Depression: The New Plague

“We cannot live what we cannot dream.” Richard Paul Evans The Four Doors Why do I call depression the new plague? Let’s take a look at the definition of a plague. Plague: pestilence, outbreak, curse, afflict with and it has synonyms like disease and infection. Now let’s take a look at depression: despair, slump and synonyms like misery, hopelessness and dejection. From personal experience it would not be far from the truth to say that depression is a curse. When you are afflicted with depression there seems to be no hope.

The real reason I consider depression the new plague is because of the second word in the definition of a plague, outbreak. In the last 4-5 years the number of clients coming to see me for depression has risen steadily. Research indicates that there could be as much as a 20% a year increase in the diagnosis of depression. That could be because more people are recognizing that they need help to deal with depression. However, research again indicates that 80-85% of people with depression are undiagnosed and untreated.

Some more numbers to throw at you, 1 in 33 children may suffer from depression, 1 in 8 adolescents and 1 in 10 people period. Frightening numbers. Let’s make it a little closer to home. The average family is 2 parents and 2 kids, so with extended family that works out to 2 sets of grand parents, 8 parents (aunts and uncles) and 8 kids (cousins). A total of 20 people, so factoring in the above statistic of 1 in 10, that means that in an extended family situation there is a very high possibility that 2, perhaps 3, of those people will be depressed.

Some of the symptoms are feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness, loss of the ability to control negative thought processes, which may lead to negative behavior patterns, loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed and loss of self worth and esteem which leads to a loss of self-confidence. Appetite changes sleep changes, anger, irritability, loss of energy, no motivation and seemingly no choice. Self-loathing can creep in leading to reckless behavior like drinking and drug use, speeding and reckless driving with out seat belts and more important, suicidal thoughts and ideation.

Suicidal thoughts are not to be ignored; they need to be taken seriously. If you as the individual have them or you live with someone who has them, don’t joke around. Make sure you know the number of the Suicide Prevention line in your area, the name and number of a good friend, pastor, priest or counselor who knows somewhat of your situation and is willing to help. Talk to your doctor, to a counselor, a teacher or spiritual advisor; tell them of your fears and troubles, ask them if they would be willing to help you by letting you call in times of suicidal thinking. Know the way to the closest emergency room and don’t be frightened of going there, go and admit yourself, they can help.

Another fact; women suffer more often than men and they suffer differently. In men depression may present as anger, fatigue, sleep problems, irritability, aggression and violence. With women it can be seen as guilt, excessive sleeping, overeating, blaming self. Also with some women there may be a hormonal component. But no matter who or how it is presented it is real. It is painful, they can’t seem to find their way and have no energy or motivation to do work on it.

The very worst thing for a depressed person to hear is: “Get over it,” “You’re ok, buck up,” and my personal favorite “You know what to do, so do it.” If it were only that simple? Do people really think that a depressed person likes it so much that they will choose to stay there? Not likely. So here are some another facts for non-depressed people – it is real, it hurts, we don’t like it and don’t want to be here, if we could change it we would. In fact, most people cannot heal or deal with depression while they are depressed. You work on managing depression when you are up, not depressed. Then you have energy, motivation, thinking capabilities and so on.

Depression does not say anything about the person who is suffering, it does not mean they are flawed, lazy, crazy or whatever else people say or think. In our society there is still a stigma against the depressed person. Reality; depression is an illness, your emotions are sick. You would not think or believe bad things about yourself or your friends if they had the flu, they’re just sick. Exactly.

Acknowledge it, say you are depressed and that is alright; you may not like it but it is a fact, so just accept it. You cannot deal with what you cannot accept. Fighting against it only makes it worse, what you focus on you get, so admit that you are depressed, accept it and ask “What is my depression trying to teach me?” A question that changed my life. If we are going to be depressed we might as well learn something or it is just a waste of time.

Seek help, talk openly about it, share your experience with others who are accepting, adopt a healthy lifestyle, proper sleep, nutrition, and exercise, create and maintain a good social network which can help support you, manage your symptoms, know your triggers, understand and accept that there will be things in your life that will make managing depression hard. Note the word manage; there is no cure for depression, if fact once depressed the odds go up that you will be again, so manage it. Life cycles for everybody and depressed people are no different. Learn your cycles, do the things necessary to length the cycle out and make the dips less deep.

Know this, I believe in you, I know you can deal with it and you can be depression free longer and longer. You have the strength, the talents, the ability and the desire to do it and you will. People are survivors; we can overcome and live as happy as we want to be. Write in a journal, become your own source of strength and your own best resource. Love yourself, believe in yourself, enjoy the happy moments, embrace the sad times, but don’t linger. Remember life is good.

“Tell your story. That’s the secret of immortality. The one true way to live forever…There is the life you live and the life you leave behind. But what you share with someone else-especially someone you love-…that’s how you write your future. Brad Meltzer The Book of Lies