Thursday, 7 May 2009

day ten, nothing left but death wish

Up, Down.

nothing left to overcome that is ...
... and i do hear the mourning doves outside my window these days ...
but (fala serio!) death wish is not to be sneezed at eh?

Tiffy ThompsonPaddy MolloyPaddy Molloy
these are the images attached to the two articles below, worth a note on process here or at least worth thinking a bit about what gets across and what doesn't and why, Tiffy Thompson's could not be presented entirely at the scale above because Blogger arbitrarily formats things with a width greater than 200 pixels, and in order to present these three in a row ... a tradeoff, and Paddy Molloy's 'man with his head up his arse' was in colour with the on-line version of the story, but not at a resolution where you could see the head very readily, and the print version (at least in pdf representaton) is not in colour ... what to do? well, what i did, more distortion is inevitable, who cares? whatever ...

ok, below are two essays on depression, and a number of responses, read it and understand it or not, whatever, my take runs along the lines of a loving physical network, actual people, actual connections, face-to-face

or at least with the memory of having been face-to-face, my, my, gets complicated right away as soon as you start to consider the Internet eh? better to leave it off

what someone might see if they looked, is this very activity as a displacement for lack of attention, i knew a woman, a psychiatrist, who hated transcendence with such a passion ... that it was almost transcendent, i dreamed of her the other night and when i woke i wondered why?

anyway, it is the beginning of day ten and i feel like if someone doesn't somehow make contact with me i will fold, "if i don't get some shelter, yeah i'm gonna fade away." (Stones at YouTube) "Things that love night, love not such nighs as these," might have said my friend Keith ... just passing time here y'unnerstan, pleading, waiting to see ...

Born-again happy, Jennifer Baetz Chester, March 10, 2009.
Born-again happy - Comments.
I can't 'snap out of' my depression, Sarah McCaffrey, May 7, 2009.
I can't 'snap out of' my depression - Comments.

Robert Crumb, Mr NaturalRobert Crumb, GenesisRobert Crumb, Mr NaturalRobert Crumb, Please Warm My Weiner, Old Time Hokum Blues

Born-again happy, Jennifer Baetz Chester, March 10, 2009.

For years, depression meant I couldn't smile without it feeling like a lie. Now I grin from the inside out.

Thirty-two. In terms of years lived, it's not a remarkable number. I'm not naive, nor am I particularly wise. It's an in-between age, one I thought I could ride on the contented wave I had been surfing for a couple of years.

Yet something unexpected happened at this age. I started to become uncomfortable with the reality of growing older.

It began in the spring after my grandmother died, followed quickly by her sister and niece. Within four months, an entire branch of my family tree had been reduced to sawdust. While I was still trying to sort through my grief, my father-in-law landed in the intensive care unit following major surgery. All this made me see that death won't be passing me by. It's only a matter of time before it comes to whisk me away.

I began to wonder if I should have accomplished more professionally by this point in my life. I earned a university degree and am enjoying a career as a musician and educator. I love what I do and the people I get to work with, but part of me was convinced I should be trying to make more of an impact on the world than just teaching flute lessons and playing at weddings.

I'm ashamed to admit that the physical aspect of aging troubled me most. My face looks different than it did a few years ago. Lines have appeared on my forehead from years of worried scrunching. My skin is constantly dry. And I have a new crease that appears in my left cheek when I smile.

When I first discovered this line, I thought perhaps I had slept on my face in an odd way. Or maybe I was retaining water in strange places. I looked in the mirror on and off for days, alternating between smiling and frowning. I concluded this was a new wrinkle, one more indication I'm headed toward middle age.

But in the midst of my experimental grinning and shallow concerns, I realized it wasn't that long ago that I was unable to smile as I do now. I wasn't really 32. My real age was 8.

In the spring of 2000 I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Depression was nothing new to me: I had lived with mild to severe symptoms for years. I thought it was normal to be miserable and anxious more often than not.

During this particularly bad episode, I was brave enough to ask for help. In time, I came to experience life free from gut-wrenching sadness, rage and self pity. My birth certificate at the time said I was 24. But this diagnosis offered me a chance to be reborn. As my doctor was reassuring me I could escape the hell I had been living in for more than two decades, my age clock rewound to zero.

