Depression, it’s not just being sad.

Recently someone asked me to write a post on what I felt depression was like.  Funny thing, I had just read a post over at Bipolar BarbieQ that included that very thing, I think everyone could get a lot from her post I’m the Queen of Run-on’s it is an honest gut wrenching post and I wish all of you would read it.  (yes this is the second time I’ve shared this post, I really like it.)  She also had this really cool graph in her post, so I’m going to steal it.

depression graph

 

Most people think that Depression means you are Sad.  Even Webster’s Thesaurus will say that Depression and Sadness are synonyms.  Well yeah, you are sad when you are depressed, but there is so much more, so very much more.

When someone says they are depressed, that means they are sad, when someone says they have depression, this is a mental illness.  When you look up the definition of Depression you get both answers, “(1) :  a state of feeling sad :  (2) :  a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

I think feelings of Depression can vary from person to person.  Profound Depression is all-consuming.  You don’t just feel sad, it consumes you.  You have difficulty doing anything else because your feelings are so torn up.  It spirals down to the depths of your soul and you are trying your best to claw your way out.  Depression can also have states of severe anxiety mixed in, feelings of paranoia, feelings of suicide.  When you are just sad, you don’t have all of these other emotions consuming you.  With depression you often just feel numb most of the time. Nothing can bring you out of that darkness.  You find joy in absolutely nothing.

The definition above mentions “difficulty in thinking and concentration”…yes we can click that off my list.  “A significant increase or decrease in appetite”…oh I eat, I want comfort food, or anything that might make it in my mouth sometimes. I’ve actually envied people who lose their appetite when they are depressed.  “Time spent sleeping”…now this one is tricky.  Sometimes I sleep a lot, sometimes I can’t sleep at all.  Normally, I have a very hard time sleeping when I’m very depressed. “Feelings of dejection and hopelessness”  YES!  That is the overwhelming feeling that I have, HOPELESSNESS.  “Sometimes suicidal tendencies”..this depends on just how deep my depression gets.  Normally I am not suicidal but I’ll wish I wouldn’t wake up.  I’m just so tired and hopeless, I don’t want to have to deal with it anymore.

Something they don’t mention, I cry, a lot.  I’m an emotional person anyway, but when I’m depressed I cry every day, many times a day.  Not just a few tears, I sob.

There are other feelings that get all mixed up when I feel depressed.  I feel very guilty. What right to I have to feel depressed when there are so many tragedies in the world?  What am I putting my husband and friends through when I’m like this?  Why does it keep coming back, it must be me?

I get angry.  Angry at me, angry at everything.  I try not to speak to people because the thoughts in my mind are so snide.  Why can’t they get it?  Why can’t they do things the way they should?  Yes, in my mind everything needs to go the way I think it should, then I’d be happier.  I want to control, everything.  I think that’s because I feel so out of control.  I lash out.  Some of this must be someone else’s fault, if I can find out who then I will have to feel better.  I feel so alone. I try to isolate myself from other people so I won’t hurt them, even though being alone is the worst thing I could do.  I never said I was being logical.

When depression takes hold of me I used to believe it would never end.  Now I know it will and that helps me get through it. It makes me seek help.  I keep telling myself, “This will end.  This will end.”

I do not just have Clinical Depression, I have Bipolar I disorder.  That means that, unless I’m stable, I will have severe manic states and depressive states.  As I said, I used to think when I was depressed that nothing could pull me out of it, but then I’d be okay for a while and couldn’t believe I ever thought that way.  Then I’d go manic and think that nothing could harm me.  After a manic swing, I couldn’t believe I ever felt that way.  I’m lucky that I’ve been mostly stable for a long time now.  I will have break through depression sometimes and need my medication adjusted.  My new psychiatrist told me that often when people get older they have fewer manic swings but battle depression more.  That’s why he prescribed a drug that is for Bipolar Depression, and it seems to be working well.

If you are having any symptoms of depression please seek out professional help.  It doesn’t just go away.  Psych Central lists the first steps to getting help, and a list of professionals in your area.  You can find this information here.  Where To Get Help For Depression.

