When Is Sad Too Sad?

BlogHer Original Post

I’ve written a lot before about my bouts with depression and eating disorders . I have spent a lot of my adult life trying to understand the depression and anxiety of my childhood and learning how to stave it off when it knocks at the door now. I’m sad it took me so long to put stock in taking care of my mental health, because I probably ruined a lot of friendships and relationships along the way. I nearly lost some people who are still dear to me now, try as I did to push them away. And, let’s face it – depressed people by their very nature drive other people away – it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s no fun to be around someone determined to be sad at all costs.

Even though I missed it by a few days, please take note of the resources available for October 11’s National Depression Screening Day. According to Mental Health America:

• Clinical depression is a serious medical illness.
• Clinical depression can lead to suicide.
• Sometimes people with depression mistakenly believe that the symptoms of depression are a "normal part of life."
• Clinical depression affects men and women of all ages, races and socioeconomic groups.
• One in four women and one in 10 men will experience depression at some point during their lifetimes.
• Two-thirds of those suffering from the illness do not seek the necessary treatment.
• Depression can co-occur and complicate other medical conditions.
• More than 80 percent of all cases of clinical depression can be effectively treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.
• Screenings are often the first step in getting help.

And we women, let’s face it, make ourselves known in our families. It’s an old joke that if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, but let’s be honest with ourselves – it’s true. Our children, our partners and spouses, even our pets are affected positively or negatively by our moods. Even if you don’t want to bring attention to yourself, you owe it to you family to get yourself screened if you’ve been staring at your shoes for longer than two weeks without an obvious cause. You’re so not alone.

So why are we afraid to get help? Some feel that God alone should be enough to heal their souls. I’m up for Jesus, but I also know depression is more chemical than soulful.

Therese Borchard on Beyond Blue writes:

Somehow Christians and God-fearers of all religions are programmed to believe they are "above" mental illness and depression. Faith conquers all.

Even though these devout individuals don't feel morally weak when coming down with a stomach bug, or something more serious like a viral pneumonia or arthritis, they absolutely do feel morally bereft if anything (genes, stress, illness, trauma) disrupts the structure and function of brain cells, destroying nerve cell connections--resulting in neural roadblock to the processing of information (which happens with depression).

Maybe we’re afraid of drugs. Maybe we’re afraid of social stigma. Maybe we’re afraid of how much it will cost.

The thing is, though – coming back from a bout of depression feels like March sunshine: unexpected, renewing, life-giving, necessary. When you’re depressed, you can’t fathom ever wanting to do things again. But it happens, and the idea of it happening for someone – anyone – should be enough to get yourself out to a depression screening center and get some help. It can be different.

Here’s an excerpt from Real Mental:

I keep finding myself thinking about the past year, and shaking my head. I don’t know how it got so awful. Even though I knew what to do to help myself, it was nearly impossible to do those things (get a good night’s sleep, eat well, exercise). It astonishes me that it has taken nearly a year to feel like myself again. (There are small voices whispering in my ear that others have suffered far worse years, and I feel like erasing everything I’ve written here. I’m going to resist that though.)

It is such a relief to have energy, to realize that small steps in removing clutter or doing dishes or working on projects *does* do some good. I am sure I will have bad days sprinkled among the good ones, but I’m so glad to be living more fully again, and I’m excited to dream some dreams and go after them.

More from Mental Health America:

Sponsors of National Screening for Depression include:

Mental Health America
American Psychiatric Association
National Institute of Mental Health
National Alliance for the Mentally Ill
National Association of Psychiatric Health Systems
National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Assn.

For more information, contact the National Depression Screening Project Office at (781) 239-0071.


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