I didn't notice this rebirth until a few months after I started taking antidepressant medication. I was working for the summer at a farm near my parents' house. One afternoon, I found myself alone in the middle of a field of young tobacco plants, taking a brief rest. Standing at the top of a gentle slope, I closed my eyes and tilted my face up to the sun. I breathed in deeply and sighed it out. I was whole, relaxed and at peace.

All this felt good, but strangely unfamiliar. I felt genuinely happy for the first time in my life. As I stood in the middle of virtually nothing, covered in dirt and sweat, I experienced my first moment of everyday joy.

Many more of these moments followed, small triumphs that formed the foundation of my new life. I celebrated these markers just as parents would celebrate their child's first steps or words.

I could finally answer the question, "How are you?" truthfully. I could carry on a casual conversation without feeling self-conscious. I could ride public transit without having a panic attack. I stopped verbally abusing myself. I started to believe I was beautiful. I learned to forgive and love myself.

And I started to smile. Really smile.

I used to smile with just my mouth. It felt like a lie most of the time. I had to do it because no one wanted to be around the girl who was always frowning.

But now I smile from the inside out. It starts somewhere deep in my gut and creeps up through my torso and throat until it finds my lips. When it happens, I radiate the everyday joy I've been feeling since that moment in the field. I'm still amazed at how easy it is and how often I do it.

I suspect the depth of the crease in my left cheek has been enhanced by the amount of smiling I've engaged in over the past eight years.

My smile line may continue to bother me superficially on those days when I'm coming to terms with the steady march of aging. But that little crease also serves as a reminder of how lucky I am to be healthy, alive and 32 going on 8.

Jennifer Baetz Chester lives in London, Ont.

Illustration by Tiffy Thompson.

Born-again happy - Comments.

Edward Eh from Bathurst, NB, Canada writes: Thank you Jennifer, the chronology is a little difficult to untangle but your hopeful story is just what my friend needs to read, for her own hopes and smiles. Off it goes now...

Aries Babe from Canada writes: Thank you so much Jennifer. I have 'survived' chronic depression for 40 of my 50 years but at this time of year, after months of darkness and cold, is still my lowest time of the year. You have reminded me again of what a profound gift I received 20 years ago when I started medication and psychotherapy. I also had to unlearn and relearn how to live as a person without the black dog of depression weighing me down. Joy comes in the smallest moments and needs to be grabbed and held tight.
Namaste, light & love ...

kat i from Whitby, Canada writes: Jennifer, thank you for the article. There are many people in this age bracket who can relate, especially women. I believe women are at their most beautiful at this age. And radiance, confidence, and kindness from within takes years off your actual age. Think of yourself as a fine bottle of wine and embrace aging because there is no cream or plastic surgery that is going to reverse it. I'm 37 and can honestly say I have never felt better.

David Wilson, from Toronto writes: you say, "And I started to smile. Really smile." really? how do you distinguish 'really' from the effects of the drug in this case? in the 60s some people took acid and leapt out of windows because they thought they could 'really' fly, auto-defenestration Mr. Black would call it :-) and I think your 'cure' is analogous

Jewel of a gal from Canada writes: Jennifer, thank you for your honesty. As a sufferer of bipolar disorder, I completely understand your comment of "And I started to smile. Really smile." It's really quite an amazing experience!

David, I am going out on a limb and assuming that you have never suffered with depression. I could be wrong but I think not. When you suffer from depression, there is very rarely a reason to smile. Depression, being a chemical imbalance in the brain, once corrected by proper medication, brings forth a wealth of emotions and experiences that most people take for granted. A smile, a real smile, comes from deep inside.

Comparing acid trips to depression is like comparing apples to oranges. One is a chemical imbalance, created on a voluntary basis (and stupid IMHO), only treated by coming down off the high. Any side effects from taking acid are created by the voluntary use of the drug. The other chemical imbalance is not one anyone picks up voluntarily, and the drugs can be a miracle for those that are truly suffering. I hope that you never experience it, as it really does make life a living hell. Perhaps you should spend some time with those of us that are fighting to find the normalcy you take for granted. Greater understanding of mental illness would stop ignorant comments such as yours.

M. Vee from Canada writes: Jennifer, thank you for this.

I am also 32, and feel as if I could've written this article myself. I've suffered from depression my entire life without even knowing it, so your comment, "I thought it was normal to be miserable and anxious more often than not," really hit home.

