Tag Archives: Depression

“I Have a Mental Illness” Project

Please come visit my new posting site (and podcasting site) ihaveamentalillness.com. I am a cofounder, though not the initial founder, that honor goes to another.

We are trying to educate the community. Please visit, and leave comments so that we can be a better bastion as time goes on.

unconstructed

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Why am I sad???

Depression isn’t fair.
Mental illness isn’t fair.

We shouldn’t require happiness of ourselves. Depression is not about emotions, not at its core anyway. Depression is an illness, depression screws with brain chemistry.

It’s like if you had a glass of wine, and suddenly someone replaced it with a glass of cod liver oil. No matter how much we “should be happy” about getting wine, we’re not getting wine. We’re getting cod liver oil, and there’s no real way to choke down the stuff and think it’s wine (at least, I don’t think so, I’ve never had cod liver oil ><).

I see this in myself and in some of my compatriots at times, we’re mad at ourselves for not being happy in a good situation.

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A Toast To Life

Life at times seems a petty thing to me. There have been and are days when I have no or very little will to live. Thankfully most of these have landed in the apathetic rather than suicidal side of things.

It’s very hard for me to keep blogging every day. But it’s worth doing. It’s worth doing because it gives me something to be doing and something I do because I believe it should be done not for the will of some other being or power.

Of course, anyone looking at the dates of the posts will see very quickly that I have missed days.

But I’m still trying.

And it’s this trying that’s the important bit. Depression or depressive phases can beat you to the ground, leave you lying on the cold pavement of life bloodied and bruised. There’s a movie with Cuba Gooding Junior where he has to walk some odd steps in a giant diving suit, and half way either his leg breaks or is badly injured it seems. But though tears of pain are on his eyes he keeps going. I think this is apt because of the pacing. He just had to make the steps. He didn’t have to do it quickly. If I were him I’d have to take it one step at a time. One burst of pain at a time.

We must toast to life.

And we must live life. One step at a time. Even if we break our legs we need to keep going to get to where they can be repaired.

If you’ve suffered depression you’ll know that there are days when getting out of bed seems damn near impossible.

But we just have to keep going. It is not in living that we should find our purpose but rather in the steps we make while living. The steps we make against the tide, through the pain, and toward tomorrow.

Let us make it to tomorrow.

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It’s just in your head

Mental illness is a condition. We must remember that. A recent comment on a post led me to make this a post, since it was getting a bit long for a comment and contained issues that I wanted to express to the general public readers.

Some people have “pulled themselves out” of depression. But what does that mean?

If you pull yourself out of mental illness and get back to normal functioning… I don’t know, I’d be hard pressed to call that mental illness. Sure, you might be able to get to some form of function, but completely recovering by yourself to the same place you were before in my opinion is not mental illness.

Clinical Depression is mental illness.

Mental illness is by definition highly debilitating.

“In addition, for a diagnosis of major depression to be made, the symptoms must not be better accounted for by Bereavement, i.e., after the loss of a loved one, the symptoms persist for longer than 2 months or are characterized by marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms, or psychomotor retardation.”

http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx22.htm

One of the problems with depression is that people treat it differently than bipolar or schizophrenia, because for one reason or another only bipolars and schizophrenics are “crazy”.

For many people I would argue that they cannot get out of it themselves. I mean, think of a broken leg. Ya you can let it heal, but you’ll often be debilitated for life because of very badly healed bone.

People often do not treat mental illness and “physical” illness the same way. For some reason antidepressants are a “crutch” that isn’t necessary, while a physical crutch is at least temporarily necessary if you want to be able to deal with anything more than laying down. Antidepressants are more like a wheel chair in many cases. A paralyzed person can work without a wheelchair, but it’s damn near impossible. I don’t see why people assume depression or bipolar or schizophrenia is necessarily different.

There are cases of temporary mental illness, that is, mental illness that seems to be healed after a certain amount of time. And I do believe that can be real depression. Just like pneumonia is a temporary illness if you get it dealt with, in some cases depression can be temporary.

