Depression is treatable!
Whatever help for depression you need to get – talking to someone, seeking psychological counselling, taking psychiatric medication, using alternative or complementary medicine, using self help or support groups, or a combination of them – depression is treatable.
There is no magic one-size-fits-all formula for taking medication to help with depression. When making a decision about whether to take medication, a few factors are useful to keep in mind. (Of course these ideas are no substitute at all for face-to-face advice)
- How long has the depression lasted? Has it lasted for quite a while (e.g. longer than six months) and despite your best efforts, nothing has helped so far? Then trying medication might be useful.
- How does your body typically react to psychoactive substances (caffeine, marijuana, street and/or OTC drugs such as allergy medication, even some hormone pills)? Some people are hypersensitive. In that case, trying something other than medication first for a little while might be a good idea.
- What do you believe will help? Our belief in methods for depression treatment, or any treatment for that matter, plays a large role in our recovery. Of course, these beliefs are hardly ever substitutes for what has been tried-and-true. But since there is such a variety of what can work, our belief in the positive outcome of the treatment can be an important factor.
- How debilitating is the depression? If you find it very difficult or impossible to carry out some of the most important activities in your life, such as working, interacting with friends and family members, enjoying your recreational routines, etc., then jump starting the depression treatment with medication might very well be what you need.
Of course this is by no means a complete list but it’s a start.
You need someone to talk to. The human animal is a social animal. Yes, some of us are loners. If you’re a happy loner and content with spending days and weeks by yourself, good for you. But in that case maybe you’ll never need this information. Most of us need a certain dose of human interaction on a very regular basis. This is as necessary as protein in our diets, movement for our muscles and sunlight for our metabolism (both physical and emotional).
As you know, one of the problems with depression is the vicious cycle of isolation: We feel too vulnerable (angry/exhausted/…) to connect with others, and the less we maintain our connections, the more difficult it becomes to call on them when we need them. What works for a lot of people is to have at least one or two “designated” contact persons who help stay in touch with the rest of humanity.
This is one of the reasons why people have counsellors. If you are looking for help for depression and think a counsellor might help, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me. One thing is for sure – when dealing with depression, it’s vital to have at least a few links with other people. As someone once said (was it Alphonso Lingis?), “We all need someone we can break bread with, and who will miss us when we don’t show up at the table.”
Find some way to be/stay active. Similar to the problem with isolation, this can be a vicious cycle. The less we’re active, the more the depression creeps in and the more depressed we are the more difficult it is to get motivated to do anything.
“Anything” may be the crucial word here. Albert, who was suicidal after retiring from a very successful job, spent the whole day sitting on the sofa, steeped in a black, angry cloud. Then a good friend, alarmed at his state, came to visit for a few weeks and dragged Albert out for three short walks every day. That was the beginning of his recovery. When he got a little better, his doctor suggested he look at some night school courses.
As a very well educated person (and still steeped in a lot of angry depression), he found that suggestion preposterous and only checked it out to keep his family happy. As luck would have it, he immediately made a good connection with the counsellor he saw at the night school, and ended up with a part time job there. It was that job which finally catapulted him out of that very dangerous depressive episode.
I believe that some form of activity is important even when one chooses to ride the depth of the depression. While most of the time, fighting the depression is the best way to go, there are situations when it can be healing to meet it and walk through it, especially when the depression or depressive episode is not very long or deep. But even then, it’s important to keep one foot in daily life.
As activities go, exercise, especially outdoors, is the best help for depression. But if that’s not possible, anything is fine, particularly if it is a normal, simple, daily activity. Washing the dishes, the car, the dog. Cleaning the house. Pursuing a simple hobby. A friend of mine rode out her 3-month depression last year while cross-stitching.
“I didn’t want to walk away from the depression,” she said, “but I couldn’t just sit still either. Putting in stitch after stitch, counting the colours, comparing my work to the pattern, gave me a bit of peace and some rhythm to walk through this vale of tears.”