Help For Depression
"I've been depressed since I was nine years old," Veronica lamented (not her real name). "My mother was depressed when I was a child. It seemed she was in a bad mood all the time. I never knew if I'd get a smile or a slap.
"My depression took a severe turn for the worse a few years ago when I had a nervous breakdown at work. At first I fought against going to the hospital and taking medication, but then it came together for me: `This is a biological illness. It's not my fault. I don't care what anybody thinks. I want to be happy again. I'm going to get help.'
"I did get help. I got the medical and therapeutic help I needed and I started improving. I was getting my life back. I could sleep peacefully. Food didn't taste like cardboard anymore. I could concentrate. I could smile again!"
Veronica is not alone. Depression is the most common complaint heard in doctor's offices today. One in five women and one in ten men will at some time in their lives be diagnosed with clinical depression. Many more people become depressed at one time or another in their lives, but aren't diagnosed. Some people are just too embarrassed to admit that they are depressed. They may think that it's weak or bad or sinful to feel depressed and therefore try to deny their feelings. Others have asked for help and been disappointed and so they've gone into hiding. And still others are so depressed that they can't seem to muster up the energy to get the help they need; they don't have any hope that they could ever feel better anyway.
Those who are depressed need to feel better. Depression is serious. Left untreated it is not only painful, but can be disabling and even life threatening when it leads to a suicide attempt. Those who are depressed can feel better. There is hope. Depression can be treated. Like Veronica, those who are depressed can smile again, they can find the pep in their step, they can feel love and peace and joy in their hearts.
Symptoms of Depression:
As with any psychological or relational problem the first step to getting help is diagnosis. You need to accept that you have a problem and understand the nature of your struggle before you can get help. People who are depressed have negative feelings and perceptions about themselves, their life, and their future. They say or think things like:
People who are depressed also struggle with some of the following symptoms:
Reactive or Biological Depression?
Not all depressions are the same. The key distinction is identifying whether the depression is reactive or biological. Veronica's depression was biological. She had a family history of depression, had been depressed a long time, and her functioning was severely impaired by her depression. She was not only emotionally depressed she was physically and biochemically depressed. She responded well to medication and supportive therapy and has an active and full life today, volunteering some of her free time to help other people who are depressed.
A reactive depression is different than a biological depression. It is a short-term response to a stressful or painful life event. If you've had a loved one die, been fired from your job, experienced a health problem, or been hurt or disappointed in a relationship, then you probably feel depressed. This is a normal and healthy response. When dealing with these emotional heartaches we need a season to grieve. Talking about our sadness with a friend or in a support group helps us to heal. We need to be listened to. We need comfort. If, in this way, we grieve and get support with a reactive depression then in time we will feel better.
If you don't get help when you start to feel depressed then your problem may become more serious. Reactive depressions can become acutely overwhelming or chronic and disabling if you don't get the help you need when you're hurting. How does this happen? Consider Steve's story (not his real name). When he was a six years old his parents divorced. His father moved out of state and remarried, and then Steve only saw him sporadically throughout his childhood. His mother remarried when he was a teenager, but he was reticent to let this man fill the role of step father.
Steve was still depressed about losing his father when I met him in his thirties. He had never grieved. Dad told him on the phone that "Big boys don't cry." His mom was hurt and bitter about the divorce herself and she just got upset whenever Steve tried to talk about it, so he didn't feel safe sharing with her. Tragically, he spent 25 years "pulling himself up by his bootstraps," denying his pain and his needs for support, and trying to be strong and independent. His strategy worked pretty well at work, but not in his relationships. He wouldn't let anyone close to him. He was lonely, withdrawn, and burdened with depression and low self-esteem. When I met him he was having trouble getting out of bed to go into the office. His depression had become physical. Fortunately, he finally did get the help he needed by taking an anti-depressant and entering therapy, where he worked through his unresolved grief over losing his dad and his family unit and took some important steps to turn his life around.
Steps to Get Help for Depression
If you're depressed you can get help like Veronica and Steve did, but you need to work at it. Change isn't easy, but is possible. You can get help for your depression by working through the following eight steps. Start by focusing on the one or two steps that you most need to implement.
By Dr. Bill Gaultiere