Depression : An everyday tale

It is an overwhelming fact that depression rates are on the rise in most corners of the globe. Globally, millions of people are living with the misery of the so-called “cancer of mental health” on a daily basis. Some have had their symptoms alleviated by medication, some have sought therapy and there are many others who live with it without getting help. Some are not even aware that they are suffering and some choose not to recognise it, for whatever reason. There are those who have adapted their lives to the extent that they see their depression as a “part” of them, have no trouble talking about it. There are others who feel stigmatized and discriminated against and hide their illness and there are those who live in fear of the consequences of their depression hoping it will not take over their lives. I recently met someone who had been suffering on and off from depression for over thirty-five years. We talked about how this had left an imprint on his life, how it affects him and how he had tried to adapt in order to lead the best life possible. He cut a despondent, resigned figure who had seemingly given up. I asked him if I could write his story….he gladly agreed and here it is :

When did you first realise you were depressed?

I often wondered why my parents were always so miserable. Now I realise that they were depressed too. I guess it would be easy to say that I inherited my depression from them but I know it is not as simple as that. When I look back, it first hit me in my teens. I was an awkward teenager, never with the “in crowd” and consequently got bullied and pushed out. I didn’t dress or act like them which didn’t help. I preferred my own company. Now I realise that I was not doing things because of my depression.  I never thought that anything was wrong until I made a mistake at work and started crying when my boss criticised me.

What happened then?

Well, my boss had some previous experience of depression and took me to the GP. I was distraught to have shown such vivid emotion in front of my employer. Luckily he understood, and guided me somewhat. I thought my world was about to end. Depression and mental illness had always been a taboo subject in my family due to my grandmother being “mad” and my parents often criticised and ridiculed others who suffered. My boss took me to the GP and he prescribed antidepressants.

Were you offered other treatment, such as therapy?

No and my parents would not have allowed it. In those days, that meant being “locked up” and that would have brought shame on the family.

What was your experience with medication?

I remember at first,  the days full of “zombie-like” feelings, the impression that I was in another dimension but after a while I felt better and the side-effects waned. After that it was a case of remembering to take them. After a year, I decided not to take them anymore and gradually came off them. I don’t regret that at all. I know people who have been taking them for twenty years.

Would you consider yourself still depressed ?

Most definitely. Look, it comes and goes but I am still as miserable as I was as a teenager. I still avoid things that could potentially hurt me psychologically and have really stayed in my comfort zone all my life. I read an article once that stated that some people’s depression never goes away and they should just accept that and adapt their lives accordingly. I can believe that in my case but I am not sure you can accept it or adapt to it…or if you should.

Now the big question…How has being depressed impacted your life?

Well, I would say it’s the little things that have the biggest impact. Waking up in the morning with seemingly nothing to look forward to (or so I think), the difficult interaction with other people. The constant rumination about what other people think of me, regrets and my past. Makes daily life difficult. However, the worst thing is how I think about myself as a weakling, a fragile being who is knocked back by the smallest upset. How I can’t get out of that feeling and it gets worse before it gets better. I haven’t been able to stay in a relationship and that is one of my biggest regrets. I think the worst thing is that I feel society stigmatises depression to the extent that people with it are not seen as “normal”. The health insurance companies treat you like a monster when they hear the word and employers keep you at arm’s length.

How do you see your future?

(laughing) I have a great future behind me !! Look I am resigned to the fact that I will probably suffer from this forever. I know I don’t do much to change that but we are like an old married couple who are together because the alternative is not so rosy. I know that if I am better, new challenges will come and those would be difficult to handle.

What advice would you give to other sufferers?

Well, they probably need to do the opposite to me. I was (and still am) scared of getting better. What would this new world bring? I would have to face things that would scare me to death. I would strongly recommend anyone newly diagnosed to seek help as soon as possible. Join groups, get therapy, medication, anything that can lessen the Impact. To try to survive without help is doomed to fail.

It is not too late for you..why don’t you take your own advice?

