Friday, October 2, 2009

Mental Health

This post got me to thinking. After I read it, I commented, and then realized that, with some editing, I had my first October blog post:

I've written before about my own stuggles with chronic depression. I am absolutely confident I'd be dead without chemical intervention.

Both my father and my paternal grandmother were suicides, so pshrinks drool like a kennel full of Pavlov's dogs when they hear my family history. The meds put a floor under how sad I can get. I might be miserable, but I don't tip over into suicidal. And when not in the grip of an acute episode, I'm capable of as much joy as any other average twit.

Beyond meds and talk therapy, a couple of other things help.

(A) One is remembering the First Rule of Holes: If you find yourself in one --- STOP DIGGING. Because it's hard to apply the judgment this rule relies on when you're depressed, loving, honest feedback from family and a competent therapist are critical.

(B) Another is the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a lightbulb. (Just one, but the liightbulb has to want to change.) Again, lovingkindness from those around you is sometimes the only motivation you have left for changing, because the depression obscures your ability to see that change is even possible.

Ultimately, I had to decide for myself to find the help I needed. That entailed, among other things, accepting the idea that depression is an illness, not a character flaw. Crucial to my finally accepting that idea was the encouragement of friends and family.

Withdrawal is a symptom of depression. If someone you love, or even just like, is withdrawing and spiraling downward, reach out to them. There's no guarantee you'll be the right person at the right time, but you might be.


laura b. said...

I can't thank you enough for how open you are with your struggles. There is no denying that there are still stigmas attached to mental illness, and their needn't be. Like any other illness it helps to hear how someone else has dealt with it and it helps anyone anytime to not feel alone.

Alan M. Feldstein said...

Your closing paragraph is very important. Some people very close to me have dealt with depression. One was spiraling and was suicidal when I lost contact with him. I don't know if he's alive.

But I don't want anyone to think that the depressed individual has to be suicidal in order to need and/or benefit from the outreach you suggest. Depression is a serious matter, even when suicide is not a possibility.

Adina said...

"If someone you love, or even just like, is withdrawing and spiraling downward, reach out to them. There's no guarantee you'll be the right person at the right time, but you might be."

Bless you.

Churlita said...

Great post. Thank you for your honesty and knowledge. I hope it helps people.

Unknown said...

I've lost a sister to suicide and most of the rest of my family is or should be on anti-depressants.

In addition, even for non-boozers, the AA recipe (HALT) works well. Their advice is don't let yourself get Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. Simple? Well, no, but it is a wonderful guide in making daily decisions.

Pamela said...

I've been here before but not in a long time. It's interesting the debate that's going on as to how much mental health is included in health care reform. It could be overlooked, which would be horrible. It's expensive to be mentally ill - I know.

Julie R said...

I never knew about your family and would never have imagined. No wonder you are such a deep and compassionate person. Thank you for being one of the "right" people for me as I work to stop digging and get out of my current hole.