot straps, by gum.

 
At Tue Nov 08, 11:29:00 AM PST, Blogger unca said...

Part of the problem with our perception of depression is the name we give it. Lately, we've come to use the term clinical depression to denote extra severity which is, perhaps, a step in the right direction. However, we still associate the word depression with a whole range of experiences that range from disappointment (I was depressed because I was told I needed a new transmission) to sadness (I was depressed because my friend moved to another city). While these things could trigger an actual episode of depression, the normal feelings generated by these events are a far cry from full-blown depression). To be in the midst of depression is, perhaps, the closest thing to hell we can experience in this world. It is a physical as well as a mental and emotional phenomenon. The first time (and the worst time) I experienced depression, I was convinced it was something physical (turns out I was correct) – that only something drastically wrong with my body could produce something so horrible. A few years ago I had cancer – eight rounds of powerful chemotherapy, loss of energy, nausea, no taste buds, hair fell out. I would gladly go through this regimen again rather than experience another bout with clinical depression. In fact one of the thoughts that kept me going during my treatments was, “at least it’s not depression.” It is nearly impossible to describe to anyone who hasn’t gone through it. The simplest of acts require a prodigious amount of will power -- and will power is one of the things that is in short supply. Every waking moment is filled with a desire to simply not exist – the pain can be that severe. Whatever the original “cause” of the depression was (and it needn’t really have a cause) becomes relegated to an afterthought. In most cases, reversing the circumstances does nothing to relieve the symptoms that have now “taken over.” It is as if you want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps but someone has stolen the bootstraps. There are some thoughts that can sustain us, however: regardless of how bad we feel we are not abandoned. God is with us though we may not feel his presence; we will eventually get better despite what our emotions tell us at the time; there are measures we can take to make it through (medication, physical activity, etc.) My heart goes out to anyone in the throes of this dreadful experience.

 
At Tue Nov 08, 02:04:00 PM PST, Blogger jay are said...

wow, unca, you said it most excellently (of course). I have suffered from depression before but not to the extent as many. You put it exactly right: "you want to pull yourself up by your bootstraps but someone has stolen the bootstraps". Yes! That's exactly it. Hard to imagine, though, a depression so bad that going through cancer treatment would be preferable. I'm glad that you've moved beyond both (I take it).

 
At Tue Nov 08, 02:11:00 PM PST, Blogger blogball said...

If you have clinical depression it’s is a huge benefit to have a family member that has already been through it and survived. You know you are not alone and there is hope and light at the end of this dark tunnel. I know it must be a lot tougher for the first one in the family to have to fight this.

The link below is a list of some well-known people that have experienced some type of depression. Again, it’s kind of comforting to know that you are not alone.
Misery loves company I guess.

http://www.geocities.com/coverbridge2k/artsci/famous_people_depression.html

 
At Tue Nov 08, 06:34:00 PM PST, Anonymous si said...

I've hesitated to comment but decided to do so...having gone through periods of depression myself, I can identify a lot with unca's comment (so eloquently written). The seemingly utter hopelessness (at its worst) to general lack of caring/energy to take control over issues that cause ultimate pain are feelings that a person shouldn't have to go through. Very powerful statement, unca, about dealing with cancer being better than dealing with depression...

Bryan: You know I do sympathize with your situation. I understand your feelings of guilt but am stating as a person coming from the other side, it's also absolutely understandable to want/crave something else at times.

