When I see depression stricken patients, I rarely identify only one victim of the
process, most of the time one’s depression makes its world fold down like a playing
cards castle. Most often then not, the victims include the spouse, the immediate family
and everybody else my patients interact with. It’s pretty much all included.
The Feeling of Depression
The best way to describe the feeling of being overwhelmed with this disorder, mostly for people who never had to struggle with it, it’s trying to describe a big hole of nothingness. ‘A black hole’ like many people describe it, when nothing makes sense like it used to do before the disease struck. There is no energy or desire to do anything, there is no goal, no pleasure, no sense in caring, hoping, planning … not even feeding. In some instances the thought of death by suicide or drinking one’s life away seem to be the only sensical thought.
How do you cope with that kind of depression? The patient, most of the time is the last person to notice the subtle changes before asking for help. The spouse or the children, the immediate
family notice that the person they knew started fading away…. slowly. Irritability,
indecisiveness, withdrawal, sadness, apathy, gradually replace everything else that had once represented the uniqueness of that individual.
Usually, when finally coming to see a psychiatrist or a therapist, the patient himself says, ‘I’m not the one I used to be’, and what I do to understand just a little of what they mean, is asking, “tell me at least three things that used to make you feel…happy”. And most of them can’t even remember. How can someone be engaged in the treatment when they see no goal, no future, no reason?
What I try to remind the depressed patient is that the brain at that time goes thru a phase of ‘ not doing so well’ and the problem of that is that when the brain is sick, it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t feel nauseated, doesn’t itch…but instead misfires thoughts that are not quite based on reality… When any other part the body is afflicted, the brain most likely would make sense of that and create solutions to the problem: i.e. taking Tylenol for headaches. When the brain is in pain, there is no other locus of control.
Tips on Coping with Depression
Some tips of how to deal with the disease could be then helpful.
The first tip: do not believe your depressed brain; suicide ideation is a red flag telling you that you need help, right away. Suicide is not the logical way out like unfortunately a lot of depressed patients end up believing and acting on the thought.
The second tip: ally with a loved one. For the time being, believe what your husband, wife, child or parent tell you about your condition: you need help, is time to see a professional, a psychiatrist, a therapist or both if necessary.
The third tip: make a list with somebody’s help of things to do to alleviate the emotional pain: smell your favorite flower if that bring any relief, have twenty or so items to return to if the emptiness starts drifting towards suicidal ideation.
The fourth tip: have a friend or family member committed to help you initiate and maintain some form of physical exercise. Walking with a speed of a mile per 15 minutes, would help. One do the many depressive symptoms include lack of energy, initiative and self-care, therefore another person willing to do this with you might be of paramount help. Exercise has been shown to improve the depressive symptoms and the response to medication.
The fifth tip: avoid isolation. Surround yourself with willing friends. People who have a good social network fare the depression much better.
The sixth tip: follow your physician recommendations and give him feedback to help appropriate changes to be made. There are no medications that can provide immediate relief, therefore a lot of times, therapy is recommended as part of the treatment. A good therapist would be able to provide support while the medication treatment is in its initial phases.
The seventh tip: keep talking about how you feel, with your spouse, therapist, or friend.
The eighth tip: delegate some of your usual tasks to family members to reduce the unnecessary stress. At work because of the impaired concentration and sometimes psychomotor retardation, some patients can’t perform at the required level. In this case they could benefit from leave a of absence.
The ninth tip: access resources that are available to build up support, such as DBSA ( depression and bipolar support alliance).
If you like this article on how to cope with depression, or have questions, schedule your first session by calling us at 713-426-3100.