I am starting a series called “A little off topic”. This is because my blog is primarily about writing, craft, and my own journey through the muddled waters of what it means to be an author these days. But there are other topics that are very personal to me that I think may be relevant for others, too.
Depression…a nice topic, huh? Well, I will say that I could be the poster mom for Postpartum Depression. I experienced Postpartum Depression after each of the births of my children. And, while my psychiatrist and obstetrician worked to do what they could to “head it off”, it became worse each time. (This is not to say that this will be the case for everyone. PPD (postpartum depression) has a recurrence rate of about 40%.)
I know what that darkness is like. I know those places that hurt so bad you can’t imagine continuing or putting your family through your illness anymore. But, friend, if you are in that place, I hope that there is a voice in your life that delivers TRUTH. The TRUTH is that your cognitive filter is messed up. You are not able to process emotions and thoughts properly. You need a voice of clarity at this time. And the TRUTH is that your life is necessary. You have a purpose. And there is a light at the end of this dark place. And it is beautiful.
First, let’s all make sure we’re on the same page…
What is Depression?
(borrowed from the National Institute of Mental Health‘s website)
Some forms of depression are slightly different, or they may develop under unique circumstances, such as:
- Persistent depressive disorder (a.k.a. “dysthymia”) is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. A person diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms, but symptoms must last for two years to be considered persistent depressive disorder.
- Perinatal depression is much more serious than the “baby blues” (relatively mild depressive and anxiety symptoms that typically clear within two weeks after delivery) that many women experience after giving birth. Women with perinatal depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy or after delivery (postpartum depression). The feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion that accompany perinatal depression may make it difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies.
- Psychotic depression occurs when a person has severe depression plus some form of psychosis, such as having disturbing false fixed beliefs (delusions) or hearing or seeing upsetting things that others cannot hear or see (hallucinations). The psychotic symptoms typically have a depressive “theme,” such as delusions of guilt, poverty, or illness.
- Seasonal affective disorder is characterized by the onset of depression during the winter months, when there is less natural sunlight. This depression generally lifts during spring and summer. Winter depression, typically accompanied by social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain, predictably returns every year in seasonal affective disorder.
- Bipolar disorder is different from depression, but it is included in this list is because someone with bipolar disorder experiences episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depression (called “bipolar depression”). But a person with bipolar disorder also experiences extreme high – euphoric or irritable – moods called “mania” or a less severe form called “hypomania.” (There is a milder form of Bipolar Disorder called “Bipolar II”.)
- 9.5% of the population in the US (that’s roughly 21 million) are afflicted (and this is probably an under-reported number) – YOU ARE NOT ALONE
- Women are 50% more likely than men to suffer from depression and other mood disorders (again, is it that men are less likely to talk about it with their doctor?)
- Only 50% of diagnosed mood disorders are treated – and that’s diagnosed conditions…imagine all of those who suffer in silence!
- 1 in every 5 Americans has first hand experience with depression, bipolar disorder, or another mood disorder
The Journey Out of Depression
I have struggled with depression/PPD for 7 years. And for me, I found myself in a Behavioral Health Hospital…twice…before it turned around. But it did. This is where God met me and spoke into my heart. The light broke through. Was I instantly better? No. It was a slow process, with the help of medication and counseling, but I was determined that I couldn’t be in that place any more. Did I work hard every day? You know I didn’t. There are days, will be days even in recovery, where you take a step back. Those days a shower seems like too much. Days that life outside your bedroom seems to much to face.
It’s real. It’s hard. But it’s not forever. And you are not alone.
Ease the Hurt
- Lean on your support network. Your friends and family do care about you, no matter how it feels right now. Find at least one friend who is a good listener and talk to them. Your darkest thoughts only have power over you when they are in secret. Trust me.
- Find a good mental health provider/doctor and counselor (and follow their suggestions). Do the work.
- Plan something each day that you think you would enjoy. Even if you don’t feel up to it. Or you don’t enjoy the things you used to. Sometimes, action precedes a change in mood.
I would love to continue blogging about this in the future. There are many facets to my journey and to my depression yet to tell. My desire is to help others who are struggling. To share light and hope. And so that you know someone else has been there, too.