20 May

Recognize Something is Wrong

In life, there are some decisions that are easier to make than others. If you don’t like your current job; you seek alternative employment. If you have outgrown your home; you sell it and upgrade to another. healthyblurbsIf you need new shoes; you decide to go shopping and buy new ones. Those are fairly easy decisions to make. What about when you are sick and need to see a doctor? You make an appointment and consult with your physician. Again, seems pretty easy and straight forward.

Why is it so hard to seek help for depression?

I believe there are many factors that make seeking help for depression a difficult task.

What kind of support system do you have in your life? Do you have people in your life that may recognize a change in your emotional wellness? Would someone you know be aware that these changes could be due to symptoms of depression? A close friend or relative could start the conversation with you about your emotional health. Without someone to raise your awareness to your own mental health, you are left on your own.

Have you suffered from similar symptoms in the past? Have you ever been diagnosed with depression? Do you have knowledge of depression and the symptoms that come with it? If you have never been diagnosed it can be difficult at first, to know what is wrong.

Do you accept you have a mental illness? If you can’t own your illness, you can’t be open to seeing when it has a hold of you. You need to come to terms with the possibility and then, if necessary, the diagnosis of your illness. Awareness is key to maintaining a healthy mental state.

If you’ve never been diagnosed with a mental illness and you believe there may be something wrong, seek the advice of a professional. Mental illnesses do not go away on their own. Click on this link to the Canadian Mental Health Association website to learn more about depression. You need to be your own advocate.

You’ve taken the first step towards getting the help you need. Learning more about mental illness is an excellent way to build ammunition to fight. You now know why life has become such a challenge. You can begin to understand why many of your emotions are heightened.  There are answers to why activities that used to bring you so much joy, now make you feel nothing but emptiness. When I can’t appreciate a spring morning, it usually means something is up with me. It helps to be aware of why making any decision becomes the hardest thing to do. The best thing you can do for yourself is NOT make any major decisions when your mental frame of mind is in question. It is not your fault when the smallest of chores become devastating interruptions in your day. There was a time when needing to stop at a gas station to put air in my car tire was a tearful event. This should not be a normal, acceptable reaction.

If you have been diagnosed with depression in the past; you recognize the symptoms you are living with.  You need to seek the help of a professional; just as you have in the past. This is where I have always struggled. I would attempt to ignore the symptoms. I wouldn’t seek the help I desperately needed. I simply stuffed the feelings. I created the wall of denial. This has never worked to my benefit, not in the 20+ years of dealing with depression.  In fact, symptoms only worsened. Every symptom became exaggerated to its fullest. I ended up seeking care as an emergency measure. Don’t wait to get the help you need.

Here is list of signs and symptoms of depression from Women’s Health Matters.

22 Apr

5 Ways to Break Free of Depression

purple tulips with credit

Depression is never an easy topic to discuss. I’ve suffered for most of my life; wavering from not feeling depressed to fearing suicide. When I say I know 5 ways to break free of depression, I am not referring to any medication, nor any specific professional advice that has been given to me. I’m writing about some of the things that have worked for me. And these methods, with practice, have become habits.

 

 

If you have no idea what I am talking depression1about, you are where I was a few years ago. For some, depression can be in part caused by our own negative self-talk. We chide ourselves for errors we think we have made. The voice has been talking in your mind for so long, you may no longer hear it. Learn to hear it. It is not easy. When I began listening to the voice, my mental state actually worsened. I was stunned by the things that I was telling myself. Be prepared. Once you can hear the thoughts, stop them. Have the conversation in your mind, no one else can hear it. “Well, that was stupid, Sharlene!” is an example of what I would hear. “Whoa! Wait just one second! How was I supposed to know that? I know now for next time, but I had no idea. It’s okay not to know everything.” is an example of how I can answer that. Put the brakes on the negativity and change the thinking. No one else can change your thought patterns.

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I don’t mean financially. I mean with time. Invest the time in you. Learn more about you.  What makes you happy? What makes you sad? Do more of what makes you happy. Eliminate those things that cause sadness, if you can. Invest in personal development. There are so many great books; good old fashioned book form, e-books, and even audio books. Your options are limitless. I know people who listen to audio books during their commute to work. I’m still a lover of the feel of a book in my hands. I have learned that the investment in me is so incredibly worth it. I continue to learn and grow. Learning is something I thrive on; why would I stop learning?

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Track your thinking. Very recently I have learned that if you want to make a change in your life you need to see what is actually happening in that area of your life right now.  Darren Hardy, the writer of The Compound Effect, challenges his readers to pick an area of their lives they want to improve. Readers are instructed to track this area of their lives on paper. For example, if you want to handle your money better, write down everything you spend. Each spending decision is soon prefaced with the question, “Is it worth writing down?” When you have decided to track an activity, you are aware of your actions. The behavior begins to change immediately. He suggests tracking for 21 days.

