Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is originally from July 2010.  I am moving this from my other blog.  It got tremendous feedback and I am sad that I can’t move the comments over as well, but I am very proud of this post.  Depression is a mental illness and should be treated as a serious medical problem, not something that can be easily brushed off as the blues.

My last blog post was so positive!  Well here comes the ANGRY part of my little Miss Angry Girl blog.  The other day had such a beautiful interaction with another human being and then last night……..ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH (pirate growl)

Someone gave me yet more unsolicited advice tonight.  Boy, do I hate unsolicited advice!!!

“Why don’t you try looking on the positive side of things for a change?”

Really, I hadn’t thought of that.   Now I am sure that this person had the best of intentions.  They thought they were helping me out, but let me break it down for why it is not so easy to simply “Think positively”

Would you tell an anorexic to just eat some food?  An alcoholic to simply stop drinking?  A drug addict to simply stop using?  A person with ADHD to simply focus?  A person with schizophrenia to simply stop hearing voices?  Or would you even dream of telling a person who is physically handicapped to simply start moving?  Yes stopping the negative behavior is part of the problem, but there’s a reason telling a person suffering from mental illness to THINK BETTER is absolute nonsense.

Just as a physically handicapped person can not suddenly become fully functional after thinking positively, the same cna be said about a person suffering from depression.  I’m suffering from reactive depression.  To quote Psychology.suite101.com

This form of depression is a direct result or responses to a painful or difficult circumstance or event in a person’s life. In reactive depression there is a specific and recognized reason found to be the source of the condition.  Examples of situations which may result in a person suffering from reactive depression include: redundancy, work stress, marital problems, bereavement, loss, problems with one’s children, retirement, moving house, DIVORCE or changing job.

Sometimes it takes longer than perhaps casual acquaintances think is necessary to work through a major life changing event.  I was clinically depressed just a few months ago, so I’m actually doing better off now.  Clinical depression is depression that gets so bad a person cannot normally function.  That is eat, drink, bathe, sleep, get out of bed…..FUNCTION.

Not to mention that I lost not just the primary relationship that I had for nine years. I had to move.  My income has severely dropped as has my ability to find work.  All thanks to a number of circumstances surrounding my divorce.  Even the loss of a regular source of income could lead to depression never mind, the loss of my husband, sense of betrayal, loss of trust in other human beings, damaged sexuality, and destroyed self esteem.

If you are reading this and don’t know me, I found out my marriage was a complete fraud.  My husband has been living a secret life, and has lied to me from day one of our marriage.  It’s been a rough 13 months.

All of this doesn’t even  take into consideration my childhood, my life history or any trauma’s besides my divorce that might also be contributing to my depression.  Trust me, you could sit down with my therapist and we could go over some things in my past that might make your hair turn white.  I’d rather not rehash them here.  :

Depression is an illness.  Depression is an illness.  DEPRESSION IS AN ILLNESS!

It’s not to say that I won’t overcome it, but my brain is sick right now.  Chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, nor-epinephrine all play a role, and they are real.  It is not simply  a question of “thinking positively”.    I’m not being self-destructive sexually or with drugs and alcohol, and I’m in regular therapy with both a therapist and a psychiatrist.  So I think I’m doing everything that I can to overcome this.

What I am currently dealing with is trying to get off an SSRI (Zolfot) while still trying to figure out how to survive in a ravaged economy with high unemployment.  My life hasn’t exactly stabilized since leaving my husband, especially financially speaking.

Not to say that positive thinking won’t help, of course it will, but I’m dealing with a chemical withdrawal of a drug that altered my natural levels of serotonin.  Just sitting back and trying to think happy thoughts, is not really going to cut it.  What might help is some respect for this MENTAL ILLNESS called depression, and some compassion. for not just me but the millions of other Americans who are currently battling this disease.  Just as a handicapped person cannot simply will themselves to walk, a person suffering from a mental illness needs a little bit more than positive thinking to pull themselves up.    I am not weak because I can’t get over this, I am NOT being self-destructive, I am doing the best I can.

And solidarity to my fellow sufferers of depression, we will get through this and we will be stronger for it.  One day people will understand that we can’t just simply “be happy”.