If you are having suicidal thoughts please call

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1 (800) 273-8255

 

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If it’s wrong, then it’s wrong

May is National Mental Health Awareness Month.  This year the National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) is asking everyone to take the pledge to stop the stigma surrounding Mental Illness.  You can do that officially here: Stigma Free. (#stigmafree)

stand-up-logo-hi-res-300x200

I think the stigma around mental illness has gotten better over the years, but there is a long way to go.  I saw this great article talking about phrases you shouldn’t say, I think it’s worth the check out.  9 Phrases You Shouldn’t Say During Mental Health Awareness Month.

Here, I want to talk about how differently we treat and think about people with mental illness compared to other illnesses.  For example cancer.  Why cancer?  Because you’d never make fun of someone who has it, you’d never blame them for having it, if the treatment doesn’t work you’d never say they aren’t doing enough, and you’d treat them with respect and compassion.   It is wrong to treat a person with a mental illness differently than you would treat a person with cancer.

A few facts you may not know.

Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S.—43.8 million, or 18.5%—experiences mental illness in a given year. (Oct. 23, 2015)  – See more at:on the NAMI site.  Learn More Mental Health by the Numbers. 

 

Think about that, when you meet 5 people, chances are one of them has a diagnosable mental illness.  That’s huge!

There are many reasons someone may not get help, one of them is the stigma behind mental illness.  Because of the stigma, they are afraid of how people may react, they are afraid they may lose their jobs, respect from others….   This barrier for treatment has to stop.  People cannot feel embarrassed to go for help.  They cannot be made to feel they need to tough it out, to pull themselves together, to stop being so dramatic…..  We need to acknowledge when someone is having difficulty and let them know you support them.  We must also realize that, just like people with cancer, people with a mental illness may not realize it, they may be afraid of the diagnosis, they may not want to face it…  If we noticed someone we care about feeling or looking sick a lot we would encourage them to see a doctor.   We need to do the same when we see someone who we care about struggling with mental illness.  We need to let everyone know they are cared about and supported.

There are many reasons why people do not get help that have nothing to do with not wanting it or searching for it.  Often people  do not get the care they need because they simply can’t get it.  They don’t have insurance.  They can’t afford it, even with their insurance.  (there are a lot of barriers within the insurance system that keep people from having access to health care, I could write a whole post on just this crisis).  We often think there are public places people can go, “the mental health system will help”.  This is far from true.  There are a lot of hoops one has to go through to get be seen by someone in the system.  Often someone with a mental health issue gets way too overwhelmed to be able to do all of this.  Even when someone is in dire need of help they often have to wait months to see a professional through the mental health system.  Unless a person is “a threat to themselves or others”, it is almost impossible to get in to the mental health system in a timely manner.

These barriers are signs of stigma within the system.  Many people need and want help, but can’t get it because of the barriers.  We have to break down these barriers.  We must break down the stigma that people with mental health deserve less then people who have any other type of illness.

Please take the time to take the pledge to stay Stigma Free.

Read more about Mental Health Awareness Month and find more ways to contribute through the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

 

#BAD2014 Blog Action Day 2014 – #Inequality In Mental Health

Blog badgeI admit I had not heard of Blog Action Day until yesterday.  I left a comment on fellow blogger Kitt O’Malley’s blog and she told me that it was worthy of a post for this year’s theme Inequality.  Kitt is an amazing mental health advocate, please go and check out her blog.  Kitt O’Malley – Living with Bipolar. Loved by God.

Inequality and Access to Mental Health Care

Sometimes you need help.  You may or may not want it.  You are a risk to yourself or others.  A stay in a psychiatric facility is needed.  The care you receive will vary drastically depending on your financial means.

This is my story…..a 30 something white woman, with not the best insurance, with no savings, and no other financial support….

I was involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility, I was suicidal. I had called a Suicide Help Line and was talked into coming in to a mental health facility to “talk”.  They wouldn’t let me leave.   I was taken from there to the psychiatric hospital in the back of a police car.  It was scary.  Really I wanted to be committed, I was afraid of what might happen, but officially it was involuntary. My insurance would only pay for inpatient treatment if it was listed as involuntary. However, once I got in, I wasn’t told my rights.

