EXTRA! SO VERY EXTRA!

Epic Vent: Depression and Downers

In Encouragement, R[evol]ution, Somewhat disjointed rant... on July 6, 2013 at 5:00 am

A couple of years ago, I was diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder for the third time in my life. Non-head shrink language? Everything stresses me out. A LOT. I just can’t sometimes, like seriously. Well, not everything stresses me out. It’s more like I become stagnated in anxiety. This is not a medical definition; this is my description of what it feels like.

Big reveal: I take medication for it. To me, this is not a big deal anymore.  I speak of it–not in an uncomfortable way (ok, so sometimes I do make jokes about depression that make others uncomfortable–but it’s funny to me)–when it’s appropriate. I think mental health needs to be spoken of intelligently and often. Ah! But, that’s the rub: INTELLIGENCE required. Sometimes, when a person finds out that I struggle with clinical depression/generalized anxiety: s/he says/does weird ish. Like, seriously ermergag-that-was-strange kinds of things. I am sure that many of things were said or done with the best of intentions by someone who cared for me. Nonetheless, these things were true downers. And, down is  not where an anxious and depressed mind needs to go.

1. You need to laugh more. 

Really? Watching a couple of Kevin Hart movies and a few I Love Lucy re-runs should get it, then? No. No. No. Though laughing does release “good” chemicals in the brain (I went to law school, not medical school), there is no way that I can laugh myself out of clinical depression. Moreover, if I tried to do so I am sure that the phrase “why so serious, son?” would be involved.

Please understand that depression and anxiety are not the same as a bad day–and bad days suck. Before starting a regimen of therapy and medication, I could crack jokes and laugh at jokes multiple times a day and still cower in the corners of myself. Please, in the name of Aslan, STOP TELLING PEOPLE THIS. 

2. You need some supplements.

Exactly! Prozac! No? Oh. You mean like vitamins and minerals? Yeaaaaaaaah. I tried that. Valerian. St. John’s. I was dropping a fortune at health food stores because the dosage of those herbs required to provide a therapeutic effect is quite large. Because I am sure that Van Gogh just needed a little more vitamin C in his diet to prevent him from chopping his ear off. Ernest Hemingway would have been with us much longer if he’d had more leafy greens.

3. You have no idea of the side effects of that medication.

True. I mean, I read the pamphlets and information. I ask my doctor lots of questions. I go to WebMD. But, in the long term (like 40 or 50 years out), I don’t know the side effects. I admit it.

But, one of the immediate side effects of a combination of therapy and medication was that I felt a little sharper. I realized how very long I had been going through the motions. I felt like a very fine and nearly invisible cob web had been brushed aside. I was barely functional in the months before I started the meds. I scraped through my reading assignments. I dreaded meeting new people. I dreaded talking to people I did know.

Though I am still quite the drama queen (halllelooooo!), I am able to deal with stressful situations. I can order and prioritize things. I can make small talk. I can meet new people. I can follow the rapid fire of a normal conversation.

4. You need more faith.

For the record: telling this to someone who is clinically depressed IS NOT–I REPEAT–NOT A WWJD CHOICE.

Sigh. This one. Yeah, seriously. I heard that–and, I believed it for years. While I worked in ministry and taught Bible study. I was barely handling things. I was on the edge–and it showed in my body. I got the flu; I fainted at work; I had chest infections; I had outbreaks of hives; I ballooned up to 200 pounds and, less than 2 years later, I dropped down to 120 pounds.

And, I prayed. But, still I had weeks where all I could do after meeting my personal obligations was hide in bed. And, I beat myself up because obviously I still felt that way because I didn’t have enough faith. I hadn’t prayed enough. I had a friend actually cut off contact with me partially for going back on meds the second time. I beat myself up even more, and figured that she must be right. I went off meds again. Hey, I haven’t always been the dazzling logical mind that I am now (pants on fire).

You might think that God would never allow me to suffer like that if I truly had enough faith and prayed enough. Let me stop you right there. God is not a genie and prayer isn’t like rubbing the bottle. Paul said in II Corinthians 12:7 – 10,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Truly, this struggle with depression has made me stronger. I have become more able to show compassion to others dealing with emotional struggles.  I am not quite to the point where I delight in it and, let’s face it, I’m no Paul so I will never get to that point. The Bible does not and never has promised smooth sailing. That’s a fact.

5. You just need to talk about your feelings.

Actually, this one is not all that bad. For some, therapy and counseling without medication is a solution. But, not so for me. And, honestly, who wants to listen to me whine and bellyache and angst brain about my life? The people who told me that all I needed to do was talk it out eventually got sick of it. I don’t blame them.

You might think that you can be a sure and constant listening ear for someone with lots of emotional issues. But, don’t take on that responsibility before you count the cost. Depression and anxiety can lead to weird telephone calls from odd places at crazy hours. Encourage your loved one to seek professional help from someone who can provide a comprehensive plan for mental therapy. You can be a part of his/her support network.

***

I’m not even going to go there with these gems:

-You should switch to a vegan diet. (Oh, ok.)

-You should exercise more. (Oh, like to obsessive levels so I can get runner’s high? Nice.)

-You shouldn’t worry about it. Everybody gets sad. (Everybody dies, too……?)

-Black people don’t get depression. (I can’t. I just can’t with this one.)

 

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