depression

Self-Care is Important When You Suffer From Depression

Adulting, Author: Claire Greene

I have suffered from depression for over 15 years. Part of the catch-22 of Major Depressive Disorder is feeling a lot of guilt. You may feel guilt over what you think you’re putting family through, guilt that your friends might not want to spend time with someone who is a major buzz kill, and most of all, guilt that there are so many people who seem to have it worse, yet you’re completely miserable.

This guilt, in turn, can just feed into your depression, making you feel worse and worse until you’re in this downward spiral that’s extremely hard to pull yourself out of it. But what can you learn from this experience and guilty feeling? When you are going through a battle in life, such as you are with mental illness, you are what is the most important. You can love yourself when you’re going through depression — and you need to. Be proactive over this, and these little tips may help. They helped me!

 

Talk to a therapist
It’s hard talking to people who don’t understand. By talking to a therapist, you are talking with a professional who knows what she’s doing, and wants to help you. My therapist taught me that my depression was not my fault, but a result of my brain chemistry and genetics. Once I stopped blaming myself, I was able to focus on the things that I needed to do to help myself. Yes, it does take a lot of courage to get yourself there, and a therapist does in a way have to break you down to build you back up, but once you do, you will be much stronger for it.

See a Psychiatrist
This one may be a bit controversial, I get it. But, I would not be who I am today without finding the psychiatrist that finally understood my brain chemistry and found the right medication for me to be on. I do not abuse my medication, and I stick with my prescribed dosage. But, my medication changed an imbalance in my brain that would not have fixed myself otherwise. If you do not abuse it, you are responsible with it, and you go through the right channels, medication can certainly put you on the path to wellness. However, medication isn’t for everyone, and psychiatrists can also give you psychotherapy treatment and in some cases, light therapy, to name a few other options.

Take up a new, creative hobby
A creative hobby that you learn to love can give you something to be proud of, and it slowly can bring you back to who you were before. Find a creative project that does this for you, to give you something to concentrate on so you don’t become your own worst enemy, and you can focus on something other than your depression. When you have a final product, you’ll have something that you’ve created, with no copy, that is impossible to replicate exactly. Find whatever is healing for you — whether it is sewing, adult coloring (a great one), jewelry making, even something like painting or building something from wood.

Do what you love, and have always loved
This can be anything that releases negative energy for you and has always made you happy no matter what — and can be a complete release of sadness, grief, anger, and shame. Maybe you love sports. Maybe you love to write. It can even be as simple as playing with your pet or spending time with your friends. But it is so important to have a reason to get out of bed.

Be kind to yourself
Did you have that extra donut? That’s okay. Were you not able to leave the house today? That’s okay, too. You are going through a fierce war within yourself right now, and it’s alright if you lose the occasional battle. Sometimes, all you will be able to do for the day is just take a shower. Sometimes, just making the effort to text a friend and have a minimum of social contact is a huge win, and you should be proud of yourself for it. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing the small, little things. It’s all of those little things combined that will lead up to those big milestones. By just making a small effort, you are taking a big step towards believing that it will get better. It’s about the small steps that add up to a huge leap.

 

Pain is different for everyone. Yes, there are those less fortunate who have been dealt some terrible cards in life, and you should feel for those people. But that doesn’t mean that you aren’t in pain, and it doesn’t make your pain less important. Be kind to yourself, and you will make yourself better to help others.

I’m an Apple Too: A Story of a Twitter Hashtag and a Mental Health Musical

Author: Brett Pucino, Real Life Stories

The Phoenix must burn to emerge- Janet Fitch

January 24th, 2014. That’s the day I burst into flames.

Did I ever tell you that I spent ten days in the “ Behavioral Health Unit” (Psych Ward) at Orange Regional Medical Center? No?

Well, there was a good reason.

See, I couldn’t just drop that in the in first article I wrote about my battle with depression and anxiety. What would you think of me? Why would you ever trust any career advice I have to give if you knew that?