I wasn’t treated badly. I actually had a good stay for the most part. There were no windows my room.  The view from my window in the main room was through a thick metal screen, it was more like a prison. But it was a nice atmosphere for the most part, and it was clean and the people were good and they had really good food!!  It was surprising to me how much the patients were supportive of each other.  There were times when you would hear screaming and there were times when everyone was rushed into their rooms and closed in….but for the most part, it was a quiet and restful stay.  This hospital had separate wards depending on the seriousness of the illnesses.  This is not always the case.

My biggest problem was the psychiatrist they made me see. He made me very uncomfortable. I was a rape victim and he gave me the creeps. He insisted on being in the room alone with me. I complained and complained and I couldn’t get this resolved. He said I had Borderline Personality Disorder and my complaints were part of my disorder.  (I had already been diagnosed as being Bipolar.  This diagnosis was again confirmed by a different psychiatrist.)

My second problem was I was told I needed to stay beyond the time my insurance normally pays and that they had gotten approval from my insurance company for the extended stay.  They didn’t do that.  Since they didn’t get that, my insurance didn’t want to pay for the rest of my stay. Well I had no way to leave. They wouldn’t let me. Plus, I didn’t know they didn’t get approval for the rest of the stay.  I left there with a HUGE bill.

This stay ended up making me almost declare bankruptcy. did it help me mentally? Yes. Mainly because it got me in the system and I was able to continue treatment.

I did end up not having to pay for the psychiatrist outrageous bill he tried to saddle me with because of the complaints I had made against him and the many request to have him removed from my case. I also had most of the bill from the hospital dropped because they didn’t get it authorized, and since I was involuntarily committed I couldn’t be held legally obligated to the papers I signed when I was admitted. I wasn’t of “sound mind”.

However, I lost my job. I couldn’t pay my bills when I got out. I was single and alone. My roommate stole from me when I was in the hospital.  I had no one to help me.  If I hadn’t been so determined to get better, and stay the course, I would easily have stopped taking my medications….I had a hard time affording them. I would have stopped going to therapy and to a psych doc….again it was very had to pay for it.  However, I wanted to be more normal.  A lot of Bipolar people really miss the highs…I did.  I’m an artist, and I will say, I feel I creating has been a lot harder than it was before. But I will not jeopardize my health.

These are trials I had and I was really there because I wanted to be. I didn’t have an advocate. I wish I had. There were a lot of things going on with my case that no one told me about.
If I had not been so eager to want to get better, I don’t know if I could have done it.
The system is so very far from perfect!
I worked so hard. I still work hard at it.
many people who are involuntarily committed won’t be committed to working at it.

Many people who need help and want it won’t even be able to get in a hospital because they don’t have the funds.

No one should feel they have to declare bankruptcy because they need help with their mental health.  My credit was ruined for years after this hospital stay.  I was afraid to answer the phone because of bill collectors.  Yes, I was able to finally get the bills straight with the hospital, but it put me in such financial straits with everything else it followed me for years.   My employer didn’t hold my job for me.  So when I got out of the hospital, I had no job, and a whole lot of bills.  I was still in a very fragile state of mind.  This is not the ideal way to enter back in society after leaving a psychiatric facility.

Can you see the Inequality in the Mental Health Care system?

Can you see how different it would have been for me if I had the financial means to pay for a higher quality facility, and have an advocate help me?

Can you see how different it would have been for me if I had not had the financial means I had?  If I hadn’t had insurance?  I easily could have either have been ignored, or put in a state hospital.  I could have been put in a ward with people who were very dangerous.  I could have gotten lost in the system.  These kind of things happen every day.

What can we do to stop the Inequality in the Mental Health Care System?

The first thing we can do is talk about it.

Talk about it more….and more….perhaps the more we talk about it the more attention we call to it.

The more attention we call to it….the more noise we make about it…they will have to do something about it!

How? What?  I don’t know.  I don’t know how to fix it.  I wish I did.

But I do know this is an inequality that must end!  People cannot continue to suffer because they can’t afford mental health care.

 

To read more on Psychiatric Hospitalization please visit the National Alliance on Mental Illness site.  NAMI

 

 

Being Bipolar….will I ever really be stable?