We must be careful though. Depression is not just the feeling or the apathy. If it is truly a brain chemistry issue, fixing your own physical brain is extremely difficult or possibly impossible. Depression can entail a lot of things that are very hard to deal with. In my case (with bipolar) I had psychosomatic aphasia and paralysis. I also have Tourette’s and OCD. Those two are often comorbid.

Attempting to deal with it completely by yourself is what people usually do before they get help. No one wants to think of themselves as mentally ill. You have to get to the point where you can’t get out of it yourself and are willing to admit that you’re ill. Or to the point where you’re a danger to yourself or others.

I really am not trying to single the commenting person. First, the position given was vague and I don’t want to impute intent or meaning when I’m not completely sure. Also it’s a common position and should be addressed to everyone. I’m not mad about what the person wrote. Honestly it gave me the inspiration to write this post. And I certainly do not impute all these beliefs to that person, I’m relatively sure that person didn’t mean everything that I wrote down. It just reminded me and I wanted to write out the possibilities thoroughly.

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The Significance of Insignificance: Why the Little Things Matter

This really is a response that was going to be a comment but kind of morphed out of control in my head. The post was about two insignificant events

Think about human touch. What does it mean to you? To me it is the essence of humanity

Imagine going without any human touch for months. Not even so much as a handshake. I remember a period in my life going through this mostly because of the insignificant event that brought me to an understanding of myself with regards to human touch.

I was at the Catholic Church near my university.For those of you who don’t know, the sacrament (also known as  communion) is given every Sunday during mass (the church service). A noncatholic is not supposed to partake, however they can receive the blessing without the sacramental bread and wine if they cross their arms across their chest. Where I was the priest made the symbol of the cross on your forehead with his finger. When this occurred I hadn’t touched or been touched by another human being in months.

This sign of the cross nearly made me weep openly.

I wasn’t a Catholic at the time and still am not one. But the gesture was immensely personal and powerful. What was insignificant to probably the rest of the congregation was extremely significant to me. The touch was not religious to me. It was not a matter of Jesus Christ or any other deific character.

It was an expression of care.

And perhaps,

in the dark mires of depression in which care is assumed not to exist,

somehow this came through to me.

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Ideas On How To Continue In a Depressed State

I’m in a bit of a low currently.

It makes everything hard to do. Everything is difficult. Even moving is difficult. I think this often leads to the conclusion that depressed individuals are lazy. That’s incorrect in general. It is hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced it, but it’s like everything becomes a large exertion. Especially in the sense of an idea. To even contemplate doing something other than laying around requires more exertion than I think many people would believe.

This advice goes out mostly to those who are stable but suffer from bouts of depression. When in full blown depression these become strenuous beyond possibility.

So.. here we go…

1) Hygiene. Two reasons. A) you’ll feel better after a shower sometimes and B) lacking basic hygiene is a very affective way of promoting ones loneliness. It sounds like a joke, but it’s not. It’s not “ewww you’re gross” it’s “wow… wtf is wrong with that guy…”. It’s beyond the point of noticing you’re gross to the point of actively avoiding you.

2) Walk around if you can. Believe me I know how hard this can be. I’m trying to convince myself to do it after I write this down… we’ll see how that goes. Being sedentary is also weirdness that’s only good for making people worry about you. Maybe it’s just me but some of the pain associated with depression is relieved if I force myself to move around.

3) Do something you like to do. By that I mean something you like to do when you’re not depressed. When depressed nothing seems interesting, everything seems useless. But here I am writing this blog which I really don’t want to do but I know that I would want to if I were in a better state. I also sing from time to time, it’s my agent to reduce stress, which can aggravate a depressed state.

4) OK, here I must admit I’m a hypocrite. I have yet to be able to get myself to exercise regularly. It’s strenuous work on top of strenuous ideation. But I know it works for a lot of people. So… ya… if you can manage it, power to you. I’m still working on that one.

5) Or you can do what I’m doing right now.

Write.