I'm glad to hear there's hope for me yet! :)

Kate MadeinFrance from Victoria, Canada writes: Hear, hear to "Jewel of a Gal" for your efforts (probably largely wasted) to educate the one unsympathetic poster! Thank you for having the courage to share Jennifer; I hope you enjoy the rest of your voyage of self-discovery a.k.a. "life".

va donc chier from Canada writes: David, that was pretty judgmental. I think you should pop a few empathy pills.

She was not "cured" any more than insuline cures diabetes, another naturally occurring chemical imbalance corrected by modern medecine.

I'm mad as hell from god's country from Canada writes: Great article. M Vee - you took the words right out of my mouth. For most of my life, I too assumed that the way I felt most of the time - sad, tired, little enthusiasm for life, etc - was normal. It wasn't until I had a major meltdown at age 35 that I got help. I am now 52 and the last 15 years have been wonderful. Please don't hesitate to get medication and therapy. Those 2 things saved my life.

Neil Raynor from Canada writes: some specifics would be nice - HOW did you overcome this? it's a wonderful article, but I'm on the outside looking in...25, still in the throes of a lifelong battle with depression. was prescription medication a big part of your recovery?

S G from Toronto, Canada writes: Neil, I agree. Its great that the author has overcome the battle, and from that we can take some comfort, however there is not much to learn from this that we might actually be able to apply.
Posted 10/03/09 at 11:31 PM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment

joe pinto from Pune, India writes: Thanks for sharing your life, Jennifer.
I am an editor, now retired.

As a gift, I would like to offer you and the readers of F&A,
a peek into mine on my blog - Against the Tide -

David Wilson, from Toronto writes: 'Jewel of a Gal' eh? guess I have to take you at your word, as a matter of fact I have suffered with depression and continue to have bouts, years ago, when it became a practical problem I was lucky enough to run into a quack who gave me the choice, drugs or therapy, I chose therapy and after a while I gained some appreciation and control, there is not space in this comment box to recapitulate a line of thinking that runs from Oliver Sachs to Charles Taylor to Ivan Illich to Gabor Maté, sorry to be name-dropping it is just an attempt at shorthand :-) my root thought is that the problem is spiritual, that it runs hand-in-hand with learning to consider ourselves as objects rather than beings, and that it reflects a failure or inability to come to terms with identity as human cultures move universally from the sacred to the profane, when I was at McGill there was a young poet who died of cancer, Steve Smith, his poem, God's Kaliedescope, sums it up in a way (sorry, I have to quote from memory): when my speck of green / first turned the brown of Job's dunghill / i looked up to curse / but then i saw / that in God's eye / all turns are just as beautiful. your turn of phrase is revealing, "those of us that are fighting" might be better put, "those of us who are fighting," but I mention it simply to point out a, to me, telling subject/object slip, the story of the Good Samaritan is the great divide for me here, there are (at least) two roads to walk after you read it (or maybe after it reads you :-); one leading to the bureaucratic nonsense you would call 'health care', the artist formerly known as compassion; and the other leading to a loving network of physical contact between specific individuals, but as I re-read your note I wonder ... "the trouble with normal is it always gets worse" said Bruce Cockburn ... I have seen friends of mine permanently dumbed-down with Prozak and the like too - oops, no more room :-) be well.

John Doucette from Canada writes: Jennifer, I'm glad the drugs are working.

Kim Philby from Canada writes: Over the years my doctors have experimented with the gamut of SSRI's, sometimes in combination. Yeah, they worked; I felt - what? - content? Flattened out? Sooner or later I'd end up deep-sixing my meds. I need them, but when I'm on them I feel like I've somehow lost myself. It's something of a love-hate relationship I have going with these drugs. I've been off them for a few months, and I've gotta say, it's tempting to open that little plastic container of warm fuzzies again.

M. Vee from Canada writes: David, much to my own chagrin, I believe I have to agree with you. :)

I have both a mother and a sister who take medication for anxiety, and I've always felt unsettled by the result. While my mother is especially "flattened out" or "dead in the eyes," my sister thankfully hit on the right medication (after six different prescriptions and some particularly scary incidents of spontaneously falling asleep while driving on Hwy. 401) and is now back to her "normal self."

