Dealing with Depression Doesn’t Mean You’re Crazy
If you have read Six Lessons My Mother Taught Me about Aging Well, you will remember that my mother did NOT age well! And one of the areas that created a lot of havoc in her life was her mental health. She became consumed by a total loss of enjoyment in everything around her.
Over the years, I have been able to identify with that feeling. So can other members of my family, extended family, in-laws, and friends. I am saddened to realize how much the stigma of depression still surrounds us.
When I was in a good place in my life, I remember thinking a co-worker should quit navel gazing and focusing on her own depressive symptoms. She should “suck it up and get over it.”
However, when I became a single parent with two sons aged 7 and 2, the stress and turmoil began taking a toll on me. I was suddenly on my own; my family was not close by; I had a stressful job; my kids needed to get to swimming lessons, hockey, and skating; I had a home and a mortgage and day care costs; and I felt like a failure.
So Began the Downward Spiral
I began losing weight. I couldn’t sleep. I pasted a smile on face when I was out in public. I did everything I needed to do and pretended I was enjoying it, but what I called the “black cloud” was simply exhausting. It seemed unreal to be that tired and not be able to sleep. Or to want to sleep constantly, only to wake up and and still be exhausted.
It was almost thirty years ago, so I did not have a computer or the Internet. But lucky for me, I was a social worker in a hospital, so I had access to medical reference books.
I studied the symptoms of depression and quickly made an appointment with my doctor.
Since then I have been able to read a lot more about depression and mental health, but at the time, I was able to say quite clearly that I…
- Had a feeling of sadness that I could not shake
- Felt hopeless and helpless
- Did not have interest in activities I usually enjoyed
- Was losing weight – food just didn’t have the same appeal that it should have
- Had difficulty concentrating
- Was in a black cloud where I was constantly trying to tell my legs to walk and my face to smile
My Doctor Referred Me to a Psychiatrist and Slowly I Got My Life Back
I am one of those people who had amazing results from medication. I know some people don’t, but I have never been able to identify with negative comments I have heard about medications for depression.
They did not cloud my mind; they did not stunt my feelings; they did not make me feel like a zombie; they did not make me gain weight – other than eventually getting back to my normal healthy weight when my appetite improved. In my experience, if I had negative side effects I would simply have asked to try another type of medication.
Since then I have learned, I am one of those people who should stay on meds. That’s okay.
At least I do not have the black cloud anymore. In fact, my grandson helped me realize the other day my cloud is now a rainbow. It’s not black. It’s pink, blue, yellow and green.
People get cancer, osteoporosis and arthritis. People get depression and other mental health disorders. They are all illnesses and they all need treatment.
Increasing awareness will help to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.
People who suffer from depression or anxiety are not weak, they should not be able to handle the problem on their own, they cannot ‘snap out of it,’ and they are not whining.
Maybe, just maybe they are looking for some support. Some support that says, “You’re not crazy; how can I help?”
Now that almost thirty years has passed, I have an interest in depression in older adults. As we pass the sixty-year mark, there are many challenges to deal with. Illness, death of a loved one, loneliness, financial constraints…
Let’s keep talking about depression. I will be happy to explore the topic some more in future articles. How has depression affected your life? Join the conversation in the comments below.