Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hope Smiling Brightly Before Us

Some time ago, I was sitting in a church meeting. Half way through the meeting, it took an interesting turn. Instead of discussing spiritual health, we began discussing mental health.
A respected doctor was asked to come and speak briefly on the topic of depression. He proceeded to tell us 1 out of 18 people will suffer from some form of depression during their lifetime. He also talked about how crucial it was to treat depression. Depression is not something that will simply go away on its own. You can't wish or pray your way out of depression.
These were the ten typical signs of depression he listed:
1. Sleep problems - it is hard to get to sleep or stay asleep through the night.
2. Loss of energy
3. Loss of pleasure - you are no longer interested in things that used to please you. i.e. - hobbies, intimacy, associations, etc.
4. Change in appetite or weight - either loss or gain (Although, let's be honest. Who wouldn't love to lose weight?)
5. Feeling overwhelmed
6. Reduced ability to concentrate
7. Easily irritated or annoyed
8. Decreased self-esteem
9. Suicidal thoughts - planning, wishing, wanting to disappear
10. Stomach aches
The doctor indicated if you related with 4 or more areas or signs, you should meet with a medical professional to discuss possible treatment for depression.
I don't think there are any of us who can't relate with this list a little bit. Let's face it, there are huge pressures placed upon us every day. The type of world we live in is like nothing that previous generations have faced. Combined pressures bombard us. Things like: financial difficulties, relationships, children, having to cook dinner every night (okay that one is for me), education pressures or lack of education, unfulfilled dreams or desires, employment concerns, sin, health concerns, etc.... The list goes on and on and is different for everyone.
I know this though. Having depression doesn't make you weak. It doesn't make you weird or abnormal. It just means that chemicals in your body are unbalanced and need to be aligned. Maybe the cause is because of a change in circumstance. Maybe it is something that will be a challenge during an entire life time. Maybe it occurs after the birth of a baby. Maybe a loved one recently passed away. Regardless of the reason, the fact is, depression needs to be treated.
I first started to try and wrap my head around depression about nine years ago when the phrase mood disorder was discussed in the same breath as my son's name. "What? My five year old is depressed? What are you talking about? He has an undiagnosed disorder and suffers from a speech impairment. If I couldn't communicate I would be a little cranky too. Yes, I know he is irritable and easily annoyed. Yes, I know he is too skinny and dropping off the growth charts. Yes, he is distracted in school and can't easily focus. Yes, he doesn't like to engage others. These could easily be attributed to his syndrome or dare I say, Autism." (At that point in life, we were still trying to fit all the pieces together. Mood disorder was just one of the many pieces.)
This is just a small portion of what we went through to not only get a diagnosis for Jackson but to also understand what HE was going through. As parents we dealt with frustrations about our situation. But Jackson, what was HE feeling? What was it like to be him?
Now I am not ready to hang out my psychologist shingle, but luckily, through the years, we have become much more educated on mental illness. By the way, I hate that term. It sounds sort of ..... well.... crazy. It is anything but that. I think sometimes society hears the words mental illness and voices are automatically hushed. "Oh.... she has depression - like it is some sort of ugly thing." When people say, heart disease, or cancer is mention, is the same hushed tone present? Usually not. Is treatment and medication ever NOT taken? No! I think the tide is turning though and people are becoming more informed and educated. But, the stigma can still be there.
Yes. Depression is ugly. It is mean, it is dark, and it is unreasonable. It can overpower and cause what seems like an unbearable weight to be pushing down upon you.
But the person..... they are still beautiful. Even when the person can't see the sun shining on them, it is. People love them. People are there for them. People want to help them. People are standing close and ready to lift the heavy weight. However access to do so isn't always easily granted.
For us, our journey has been a process. We have learned more about ADHD, mood disorders and anxiety. We have visited child psychologists and psychiatrists (boy, the two are SO different). We have taken classes and used behavior therapy. And, we continue to do all we can to help our son and ourselves. But, the journey is not over. It will most likely always be part of our lives. For us, we have learned medication and therapy working together can do wonderful things. As parents, we have also been able to view our own weaknesses with a little more clarity. We see how this journey places pressures and stress upon us. We see how sometimes we too can't do it alone. Everyone needs help. But.... are we willing to ask for it?
I hope so. Life is too short to be spent with such a heavy cloud hanging over us.
I also know that even with medication and therapy a few other key factors must take place.
1. Plenty of sleep
2. A healthy diet
3. and exercise
These seem like no brainers. But really, they make all the difference.
This post isn't meant to generalize such a personal issue. Everyone is different and what works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. But, what I do know is that there is help available. Whether it is a seasonal issue or something far more complex, there is help and more importantly, there is HOPE!

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