Instead of going this route, I've chosen to try to manage my depression with weight-training, yoga, reflexology, Aqua-Fit classes with a group of older women (for a weekly dose of "wisdom" on life), a touch of Kabbalah (LOL!). I can't say I've hit on the perfect combination yet, but a tend to think medication is going to be a "last resort" for me when all else fails.

Yvonne Wackernagel from Woodville, Canada writes: And surely your music puts a song in your heart on a regular basis. Keep on with your music; it will be the most important ingredient in helping that smile to become a chuckle.

The Wet One from The frozen wastes of Canuckdom, Canada writes: I went with the happy pills myself and life has never been better. Managing the depression with other mechanisms has not succeeded. I've managed not to have any "Dead in the Eyes" look too (if I'm not mistaken, I'm thinking that women don't date those kind of guys and they never dated me before the happy pills). Different strokes for different folks.

As long as we don't end up hanging from the rafters like someone I know was found in the last month, it's all good. Right? Or is there a "right" way to avoid suicide? If so, let me know what it is, as my way seems to be working for me.

Be well.

it's a fact from Canada writes: M. Vee from Canada writes: Jennifer, thank you for this.

I am also 32, and feel as if I could've written this article myself. I've suffered from depression my entire life without even knowing it, so your comment, "I thought it was normal to be miserable and anxious more often than not," really hit home.

me too. it wasn't until I had a child and my anxiety order got ratcheted up in the throes of post-partum depression that I realized it was an issue... oh, and the meds, combined with therapy, saved my life.

Hockeydad London from Canada writes: Thank you for the article. Another Londoner I note. Hope it is not the city that is the problem! I too have suffered a number of bouts of depression and have been on a series of medication. What I have now seems to be working for the most part. For me the frustration is that I believe my condition has limited my performance as a person. I feel trapped in a box that keeps shrinking and live in fear rather than excitement and joy. Not a good place to be. While each of us has our own experience with this illness, I conclude that whatever allows you to deal with it would be fine by me. Without my current medication I could not even function on a day to day basis as I am doing now. Good luck to you and it is great to hear of a success story.

Ro Mac from Toronto, Canada writes: This is a welcome story - it mirrors my own experience through to age 30, tho I did it without any drugs.

It really is a day to day, incremental battle with your mind, then you wake up one morning and realize you're actually happy for the first time in an extremely long time. Once you get there, don't chance anything -- stay on the path, it only gets better with age.

I can't 'snap out of' my depression, Sarah McCaffrey, May 7, 2009.

I'm tired of lying about it. I'm tired of the stigma and shame. That's why I'm writing this.

"It's a shame about your job," my friend says.

"Yes," I say. "But what can you do? In this economy lots of people are getting laid off."

We both nod and sigh a little. The part about the economy is true. The part about my job is a lie. I've been lying to a lot of people lately.

The truth is that I wasn't laid off from my job. I've been sick, too sick to work. I struggled through most of the winter to make it through those long, dark days at my desk, but eventually I had to quit before the end of a six-month contract. It wasn't a choice. I simply couldn't keep going.

So why didn't I just tell my friend this? Surely he would be supportive. Why would I lie to someone I've known for more than 10 years?

Because the thing I'm sick with usually doesn't generate the same level of sympathy and understanding as other illnesses, even though it's far more common than most people imagine.

Simply put, I'm depressed. Clinical depression, major depressive disorder, severe depression; there are several names for what's going on inside my head.

Major depression is more than just feeling sad all the time. It's a serious illness that can take over an entire life and make a formerly productive person incapable of doing pretty much anything. At least that's what it's done to me. But from my experience fighting depression on and off for the past eight years, most people don't see it that way.

There is a deeply ingrained belief in our society that mental illness is a form of personal weakness and that if sufferers really wanted to they could just (and I detest this phrase) "snap out of it."

Unfortunately, that's not possible. Believe me, I've tried. I've tried talk therapy, light therapy, yoga, meditation, medication, exercise, vitamins, you name it. But my boot straps firmly refuse to be pulled up. None of my efforts or the efforts of several medical professionals have so far been able to pull me out of the swamp of despair that I've been sinking into for months.

I barely remember what it feels like not to be depressed. I've heard depression described in many ways, usually involving the colour black — sometimes as a black wave, black dogs or a black hole. These make it sound like depression is something external to the depressive, as though it comes sneaking up from the outside or is a well-hidden area of quicksand that a person can slip into by accident.

