Saturday, August 1, 2015

My Fight with Depression and Anxiety

Original Art by Ann-Monique

“I know I had become useless before I left. I'd let myself lose my grip on life and was struggling to get it back. I'm working really hard to come back to you both a much better wife and mommy…
…I don't cook I don't clean I don't do laundry I don't do his homework with him I don't mow the lawn…
…I beat myself up over everything. I know I've been failing
…I just want you to understand that I know I've been screwing up especially in my attention to you.”

In my journey down the road to recovering from my last major break down from Depression and anxiety I’ve managed to leave by husband so far behind its inexcusable. I was so focused on trying to fix myself while keeping my son from knowing there was an issue that I basically forgot to spend time with my husband. I didn’t recognize I was doing it. I honestly thought I was maintaining my relationship while I worked to heal myself.

The following is from WebMD. Follow this link for the complete article:

Depression: What Is It? 

It's natural to feel down sometimes, but if that low mood lingers day after day, it could signal depression. Major depression is an episode of sadness or apathy along with other symptoms that lasts at least two consecutive weeks and is severe enough to interrupt daily activities. Depression is not a sign of weakness or a negative personality. It is a major public health problem and a treatable medical condition.

Depression is sometimes linked to physical symptoms. These include:
Fatigue and decreased energy
Insomnia, especially early-morning waking
Excessive sleep

Without treatment, the physical and emotional turmoil brought on by depression can derail careers, hobbies, and relationships. Depressed people often find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. They turn away from previously enjoyable activities, including sex. In severe cases, depression can become life-threatening.

Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

Depression can make other health problems feel worse, particularly chronic pain. Key brain chemicals influence both mood and pain. Treating depression has been shown to improve co-existing illnesses.

Anyone can become depressed, but many experts believe genetics play a role. Having a parent or sibling with depression increases your risk of developing the disorder. Women are twice as likely as men to become depressed.

Causes of Depression

Doctors aren't sure what causes depression, but a prominent theory is altered brain structure and chemical function. Brain circuits that regulate mood may work less efficiently during depression. Drugs that treat depression are believed to improve communication between nerve cells, making them run more normally. Experts also think that while stress -- such as losing a loved one -- can trigger depression, one must first be biologically prone to develop the disorder. Other triggers could include certain medications, alcohol or substance abuse, hormonal changes, or even the season.

Some Types of Depression
Chronic Depression (Dysthymia, Mild) 

Dysthymia, sometimes referred to as mild, chronic depression, is less severe and has fewer symptoms than major depression. With dysthymia, the depression symptoms can linger for a long period of time, often two years or longer. Those who suffer from dysthymia can also experience periods of major depression--sometimes called "double depression.".

Clinical Depression (Major Depression)

Most people feel sad or low at some point in their lives. But clinical depression is marked by a depressed mood most of the day, particularly in the morning, and a loss of interest in normal activities and relationships -- symptoms that are present every day for at least 2 weeks. In addition, according to the DSM-5 -- a manual used to diagnose mental health conditions -- you may have other symptoms with major depression.

Those symptoms might include:
Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
Restlessness or feeling slowed down
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)

My Causes of Depression

For me it appears to run in my family and then can be made much worse from stress and major life events. Fortunately there is even better education and understanding now that there was even 20 years ago when I was first diagnosed. I have very good periods of time when I feel completely “normal” and then suddenly one day I’ll be incredibly sad, despondent and physically weary for no reason I can pinpoint. I have finally begun to see a pattern, pre-menopause has definitely made the symptoms more defined and the time periods more regular as I become more irregular in my cycle.

Part of me is finding the whole process intriguing to observe.  I’ll go 2 weeks or so struggling to maintain a daily routine, still be productive and still try to care about my own health, then one day it’s like a switch has been flipped in my brain and I’m back to normal for a while and working hard to get caught up from when I lacked the motivation to do anything.

I used to get really offended when I would hear people say that depression was all in the head. Of course those people usually meant that it was something you could choose to snap out of. As it happens, they were partially right.  It is all in the head, most specifically in the brain.

Photo from WebMD

Depression is a disease. It's caused by changes in chemicals in the brain that are called neurotransmitters. Depression isn't a character flaw, and it doesn't mean you are bad or weak. It doesn't mean you are going crazy. (WebMD:

I’ve become less frustrated over time about my own battles once I completely understood that the symptoms are linked to actual physical issues in the brain’s chemistry.  It’s been easier for me to accept treatment, now that I understand that it’s not just because I’m “having a bad day”, but because something in my body is actually turning against me. I understand that I can no sooner tackle this condition completely by myself than I could tackle Cancer completely by myself.

My Attack Plan

I have spent most of my life developing Coping Skills to deal both with my depression and my social anxiety.  I’ve been on and off different medications as well as seen several counselors and psychologists as I needed to, depending on what else was happening in my life.  Several years ago my Psychologist recommended this workbook to me: The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne.

This book is a wonderful resource for recognizing what you may be dealing with and helping you develop coping skills in a manner that works best for you.  I was able to not only realize how serious my problems had become but also work toward fine tuning coping skills in a way that has continued to benefit me.  I highly recommend this as a resource for anyone looking for assistance with their depression, anxiety or even a general phobia as these all often become linked and the exercises to overcome them are similar.

I’ve now better recognize what parts I do have some control over and can use my coping skills to use in battle. I’ve also accepted that it’s ok to be on medication in order to assist me with the chemical battles within my brain that I don’t have control over. This has led me to become much less frustrated and more tolerant of myself when I realize I’m not accomplishing my personal goals.  It has also made me more aware of where I am falling short so I can put more effort into those areas of my life.