Depression......what is it? It's a condition that wants to zap the life out of you! Many people suffer from it and even though they recognize they do, they don't want to get help for it. That described me for most of my life. I have suffered from depression off and on for my whole life. It's hard to admit to anyone that you are depressed. I especially found it hard to admit it as a Christian....you know, I'm suppose to have the "joy, joy, joy down in my heart!" But, the truth is, I have Jesus in my heart, but not always the joy in my heart.
Depression is a serious medical illness that involves the brain. It's more than just a feeling of being "down in the dumps" or "blue" for a few days. If you are one of the more than 20 million people in the United States who have depression, the feelings do not go away. They persist and interfere with your everyday life. Symptoms can include
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Change in weight
- Difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
- Energy loss
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
There are effective treatments for depression, including antidepressants and talk therapy. Most people do best by using both.
Like I said, I feel I have always fought with depression. I can remember being depressed and feeling worthless as a teenager. But, it has taken me until the ripe age of 58 to admit it to a doctor and ask for help. I have managed to "cover it up" with smiles in the past. But, now I am finally learning to "deal with it" rather than "cover it up."
After my mom died in February of 2010, my siblings didn't stick together as would have been expected and I spiraled into a very deep depression. I am not wanting to talk about that, but just give you the history of when I realized I could no longer function without help. It was December 2010 that I finally reached out to my doctor at my annual check-up, telling him that I wouldn't do anything to myself, but I didn't care if I lived or died. This was before I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the first time in my life that I asked a doctor for something to help me fight it.... the first time in my life that I was willing to ask for an antidepressant. I am so NOT a pill popper, so he knew if I was asking for something, then I surely needed it. He put me on a low dosage of Zoloft and for the next year and all through cancer, it seemed to do the trick.
But, now, after winning my battle with cancer, I found myself back into that same "hole"....no desire for the things I love, no energy, wanting to sleep all day, feeling worthless and unloved. It was back.
Two weeks ago I had my six month check-up with my oncologist. First was the bloodwork, which all turned out great! Physically things are good and there is still no evidence of cancer. Yay! My oncologist was not in the office, so I met with his nurse practitioner and I discussed my feelings of depression and tiredness with her. She reassured me that it was perfectly normal and reminded me of all that my body had been through, plus the emotional aspects of having cancer (added on top of the family situation). She did say it sounded like I was dealing with depression and I was on a small dosage of Zoloft and she made a suggestion of a different anti-depressant, which will also help with the hot flashes I have that are caused by the Arimidex I take to fight a reoccurence. It was good to talk with her about this and to get the reassurance I needed. And I no longer fight against medications. She put me on the other antidepressant....that was 2 weeks ago. I have read the side affects online and they can be scary to read, but I recognize that everything has side affects and it does not mean that I will necessarily have them. I also read that it takes up to 30 days for it to be affective in your body, so I'm not "quite there" yet, but I am beginning to feel the cloud lifting.
One thing that cancer has taught me....get help when you need it. So many times in the past I have just suffered through things (even physical things), rather than ask for help with them. I am now learning that I don't need to do that...I owe myself a better quality of life and if it takes a "pill" to help me, it doesn't make me less of a Christian.
My purpose in sharing my "dark secret" is to try to help others who may be suffering in silence. I've had to learn that there is no shame in being depressed. It very well may be a chemical inbalance in your brain....a lack of serotonin. Just like a physical ailment, there is no shame in seeking help for an emotional or mental ailment. It doesn't mean you're crazy!
Until next time, I hope I have helped even ONE person who may be like me...suffering in silence. We don't need to do that. We deserve a better quality of life, so don't be afraid to talk with your doctor about it. I'm glad I did!