Read more at Suite101: What is Reactive Depression?: Understanding Common Mental Health Conditions http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/what-is-reactive-depression#ixzz0uCm4pTxr

4/23/11

I wanted to add an an epilogue as it were to this post.  I left my husband nearly two years ago, because he was gay and every aspect of my life much completely collapsed immediately afterward.  Emotionally and financially I was a mess.  If my financial life had been in order, or if I had steady employment that was not tied into what my husband did for a living I would have been much better off.  That being said, I can honestly say that I’m much better off now.  It takes serious time to get over something like a divorce.  I have never gone through anything as torturous in my life, and I really hope I never have to go through it again.   There is hope on the other end of whatever hell is causing your reactive depression.  If you’re suffering from clinical depression due to a recent crisis, please seek help if you feel you need it.  There are so many resources out there, and if you feel like your life isn’t worth living anymore, that’s the biggest warning sign.  Get help.  Depression is not just feeling blue.  I had no idea until I went through it myself, but it’s an actual mental illness that will take over your life.  If you’re experiencing most or a a few of these symptoms seek professional help.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of desire to do anything, get out of bed, shower, eat, drink,
  • Isolation – Refusal to go outside, see friends, etc.
  • Suicidal thoughts – This is not a joke, get help as soon as possible.
  • Waking frequently at night, not able to sleep for more than a couple hours in a stretch
  • Sleeping way too much
  • Poor concentration
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt and despair
  • Crying ALL the time

Clinical depression is often coupled with anxiety.  And in my case the anxiety was so bad, that is why I knew I had a serious problem I had never had anything like it before in my life.

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety attacks – Panic attacks that go on for hours, my worst was 8 hours long and absolutely terrifying.
  • Overwhelming panic and fear
  • Waves of depression followed by waves of anxiety – this is actual textbook depression, and not at all unusual.
  • Inability to sleep that goes on for days.

I’m not here to sell any drug.  Medication doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t always the best option.  I was only on meds for a short period of time, but I believe strongly they saved my life.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and please get help if you need it.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, don’t give up.  🙂  If your first therapist or doctor isn’t working for you, find another one.  Keep looking until you can get the help you need.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great resource that I’ve tried and highly recommend.

Also try to find distance from anyone who doesn’t take your illness seriously.  They probably are trying to help, but some well-meaning friends or relatives can actually cause more problems.  As much as the lover or friend will also help you out, there is a limit to what they can do.  Having someone around who is objective and doesn’t know you or want anything from you will really help you in finding the right course to help you with your healing.

Try as much as you can to not self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs, they will just make things worse, and could kill you.  Substances are just stretching out the process.  They numb you temporarily, but in the long run they will just make things harder.  The same thing goes for sex, or food, anything that can be used in a self-destructive manner should be avoided.   No one is perfect and you will make mistakes, just try to pick yourself afterward and not beat yourself up too much.

Just my two cents of course, you don’t have to agree with me on any of it.  I just know what helped me.  Good luck to anyone finding this blog, may you get stronger and healthier each day.

I wanted to add this brilliant Lecture by Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University.  The first time I listened to this it blew my mind, I found out I was suffering from a textbook case of clinical depression.  His explanation of the inability to sleep through the night and weight loss was EXACTLY what I was going through.  It was a PHYSICAL manifestation of my depression, it wasn’t something I could control.

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9 comments on “Why I just can’t get over it and be happy — Depression is an illness

  1. Troy

    Yes,

    It is very frustrated to hear these comments from people that do not have a clue. I love the why can’t I just get over it comment. While my illness is Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality disorder the comments are just the same. The thing about it is I have all my life tried to just “get over it” every time. When I was sexually abused, I suppressed it. I did the same thing in regards to my father’s alcoholism, which included some instances of physical abuse. Worse though was the psychological abuse inflicted: blaming, cruel criticism, broken promises, etc etc.
    I also just “got over” when my brother committed suicide, as, given that he was my abuser, the situation was very confusing. I did not hate him–we in fact were pretty close. It only happened a couple times, and I know that someone must have done the same to him.
    I got over all the tough stuff in life. I learned to push away any emotion that might get in the way of my success. I told myself that all of the issues were those that could just be worked through by “not worrying” about them.
    So, off I went through life working incessantly–first through college, then at my teaching and coaching jobs. I was very good at both, and, there was no way I was going to be a failure and prove my dad right.
    When my coaching career was brought to an end by a group of “torch wielding” parents, I could not and did not handle it. I still taught at the same school. I “got over” this my finding a new obsession–launching an online business (ebay, etc.).
    I put everything I had into it, yet, my own inability to deal with customers led to a major collapse of my business. Rather than handling it, I again went around the issue and just did something else. I started gambling–and kept gambling–and kept doing it. During this time, my down periods were so low I stopped going to work regularly. In my periods of mania, I was so convinced that I was going to win that huge jackpot. My narcissistic delusions were such that I “deserved” such and that it was just a matter of time.

