Hope: Depression Recovery

Writing had always been Jennifer’s passion.

Jennifer (name changed for anonymity) was a good friend of mine in journalism school. We often lunched together and she could always put a smile on my face with a sharp sense of humor. She always got me through the midday doldrums.

Her performance at school was as sharp as her jokes. Professors were all impressed with Jennifer’s writing. Her ideas were consistently fresh, her style was unique. Equally impressive was her output – she wrote for the school news, interned for two papers, and submitted every assignment on time if not early.

A half year later I began noticing a worrisome trend. Jennifer, my friend who always cheered me up and wrote like a pro, was skipping classes and missing deadlines. Our lunches dwindled. When we did eat together she had less to say and never smiled. I read some of her work. It seemed uninspired. The articles were short. She finally stopped attending classes altogether, the semester ending with no sign of Jennifer.

Weeks of radio silence passed and eventually I sent an instant message. I was reaching out. It seemed to me from my own experience with mental health that she was battling an inner demon. We made light conversation at first. It could have stayed that way and I wouldn’t have pressed her  – after all it was her choice whether or not to discuss personal problems.

After an hour of chit chat and she divulged it out of nowhere. It was obvious, she said, that her absence was an elephant in the room. Unfortunately my suspicions were right. She had been diagnosed with depression.

Depression, one of the world’s most common mental disorders, had taken a bright and talented young woman and drained her of enthusiasm. Her productivity and upbeat personality had been excised. It was bad indeed but luckily for Jennifer this story has a happy ending.

She eventually got help from a psychiatrist who prescribed anti-depressants and therapy. It took a year of hard work but she now writes for a world famous newspaper. When we hang out these days she tries to make me laugh with a drink in my mouth.

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Post-partum. Seasonal. Bi-polar. Types of depression are as numerous as Pop-Tart flavors at Target. The causes are different, the triggers vary, but the disease itself stays the same. When someone says, “I’m so depressed because my favorite show ended,” they’re not talking about true depression.

Depression is a debilitating mental disorder characterized by a variety of symptoms, common ones being: a constantly sad or “gray” mood, loss of interest in normally stimulating activities, loss of energy, eating and sleeping disturbances (too much or too little), physical manifestations of aches and pains, and in extreme cases thoughts of suicide.

The neurological cause of depression is still being studied but doctors believe it results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, interrupting mood regulation.

People of any age or gender can become depressed although women run a statistically greater risk. Then there are genetic links – if a family member has been diagnosed, someone else in that family is more likely to suffer from the disorder.  Another cruel fact of depression is that it often accompanies other health setbacks. It feels daunting to tackle both depression AND anxiety, or depression AND an autoimmune disease. This unwelcome side dish of depression makes the original malady worse.

Fortunately, all these sad facts about depression are offset by real hope. Depression is highly treatable through a combination of medication and therapy. In fact 80% of patients conquer depression with these tools.

Therapy for depression can take various forms. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps train the mind to use new perspectives and thoughts in reaction to distress. Talk therapy can can also help a sufferer develop new perspectives, as well as understand their own depressed mind state. Other forms of therapy have been shown to help and each case is different. Treatments can be explored until a patient finds their perfect fit. The important thing is to not give up.

The same goes for antidepressant medication. There are a wide range of antidepressants such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and MAOI’s (monoamine oxidase inhibitors). Effects differ for each individual but once the right drug and dosage is determined, they can make a huge impact alongside therapy.

Other factors that aid in recovery are exercise, positive social interaction, a healthy diet, and even mindfulness meditation. It’s also a good idea to stay away from drugs and alcohol.

I’m not sure what caused my friend Jennifer’s depression. Maybe it was triggered by something, maybe it arose at random. We don’t really discuss it anymore but I’ll always look to her for inspiration. She is proof that when depression feels like its dragging someone under water, they’re not as far from the surface as they think.

If you suffer from depression, or are thinking of harming yourself, please visit these resources:

National Alliance on Mental Illness

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Families for Depression Awareness

To Write Love on Her Arms (Great for positivity and motivation!)

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

 

Note: For assistance with Depression or other behavioral health issues, contact us at 305-740-3340 or schedule an appointment with BregmanMD.

References:
National Institute of Mental Health (2018) Depression. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml?

Golberg, Joseph, M.D. (2018) Adjusting Your Life for Recovery from Depression. Retrieved September 28, 2018, from https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/adjusting-life-recovery

U.S. Food & Drug Administration (2008) Depression — Medicines to Help You. Retrieved September 28, 2018 from https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForWomen/ucm118473.htm