For me it's never been like that. I've always felt like it's something inside me, always there even if I can't feel it at one particular moment. It does feel black, but more like a black swamp, a heavy, wet, cloying ooze that bubbles up from inside my chest and spreads throughout my body, weighing me down.

I tried for a long time to act normal in spite of it, and most of the time I did an excellent job. But I couldn't keep it up forever. I feel the depression so deeply that sometimes I don't understand how it's possible that people don't see it. I feel I radiate misery like a halogen bulb.

Sometimes, if I'm having a really bad day, someone will ask, "Are you okay?"

I want to burst into tears and say, "No, I'm not, please help me." But I never do. Instead I say, "Yes, I'm fine," in the high-pitched voice I always use when I lie.

This is only my personal experience of depression, and I'm sure it feels different for everyone, but I think a feeling of intense despair is common to most depressives, along with feelings of isolation and loneliness.

On top of the despair is the embarrassment and shame that inevitably come with mental illness. Sometimes the stigma feels as heavy as the despair itself. A few close friends and family know what I've been going through, but to the rest of the world I do my best to present a normal front. They ask how I am and I say, "I'm fine."

But I'm not fine. I'm so tired. I'm tired of lying, tired of hiding. I'm tired of feeling ashamed of being sick. And I know I'm far from the only person who feels this way.

Every instinct I have is telling me not to reveal my mental-health issues, telling me to keep struggling to get better in silence. I cringe at the thought of people I know reading this. What will they think of me?

But somewhere along the line, the silence has became more of a burden than the shame and the fear of judgment. There are countless people out there right now in pain and ashamed of their own suffering. So that's why I'm writing this, for myself and for everyone else who struggles with mental illness.

I haven't given up the fight to get better. I know it's possible. But it takes time, resources and, above all, patience. It also takes people to believe in us. We can't be afraid to ask for help. We have nothing to be ashamed of.

Sarah McCaffrey lives in Toronto.

I can't 'snap out of' my depression - Comments.

Ground Working from Canada writes: An absolutely excellent, honest article.

Ground Working from Canada writes: Your description of the symptoms is really well done. My bet is that a lot of people don't recognize their own depression for what it is: depression. I don't mean to belittle the severe cases, but I think there's an important upside for most people that accompanies the recognition that their depression is actually depression - where there is typically light at the end of the tunnel, and where many of the negative thoughts are recognized for not being "real", but being symptoms of the disorder.

adriano Chiaselotti from Canada writes: I could not agree more. I have been fighting deppresion for almost 18years now and you are right people don't understand . When I try to talk about it I tear up almost right away. It truly is a battle and I have finally accepted it now I only wish people in my life can do the same for me.

Misery No one from Toronto, Canada writes: One has to wonder if there's any real help out there.

D C from United States writes: I think it's good that you wrote this...

Canadian Woman from Canada writes: Sarah. Thank you for writing one of the best descriptions I've ever read of the actual experience of Depression. I know, from long personal experience, exactly how it feels & you put it into words better than I ever could.

And you speak so well about people not "getting it". I used to think that it would be much easier if when one has Major Depression, you could wear a hat that identified you as a verified truly sick person. It is so exhausting to have to pretend all the time.

I also know that there's absolutely nothing I can say that will make you feel any better now. But I know that if you can get the right meds - not easy at all I know - it WILL get better. All you have to do right now is to hang on a minute at a time, sweetheart. Just one minute. Just for now. You can do it, & your gift of words is why you need to stay. I am holding you in my heart.

Thinkingman FromCanada from Canada writes: Profound article! As someone who works for a non-profit agency I see first hand the social stigma the mentally ill endure.

With Sincere Kindness and Empathy. Kevin.

JM Bechard from Quebec City, Canada writes: You are not the only one that is struggling with mental illness: everyone is. Indeed, being part of a society that still stigmatizes mental illness makes us all ill. It is therefore not just to you to seek help, but to all of us to cure our views about mental illness, which is not worse than physical illness. Do we really need a doctor's note prescribing our own thinking?

ck f from Canada writes: Wow, Sarah. Well said. In our household we know what that is. Me, my spouse, my son, and my daughter ... all four of us grapple with this to varying degrees at various times. It truly is a lifelong battle. I wish you well, and I also wish you understanding from others. Thank you so much for being honest with clarity.