 
At Thu Nov 10, 07:19:00 PM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

bryan, thanks for posting this - it's well written. and brings to light some things about which i've never thought - particularly the effects it has on my family.

i suffer from depression - usually seasonal but pretty nasty when it rears its ugly head and i feel like i've lost the ability to see in color, to remember to wear any sort of expression on my face, to remember that to get through another day i have to get out of bed because when i stay in bed time moves even more slowly, some days to breathe in and out. but the part that leapt out at me the most is how it must feel for the people who care about me to watch me go through that. that i still have responsibilites to give to them too. that it's okay to ask them for help when i am stuck at the bottom of the well because sitting down there alone in the dark is so much more bearable knowing there's someone at the top waiting for me to come back above ground.

i've lived away from my family for most of the time that i've suffered in the months of november and february (i was 15 when i started, 18 when i moved away, 28 now) so in many ways i've hidden it from them as best i could. but my mom always knows and calls me more during those times. i can hear her sadness that she can't do more, but it is sometimes the only thing that helps - knowing that she's there waiting for me to come through "the winter machine that you go through and then, you catch your breath and winter starts again, when everyone else is spring-bound."

i've, unsurprisingly and true to form, forgotten where i was going with this. but thanks for making me think.

 
At Thu Nov 10, 09:51:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

thank you, everyone, for your candid comments.
heatherfeather, do you think it would help to live in Barbados or something?

 
At Thu Nov 10, 10:18:00 PM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

um... maybe... living in southern california wasn't particularly helpful, though, and i have a thing about touching sand, so maybe an equator-like country that's a little less beach oriented would be good.

 
At Fri Nov 11, 11:01:00 PM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

hmm. well, if S CA wasn't that helpful, i doubt Barbados would be. plus all that sand...

(you have a thing about touching sand? it sounds like my son -- certain clothes or sounds or textures give him the willies and make his throat close up...)

(also: so much for our plan where we were going to run away to an island paradise and make love on the beach and then go back to our grass hut to write blog posts. hmmph.)

 
At Fri Nov 11, 11:17:00 PM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

sand gives me the willies when it touches my hands and feet and sorta inspires a gag reflex in me. i have sensory processing issues. only related to sand and dirt though. part of what i LOVED about living in maine: all those rocky beaches.

also, er, bryan you never shared this island paradise/grass hut plan with me. next time let me in on the plan and i'll let you know whether the locale will make me gag.

and i STILL call shenanigans. :)

 
At Sat Nov 12, 12:13:00 AM PST, Blogger bryan torre said...

"sensory processing issues" is a good way to describe what my son has also. sometimes he gets the choking thing, sometimes a gag reflex, like you. not as bad now as when he was younger.

re the island plan, i was sure i had mentioned it. didn't i? well, maybe you're right. i sometimes forget stuff. like the time i forgot to tell Eva Mendez that we were in love, so when i showed up at her house it became a big misunderstanding, with police and everything.

as to shenanigans, well yeah. but only virtual ones.

 
At Sat Nov 12, 05:12:00 AM PST, Blogger heatherfeather said...

"sensory processing" is an actual term with an medical code so that when people receive occupational therapy for their sensory processing disorder their insurance will pay for it. i just like to throw big fancy terms around to make myself more attractive to you. i'm still making up for using really pretend words in my comments and not noticing that other people weren't bothered by it and you were.

and forgetting to rell eva mendez was probably not your fault. in fact, she probably never even got the 325 emails, the 2521 phone messages, OR the 12 letters because her personal assistant decided they "weren't important" or something.

and it's insanely fun (heh - insane on a post about mental disorders) to call shenanigans. you try it. in fact, do it when someone's using word verifications as bona fide vocabulary entries. i cwphzit you call them.

 
At Sun Nov 20, 11:46:00 PM PST, Blogger Stephanie said...

I've been through depression myself (many years ago) so I know it is hard, but PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do *not* put your kids on antidepressants! They are very dangerous! There are plenty of holistic remedies that are often more effective if not safer. (E.g., St. John's Wort. Acupuncture may also help.) I implore you to do some research on antidepressants...what you may find will scare the bejeezus out of you. They may actually make you *more* sick. Please take a look at this article and read the WHOLE thing, even though it is quite long:

http://www.newstarget.com/011353.html

Your kids are probably "picking up" your wife's depressed energy, BTW.

 

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