Depression. What is it? Why would a normally healthy, optomistic person get depressed? If things go wrong, don't you just talk yourself out of feeling sorry for yourself? So what if your 23 year marriage ends, and your soon-to-be ex-husband moves in with your best friend; you are left to cope with 2 devastated teenagers; you loose your father and father-in-law to cancer; you have extreme job challenges; and, your new condo, purchased without REALLY knowing what to look for (just don't buy a home with a laundry room upstairs over the living room!) and you develop a roof leak, and a laundry leak into the living room. AND, you are the primary care giver for a very needy Mother.
You can handle all of this, right? And, when, the next year, you loose your Mother and Grandmother to cancer too, it doesn't send you over the edge, does it? Particularly when you also have Multiple Sclerosis, which has been misdiagnosed for over 35 years, and the worst thing for MS is stress and anxiety. You can handle everything, right?
Well, I found that I couldn't. Consider the following list of symptoms that one should review if you think that you might be suffering from depression. OR, if you, like me, are convinced that you CAN HANDLE IT, if the rain would just stop; or, if the roof would just stop leaking (I've already tried to get it fixed 2 times, and it hasn't yet worked; I now have a gallon bucket sitting in the front hallway to catch the water leaking from the hole in the roof); or, if the kids would just stop being "normal" teenagers, when you no longer have a husband to help you in the day-to-day coping with teenagers.
Here is a checklist of symptoms of depressive illness:
1) Loss of energy and interest.
2) Diminished ability to enjoy oneself.
3) Decreased -- or increased -- sleeping or appetite.
4) Difficulty in concentrating; indecisiveness; slowed or fuzzy thinking.
5) Exaggerated feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or anxiety.
6) Feelings of worthlessness.
7) Recurring thoughts about death and suicide.
I remember clearly my "last straw". I read the list, above, and was sure that these 7 symptoms did NOT describe me. Then, with all of my water problems at home, I went to work in my 4th (top) floor office that just happened to have a flat roof. While on the phone arguing with the roofer who claimed that my roof shouldn't be leaking, and my telling him that it still was leaking, and if he didn't believe me, he could just come over and see my bucket full of water in my entry way, when I heard the familiar "pitter-patt" noise that freaked me out at home. I looked up at my office ceiling just in time to see water beginning to gush out of the ceiling tiles, around the hanging lights, and pour into my office. That did it. I went home. That night, I awoke thinking that I heard the "pitter-patt" in the upstairs laundry room, dripping water into my living room. I got up, turned off the water to the washing machine; stuffed all of my towels around the washer, and stood with my back against the wall in my first ever anxiety attack, thinking that if this was what my life had become, why would I even want to continue living it?
This event scared me into going to my Doctor. He had a great little "depression" test for me. Knowing my fragile state, he asked me the statements, and, based both on my answers and on the detailed symptom impairment document that I had started preparing for him, prescribed an antidepression medication for me.
I learned two critical things that day - three, really. The first one is that it is critical to have a Doctor that you trust, that knows you, and that LISTENS to what you are saying. Secondly, since he knew about my MS, he told me that Depression was a frequent secondary symptom of MS. (At that time, I hadn't done my MS symptom research yet; the Disabilitykey Workbook, found at http://www.disabilitykey.com is the ultimate result of all of my symptom and system - Long Term Disability and Social Security Disability Insurance - research for myself.) Third, I learned that no matter how strong your personality is, and no matter how positive a person you are, Depression is NOT something you can get over by just "thinking positive thoughts"; by "keeping a stiff upper lip". If you truly think that you are suffering from Depression, there is nothing wrong from talking to your Doctor, and seeking his advice.
All that I have discussed so far happened over a dozen years ago. I am still taking antidepression medication, and it does help. I have searched high and low for the original test that my Doctor used on me, and finally found one at one of my favorite resources, called the "Institute for Algorithmic Medicine" (that's academic talk for medical condition tests). The test is "The Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale". As you read the following questions, ask yourself where the statement ranks on the following scale:
1) A little of the time for me.
2) Some of the time for me.
3) A good part of the time for me.
4) Most of the time for me.
I fell down-hearted and blue.
Morning is when I feel the best.
I have crying spells or feel like it.
I have trouble sleeping at night.
I eat as much as I used to.
I still enjoy sex.
I notice that I am losing weight.
I have trouble with constipation.
My heart beats faster than usual.
I get tired for no reason.
My mind is as clear as it used to be.
I find it easy to do the things I used to.
I am restless and can't keep still.
I feel hopeful about the future.
I am more irritable than usual.
I find it easy to make decisions.
I feel that I am useful and needed.
My life is pretty full.
I feel that others would be better off if I were dead.
I still enjoy the things I used to do.
This little test, with your self rating for each statement, and with your symptom impairment documentation, so that your Doctor knows more about you and what is going on in your life, s/he can best decide what to do to help you better achieve a higher quality of life. Perhaps antidepression medication isn't what you need, something else would be better for you. But, if you don't learn, document, seek help, and discuss with your Doctor, s/he can't help you help yourself.
Many of you are probably asking yourselves how I can just put myself out there; just put into these bloggs what is going on in my life. I'm doing this, sharing these experiences so that you can know that I have been there; I've done that; I've got the t-shirts! For more about me, check out the "about us" section in the website: http://www.disabilitykey.com.