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I can write about the benefits of journaling every single day. It can be very therapeutic. You can share your thoughts and feelings without feeling judged by anyone, other than yourself. And don’t judge what you write! Don’t spell check and don’t worry about grammar. Dig deep when you write. Stop and ask yourself, “What do you mean by that?” And then write some more. Keep doing that to really broaden the scope of your thoughts.

depression5Plan your future. Believe that you are in control of your destiny.If you want to be doing something different with your life, make a plan. What do you need to do to get to the life you want? Be realistic! Just don’t be afraid of making changes. You are alive today! Live your life the way you want to live it!

 

You don’t have to live with depression. I know it feels like it is insurmountable, in the moment. When you are in that state, the distance to feeling better is so incredibly large. Bridge the gap. The harder you try, the shorter the distance becomes. Decide, to feel better!

Til next time, do the next thing.

 

20 Dec

The Work Is The Medicine

Broken bones heal.

A cut is stitched closed and heals.

Infections are treated with antibiotics and are cured.

Muscle aches and pains, while not visible to others, can be treated over time and suffering ends.

How are illnesses of the mind treated? Is there a treatment that heals, cures or ends suffering? The answer is not a simple yes or no. Unlike broken bones, cuts and infections, there are diseases that have no immediate or long-lasting cure. A great example, presented to me by a physician, is diabetes. If you are diabetic you NEED insulin. There isn’t a cure. There isn’t a way to heal yourself of this illness. Does this mean a mental illness has no cure? You can’t get better from depression? No. There is no cure. You won’t get “better”. You can feel well though. That wellness comes from doing the work. There are ways to manage your illness. Acknowledging your mental illness is the first step on the road to recovery. Understand you have a condition that requires work on a consistent basis. I’m still learning this.

I wanted to believe a new diagnosis and a better understanding of my thinking would make me “better”. This thinking is how I started to feel not-so-good. This is okay though. A couple things happened that made this experience a positive event. There are a few people in my life right now who are fully aware of my situation and are my support team. I trust each of them. I also know I can get angry and frustrated with each of them and not receive harsh judgment.

The other day, I was convinced I was not well. To such a degree that I was erasing all my hard work and assuming all the positive changes I had implemented were a waste of my time, I was a failure. I wanted to run. One of my support people, would not let me run. I was angry. I felt very frustrated that this person had no idea what I felt and couldn’t possibly understand how I was feeling. I didn’t run though. Another of my support people did not entertain my emotions of the day. This person was not going to allow me to succumb to my feelings.

The next day, I gave myself permission to hide. I was still not being entertained by two of my support people. My final support person is my psychologist. I had a session with her that wasn’t playing out as I wanted it to. She wasn’t letting me run. She wasn’t letting me believe my thoughts. She wanted to know what else was going on. In my mind, there was nothing else going on. I changed the subject and started to tell her about the other five active situations that are playing out in my life. I was telling her how I was managing each of them. How I was patiently taking one step at a time and making thoughtful decisions. How I didn’t feel stress from any of these situations. She asked, “You have all that going on?” I replied, “Yes.” She commented, “And you are handling all of those things, really well?” Hmmm. That’s interesting. Look at all the things I’ve taken on. I’m allowing one little thing to turn into a ginormous issue. I’m also allowing myself to feel like a failure rather than celebrating my wins.

How did I do that?  I stopped working. I stopped working on me. I assumed I would just “naturally” be able to handle all situations. Guess what?! I didn’t suddenly become ill. A lifetime of events brought me to where I am today. During this time I learned a way of thinking that is detrimental to my mental health. Being aware of my thoughts doesn’t mean I suddenly know how to stop them. Being aware of my thoughts doesn’t mean they’ll stop affecting me. Awareness is only one part of the treatment. My thoughts now need new answers. They need to hear a different perspective. They need to have less impact. This is what I need to work on now. I can’t just run and avoid all situations that will give me harmful thoughts. I won’t be able to leave my house if that happens. I need to fight. I need to do the work that will provide the skills to combat my thinking. My thinking may never change, just as a diabetic will always need insulin. How my thoughts are allowed to make me feel, is completely in my control.

Less than six months ago, my thinking and how it made me feel, led me down a dangerous road. I started down that road again, not thinking there is a different way. There is a way that allows me to celebrate my successes. There is a way that allows me to “feel”. There is a way that allows me to choose what I do with those feelings. I’m learning I have the power to make a detour around the dangerous road. With these skills, I can feel empowered over my emotions. It’s not easy work, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s positive work. As hard as it will be, it is positive!