The reason I’m sharing this now is that this past Monday, I attended a musical called We Have Apples with my mom that gave me the courage to disclose this secret.

It Started With A Hashtag
For the first year after I got out of the hospital, I was ashamed of my experience. It felt like a Scarlet Letter — like a burden to bear.

With that said, life wasn’t bad. I started to see success and growth in my ghostwriting career. I just felt like I had a secret about myself that I would always have to hide in order to pursue success.

In June of 2015, I decided to step out of the shadows of the ghostwriting world and make a name for myself as a writer. I landed a consistent paid gig with a up-and-coming career advice blog in the millennial space. I made a new Twitter account that I decided would be dedicated to following only people I didn’t know. If I was going to write about millennials, I wanted to get to know as many of my fellow millennials as possible.

Over the next couple of months, I began to grow my network of amazing people- millennials and non-millennials alike. One such millennial was Rachel Griffin.

I found Rachel when I noticed a Tweet with the #ImNotAshamed hashtag- a tag I later found out she started.

When I first followed Rachel, I noticed that she was working on a mental health musical titled We Have Apples. I was intrigued.

I spent hours digging through #ImNotAshamed, and was overwhelmed by the amount of positive Tweets revealing people living successful lives and having the courage to be open about their mental health conditions.

It was the first time since my hospital stint that I didn’t feel like I was defective.

Browsing this hashtag gave me the courage to write my first article on my battle with mental health, which was an article on Post-College Depression.

We Have Apples
Back in June of this year, I saw that We Have Apples would be premiering at 54 Below in New York City. Given how far I have come since my hospitalization, I knew that tickets to this show would be the perfect birthday gift for my mom.

It was my mom who had the courage to have me committed, and although I didn’t realize it then, I realize it now: I owe the moderately successful life I have now to that courageous decision.

The story’s protagonist is a woman named Jane who struggles with depression. It takes place in a psych ward, and the main characters are all fellow patients.

I was not emotionally prepared for the realness of this production.

As each character was introduced, images of the people I met during my hospitalization came flooding from the annals to the forefront of my mind. I knew these characters. Variations of them. Not only that, but I am one. In many ways, I am Jane.

There were many light-hearted, hilarious tunes in this show; especially so if you’ve experienced life at the Ward. But there were three songs in particular that stuck with me. These songs gave me the courage to finally shed the remnants of any shame I feel about my condition.

The Ocean

This song is sung by Jane, the story’s protagonist. Jane is a writer, and this song is about how she fears losing her ability to write in her quest to recover. As a writer who felt the same fear myself, this one hit home pretty hard.

Story Worth Writing

Dissatisfied with the group sessions offered by the Ward, the patients decide to start a group of their own- a writing group. There’s really nothing I can write to explain to you the power of this song. You just have to listen. One line that stood out to me is, “I find a freedom in words that you can’t exclude me from; for all those who’ve been silenced, I’ll be your drum.”

I’m An Apple, Too

This song is the final song of the production. It is sung by all of the patients, and its message is one of hope and encouragement to those living with a mental health condition. After all the ups and downs I shared with these characters, this song was the perfect culmination of their story.

Final Thoughts
There is something magical about music that lets it penetrate the barriers we create around our souls. It has the power to incinerate these barriers and ignite feelings we have tried to repress.

We Have Apples served as a final emotional release regarding my diagnosis and my experience with life in the Ward. I can finally say #ImNotAshamed and actually believe it.


Want to know more? Here’s what you can do:

● Head over to WeHaveApples.com

● Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachelGriffin22

● Read this write-up on We Have Apples in The Washington Post

● Browse the #ImNotAshamed hashtag on Twitter

● Watch this video:

The Dementor and The Boggart: How Harry Potter Helped Me Cope With My Depression and Anxiety

Author: Brett Pucino, Real Life Stories

There is a subsection of millennials, roughly those born between 1988 and 1992, who came of age with The Boy Who Lived. I was born in 1990, and I was eight years old when I first read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I eventually consumed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows the summer of my 17th birthday. J.K. Rowling’s magical world made me fall in love with reading at such a young age. Little did I know that when I was first introduced to Dementors and Boggarts as an adolescent, there were Dementors and Boggarts in my own life that I’d have to face in young adulthood.