Creative expression may be good for you. It seems to help me in other areas. Gives my brain a kick start, so I work with it.

OK… I finished this exertion… now time to keep going.

Be well,

–Unthought

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Depression does not equal sad

Someone sent me an article to post on a comment so it could be seen by my viewers as additional information. The article is so false I will include it here and properly dismantle it..

http://www.istheendsoon.com/2012/01/13/our-modern-lifestyle-causes-depression-and-anxiety/

Depression and Anxiety in their clinical forms are NOT sadness and stress.

Sadness gives a reason. If you’re extremely sad, in the pit of despair, then you have something that is putting you into the pit. Usually a very good reason. There are legitimate reasons to be sad. There are also legitimate reasons to be stressed. Stress is part of life, you learn to live with it and minimize bad sorts of stress when they come.

With clinical major depression or generalized anxiety disorder, there are no reasons. They are brain issues. They are instabilities in the human mind.

Think of it this way. When you exercise your muscles you can have microtrauma, small injuries to the muscle that are essential in building it. When you tear your ACL it’s not microtrauma. It’s not even close. It’s an entirely different sort of injury, and even calling them both injuries seems to degrade them.

Think about your response to sadness. You grieve. Grieving is natural, your mind and body are processing a strongly emotionally disturbing event, such as the death of a loved one. Or stress. You get stressed at work. Sometimes it’s bad stress, it can cause serious problems. But you don’t have panick attacks with normative stress. You don’t start cutting because of reasonable sadness. Perhaps that’s the best way to think of it, though it’s quite a dark issue. You don’t cut when your mother dies. Unless you have a serious problem outside of a death, you don’t cut. You wouldn’t think to. It is depression, it is the abyss for which there seems no lowest point, it is the neverending darkness, it is emotional depth. It often gives the person a sense of apathy. Grieving people don’t usually get apathetic. They’re sad, they have a reason to be sad, they are processing that event.

Clinical depression is very hard to understand for a non-depressed person. Sadness we can all relate to, if even only a little bit as we haven’t ourselves experienced that.

Cutting, in my experience, is a method of control. I can control pain. It is the answer to an endless morass of emotional distress and pain. It is the depressed individual shouting at the abyss.

Actually that sort of also explains why it’s not helpful even though it may seem so at the time. Shouting at the abyss won’t get you anywhere.

Depression and Anxiety in their clinical forms are not the result of societal pressures. Higher levels of stress, higher levels of distress, maybe. But Depression and Anxiety are not. Just as injuries sustained in football are culturally accepted as normative, breaking ones back in a horrific accident is not.

We need to realize this dichotomy and not confuse the two.

We need clarity, we need understanding, and we need knowledge. And that’s what I’m trying to provide, if only in a small way.

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How do you tell someone to keep going?

I talk to a number of individuals with mental illness. A question that comes up a lot, and for the life of me I can’t think of a good answer, is

why keep going?

This can mean several different things. Why keep taking medication? Why keep going to my therapist?

… Why keep living at all?

I see the argument that many people make is that many people will be sad if the individual does one of these things. The standard “A lot of people will miss you and be sad if you die…”

But what kind of answer is that?

I mean that’s basically saying “You’re in incredible pain, we all know you’re in incredible pain, but we’d like you to stick around in incredible pain because you’re our token ailing person who ‘keeps pushing on’.

I realize this can work. But at the same time I feel like a horrible person using that argument. It’s not constructive. It’s almost belittling the person’s condition by comparing it to other people being “sad”. I mean really… “sad” vs “clinically depressed”…

It all comes back to that weird view of

“Stop doing this! You’re hurting…

ME!

ME!

I NEED TO NOT BE HURT!

YOU CAN SUFFER AND DIE BUT DON’T HURT ME!”

There’s got to be a better answer than this. And sometimes they’re not terribly hard to find.

But imagine the piss poor state of mind in which you are alive for someone else’s sake.

Also what if that person dies? Is that the red line? “Well, they’re dead so now I won’t make anybody sad”.

