It’s been less than two years since the son of a friend in Tucson, a man in his early 30s, committed suicide. This young man had everything going for him: a successful business; a beautiful, adoring fiancée; a loving family. And yet, because of his depression, his out-of-whack brain chemistry took the painful way out. (Make no mistake: suicide is never “the easy way out.”) I don’t doubt that if he had felt he had a choice, he would not have taken his own life. The consequences of his action are reverberating to this day.
This story, and so many others like it—including my own, have brought me to the point where I can’t not share my experience, strength, and hope and the practical learnings I have gleaned over the many years I have struggled with major depression. (Besides, one ignores God’s, er, invitations at one’s peril; look what almost happened to Noah!)
There is a lot of information available today about depression, thanks largely to the Internet. Medical web sites, blogs, government agency sites, pharmaceutical companies’ completely unbiased (riiight!) sites, along with books and magazine articles, the advice of doctors and therapists, TV ads for anti-depressant medications. . . and then there are all the things our well-meaning family members and friends say. It is overwhelming and extremely confusing to know where to turn, what to do, whom to believe.
The first few years after I received my diagnoses of recurrent major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (coming on top of a previous diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder), I felt greatly discouraged and further depressed by the lack of any kind of whole-person approach to treating my depression. When I complained that I wasn’t getting better, my psychiatrist thought that more drugs in higher doses was the answer. My therapist encouraged me to talk about my feelings (despairing! frustrated! non-functional! Hello!!), and gave me a handful of strategies to “cope.” At no time did any of the medical professionals I was working with discuss lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, self-help strategies, depression as essentially a bio-spiritual disease, or the notion that my recovery from depression was up to me.
It wasn’t until I got it that I, and only I, could “rescue myself” from depression and started researching ways to help myself that I slowly, gradually, yet surely began to get better. It’s been a “long row to hoe,” as my Hoosier relatives might say, and I’m not fully “there” yet. There are days—sometimes several in a row, sometimes a couple of weeks at a time—when the depression monster (a creature I call, in a Tolkienesque nod, “Noorder”) wakes up, rears its horrific head, nabs me, and has me for lunch. My functionality takes a nose-dive, my dreams and work once again go on the back burner, and I get to use the tools I’ve learned to pull myself back up out of the pit—again. But the pit is shallower than it used to be, and I don’t spend as much time in it as I used to.
It is my hope that this blog will help others with chronic, intransigent, clinical depression and their families or caregivers—people who have been frustrated, as I was, by the confusing, contradictory information out there about depression and by the one-sided, medication-biased approach to treating this devastating illness. That is why I call this blog Rescue Yourself: CPR for Depressives. “CPR,” in this instance, stands for the following:
C=Care for self radically. (One of the definitions for “radical” is “forming a basis or a foundation.”)
P=Practice reliance on a Higher Power.
R=Re-vision and revitalize your life.
Let’s see where this journey takes us.
Next time: “Hitting the Trail—Part 3.”
(c) 2010 by Patricia R. Henschen