Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Depression : Out of the Shadows

PBS produced and ran a special Depression: Out of the Shadows

Having suffered from severe depression and the stigma surrounding those who suffer, I was deeply grateful to hear of and see the program. I think those patients and families who have had an opportunity to speak out and help others must be grateful souls and I applaud their courage. I too would like to speak out and help others as well as become an active advocate towards change in the attitudes and policies of our society.

I experienced over 3 years of struggling with treatment and medications, and survived an unsupportive workplace that contributed to my nearly giving up. Many friends and family did indeed expect me just to 'get over it'.

I was thankful for those who stood by witnessing this painful period, and continued to hold out a light, perspective, even while I could not smile nor feel much of anything. While I would not condone suicide, I fully understand that extreme longing for relief from what was indeed mental AND physical anguish.

Love and concern for my children prodded me on to persevere (as well as some VERY close friends). Will power did come into play and the training from my academic background, a major in psychology from Smith, helped me to have an intellectual perspective. I continued to read and do research towards understanding and coping with the illness.

I think the program or follow-ups could and should emphasize how the insurance system, and negative family and work attitudes can adversely effect those who suffer. One block to succesful treatment is the expense of (and lack of access to) brain scans which could help diagnose and treat anxiety /depression and contributes to many suffering from long term trial and error of mixing of medications that in themselves can have severe side effects, so severe to even cause suicidal thoughts or actions.

Also contact with medical professionals is minimal over the long trial and error period of medications where severely depressed persons really need more monitoring and more constant care.

If there is shame, or shyness, on top of anxiety/depression- it is extremely difficult for patients to advocate for themselves. Many shun contact with the depressed, where contact could be an important/esential part of the support and healing that is needed. On that note the use of touch towards healing, or maintaining mental health, was not really covered. Tiffany Field's research, Ashley Montague and others could be referred to.

I must say that viewing the program brought tears to my eyes: sadness - not depression, though I could also recall the darkness. I am very grateful that I can feel joy (lots of it) these days. It takes a lot of self-care to maintain however.

With the darkest years behind, yes it does feel like I am out of the shadows for the most, I think about writing in more detail about my experience and the atrocious treatment/attitudes I was subjected to at work, the struggles of single parenting and maintaining a home that piled on the pressure, and the moments with friends and family that made survival even possible. Still sometimes it seems too close to consider - stirring up some of the anxiety, fear and negativity I worked hard to move past.

Anyway. I do recommend and refer this site for support and research! you can watch the program here

Also - you can read my piece: Are you Zippy, a more personal snippet.


Polly Kahl said...

Hi Alison, it's great to see you blogging again.

I broke up with a long-term friend who was clinically depressed and it was very painful for me to do so. It got to the point where I didn't know what else to do because the relationship felt abusive to me and I couldn't tolerate that. I didn't have a problem with her being depressed (I mean, I had a problem with it but was clear on it being HER issue, not mine) but when her behavior began to impede negatively on my and my family's life, it was just too much. If she'd been honest with her doctor or willing to get therapy it would've been different. But I couldn't help her and it was hurting us, which was too much. It's a difficult and painful thing for all concerned and I appreciate your writing about it so honestly.

Amonly said...

Thank you Polly for commenting and sharing. I think it is essential for those connected to a depressed person to maintain boundaries, but also to help get help for the sufferer, either by alerting family to step in, or health professionals. It is essential to encourage the person to get help, and affirm that they deserve it. What is hard is facing the reality that the disease itself can pull a person to withdraw more and more and affect his/her ability to get out even and get help. The shame and negative feelings that persist make it hard on everone. One thing you might do is to share with your former friend exactly why you are pulling away and what you would wish/hope/expect for her/him,in order to stay a friend or return as one in the future. Clarity may help. After that - there is the expression. "You can lead an elephant to water, but you can't make it drink". Sometimes you can't budge the elephant. Praying, sending hopes out to universe, may help. (you at least) Blessings, Alison

Polly Kahl said...

Thanks Alison. Yes, I did all of the above. By the time I pulled out she was actually in an okay place, but even when she was okay she wasn't honest with her professionals about the times when she wasn't okay, and it seemed those times were always inevitable. I got burned out from the whole thing. But I loved her very much and was honest with her, hopefully lovingly honest, when it had to end. Thanks again and I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts when you get to it.