In the end I guess what I want people to think about is the meaning in the words they use. Words are important. Semantics are everything. It’s easy to give a procedural answer and feel better about yourself for having “helped” another individual. It’s a lot harder to really look these problems in the face. It’s hard to look into an abyss. It’s hard to look at depression closely because it’s darkness is all enveloping.

There is no light there.

Trite answers really don’t cut it.

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Relationships and Mental Illness Part II: Platonic Relationships

What can mental illness do at the nonromantic level? What might come up when a man talks to his mentally ill friend?

Perhaps you must see as we see, and hear as we hear.

Mental Illness can make small annoyances into large conundrums. Irritability can be both a symptom of the disease AND a side effect of the medications used.

Imagine you’re on a busy freeway. It’s very irritating, it’s easy to get frustrated. Now reconsider. What if when you got off a freeway you were still in traffic. What if traffic never seemed to end from the beginning of the excursion til the end? Irritability would probably rise to boiling levels in many people. Are we going to do something stupid in this condition? Probably. Is it still our fault? Yes, but it would be more than a little stupid to mess with someone showing signs of extreme irritability. The worst thing you can do is meet irritability with more irritability.

What you do when a person is in this state depends highly on the situation, and I hope that you can read body language. Perhaps the best thing to do is not to immediately ask what’s wrong and continue after one “I don’t know”. If you keep pushing A) you’ll get irritated and B) the person you’re asking will be embarrassed because the anger and irritability FAR outranks the cause of the state. That’s more or less what a propensity towards irritability is. That’s what mania and hypomania can be.

But consider the depressed individual aas well, don’t leave him out. He may find himself in a place where he does not want to talk. You may provoke a serious reaction if you ask him what’s wrong. Especially when you know very well that he’s depressed. If you KNOW the reason, perhaps it isn’t the best idea to ask.

Perhaps that’s the best advice I can give. Avoid conflict with a mentally ill friend over something that’s causing him pain. Certainly don’t tell him “Oh, it’s not so bad”. That is the WRONG idea. Of course the situation’s not so bad. There’s always a worse situation one can come up with. But that’s not the point.

Remember this above all else. Clinical depression is clinical for a reason. Ifit were an appropriate response to a situation then it IS NOT CLINICAL! That’s normal! Any doctor worth his salt makes sure that there is no overriding condition that makes actions rational. Now a rational person with a very bad situation may need counseling. They may even need meds to get through it. Like an antianxiety medication or something. Clinical depression is clinical, it is not reasonable, that’s the point. If your brain chemistry is compromised, reactions may very well not be rational in extent.

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Self-Medication: Why?

Self-medication is often misunderstood. I’m at a loss of how to articulate the misunderstanding well, but here goes…

Self-medication is just what it says, but there’s a deep meaning to what it literally says.

Imagine you were on crutches and they broke. You would try and find something to support yourself, even a tree branch if nothing else. A tree branch isn’t a good fit and it’s not terribly safe, but you need to move.

In the mental health case it’s similar. Alcohol is often used within the legal realm of self-medication. Is it a good idea when you’re on meds? Of course not, you’re destroying your liver when it already has to deal with the medication you’re throwing at it. But that’s not how people think. In the end, when the short term is bad enough it will take over long-term interests.

We live in the present. We cannot live in the future. There are certain things that people are just not willing to accept.

Tomorrow I’ll write something about medication and how it works out in practice, but for now I’ll just say that relative to the previous unmedicated position, medication is sometimes a godsend. But it’s not all encompassing. And it has the potential to cause its own problems. When your libido tanks, what do you do? What do you do when your mind is clouded. You get anxious, you get scared, and you don’t want to think about it or live in that understanding of the world, so you use alcohol or something else to keep moving. Of course it’s a bad idea, and anyone with a mental illness who’s read anything about the subject knows that. But that’s not the point. I can say you’ll have a 7 course meal in a week if you have nothing to eat or drink before that, but thirst and hunger are very difficult to bend to the long-term interest idea.

And that’s just one thought unthinkable. Be back tomorrow for another thought.

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