Inside My Head

the literary rantings of Angie Frissore

Stranger in a Strange Land.

Mental health issues, these days, still seem to hold a bit of a stigma to them for those who suffer from them.  Ask anyone who’s been diagnosed with depression or other mood disorders (you do know someone if you take the time to look closely) and, though hesitantly, they will most likely admit that they are, in fact, suffering from it.

 

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.1 million American adults, or about 8 percent of the U.S. population ages 18 and older, in a given year.  More alarming, however, is that approximately 80% of people experiencing depression are not currently receiving any treatment.  Only about one-fifth of all women who suffer from depression seek treatment.  

 

The mental health stigma in the US costs lives.  Depression can put women at risk of suicide.   While more men than women die from suicide, women attempt suicide about twice as often as men do.  Those who live with depression and other disorders are often misunderstood by friends and family, who still see mental health as just that – mental.   A great deal of those who haven’t experienced these disorders first hand will instinctively label those with depression as weak and self-pitying.  Oftentimes those with depression are told by others that it is ‘all in their heads’.  Stereotypes and labels are thrust upon those who suffer from mood disorders, and oftentimes it is these stereotypes which keep patients from seeking much-needed, and effective treatments.  

 But you know better.  You know that it’s not just in your head.  It affects almost every aspect of your life: you don’t eat the way you should, sleep is affected, you have ongoing aches and pains, even digestive issues.  You come to wish it was only in your head.  Your friendships suffer as you retreat into your own world, for fear of being chastised and judged by others.  You know you aren’t you, and you want nothing more than to hide that stranger from those who know and love you.  

 Perhaps you’ve forgotten that people love you.  Perhaps you simply cannot see that through the cloud of hopelessness that you’ve come to accept in your life.  You’ve lost sight of the person you used to be and no longer wish to be around this strange, new you. 

 So don’t be.  You didn’t choose depression, but you can choose to recover from it.  It can start with anything, any small step in regaining that which made you, well, you.  

  •  Exercise.  You’ve heard it before.  The magic cure-all which is physical exertion.  We’re not talking becoming the next body-building champion or hundreds of dollars in gym memberships.   Just move.  For ten minutes, a half hour, get up and let your physical body take over.  Think about every person who’s told you to just ‘get over it’ and that it is all in your head – if it’s in your head, then perhaps it’s time to let your body take over.  In my darkest days, I eventually learned to succumb to a being much more capable of helping me than I was at the time – my dog.  Our morning treks outside would, on the harder days, turn into a forced walk.  The dog knew – better than I did most times – that by refusing to end her walk early, she was helping me to get those endorphins pumping, and thus, giving me back something long missed – a smile.
  • Write it out.  So you don’t feel that you can turn to any of your close friends or relatives.  That’s understandable – not everyone is equipped to properly understand what people with depression experience, and thus, aren’t equipped to help in any way.  When your thoughts are your enemy, write it all out.  Don’t write for someone else to read – I would even suggest writing as if your depression was your reader.  Get angry with it – tell it how you feel.
  • Baby Steps.  Once a week, think back to something that used to bring you joy before life with depression, and just do it.  Force yourself to.  I have spent many a Sunday baking sweet treats I know I’m not going to enjoy myself, simply because I knew that baking always made me happy.  If you keep denying yourself activities that used to bring joy, how will you be able to remind yourself that you CAN feel joy?
  • Keep your eye on the prize.  Understand that your depression is a treatable medical condition.  Would you suffer through the flu without treatment?  Always keep in mind that as long as you’re willing to seek the help, the help is there.  You will return to you.  Life will get better.

 

Other Depression facts (www.nami.org):

  • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for people ages 15 to 44.
  • While major depressive disorder can develop at any age, the median age at onset is 32.5.
  • Major depressive disorder is about twice as common in women as it is in men
  • At least 90 percent of all cases of eating disorders occur in women, and there is a strong relationship between eating disorders and depression.
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September 23, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

4 Comments »

  1. Very insightful……

    Comment by van | September 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. Awesome post.

    And I will be the first to admit, having gone through it and being prescribed Zoloft, that it is very treatable and the difference after treatment is truly amazing…

    Comment by Cat | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  3. George Carlin once made a funny about that stat….women attempting twice as much as men. He said that men were more efficiant.

    But seriously, this is an informative post and well done. As someone who has suffered from PTSD and depression- all while refusing to take meds because of a complex I developed due to my mother commiting suicide with pills….I can say that it’s hard.

    The exercise really, really does help, and seeing a therapist is one of the best things someone in this position can do for themselves.

    Very nice suggestions, and thanks for posting this!

    Comment by Atlanticus | September 24, 2008 | Reply

  4. As George Carlin might have argued, we haven’t come up with a nice enough word for depression yet to make treating it socially acceptable.

    Heck, the current war on terror is probably the first time that PTSD has truly been accepted as a condition that requires treatment from a mental health professional.

    Comment by Chris | October 1, 2008 | Reply


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