Friday, October 10, 2008

National Depression Screening Day

Depression hits people in different ways. Although there are several symptoms that most of us are aware of, it's difficult to see the impact when we're the ones suffering from an emotional or psychological disorder.

I've had a long history of depression and fought it for many years, self-medicating with alcohol and drugs, which only made things worse, of course.

Never was my depression so apparent then when I was dealing with the new stresses and pressures of being a new mom, trying to balance a full-time job with a newborn and having my family (my ultimate support system) so far away.

I was always the type of person who was afraid to ask for help, never wanting to admit that I couldn't do something completely on my own. I think many women feel this way, especially in regards to motherhood. After all we're built to be moms, right?

Did you know that women are twice as likely to suffer from depression as men? And, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one in six Latina teens has seriously considered suicide (I was one of them).

Visit Mental Health Screening for a quick psychological checkup and don't be afraid to speak to your doctor if you feel you may be suffering from any of the following signs of depression:

  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness: A bleak outlook, thinking that nothing will ever get better and there's nothing you can do to improve your situation.
  • Loss of interest in daily activities: No interest in or ability to enjoy former hobbies, pastimes, social activities, or sex.
  • Appetite or weight changes: Significant weight loss or weight gain - a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month.
  • Sleep changes: Either insomnia, especially waking in the early hours of the morning, or oversleeping (also known as hypersomnia).
  • Psychomotor agitation or retardation: Either feeling "keyed up" and restless or sluggish and physically slowed down.
  • Loss of energy: Feeling fatigued and physically drained. Even small tasks are exhausting or taking longer.
  • Self-loathing: Strong feelings of worthlessness or guilt. Harsh criticism of perceived faults and mistakes.
  • Concentration problems: Trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things.
Having read these symptoms just now, I was reminded of the occasions when my husband (at the time) berated me for being lazy and not helping him around the house (because working full-time, breast-feeding and taking care of our infant son wasn't enough).

I, of course, was suffering from postpartum depression (without either of us realizing it) but it was his statements and anger towards me that provided the fuel for those feelings of inadequacy to take over. Quickly, the state of self-loathing became the guiding force behind my motivation, or lack thereof.

It was the beginning of a downward cycle that led to concentration problems, and a combination of insomnia and hypersomnia (which I attributed to "catching up on my sleep").

As a society, we're always quick to blame outside circumstances for our emotional state when clearly, there's evidence that our internal chemistry truly has a greater effect on our psychological well-being more than anything. I should know this. I studied psychology in school and got the highest grade in my college career in my course on psychopharmacology.

And yet, I continued to ignore the symptoms and did not seek the help I truly needed. It finally took my husband leaving me to realize that I needed to do something, quickly, or my son might have eventually been taken away from me. There's nothing like the threat of losing your child to put things into perspective.

I am not shy about my past and I don't blame others for my actions, or my current situation. I hold myself responsible for letting the symptoms of depression control me and from keeping me from being the best mom and wife I could be.

Looking back, I have to say that my husband made the best decision he could, under the circumstances. I was forced to stand on my own two feet in every way, and I am a much stronger, emotionally balanced and content individual for getting through it. But I'm far from past it. It's following close behind, like a shadow that can never escape from the sun.

My heart goes out to anyone who has ever suffered from depression or has witnessed someone they love going through this emotional roller coaster that takes over every aspect of their life.

I cannot stress enough the importance for women - especially after giving birth - to reach out for emotional support, write about your thoughts and feelings and to not be afraid to ask for help.

It is equally important for all of you husbands and fathers to be aware of the emotional needs of your wife or the mother of your child and allow her the freedom and opportunity to share her thoughts and complaints (without you feeling the need to step in and fix things), and to allow her the opportunity to get out of the house and encourage her to do so, alone, and often.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing up such an important topic. I myself suffered with post-partum depression with both my kids. For me it happened right away at the hospital - but for some women it doesn't show up for a few weeks, so they dismiss it as being overwhelmed or "hormonal". It's more than that, for some it's a chemical imbalance that may not go away on it's own. I like to be open and honest with other mom's or expectant moms and let them know what it can be like, not to be surprised it if happens to them. And also, don't feel ashamed if you have to "give-in" and use medication for help. For me, it was a life saver. You want to enjoy the time with your baby - not sit around weepy and full of anxiety. Those first few weeks are hard enough as it is! Depression is out there and a lot more common that some might think. So don't be alarmed if it happens to you or someone close to you. There are many ways of treatment out there - you just have to be willing to try them out.

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Anonymous said...

People who think that they are suffering from depression should consult a psychologist. It is the psychologist's job to determine what kind of therapy is needed by the person suffering from depression. After being diagnosed by the psychologist, the services of a psychiatrist could also be needed. It is the psychiatrist who gives the prescription on the drugs that will help in balancing the chemical imbalances in the brain. Depressed people can easily be treated with the help of medicines and series of therapy sessions in order to help the person determine cause of their depression.