Diana Bedoya from North Vancouver, Canada writes: I just wanted to commend you for your honesty and courage in writing your article. My brother suffers from depression, and I honestly feel lost in trying to understand it. Thank you for providing me with some insight (although I realize every case is different). He's mentioned some of the same symptoms you have described, which has really hit home with me.
Thank you again

Tom R from Victoria, B.C., Canada writes: Sarah, As others have said, thank you for your honesty, courage and clarity. how you describe your depression strickes a cord for me as well. I'm in my late 50's and still have my dark days, however not as dark as when I was younger. Medication [ the right combo ], my wife's support and the hard earned knowledge that it WILL pass make it bareable, so I accept my depression as part of me, the flip side of my positive sensitivity towards life. Hang in there Sarah, you are more than worth it, even in your darkest hours. Take care.

J S from Canada writes: Excellent article! I think it was Johnny Cash that said, "If you find yourself in hell, keep walking. You may come out the other side." I'm going to keep walking... JM Bechard from Quebec City, Canada - I can tell from your comment, you've never experienced mental illness. It is just as life threatening as any physical disease. It's the reason I know that it would take 8 feet 8 inches of rope to snap my neck with a noose. Thankfully, I have a wonderful family and good doctors that are helping me. The author of this article described the symptoms of depression to a 't' and anyone that's been there understands. You don't and probably never will. What I'd like you to do is to read up on mental illness - the causes, symptoms and treatment - to try and understand rather than continue the stigma of "get over it". So you know - this is the sentence that tells me that you don't get it: "Do we really need a doctor's note prescribing our own thinking?" No, I don't. I need the doctor's help to prescribe me medication to try and balance the chemicals in my brain. My doctor is also trying to teach me how to deal with an over-active anterior cingulette which complicates my depression by throwing in obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm also learning to recognize my emotions and to tell people about them - heavy emphasis on 'telling people about them'. I'm also learning alternative ways of thinking - it's called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy - so I can cope with my disease in the future. Telling me to "get over it" is like telling a diabetic they don't need insulin - everyone's body produces it, just make more, it's simple...

J S from Canada writes: Damn it! I put paragraphs for a reason G&M!

Peter North from van, Canada writes: jeez, thats depressing.

better living through chemistry!

Man of La Mancha from Canada writes: Sarah, you wonder "I cringe at the thought of people I know reading this. What will they think of me?"

I think you're incredible - struggling through with a very heavy burden, but still managing somehow. As one who has experienced depression, I know how difficult it is just to get through the day when you are depressed. The fact that you have managed this for so long is a testament to your strenght of character and resilience. I hope that you are able to get the help you need to once again be able to enjoy the good things in life.

Craig Schiller from Toronto, writes: Part of the problem is that many people also use the words "depression" and "depressed" more casually, to mean the sort of transient bad mood that everybody gets into once in a while when a few minor inconveniences pile up at once. So those of us who struggle with the real thing face the distorted perception that it's something one can just snap out of, precisely because other people have cheapened the word by misusing it to describe the kind of temporary bad mood that one can snap out of easily.

Another part of the problem is that some people think antidepressants magically fix clinical depression, that all one has to do is pop a pill and they'll instantly be as good as new. Which isn't the case -- for most people, antidepressants can't do much more than just take the edge off, turning the inner murk into a dull aching grey.

So what should people understand here? Firstly: if you can actually complete the sentence "I'm depressed because...", then you're not really depressed, you're just in a bad mood. And secondly: if someone's struggling with the real thing, don't blithely tell us that we can fix it just by snapping out of it, popping a pill or reading The Secret. It doesn't work that way.

Jacaranda Jill from Australia writes: I've been depressed (who hasn't) but I've never suffered from depression, so it's a bit difficult for me to really understand what those suffering from depression go through. This article is a really good start. Well done.

Ken Cowan from Paris, France writes: Another thing most people don't realize is that depression saps your energy to the point where, even if you want to "fight it", you have no energy to do so. Just getting up out of bed seems to be too much. Making an appointment with a doctor, and then actually getting dressed and getting out of the house are almost too much to ask.

Which is why medication helps, even if it doesn't necessarily cure; somehow, if well-chosen, the medication does give the energy needed to "fight back"...( a term I am using which, above all, simply means to "keep going" as opposed to deciding that there is no more point to living).

Squish_a_p From BC from Canada writes: Thank you for sharing your story Sarah.