    But, of course I was wrong. I lost over 10,000 in about 6 months and now face felony burglary charges–despite never having any criminal record EVER. I finally had to face reality–one that my girlfriend of 16 years has been telling me for quite some time. I suffer from mental illness and need help

    Of course, being a man who has always just “cowboyed up” to problems, I had to pretty much ruin my life before I finally went to get help.

    This is the kind of stuff that happens when you follow the advise of just getting over it.

  2. Troy

    Here are some things to say to those who offer such advice like “getting over it.”

    1. Wow (pause). . . “have you informed the psychiatric community about this breakthrough cure?”
    2. I have known you all this time, and had no idea you were a mental health professional. Do you take insurance?
    3. I am not familiar with this “get over it” (or similar phrase). What type of medication is that?
    4. “Get over it” Hmm. . . . do you know where I can find additional research about this therapy
    5. “Thats it, Thats it!!!!” then look for a pen and paper and/or say “I’ve got to write this down.” Once you find these, ask. . .”Now can you say that again?” and write the words down slowly and deliberately.
    6. (Pause) Look them dead in the eye with amazement, and say, “that is absolutely f%$$ing brilliant. . . do you realize that you have found a cure for a disease that affects millions.”

    Of course, you could always just punch them in the face.

  3. brinamarie

    I have suffered with clinical depression since the 8th grade. I am 23 years old now. I feel lost and alone. I am sick of people telling me to “be more positive,” “forget the past,” ” get over yourself,” “just decide to not be depressed,” “it’s nothing,” “you just want attention.” It makes me feel invalidated every day.

    I have other health complications that are contributing to my depression and anxiety issues, and the depression and anxiety issues are contributing to making the symptoms of my other health issues difficult for my doctors to figure out how best to treat everything. I feel like there is no way out. I hate myself daily for who I am. Everything is effected: my interpersonal relationships, my schoolwork, my ability to concentrate, my confidence, my ability to clean my apartment regularly, due to lack of energy, my dreams (and thus my sleep, which is already complicated by my health issues), and my general affect. I have sought help, but I feel that noone is really listening, or cares.

    I have searched for advice, tried to think positively, have been on an anti-depressant for a year now, journal, listen to music, volunteer, try to be around other people (social anxiety kicks in), attend school, play with and take care of my cat, etc. I can’t stop the depression though. I just feel like I don’t belong. I am NOT suicidal currently.

    Any advice?

    1. julietjeske

      Cognitive Behavioral therapy did wonders for me, but it doesn’t work with everyone. But if you haven’t tried it yet, try it! You can even get self-help books that can get you on the right path. There is a lot of writing involved but I found it was much more practical for me than talk therapy. Zoloft saved my life and I will go to my grave believing that. But I only needed it for about five months, everyone is different. I do believe strongly in brain chemistry and as you can tell from my blog I am a huge believer that it is a real illness and not something that you can snap out of easily. The only other thing that helped me was to avoid isolation. When you get stuck by yourself alone for long periods of time your brain goes a little crazy. So force yourself to go out and interact with people as often as possible. And surround yourself with those that support you and your illness, avoid anyone that belittles it or treats you flippantly.

      I am not a doctor, but those are my two cents. Hang in there, it is rough but you can get better. I am night and day from where I was, so there is hope out there.

      The cognitive behavioral book that I liked the most was simply called “Feeling Good” I don’t remember the author off the top of my head but you can just search for it on google or Amazon.com there are a lot of good resources out there.

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  6. Lucille Grant

    Thanks for this. My ex came out as gay after 30 years marriage and although I have a new partner I still suffer from depression as a direct result of the trauma of this and the resulting divorce.

    I recently met an old friend for lunch who basically said to me that I had a partner, two ‘loving’ daughters and a baby grandson so basically i should be ‘happy’ as she knew of many older single women who had no-one and implied that I should stop feeling sorry for myself. It upset me dreadfully and I have decided to cut links with her as in no way did she understand.

    1. julietjeske

      People don’t get it as it’s a fairly specific hell to go through. You have every right to your feelings, and you did the right thing by cutting that woman off. Some people in our situation are so broken down, they still cling to their spouses. I’ve seen that too, they bend over backwards to keep a selfish liar in their lives, because they are so co-dependent on them. At least that’s not you! At least you figured out who was toxic and moved on with your life. But yeah, you are probably going to be messed up for a while, it really does a number on your trust. I can completely relate. Hang in there!

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