Coping with Severe Depression

Severe depression is horrendous. 

The NIMH estimates that in the United States, 16 million adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2012. That’s 6.9 percent of the population. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. It is a leading cause of disability. Jan 28, 2015

350 Million! 

So what it this beast we call depression?

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Although depression may occur only one time during your life, usually people have multiple episodes of depression. During these episodes, symptoms occur most of the day, nearly every day and may include:

  • Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness
  • Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
  • Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Tiredness and lack of energy, so even small tasks take extra effort
  • Changes in appetite — often reduced appetite and weight loss, but increased cravings for food and weight gain in some people
  • Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself for things that aren’t your responsibility
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities or relationships with others. Other people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

Most people dealing with depression turn to modern medications such as anti-depressants. In most cases this is enough to get you out of the pit and moving again. However, for some that isn’t going to work.

Many of those suffering from depression don’t have access to medications, maybe they can’t afford it or maybe medications just don’t work. Some may even make their symptoms worse. I’m one of those poor fools who can’t take the meds because my body won’t metabolize them correctly, so I only get the side effects and not the help.

There are medical alternatives for those of us who can’t do take medications.

According to the Mayo Clinic:

Supplements

Examples of supplements that are sometimes used for depression include:

  • St. John’s wort. Although this herbal supplement isn’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat depression in the U.S., it’s a popular depression treatment in Europe. It may be helpful for mild or moderate depression. However, it should be used with caution — St. John’s wort can interfere with a number of medications, including blood-thinning medications, birth control pills, chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS medications, and drugs to prevent organ rejection after a transplant. Also, avoid taking St. John’s wort while taking antidepressants because the combination can cause serious side effects.
  • SAMe. Pronounced “sam-E,” this dietary supplement is a synthetic form of a chemical that occurs naturally in the body. The name is short for S-adenosylmethionine (es-uh-den-o-sul-muh-THIE-o-neen). SAMe isn’t approved by the FDA to treat depression in the U.S., but it’s used in Europe as a prescription drug to treat depression. SAMe may be helpful, but more research is needed. SAMe may trigger mania in people with bipolar disorder.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats are found in cold-water fish, flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts and some other foods. Omega-3 supplements are being studied as a possible treatment for depression. While considered generally safe, in high doses, omega-3 supplements may interact with other medications. More research is needed to determine if eating foods with omega-3 fatty acids can help relieve depression.

Nutritional and dietary products aren’t monitored by the FDA the same way medications are. You can’t always be certain of what you’re getting and whether it’s safe. Also, because some herbal and dietary supplements can interfere with prescription medications or cause dangerous interactions, talk to your health care provider before taking any supplements.

Mind-body connections

Complementary and alternative medicine practitioners believe the mind and body must be in harmony for you to stay healthy. Examples of mind-body techniques that may be helpful for depression include:

  • Acupuncture
  • Relaxation techniques such as yoga or tai chi
  • Meditation
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage therapy
  • Music or art therapy
  • Spirituality
  • Aerobic exercise

Relying solely on these therapies is generally not enough to treat depression. They may be helpful when used in addition to medication and psychotherapy.

Some people turn to psychotherapy or go to counseling. Counseling can often be extremely helpful in sorting through the problems. However, not all counselors are helpful. I’ve been to some that just shrug their shoulders and say, “Gosh, I don’t know what to tell you.” Doesn’t really help much.  Finding the right counselor can take time through trial and error. Often this adds to the depression giving a person the feelings of failure or hopelessness.

So what do you do when you are just one person sitting alone in the dark? When nothing has worked and you have no strength left? When you just can’t find the will or the energy to get out of bed let alone seek help? When you are sitting on your bathroom floor exhausted from crying and holding a scissors over your wrist because you are so desperate for an escape? 

If you’ve hit that point then call:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Use that same number and press “1” to reach the Veterans Crisis Line.

However, if you are still holding out with one tiny little shred of hope grasping onto the last thread of your last rope….

It’s OKAY!

You’re not alone!

We are here for you, even if you don’t know us. There are those of us struggling along beside you. We can’t see you and you can’t see us through the haze of darkness that seems to surround us, but we are here.

And it’s time.

Time to take a breath.

Time to go out and look at the stars.

Time to let go a little.

Constantly holding yourself accountable for all the problems in the world will do you no good. You are only human and that is okay. Yes, the world around us is going to pot, (haha see the joke there? everybody is smoking it? haha). But what I mean it that the world is going crazy and honestly, honey, you can’t stop it.

Look to your friends. They love you. They are just waiting for you to let them in so they can help. If you don’t feel like you have friends, then just cry once in public and you’ll find them. Believe me, they’re there. Even strangers on the internet are there to help you. There are chat rooms, Twitter feeds, Instagram and Facebook pages full of people going through the same things as you are. You may not have met them yet, but your peeps are there. 35 Million of them, remember?

Honestly, I find that a lot of depression is rooted in three places: our health,  our mindset, and our environment.