Fabien Nadeau from St-Liboire, QC, Canada writes: Thanks. My daughter has been fighting depression for a few months, now, and I know she would understand how you feel.

Depression is hard on personal relationships. A husband has to do all the chores, and friends don't what to think, what to do...

It's like a sinkhole... Causes not well understood, remedies not well working.

Let's just hope chemistry can help relieving the pain...

I feel so helpless. Is there a solution?

David Wilson, from Toronto writes: there was a similar story posted here in March, Born-again happy, I notice that it is still available on the Globe site: RTGAM.20090310.wfacts10/CommentStory/Business/ in which the author seemed to be saying that drugs were the way out, I am glad to see that this writer does not make such a claim, and she does make very clear one of the principal dilemmas, that depressed people are not very attractive and tend to get short shrift, when I was first going through this myself (many years ago) I was given an Awake (yup, by a Salvationer who gave me my copy as I sat in Ottawa's Lockmaster Tavern) in which this idea was also expressed, not a new thought then ----- there is not much room in one of these comment boxes, doh! no paragraphs as has already been lamented by one poster :-) and so forth, so I will cut to the chase ----- I am one of those old fogeys who think that it takes two to tango, this 'epidemic' of depression, certainly among the people that I know and talk to, seems to me to be the result both of character AND society, and the insights and thoughts that have helped me the most have come from quite an unexpected place - a Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, and his book, A Secular Age, which I recommend highly, my point being that the more clearly you can describe what is happening, the more likely you are to find some kind of resolution, be well.

Jane Benn from Canada writes: To Craig Schiller - what you are leaving out is that situational depression (what you call a bad mood) can, if it is severe enough and persists long enough, tip some people over into clinical depression, with its chemical imbalances, inability to function and emotional morasses. The difference is that, when the situation improves, and/or with medication, the patient can recover, usually within a relatively short (months or a year or two) time, and will often not relapse. The author, and the many others like her, suffer for years or decades or a lifetime. Medication helps some of them, but not all, and I admire anyone who struggles with this illness and manages to make life in spite of it.

D J from Canada writes: What is the point. We all end up dead in the end anyway! Remember that WSIB.

I'm mad as hell from god's country from Canada writes: Sarah - my heart goes out to you. I know from personal experience what major depresssion is like. Once I found the right medication and an excellent therapist, I began to see a light at the end of the tunnel and have been well for almost 20 years. I am amazed, however, that in this day and age, with all the publicity and information about depression, that there is still a stigma attached to it.

Rob Tremblay from ottawa, Canada writes: First off, well said and thank you for your bravery. I struggle with depression, and at one point did take prescribed meds. The meds were unbeleivable, they helped, I was happier than i had been in years. But did I want to continue taking meds for the rest of my life to be happy? The answer should have been I don't care, if it makes me happy do it. But my answer was in fact, no, I do not want my happiness to depend on a pill I must take daily. So I stopped after about 10 months on the meds, a period in which there was noticeably positive effetcs, and I was depressed again. I still am, I do not try and hide my depression as some do, I like to think I more so channel my depression. I will sit in candlelight and write, listen to specific music and watch specific movies as therapy. many of my friends associate a certain darkness to me, but that's who I am, if I am unhappy I am unhappy, I do not want a pill to change that. Is this denial? I am unsure. I am sure that i do not want to alter my natural state of mind. Perhaps I am sane in an insane world. Perhaps there are explainable roots to the problem that is my depression? I don't know, I've toyed around with the aspects of depression for years, and I just don't know. Good luck to everyone, and if you are not against medicating, I suggest you try, because it is unbeleivable the help it brings.

puffin wrangler from Montreal, Canada writes: Yeah, it can affect the part of your brain that regulates sleep. For two years I couldn't stay awake (I slept 14 hrs a day), I thought I had mono; then for two years I couldn't stay asleep (I slept 90 min. a night), I thought I was going to die. It's a bonafide disease, often compared to diabetes. You have the right to seek professional help.

But I've noticed a good thing, that the stigma is lessening. My grandparents were ashamed of my 'weakness,' but my cousins accepted it as a malady that could be cured. And I was cured: four years of medication then two years of counselling to put my life back together. Good luck to you. It's not something I would ever wish on my enemy.

