A bridge over a beautiful waterfall

A bridge over a beautiful waterfall
Nature brings magic

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Depression

I wanted to take today to talk very seriously about a topic that's a rather personal one: depression.

I'm not talking about feeling depressed because something bad happens.  I'm talking about the life altering type of depression.  The one that weighs you down and makes it so you can't function on a day to day basis.  The kind that you see all of those lame commercials about.  The kind I suffer from.

I'm bipolar.  This means I suffer from manic episodes and episodes of severe depression.  I also have moderately severe anxiety.  So normal life isn't so normal for me.  For the longest time I refused to admit I had a problem.  Then something happened that kind of kicked me in the head and made me realize I did have a problem and that I needed to do something about it.

Being homeless can really give you a whole new perspective on life.  Part of what made me realize I had a problem was that stint of homelessness I suffered through.  I was couch surfing where I could or sleeping in my car when I couldn't find someone to let me couch surf.  It wasn't pleasant and there was more than one day where I thought about just going to sleep and never waking up again.

I found a low cost clinic and I'm still under their care.  I love my doctor there.  She always makes me laugh and my day's always a little brighter after my appointments.  I still suffer because of my bipolar but we're slowly making progress with medication and counseling.  It's amazing what someone actually CARING about me enough to say, "Hey, this is what you need.  Let me help you find it." did for me.  The fact that my husband supports me and is willing to do just about anything to help me keep moving forward with this is also an amazingly awesome thing.

And I'm not alone.  These people may or may not be bipolar, but they do suffer from major depression disorder.  If you look, I'm in good company.  There are a lot of people on that list who are very well known - like Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Edgar Allan Poe, and many, many others.  There's one significant difference between me and them though: they died because of their depression.  Hemingway and Plath killed themselves.  Poe...well, the jury's still out on what killed him.  But we can guess that depression may have had a hand in it.  It certainly had a hand in the drinking and drug use he did.

Many people with bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, and a whole host of other mental illnesses turn to drugs or alcohol to ease their pain.  It doesn't work.  Only admitting there is a problem and dealing with the problem head on works.

There are self tests you can do. If you even think you have clinical depression or another mental illness, talk to your doctor.  They're the best ones to help you find the resources needed to help.  If you need the help, get it.  I'm living proof that sometimes you need a little extra help.  My friend Nora is an example of someone who didn't get the help they needed.

Nora and I went to school together from the fourth grade on up through high school.  Both of us fought with weight issues together.  We fought through our first round of depression together too.  It was her mom that told my mom of a good doctor to help me with my depression.  (We were both diagnosed our sophomore year in high school.)

I went on to college while Nora continued to struggle with her depression.  She tried college but couldn't concentrate.  She was rediagnosed as bipolar and the medications they gave her seemed to help.  She dated, found a guy she liked, and got married.  She had a daughter that was the center of her world.  But something changed.

Nora's depression and manic episodes came back.  She suffered from social anxiety so bad that her husband did everything that was needed outside the house.  Nora went back to the doctor but when she took the medications she was prescribed, she had so many problems that she stopped taking them.  Instead of going back to the doctor, she decided not to take any medications.

Nora's daughter was ten years old when she walked in after school expecting to be greeted with a snack and questions about her day at school.  Instead, she found her mother dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to her head.  Her suicide note contained only three words "I'm a failure".

I'm still haunted by Nora's death.  Her daughter called her father, and then she called me.  I was the only person in Nora's cell phone aside from her husband.  All of the rest of her friends had slowly abandoned her because of her mental illness.  I kept encouraging her to get help and she'd tell me the worst two words ever: "I can't."

If you know someone with a mental illness, don't walk away from them.  They need you as much as they need their medication and a good counselor.  I've had people abandon me when they found out I was bipolar.  It was like they thought they'd catch it if they hung out with me.  You don't "catch" mental illness from someone. So remember that we're people too, that we can live and love like everyone else, and that we need the help of good friends to get us through those days where we just feel like our lives aren't worth living.

Some sites to help you learn more about mental illnesses.

Scholastic papers on depression
Overcoming the stigma


  1. *hugs* Thanks for posting about this, helping get the truth out there a little bit more. Very sorry to hear Nora's story; I feel for her family.

  2. What a powerful honest post. You are a strong person - you know the deal, you have faced your issues and you are working on them.

    I admire those qualities more than you can know.

  3. Yes! very true post about depression. I have had years of this. Right now I am working with many woman who have Postpartum depression or PTS because of traumatic childbirth. Many of these woman, including myself, had previous mental health venerabilities that the poor treatment during labor made worse. ICAN -http://www.ican-online.org/ is one non-profit I volunteer with. Solace for Mothers is also a great group. http://www.solaceformothers.org/ How often is a new mother told to 'get over it' when she has a traumatic birth because after all, she has a healthy child? This essay is a good intro for why we should care bout woman in that situation and not ignore them. http://www.birthtruth.org/grateful.htm
    I'm sorry for rambling! I'm glad you started some dialog with people even if they didn't post!

  4. I'm a therapist and I've worked with several adult and many teen clients/some children with bipolar. It's a heartbreaking one. The worst is the addiction/attachment to the highs of the disease that leads so many to go off their meds only to crash, broke, unemployed, shot up, did a crime, etc.
    And what happens to their kids...just so sad and frustrating. It's hard to have a parent with this. I feel for Nora but more for her daughter. Maybe she could have been mandated some treatment. It's a tough call for the family.
    Meds and therapy. Important to keep both going even when clients feel "fine."

  5. Just thought I'd say Hi, and nice to meet you through the A-Z challenge :) Hope to see you around!