The Dementor and The Boggart as Symbols for Depression and Anxiety
JKR has been open about her battles with depression in her life, and has even recently reached out to a fan on Twitter who is facing depression.

I used to think these were just creepy creatures growing up, but when I re-read the series for the umpteenth time as a new college graduate going through a bout of post-college depression, I realized that a Dementor is a harrowingly accurate representation of depression.

I’ve felt the metaphorical lights go dark in my head as the depression eradicated any positive memories. I’ve felt depression’s cold, rattling breath as it called up my worst thoughts from my mind’s annals. I’ve felt depression’s chilling fingers brush my skin as it sank to suck the last drips of hope out of my body. I can tell you first hand that being in the constant presence of Dementors is exactly what depression feels like.

Just as the Dementor represents depression, the Boggart represents our deepest fears. To me, the Boggart is an accurate representation of my struggle with anxiety. My bouts with depression have been situational. I’ve been lucky in that regard. It’s the anxiety that’s more prevalent.

In high school, my social anxiety crippled my social life. I was the quintessential quiet kid, but I had the loudest mind. I was terrified to verbalize my thoughts into words. Things were different, though, when I put pen to paper. At the time, I had little confidence in my writing ability, but my English teachers would always gush over my writing assignments. In my junior year I received the only 100 on a writing assignment that my teacher gave out that year. The assignment? Write an alternate ending to The Catcher and the Rye in the voice of Holden Caulfield. Looking back, the ease at which I was able to channel Holden’s angst was a warning sign.

The Patronus as a Symbol for How to Fight Depression
In the Harry Potter series, the only way to fend off a Dementor is by casting a Patronus. The Patronus is one of the most fascinating spells in the Potterverse. It is similar to the Native American concept of the spirit animal in that each person’s Patronus takes on an animal form based on the characteristics of the caster.

In order to cast the spell, one must channel his or her happiest memories when reciting the incantation (expecto patronum). If one isn’t 100% absorbed in these happy and positive thoughts, then the spell won’t work. I think this is the perfect analogy for fighting depression in the real world.

The Riddikulus Incantation as a Symbol for How to Fight Anxiety
The Boggart is another fascinating creature from the Potterverse. No one knows what a Boggart looks like in its true form, since it immediately takes on the shape of the deepest fears of the nearest person. In Prisoner of Azkaban, Professor Lupin teaches us that the way to get rid of the Boggart is to picture your deepest fear in a disarming, and often humorous, situation while reciting the incantation Riddikulus. 

I think that this symbol is a perfect representation of my anxiety in the real world. I worry obsessively about the future and also play the “what if?” game. So, if I were to come across a Boggart, it would be a version of myself that I call the “inner critic.” The “inner critic” is extremely critical of any aspirations I have for my future. He points out all of the things that could go wrong and frames them as if they are inevitable outcomes.

Thanks to JKR, I came up with a creative visualization exercise to help me deal with this anxiety successfully. I picture facing this Boggart version of myself and actual me shouting Riddikulus as I visualize Boggart-me losing his voice. Without his voice, his doubts can’t affect me.

I used a similar exercise to deal with my bouts with depression. I visualize myself facing a Dementor and in need of a Patronus. I absorb myself in happy memories and positive thoughts, and then my Patronus (a lion) appears to protect me.

You may feel silly doing these exercises at first, but they helped me and I think they can help you too. Plus, to paraphrase Albus Dumbledore, just because it’s happening in your head, that does not mean it isn’t real.


Seek help for depression and anxiety at adaa.org.

