Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Depression, Part 2

Maybe defining the word Depression would be helpful. I appreciate the time "anonymous" took in sharing her testimony of how Vit. B solved her depression, and I'm sure her desire was to help. However, she stands as an example of the misunderstanding of depression. Again, I understand the desire to help; I've got a very strong "helper" trait. But sometimes that help can hurt when depression is treated as a weakness, something a person is doing wrong, or something a person can help themselves out of. I don't mean to sound like that is never the case. I do think depression is so common these days due to many factors, including diet and living a stress-filled life. And that's where the misunderstanding comes in, I think.

So, maybe I should clear up what I mean when I say depression. I am not talking about circumstantial depression or post-partum depression. Everyone gets depressed, or has times of depression, during particularly difficult periods in their life, particularly those suffering with a chronic illness. If you find yourself suddenly depressed, particularly after having a baby, you should pray, share with a friend, evaluate and eliminate the stressors in your life, maintain a healthy diet, and exercise. And don't be afraid to talk to a doctor. Even going on anti-depressants temporarily can help clear your mind and get you over the hurdle, back to your normal self.

What I am talking about is Major Depression. When your "normal self" is depressed, when you've been that way for as long as you can remember and don't really know how else to think or function. To quote from the Mayo Clinic's site:

Depression isn't a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply "snap out of." Depression, formally called major depression, major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a medical illness that involves the mind and body. It affects how you think and behave and can cause a variety of emotional and physical problems. You may not be able to go about your usual daily activities, and depression may make you feel as if life just isn't worth living anymore.

Most health professionals today consider depression a chronic illness that requires long-term treatment, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.

It's not known specifically what causes depression. As with many mental illnesses, it's thought that a variety of biochemical, genetic and environmental factors may cause depression:

Biochemical. Some evidence from high-tech imaging studies indicates that people with depression have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes. The naturally occurring brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, which are linked to mood, also may play a role in depression. Hormonal imbalances also could be a culprit.
Genes. Some studies show that depression is more common in people whose biological family members also have the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing depression.
Environment. Environment is also thought to play a causal role in some way. Environmental causes are situations in your life that are difficult to cope with, such as the loss of a loved one, financial problems and high stress.

To be diagnosed with Major Depression, you must meet the symptom criteria spelled out in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

Diagnostic criteria for depression include:

Symptoms that occur nearly every day for two or more weeks
A depressed mood
Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities
Significant unintentional weight loss or weight gain
Sleeping difficulties, whether sleeping too much, too little or frequent waking episodes while trying to sleep
Feelings of restlessness and agitation
Feelings of sluggishness
Fatigue or lack of energy
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
Problems thinking, concentrating or making decisions
Thoughts of death or suicide
Your symptoms cause you distress or impair your ability to function in your daily life

I've sat and debated for a long time on what to type next. Do I admit that I have all those symptoms? Yikes. That is pretty transparent and vulnerable. So I have to ask myself: what is my purpose in blogging about this? I have three answers, all of which call me to honesty: 1) To encourage others by letting them know there are people--good, Christian, normal, lovely, people--who struggle with Major Depression; 2) To help remove the social stigma of Depression as something "wrong" with a person or something you can get yourself out of if you just try hard enough or something you can pray yourself out of if you're a good enough Christian; 3) To bring myself to greater terms with this condition and living it honestly with those I love.

I'm not always "depressed." I don't walk around with a glum face. I love to laugh. I love my family. I love my life as a Mom, homeschooler, and Wife. (Depression is not ingratitude either.) And I love the Lord with all my heart! Because we are created in such a multi-faceted way, there is no one way depression is manifested. I think some of what I'm struggling with now could have several factors: Depression mixed with a very long and gloomy winter, PMS, and possibly an adjustment needed in my medication. And that reminds me, there is also a condition called PMDD. If you are a female and find yourself severely depressed 1-2 weeks out of the month, please talk to your gynecologist.

My greatest hope in sharing this is that it has been beneficial to someone else.


Like Thoreau, our wish for our said...


Thank you for letting others learn from what you are experiencing. I have just this past year come out of an approximately 20 year depression. I think your message of "this DOES happen to good people who love God" needs to be heard by so many.

With sincere prayer,
in AR

Kim said...

Thank you, Connie, for your encouraging comment. It's so nice to get feedback and know that it's making a difference for someone. I'd like to hear about your journey if you'd like to share.

Kim said...

I will dialogue with you via e-mail, but do not feel this blog is the place for debate. I want it to be an encouragement to others, and your comments have not had an encouraging tone to them. you can e-mail me directly at