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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Coping with Depression

First of all, thanks Ginger of Chasing Rainbows for compiling and written a concise and useful article on depression, mainly in women, and also postpartum depression.

After reading, I decided to write about this topic as it is something that is close to my heart as my wife was suffering from depression in the past for many years. Because of her great desires to change and to improve the quality of her life, with great determination, discipline and God given ideas (there were times God would give her ideas of how to deal with and come out of a depression episode), today, she has overcome it. She had also experienced postpartum depression especially with our firstborn. I will split into two posts as it will be too long for a single post.

Rather than giving you the scientific facts and info, which you can find from many other sites (you can find the links at the end of this post), I will instead share from our own personal experience as well as the experience some of the people we know who’s going through depression.

What is Depression:

I like the definition given in Chasing Rainbows, so do check it out.
According to Wikipedia:
Major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder) is a mental disorder characterized by a pervasive low mood, low self-esteem, and loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Major depression is a disabling condition which adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. In the United States, approximately 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide, and up to 60% of all people who commit suicide have depression or another mood disorder.

As serious as it may sound, unfortunately, there are still many people who take depression too lightly. Some are even unaware that they are going through depression since some of the signs can be subtle. People with depression can get better with treatment, but many people (especially in Asian countries) are unwilling to pay a visit to a mental health care professional (Psychiatrist) because it’s embarrassing. Some of us have the idea that paying a visit to the shrink means that you have gone crazy, which is not the case. Many people still fail to understand that having a mental illness does not mean that you’re a nut case. We’re living in a fast paced world where our lives are becoming increasingly stressful everyday and this can cause all sorts of mental illnesses that do not require you to be taken away in a straitjacket. A lot of these illnesses are mild and with treatment, will get better.

As for my wife, with God’s help, and with strong determination to change, she has learnt to cope with depression without the help of medication. To her, depression is like an attack. Having depression according to her, is like having a cloud of extreme negativity covering and saturating her mind. She constantly felt hopeless, helpless, worthless and that life is not worth living and nothing good will ever happen to her. She was unable to feel joy or experience pleasure. She also often suffered from insomnia, and very often she didn’t feel like waking up in the morning fearing that she couldn’t manage another day of her life. When she was pregnant with our first child, she was depressed through out the whole pregnancy. She just could not bring herself to even smile. In the past, when there was a “depression attack”, there’s nothing she could do to prevent or make it go away. All she could do was hoping that it will pass on its own, which may be days, weeks, or even months.

Right now, she has overcome depression. Even though sometimes it will still come back and make life difficult, but nothing unmanageable. According to her, with knowledge and experience, one will be able to know when an attack is going happen. This will help her to prevent herself from falling into the “pits of depression” or to come out of it if she had an attack. We also know of friends who are going through depression, some are coping with it the wrong way, such as overeating, some are still too stubborn to change or seek help.

Over the years, while learning from our own as well as other’s experiences, we discovered what can help a person gets better are:

1. A strong desire to change – stop the blame game
We have met many people that who kept on insisting that it’s not their fault that they are having depression, it’s all because of him/her/that situation that made them like this. What they are basically saying is that there is nothing wrong with them, so they don’t need to change even though they don’t like it. Some are unwilling to change because they think that it’s impossible to overcome despite of all the encouragement they are receiving from the people around them. From our experience, these mindsets and attitude are counter-productive to dealing with depression.

2. Forgiveness
Cases of depression are usually associated with bad past experiences. Sometimes letting go of the bad experiences will mean needing to forgive certain people that have hurt you or done some really bad things to you before. But if you can’t let go/forgive, it will be a stumbling block to dealing with depression.

3. A lot of support and encouragement
One of the reasons why my wife has depression was because she has a very strict, perfectionist and hard to please mother. Through out her childhood, she was always being disciplined because the things she did were just not good enough for her mom. There were also no encouragements for job well done. After we got married, she has to cope with the pressure of living together with my parents. Again, no encouragements coming from them as well. A person with depression needs a lot of support and encouragement to lift their spirits and share their burden.

4. Socialize
We noticed that people with depression often likes to be alone. They’re often too depressed to socialize and are in no mood to do so. However this is not good for them as when they are alone, all the negative thoughts will just keep on playing over and over in their head. Having good and supportive friends to talk to and share will be helpful. So making an effort to go out and mingle will do a depressed soul good.

5. Last but not least, GET PROFESSIONAL HELP!
Thank God my wife was able to overcome depression without professional help, but I do believe that there are some people out there with more severe cases of depression or they’re just in too deep and can’t find a way out. Don’t be afraid to look for help. There’s nothing to be ashamed off and there are various ways to treat depression. Seeking professional help does not mean that you’re a looser neither should you feel defeated and hopeless should you decided to seek help.

We know that it's not easy coping with depression and sometimes we just don't know how to reach out or help those suffering from it. I hope this little bit of sharing will be able to offer some help or at the very least a glimmer of hope. Below are some links to sites with very useful information.

National Institute of Mental Health


Chasing Rainbows



ronny contreras said...

I do believe that the best way to concur and fighting depression is to acknowledge the fact that you are suffering from it. Not recognizing this is often the biggest hurdle in treatment of depression. I do agree that there are indeed several ways to help yourself before going to your Orange County therapist as suggested by this article.

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