Bipolar
Bipolar by SimoneBryne at deviantArt.com

Note….At this time one of my medications has stopped working, my psychiatrist has replaced it with another medication, but at this point, I am not stable.  I have recently read through the past year of my blog and my personal journals and feel I haven’t been completely stable for a long time, but I have been manageable….most of the time.  When I reference Bipolar Illness below I am referring to Bipolar I.  There are different types of Bipolar, when you think of classic Manic Depression, you normally think of Bipolar I.

This post is going to come from the heart, and will reveal things I haven’t freely talked about outside of my therapist’s office.

From all the tests, and talking, and everything else psych doctors do, my psychiatrist feels I have had Bipolar tendencies most of my life.  My first suicide attempt was at 11 years of age, but it wasn’t the first time I thought of it.  It just isn’t right for an 11-year-old to think that dying would be for the best.  I remember my sister and I had been arguing….I think…I don’t remember what it was about, or if it really even happened.  I guess that wasn’t important.  I know I silently went into my parent’s bedroom, they weren’t at home, I opened the top drawer of my father’s chest of drawers and took out his pistol.  I knew nothing about guns.  It was in a little holster thing.  I don’t think I even took it out….after all, wouldn’t a bullet go through that leather?  I put it to my head and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened.  I tried again……Nothing.   By this time I was shaking and thought my sister might find me, I replaced the gun right where I found it, after all it didn’t do me any good.  I don’t know if the gun was empty, if the safety was on…or what.  All I know is that it didn’t do what I thought it would.  What I wanted it to.

How can an 11-year-old child be so depressed that she puts a gun to her head, and pulls the trigger?  Was I scared, yes.  But not because of the reasons you may think.  I was afraid of being caught, afraid of doing it wrong, and very afraid of who would find me and have to deal with the mess.

I didn’t tell anyone.  Not for years and years, actually, not until recently.  Since then I’ve had 3 more suicide attempts and serious thoughts and plans for others.  When I’m depressed I simply cannot believe it will ever get better.  The lady in the dark is whispering her promises that it will be better with her, and she is all I can hear.

When I’m more level, or a bit manic, I cannot believe I would ever think that way.  I even have a hard time when  others are feeling suicidal.  How could that be?  I have had a number of friends reach out to me when they have felt the cold comforting hand of death reaching for them and they are so very tempted to reach out and take hold.  I often just can’t understand how they could feel that way.  They have friends, they are loved…look, they have me.  But didn’t I have friends?  Don’t I have friends?  Was I not loved?  Then why…why can I feel it would be so much better if I simply didn’t exist?  Please don’t get me wrong, I can empathize with my friends who are going through their own darkness, I talk to them and understand their feelings…or at least most of them.  But feeling suicidal is very personal, each person has their own demons.   I know I can’t understand all my friend is feeling because their demons are their demons and I can’t hear or see them.  I can only see the light on the outside, and try to help them see a little glimmer of that light, just enough to give them a bit of hope.  However, I would never judge a person who cannot find that hope….that flicker of light that they need to help them out of the darkness.

Many people think ill of those who commit suicide, and even those who have fought the battle and continue to fight.  I’ve heard how it’s the most selfish thing someone can do.  How they are doomed to everlasting hell.   I don’t think like that.  I know many people who contemplate suicide do so because they think they are such a horrible burden on the people they love.  They are trying so hard not to be selfish.  They do not want to cause those they love any more pain.  Yes, the pain from the suicide is something a loved one cannot get over, but to the person who is deeply depressed and sees this as the only way to save their loved ones…it is the most selfless act they feel they can perform.    Do I think someone who commits suicide is doomed for everlasting hell….no, personally I think they have already been living in it or they never would have committed suicide in the first place.

Suicide is not performed by people who are mentally well.  I will never judge a person until I have lived their lives while looking through their soul.  A mentally ill person does not see things the way a healthy person does.  My views on suicide are just my own.  Please do not judge me.  And please, at this time, do not argue with me….I’m not even sure I could handle a grown-up discussion of different views.  You see, I’m having trouble with my medication, and I’m not stable.  I need to release some of these feelings, but I’m not stable enough to debate them.  I promise, when things are better, I will open this discussion up again, if anyone wants me to, and we can discuss it then.