  1. Nutrition: Our nutritional intake can severely affect our emotions. I know you’ve heard this a lot, but too much pre-processed food with chemicals put in for this and that soak into our bodies and make us nuts. I see this all the time with my Autistic son. If we eat too many meals that come from a box or a can then he gets emotionally unbalanced and sometimes violent or goes through crying fits. If I keep our food on the homemade side then we have a much more stable home life. Omega 3 supplements made a huge difference for me in my depression.  Try checking your nutrition and see if you can fix anything. If you don’t know what to fix, ask a doctor. If you don’t have a doctor then ask our friend Google, there are plenty of nutritional diets out there.
  2. Mindset: When I say our mindset, it does not mean that I think it is all in our heads. I know personally that depression is very real. What I mean is that it is in our perceptions of our own reality that make it so hard for us to cope. If you let go of your preconceived notions about what is or is not the standard that you should be living up too, it can help a lot. For example, I has such high hopes for what kind of mom I was going to be. Then Autism came along. I had to give up. I can only do what I can do. Sometimes it’s enough, sometimes not. Sometimes we need to stop and do some self examination of our deepest self. We must ask some really hard questions. Why are you depressed? Is is because you are trying to hold onto something that is beyond your means? Are you living to please someone else’s plan for you life or are you living for you?
  3. Environment: Look around you. Is your personal space cluttered? Sometimes just cleaning up your immediate area can help you get a sense of control. It can make things around you seem a lot less overwhelmed and give you a sense of accomplishment. That alone might be enough to break the downward spiral of defeat. Are you hiding away? Sometimes depression comes from too much self absorption. Are you caught up with yourself so much that you haven’t looked around in a while? Seek out others and try to help them. Sometimes it will fill the void that is causing your depression. Human contact can do wonders for your emotions. However, be careful of over committing yourself so you can hide from your problems.

Depression is a many faceted beast with no easy answers or cures. It is a struggle every day, but it is a struggle that you can get through. I will leave you with something my mom always says.

Keep going. Tomorrow may be the best day of your life.

The Strain of it All

Ooh crap! Now what?straw_and_camel

This seems to be the mantra of my family and of many people I know. Life just keeps piling it on. Everyone was so glad when 2016 ended only to realize that January of 2017 is tainted by association with December of 2016! It hasn’t ended or stopped, weird stuff, stressful stuff just keep happening.

For example: The weather. Snow is piled up everywhere and there seems to be no end in sight for the cold. The election, you all thought that was done but nooooo! The media and the government are still squabbling like children. People are still dying. My uncle passed away on January 2nd. There are school troubles, vehicle repair issues, kids are getting sick, unexpected bills are coming out of nowhere, home appliances are acting up.

The stresses just keep coming.

Your whole world seems like it is crushing you. Breathing is becoming harder. There seems to be a weight crushing your chest. Your head seems like it going to explode. You want to cry, or drink, or cry and drink. You can’t talk yourself into getting out of bed in the morning but you have to. You just want a hug and there is no one there to hug you.

The strain seems enormous and when you finally get the willpower to look up…here comes something else to be dumped on you. Eventually you will break.  The strain of it all will get you.

But don’t worry, there is hope.

It is all about how you look at it.

The definition of strain…

Strain  /strān/

verb

  1. force (a part of one’s body or oneself) to make a strenuous or unusually great effort.
  2. to pour (a mainly liquid substance) through a porous or perforated device or material in order to separate out any solid matter.

Noun

  1. a force tending to pull or stretch something to an extreme or damaging degree.
  2. a severe or excessive demand on the strength, resources, or abilities of someone or something.

If you look at your life from a passive point of view then you are letting strain be a noun. The strain of stress becomes a thing that is extreme and damaging. The same thing will happen if you take a passive view of your stress. The longer you sit and watch the tide of overwhelming events coming for you the worse you’ll feel. It is damaging and extreme. Even mountains will wear away when water hits it often enough.

However if you think of strain as a verb, an action word, things take on a different look.  The first definition states that strain is the use of great force and effort. Well believe me, the effort to fight the tide of stress takes a butt load of effort. Sometimes more than we have. That is why we must seek help. You don’t have to do it all alone. Talk to someone, friends, family, helplines, it doesn’t matter. Someone will help you. You never know when someone will have the answer to your problems that you didn’t think of.  The hard part is asking. Sometimes it is enough to just talk.

The second definition is even more important. And you are saying, “What? How is sifting through something related to stress?” Well guess what? That is the secret to beating it.  If you let yourself become the strainer then you will sift through the stress finding what is really important. Like a colander, you will catch the bigger stuff first. Those are the priorities. Sort them out first, then work on the smaller items. Or if that isn’t your way then sift out the big stuff and set that colander aside. Work on the small stuff that is manageable first.  Either way you are taking an active roll in a carrying the load.

Have you ever looked around your house and were so overwhelmed by how much cleaning there was to do. It was all too much, so you hid away and didn’t do anything. The next day it is only worse. If you would have done just one little thing it would have set you on the path to a completely clean house. You have to eat that elephant one bite at a time.

Strain is only unbearable if you stand passive and let it crush you. Take it one thing at a time. Its alright to feel overwhelmed when there are too many things happening at once. It is only natural. We can only do so much, but the point is that we must DO something. The tide is going to come whether you want it or not. That is the nature of things, but you don’t have to let the tide take you.  Hold on and strain out what you must.

That camel’s back wouldn’t have broken if it didn’t try to carry everything at once.