This question was never answered. He quickly made his excuses and left. The path out of depression was seemingly too hard to contemplate. Can it really be the case that someone would accept their illness because the alternative is harder to contemplate? I guess this is an issue that people often forget. Getting well can be as difficult as getting sick, brings new challenges and a new world that calls for courage to live in. I didn’t get the chance to thank him for allowing me to talk to him. It must have been painful to go over some of the issues that had been a part of him for years. Who knows? Maybe someday…

Dr. Nicholas Jenner is a Counseling psychologist in private practice working with individuals,couples,  groups and companies globally. Online therapy is, in my experience, effective for treating a number of major conditions. Are you having issues that you need to talk through? I have a range of plans that can help you get the help you need.  Online Therapy details : Here …… Take advantage of the “online therapy” tester. Try the first three sessions for free. Contact me for more details.

  10 comments for “Depression : An everyday tale

  1. February 1, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Change is always difficult, even if the alternative brings happiness. When I worked in community corrections, I was always heart-broken to learn that many of my clients just didn’t see a need to change their criminal life-style out of pure laziness and disinterest in dealing with life differently from the way they have always handled their lives. Overcoming depression like the contributor in this post is a life-style change. The prospects must be frightening and the fear of falling back into depression too great. 🙂

  2. February 1, 2013 at 11:09 pm

    Thank you for sharing this post. I enjoy getting e-mail notifications about your recent posts. Depression is something that I have also been living with since I was a teenager, but unlike the man interviewed, I feel there is hope. My heart aches for that man and what he has had to suffer, because I truly do understand. Through my own experiences, I have definitely learned how pro-active and empowering it is to recognize the depression and to acknowledge it, but more importantly, to DO something about it. It is not “our fault” and I think more people are accepting of it in general nowadays. I think that many more people have deppression than they let on. Something that I have learned is that it does take concentrated effort to keep the depression in check, but it is definitely worth it! I definitely have my down days, but I have also learned many techniques to help lift my spirits!
    It is like anything. With practice it can get better and we can get stronger over time. Its just knowing where to turn and choosing to do something about it. Medication can definitely take the edge off, but I believe lifestyle changes and choices make the biggest difference. Its okay to have depression. That doesn’t mean we can’t have a fullfilling life.

    Some things that have truly helped me are:
    *Getting plenty of rest
    *Getting out in the sunshine
    *Exercise
    *Getting out and doing any kind of activity
    *Volunteering or serving other people
    *Reading good books
    *Prayer and meditation
    *Therapy or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
    *Yoga
    *Kava or Chamomile Tea,
    *Lavendar Oil for stress
    *Spending time with friends or loved ones.
    *Doing a hobby or trying something new.
    *I taught myself to paint with acrylics and it is very therapeutic!
    *Playing the piano or music also has helped me.
    *Writing in my journal.
    *Doing activities to keep my mind occupied.
    *Watching funny movies or TV shows.

    I apologize for the long list, but maybe someone reading this will find some inspiration from it.
    There is ALWAYS hope. Never give up! Everything is going to be okay.

    • February 2, 2013 at 3:26 am

      Thanks for reading the post and nice comments. The list you came up is great and partaking in just some of these activities would help minimize the symptoms of depression. Paradoxically, some don`t for various reasons. The man in the post had accepted his depression was incurable and adapted his life within his very small comfort zone. I doubt he would even try some of these for fear they might work !

  3. February 1, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Excellent post…have a great weekend! Bye from Oz!! Hugs Paula x

  4. February 2, 2013 at 3:57 am

    Getting well is a constant battle, its hard, because you know in the back of your mind the black dog is watching and waiting to take a bite, but the thing is to learn to revel in the better days and those better days will develop into one or two more better days. When the bad days come, well then it is there again, the black dog with the rain cloud, but I will always pray for strength to keep trying even when I want to die. I wish for this man to wish for strength for himself. I wish him what he needs not to be afraid of moving away from the dark.

    • February 2, 2013 at 4:48 am

      Great advice….thanks. I gave my details to this man including this site address. Who knows….he might be reading right now…

  5. February 4, 2013 at 2:52 am

    His depression fits him like a worn out pair of comfortable jeans. I believe my mother is like this patient. Though she hates it, her depression is what she knows and without it, she’d have to change and become a different person. It’s horribly sad that she has never done anything to help herself. It’s only by grace that I have been able to fight it all these years because I surely did “learn” her behavior. Thanks, Dr. J.

    • February 4, 2013 at 6:35 am

      Hi Carlette…It is true that depression can be a “learnt” behavior from parents. This also means it can be “unlearnt”.

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