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Depression Support

by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.

 

I don't know how this article is finding many of you. For those of you who are struggling with depression, mania, anxiety, rages, etc. , as I always tell people, you are not alone in your struggles. It is hard to fathom that while you are in the midst of a great deal of psychic pain. 

I remember once having a really bad flu bug. It kept me down for two weeks. During that time, my body physically hurt with aches and pains, sore throats, weakness, etc. Most of us have been there. Do you remember how you felt during that time? We were hurting so bad that most ALL of our attention was inward, on our pain and ourselves. It was almost as if the outside world didn't exist because I was so focused on feeling miserable.

Finally after that two weeks and a good antibiotic, I was in the car driving somewhere and I remember how strange it was to actually see outdoors. It felt so good to see the trees and the green and see people. All this I had taken for granted before.

This is much the way I felt when I was undergoing severe clinical depressions. What was the difference? I know this will not be hard for anyone to answer. The depression felt a thousand times worse than the flu and though the flu I had was not fatal, my depression could be deadly. I fought suicide all the time. I have never attempted suicide seriously but I have taken pills while in the hospital waiting room (a very safe place) in efforts to manipulate mental health to allow me into the hospital. I think sometimes my generalized anxiety disorder has kept me alive sometimes. I was too afraid of taking all those pills! Does that make sense? Probably not but that is how our disorders manifest themselves into our lives sometimes. There is no sense to it, no rhyme or reason. 

I went a long time before taking my first antidepressant, as I didn't want to be "weak" and have to take pills. When I finally did get desperate enough to try it, it was almost 6 weeks to the mark (it was a tricyclic) that I remember opening the drapes and looked outside. It was like seeing the world for the first time. It was beautiful outside and I felt alive! In fact, I didn't realize how dead I felt for so long until I finally became alive.

I wish I could say that was the end of the story - that I was "hunky dory" after that. A few years later that wonderful lifesaver antidepressant no longer worked. It quit!

It was at this point in my life that I began my search for the correct "drug cocktail" that would take me out of the hell I lived in. In fact, it took many years to find this "drug cocktail." 

Those years were not all hell. There were wonderful hypomanic times where I couldn't quit working and life was doubly wonderful, only to be followed by a quick drop to depression - my very dark living hell. In fact I wrote a poem about my depression during that time. It is posted on the website as well.

"It is there for me, waiting, waiting like a black widow...so patiently to inject it's black poisonous vile into me, to put it's arms around me and envelope my inner core and once it has me, it's weightless shape turns so heavy, weighing me down as if I am anchored and cannot move.

I write, my fingers tap away on the keyboard, my mind moving quickly, always busy. I know it is waiting but...it cannot find me now...I am turned away. My shield is up.

But I know its patience. It will out wait me, out last me. When I have grown heavy and tired of fighting, it will come and it will come hard, like a bolt of lightening...as if I had been struck, being thrown several feet away. I am down and in it's web and I cannot pull free. I twist and turn and cry out in pain and still, it has me.

Then it gently lies to me as if it were a demon from Hell. It tells me I am worthless and hated. It tells me to end this pain and take the very life God gave me...and I feel God has been struck down from the heavens because I don't feel His presence.

This deep black hole has no stairs in which to climb...alone in the darkness, alone in pain, crying out to the universe that has no ears.

This black thing is my constant companion. It has walked with me for many years. When I am free from it, I know it is still there, waiting patiently, so very still."

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Sound familiar??

To those of you who are feeling this way right now, I want to tell you first of all that what you are experiencing is temporary. I firmly believe that everyone can get better with the correct medications. We are all different and what works for one does not work for another. Plus, new drugs are coming out all the time.

I want to remind you that you are seeing the world through distorted lenses right now. What you are feeling and seeing is only a result of the disorder in your brain. Yes, your physical brain. You aren't feeling the way you are because you are weak or are not trying hard enough. Know that you are trying to come out of this the best you can. I believe you are and in fact my depression seemed to worsen when people hounded me to try harder, to do this or that. Then I felt worse and more guilty because I wasn't able to do "this or that." In fact I got angry. The mere fact that people were telling me this made me realize that they didn't have a clue as to what I was experiencing.

Folks, I couldn't take a shower for WEEKS on end! I would stare at the shower and it simply felt impossible to get in there and take a shower. So much energy that I didn't have. Slept in and wore the same clothes for days on end without much of an awareness of this.

In fact, I wasn't able to see to house being a mess, the dirt on the floors. I was constantly focused internally on my severe psychic pain - constantly working hard to keep myself alive. 

This is my message to you who are suffering today. It's ok not to deal with many things right now. If your house is a mess, so what? Keep your energy focused on things that are of priority. #1 priority is staying alive! What do you need to do to say alive and not hurt yourself? What will it take? Who do you need to call? Do you need hospitalization? Do you need to dump those extra pills that you keep eyeballing? Do you need to call 911 right now? Whatever you do, DON'T keep suicidal thoughts a secret! Don't worry about people judging you right now. Judgment does not apply here.

If you are experiencing a seizure, is there a reason for people to judge you?? No! In both cases you are suffering from a physical disorder. It is NOT your fault but it IS your responsibility to get help!

Ok, what is the #2 priority? Are your bills paid? Are you actively seeking help from BOTH a Dr., preferably a psychiatrist and a therapist? If you aren't, DO IT. That's how I began to take showers. I would say to myself "No sense in thinking about it. There is nothing physically preventing me from the shower. No thinking - just DO!"

You are capable of doing more things than you thought but do not confuse me with people that I mentioned above. I don't care about your house or whether you take a walk or not UNLESS these activities are keeping you alive and helping your depression. 

This is the time in your life that you need to work harder than you ever have before. It is also the time when you are least likely to be able to work hard. This is where cognitive therapy comes in. What you tell yourself is who you are and what you do. 

Become a warrior. Change your thinking from, "I want to die. The world is rotten and so am I. I am worthless and I hate myself," to, "I am suffering from a physical disorder that is not my fault. I am not guilty. I am a wonderful person even though I don't feel like it now. My thoughts are distorted and are not based on reality. Today I am going to STAND! I am going to do it from moment to moment, one step at a time. I am worthy of feeling better and inside I still possess skills to get through anything that life throws my way." Do your best with this and remember that with severe depression, outside help is always necessary.

Just as a diabetic needs insulin, you need medication and therapy and your agreement to STAND will get you to the Dr., to your therapist, to making appointments, etc.

It did help when my nurse practitioner spoke with me about showers. She said that it was indeed possible to take that shower, that I could do it. This may sound silly to anyone who hasn't been depressed but if you have or are, I am sure you understand.

Doing any activity during a deep depression takes a great deal of thought. I used to feel that if I just kept thinking about how to take that shower I could do it. Nope! It's like laying in bed reading a book on how to get out of bed.

What worked for me was completely eliminating all thought to taking that shower. I knew I could do it and I just went in and did it and I was always glad I did as I felt so much better.

If this is making you feel guilty, you're on the wrong path. Remember, guilt is a symptom of depression, so get rid of it. Who cares if you haven't showered for months? You are living in the now - today. Start here - now. Forget about the past!

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