Oh, the Bipolar…..That is what I started to talk about isn’t it.  It isn’t all about the depression that takes me to the depths of my own hell.  There is that other side, the euphoria of mania.  It can be so seductive.  Many people who are Bipolar I, will often stop taking their medication because they feel numb.  No, they don’t miss the depression, but the mania….it’s like a drug.  Some of the best artist (of all kinds) have been Bipolar, or more as it was more commonly known, Manic Depressive.  When one decides to go off their medication, I don’t think they think about the depression that seeps the life out of them, they are thinking of the high they get from the mania.  Speaking from experience, it is so very hard to feel that high of creation when you are taking your medication.  I used to have sparks of inspiration and spend days in my studio, never leaving, barely sleeping….painting, and painting, and painting….I have never felt that surge of creativity since I started my medication nearly 20 years ago.  Do I miss it?  I could never express into words just how much I miss it!  I do not believe I have created a piece of artwork that stands up to anything I created before I was diagnosed.  So yes, I miss it.  But do I miss it enough to risk the rest….NO.

Bipolar doesn’t just include the extreme lows of depression and the euphoria of mania….it also includes uncontrollable anger, confusion, for some a loss of time, and a myriad of other symptoms…always to the extreme.  I used to notice when I got happy from something, it simply didn’t stop.  I didn’t just get happy, it kept growing and growing….oh it’s so hard to explain, but that’s how I felt about most of my emotions.  The emotion would start, like any normal person’s emotion would, but my emotion wouldn’t stop….it grew, to the point where I felt the emotion was no longer mine, I was the emotion.  I have huge gaps where I simply lost time.  I have no idea what happened during that time.   There have been out of control arguments, but I can’t remember anything about except the anger.

When I first started getting serious with Stuart I decided I had to be honest with him if we were going to have a real relationship.  It was very hard to tell him I have a mental illness, I am Bipolar.  Due to this, I have no idea how many men I have slept with.  He took it like the man he is, with grace and sympathy.  He held me while I cried and explained more about my illness.  How I was being treated…ect.   (He is a very good man.)

There is much more to my story, some I can never tell, because I simply do not remember it all.  Some I can tell…perhaps I should write a book.  *smiles*

Please forgive any typos, or grammar errors…or anything like that.  I started to proof-read this and needed to stop.  If I have offended anyone I apologize.  I hope I have brought a little bit of understanding about what it means to be Bipolar I.  Or what it means to be me.

Calling all Health Activist — Write For a Month Challenge by WEGO Health!!!

I’m joining the challenge!  Am I crazy?  Well yes, we’ve already established that fact.  I do have a verified mental illness, and now I have been diagnosed with a brain disorder so you, my friend, are absolutely right when you say, “She is insane if she thinks she can pull this off!”

May we take wagers?   Who out there thinks I can do it?  Who would dare to take that bet? hummmmm?  Well, I will.  I will take you on!  WEGO gives you 2 days that you can miss.  I vow to post no less than 28 days in April!  I’ve already read the prompts, we don’t have to follow them, but some are really good…so you may be seeing a new side of writing from Wendy.

Now for you who want to wager against me……just remember all the things I’ve over come.  And also think…It’s March 19th, and she’s already started writing next month’s posts.  Maybe you should rethink that bet.  *wink*

So here’s the official call to arms…or should I say to computers, laptops, ipads…oh what ever you use these days!

Hey everyone – I just wanted to tell you about a new activity I’ll be doing this April. The Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge hosted by WEGO Health. I will be writing a post a day for all 30 days. I hope you’ll join me in writing every day about health. It’s going to be a lot of fun and I’d love to see what you have to say about each of the topics, too. All you have to do to join is sign up here: http://info.wegohealth.com/HAWMC2012 and you’ll be able to start posting once April rolls around. Looking forward to writing with you!

You can really tell I didn’t write that huh?

I will be writing a lot more about this new diagnosis of course, and just what it’s like to live with a disability.  If I think of it, and it I feel it needs to be said, you know it’s going to be regurgitated here.  (lovely picture huh?)

If you are a health blogger, jump on in.  Give it a try.  Some of my days may just be a photo and a quote, but as long as it’s appropriate, that’s alright.  We can do it, get the word out, we have chronic illnesses and don’t want to be invisible any more!!