Once Again, Start Smilin’

Author: Claire Greene, Real Life Stories

My first experience with depression happened when I was 13 years old. It was the summer before I began high school. It was very gradual. Day after day, I would wake up and find I had lost more and more happiness. My energy declined, the thought of eating made me sick, I had constant crying spells and I was unable to face day-to-day life. To be completely honest, the only thing that would have made me happy would be to curl up in a ball on my parents’ bed and stay there for the rest of my life.

The best way that I have ever been able to describe depression is that it is similar to a cloud hanging over your head. A dark gloominess takes over you that you cannot shake, while everyone around you is experiencing sunshine. And guess what? I was extremely fortunate in life. I was born into a wonderful family, with a father as a dermatologist, a nurse as a mother and a brother who would bend over backwards to protect his little sister. We were financially stable, but were not necessarily able to spend excessively.

My parents always supported us, regardless of the religion we chose to endorse, our sexual orientations or our career paths. They simply wanted us to be happy and healthy. I had a great group of friends and excelled in school. I was extremely fortunate in life and was always grateful for the cards that I was dealt.

The truth is that one can have an absolutely perfect life, and still suffer from any psychiatric illness. I was given a great life, yet I still always had a deep feeling of despair within me.  Sometimes it felt like my insides were completely frozen over.

It took me a while to realize that this state of being was not normal. A 13-year-old girl should not be questioning why she is living. That should not even be a thought that pops into a kid’s head. At that age, kids should be thinking about what they are going to do with their friends and how they are going to finish their homework.

When one says that he or she is depressed, most people think that it is simply being really sad. Severe clinical depression is a whole other thing entirely. I was not able to function every day as a normal, healthy adult. It took a great amount of energy and effort to simply get up in the morning. This aspect makes going through depression even more difficult, because many do not understand that one cannot simply “snap out of it.” It is difficult for others to relate to you — and therefore the thought of telling people about your time of crisis can seem overwhelming.

A psychologist once told me that the three ways to know if someone is clinically depressed are hopelessness, helplessness and guilt. I had all three. I felt hopeless for the future, that I would never be able to live a normal life or hold a steady job. I felt helplessness, that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to help myself get through this terrible time, or make it easier on my friends and family to deal with a constant downer. I also felt guilt for countless reasons.

I mainly felt guilt because this was a huge ordeal to put my family through. Coming home to your 13 -year-old daughter always crying under the blankets in her bed cannot be easy. I had guilt that I was blessed with such a wonderful life—and that there are so many less fortunate than I was, but I couldn’t put a smile on my face.  I also felt shame that I had a steady, well paying job that many people would do anything to get and I was completely miserable. All of these feelings are irrational and yet, I still had them. I share these thoughts to help you understand that if you are depressed, you can recognize it and seek help. Recognition is key. Please, if you recognize these symptoms in yourself, tell someone.

Being as I always had a close relationship with my parents, I brought up the strength to talk to them about what I was going through. They immediately referred me to a psychiatrist that my family had been going to for years — who also did counseling. For about a month I would simply meet with him for an hour, he would talk and I would cry. I realized that I had a serious, clinical mental illness that would take a lot of time to recover from. However, if I am to be completely honest, there was only one thing that I learned from him that I have taken with me throughout my life, which is that my trigger is uncertainty.

After a month of him talking and me crying in the leather chair, my psychiatrist put me on medication. At first I was put on Zoloft. Simply put: Zoloft did not work for me. It made me feel like I was outside of me, that I was not myself. After a couple of weeks on Zoloft and not seeing any improvement in my health and well being, my psychiatrist decided to put me on another medication called Lexapro. After about a week, my entire life changed. I was able to enjoy life again, take in my surroundings and focus on preparing for the future. In a way, it took away the clouds, so that I could actually begin to work in the issues that led me into my depression in the first place.

