Is depression one of the worst plagues of our time? I think so. We are used to hearing about the Black, or Bubonic plague. Back in their time plague songs were used to warn people of the stages to expect. The old English plague song Ring a Ring of Roses is one of those songs. "Ring a ring of roses"...this describes the ring of red blotches that was your first sign that you were infected. "A pocket full of posies". This refers to the posies of herbs that were thought to help or cure the plague. "A tishoo, a tishoo," referring to the bout of sneezing that would come and the last line, "we all fall down", which needs no explanation. I rented a plague cottage in England once and the old apothecary cupboard was still on the wall as a reminder of how the plague victims hoped for the miracle cure from herbs and plants. Sometimes a plague that started with a flea infestation in damp cloth would kill so many residents of a town or village that the "life" of that place was never the same.
Today, we don't have official songs to warn us of the symptoms of the plague of depression, although if you consider the titles of many songs from the last one hundred years, you can see that many allude to depression. You can probably have fun thinking of some. Depression isn't funny though.
Millions of people struggle to find enough energy to do simple tasks such as showering, brushing their teeth or preparing food to eat because they are depressed. One of the main symptoms of depression is severe lack of energy. Many people are labeled lazy or lacking in motivation when they are really depressed. Clinical depression also robs a person of the enjoyment of things they used to love to do. Life feels grey and flat and a sufferer can either sleep too little or sleep too much...often fifteen hours a day. Some depressed people lose weight, some gain weight. Children can suffer with depression, often showing no desire to go to school or play with friends. Many times an element of shame is present. Perhaps the child feels shame about coming from a financially challenged or dysfunctional family. Perhaps the child is being bullied at school. Often the child has not had enough life experience to properly articulate why they are depressed and professional help will need to be sought.
There are several types of depression and medications to help. What works for one person may not for another. Many family physicians treat depression with the lowest dose of an anti depressant, which leaves the patient frustrated and even more depressed as the medication doesn't seem to be working. If the patient sees a psychiatrist, the medication will most likely be titrated to a much higher dose. Add cognitive therapy to the medication and WOW! You will see improvement.
Some people feel depressed because of a situation such as losing a loved one or a job. Time usually heals this kind of depression. Depression is not the same as "the blues". We all feel the blues from time to time but if it lasts longer than a week and we begin to spiral down into the symptoms mentioned, then, we need to seek help. Often a person is so weak and tired that they will need an understanding friend to get them to the doctor or therapist's office for help. Don't be ashamed if you need that. Depression is a physical as well as a mental illness and it is a real illness. You are not lazy or useless because you feel so depleted. You are ill.
Unfortunately, some people do not respond to medication or cognitive therapy and other kinds of treatment have to be considered. Sufferers of depression will tell how they have tried so many medications before finding the right one for them. If they had been on higher doses sooner, perhaps they would have found the right medication sooner too. It is never wise to change the dosage of a medication without first checking with your doctor, though. Most anti depressants will take three weeks to "kick in" and so don't be discouraged if you don't feel better right away. Some suicides may have been avoided if just a little more time on the right medication had occurred.
If you have a chemical imbalance in your brain that is causing your depression, it needs to be addressed. Beware of all the well intentioned but simplistic advice from others who do not suffer with depression. "Look on the bright side" is a good maxim. However, if you are severely depressed, you may know there is a bright side but you can not feel it in your soul. You can not just "pull your self together" any more than a diabetic can just pull himself together without the use of insulin. You know you have things in your life that are good, such as family and friends, but it just doesn't register in the way that it normally would, if you were not depressed.
Don't spend a minute longer in the dark grip of depression. This world is a beautiful place and you deserve to enjoy it. Get help now, even if you have to crawl to the phone to take the first step. There is hope. You can recover, even if you have been depressed for a long time.
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