Trish Murphy from Toronto, Canada writes: I have read that depression is an illness where the victim is often treated worse by those who should be the most supportive, spouses and family. Certainly I was treated with astonishing cruelty by some of those I was closest to when I succumbed to depression about two years ago. Would it help if we all started to think of it as a physical illness, something going wrong with a distinct organ, a shortfall of neurogenesis in the hippocampus? That seems to be a useful working model of what is actually happening in the brain in people who are ill. Stop calling it depression, which sounds too much like being temporarily down, and start calling it something like cortisol-induced hippocampal poisoning? Sarah, I was able to find a (so-called) SSRI medication which worked and to find a cognitive-behavioural therapist who understands how slow and painstaking recovery is. And that, I think, is key to understanding: recovery can be very slow. The medications take weeks to months to evaluate, to get the medication right, to get the dosage right, and for behavioral and cognitive changes to start affecting neurogenesis. And there are setbacks: seasonal darkness or a new stressful event can induce setbacks. But recovery happens. Thank you, Sarah, for writing about the fatigue and difficulty making choices, which seem to be among the hardest manifestations of the illness for others to understand, and which cannot be masked by an up-beat social facade. In the same period that I was facing depression, my older sister, who is physically active and of normal weight, was coping with a diagnosis of diabetes. It is astonishing the different social reaction to two illnesses, neither of which can be "snapped out of".

D S from Canada writes: I really enjoyed this article. What I liked most about it wasn't the great descrpition of symptoms or misunderstanding within society (which were very well depicted), but rather the way this type of sentiment can apply to a lot of people... I have been wanting to be tested for bipolar disease for some time now. I went to see my family doctor and he had said the symptoms I were feeling were simply circumstantial and that anxiety/nervousnous were driving my moods. My dad also saw it along these lines. It's frustrating when people just simply say that it is 'not a big deal. Everything will work out for you. You're just on edge because of where you're at right now. Once you control your emotions better, everything will be better'. And for a lot of people this is in fact true. Emotional control comes with maturity and experience. But I believet his should never undermine the fact that diagnosed medical illnesses should be overlooked the way they are. Although my current situation is the best it has ever been (accepted to a Masters program, pretty much over an ex-gf, finanically set up for school, great apartment lined up) I still would have liked to have some better testing done for bipolarism or depression... These diseases are just as 'physical' as any disease. They are defficiencies/abormalities in neurochemicals and, if anything, are much more serious physical problems. I wish society would just understand that these types of diseases are rooted in the most complex area of medical treatment, our brain chemistry, and should be justifiably taken as serious (if not more) than most other diseases.

p s from Toronto, Canada writes: I have found that the best way to fight depression is to stop fighting. Let it be and it will ease on its own. Fighting it only deepens the hole I'm in. And on the bad days, I try to accomplish some little thing - cleaning out a drawer, something that will give me some sense of accomplishment.

Al Gorman from Canada writes: Sarah, your comments are very courageous. Thanks! An old friend of mine would say "a problem shared is a problem half solved." I would advocate that in order to begin removing the societal stigma that it would be helpful to abandon the broad categorization of 'mental illness'. I also suggest that classifications, such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, are not all that helpful either. It leads people and their conditions to become indistinguishable from one another. People who have a physical illness are not labelled with that. When was the last time you heard someone say "She has physical illness." Sarah's description is one that defines chronic and severe depression, yet no one is utterly and completely depressed, much the same as no one is utterly delusional or completely hallucinatory. Doctors are not always a great help. They mean well, write a prescription and send you on your way. I suggest the problem that results in the depressive state is one that is marked by anxiety, fear, and a pervasive interpretation of no possibility and apathy. I also suggest that where one cannot distinguish possibility that one often has been shaped by experiences they are incomplete with; experiences that have resulted in a loss of the authentic self, low self esteem, low confidence and feelings of shame, guilt and no self worth. Sarah's courageous step of sharing her experience with all of us and taking the risks that she has stepped out to take (probably because it is feels so bad that she doesn't see sharing her experience as being worst) is a wonderful step not only to helping herself but also to helping so many other people who identify with her experience and their own feelings of depression. Sarah...thanks again so much!

Kevin Desmoulin from TO, Canada writes: Keep up the fight, Ya and the way it is, a fight, just to get up.
Posted 07/05/09 at 8:19 AM EDT | Alert an Editor | Link to Comment


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