Now I want to make it clear: Just because this medication worked for me does not mean it will work for you. It all depends on your own brain chemistry and genetics. You may have to try a couple of different medications before you find the one that works right for you. With certain medications, your body gets used to them and they have less of an effect over time—which is part of why I had my relapses later in my journey. I am no longer on Lexapro. It worked for me at the time, but after being on it for about ten years, the effects started wearing off. Once again, I had to try several medications before finding another one that worked for me: Effexor.

There is absolutely a stigma related to taking medication for depression and anxiety disorders. Even though a big part of depression is a chemical imbalance that is genetic—and cannot be fixed without medication, many people think that medication is the easy way out. What would I like to say to those people? Deal with Major Depressive Disorder—and then get back to me. When I was going through my lowest point, I was completely unstable. The medication made me stable enough to help myself.

I do not view my decision to go on medication as weakness; but rather, that I was strong enough to get the help I needed to be able to live my life. I took these steps in a secure setting under the advice of professionals who had been trained in brain chemistry. There is absolutely no shame in taking medication if is will help your mental health, which is just as important as physical health. That being said, I want to make it clear that medications are not a cure-all. Had I realized that the first time, I may not have had my relapses. Even if it is only once a month, seeing a therapist continuously is a necessity.

Since the start of my depression, I have relapsed three times. It completely took me by surprise. I thought I was fixed, but I again was sucked back down into the rabbit hole. Two of those relapses were while I was still in college. I’m sure I was a pleasure to deal with for my roommates. I found myself having to make constant trips home and my school work plummeted. During my first relapse, I got the lowest GPA I ever had in my life. My psychiatrist kept upping the dosage on my medication, which would lead to improvement. However, the third relapse, which led to the lowest point of my life, I was already at the highest dosage of Lexapro that I could take. At this point, I decided to stop seeing my current psychiatrist.

I went to a new psychiatrist, and since she did not do any counseling, I also found a therapist. Together, they worked to help bring me back up again—and I have not relapsed since. I also learned tools to deal with my depression. Taking recovery in small steps makes it seem a lot less daunting. Don’t start by trying to run a marathon. The little steps you take are a leap of faith. Step One: getting out of bed. Step Two: getting in the shower. Step Three: going outside for five minutes—this was the biggest tool I learned.

Music is something that has always helped me throughout my experiences. Being able to connect to it and feel it in your soul is the best possible feeling. When I was at my lowest points, I would listen to Avril Lavigne. Her music made me feel like there was someone else out there going through the same thing I was.  I will always hold her music close to my heart. I remember the first time I heard her song “Take Me Away:”

I cannot find a way to describe it,
Its there, inside, all I do is hide.
I wish that it would just away
What would you do, you do if you knew.

This verse summed up everything that I was feeling. I never thought anyone would understand me, but these lyrics made me realize that I was not alone. Another song, “Darlin,” spoke to me as well:

Darlin’10469948_10202358427497107_3137087843476918093_n
You’re hiding in the closet once again
Start smiln’
I know you’re trying real hard not to turn your head away
Pretty darlin’, face tomorrow, tomorrow’s not yesterday.

“Once again, start smilin’” had become my mantra. Also, what I said about a small step becoming a leap of faith? I got that wording from Avril Lavigne, too. I have “A single step becomes a leap of faith” tattooed on my arm.

Depression is never your fault. The psychiatrist that I saw at first consistently made me feel that way.  My current therapist has helped me realized that whenever I am down and need strength, I already have it inside of me. I have to rely on myself to be happy, and I’m a pretty good shoulder to lean on. Instead of making me feel guilty, she has made me realize how strong I am and that I can overcome this mental illness. While I was extremely fortunate to have amazing friends and family, I realize many others do not have that support. If you are one of those people, I want my story to be your strength and emotional support. You can overcome this; I am proof. You have that power, you are resilient and you will once again, start smilin’. Oh, as you can see, dreams really do come true.

 


For more information on depression, seek help at depression.org.