Depression Is One Companion I Can Do Without
I am determined to shut the door when it comes knockin’.
I’ve been depressed most of my adult life, and I don’t know why. I take that statement back. There are clues to why I’m depressed. I just need to know how to recognize the symptoms so I can avail myself of the treatment solutions.
Depression is the one companion I can do without. However, it is right beside me to dash my hopes and destroy my dreams when life doesn’t work out the way I expected it to.
That sounds kind of strange, don’t you think? A paradox. Something that is also known as an antinomy: “a logically self-contradictory statement or a statement that runs contrary to one’s expectation. It is a statement that, despite apparently valid reasoning from true premises, leads to a self-contradictory or a logically unacceptable conclusion.”
To understand the above concept, meaning, or how I came to feel this way; let’s take a dive into this thing called depression.
There are a plethora of reasons why someone may become depressed. Based on my research, I discovered three key factors that may contribute to depression — genetics, physical illness, and trauma.
Genetics. The jury is still out on whether depression is genetic. It is about 50/50 which doesn’t tell us a whole heck of a lot. However, researchers know that if a person has a parent or sibling with depression, that individual probably has a 2–3 times greater risk of developing depression compared to the average population.
A new study of altered levels of the gene, Slc6a15, sheds light on how it plays a role in depression. People with varying levels have an increased risk of depression. The implication is that the gene impacts dopamine and the corresponding reward center of the brain.
Even though they aren’t sure how the gene works, therapies targeting the gene may be a novel way to treat depression.
Physical Illness. Illness, especially ones with chronic pain, increases the risk of severe depression. In fact, studies show that depression is the most common mental health issue for people who are dealing with chronic pain.
I know from experience because I have crippling osteoarthritis. Even on good days when I can walk around the house, I’m still depressed.
Fifteen years ago, I went places; to work, to stores, and on family outings. Today, if I am able, I go to the doctor, to church once a week, and to the grocery store one time a month.
My world revolves around the inside of my house. You can see why I’m depressed. (Please, don’t you get depressed!) But there is hope. We’ll talk about that a little later in this post.
Trauma. Traumatic events can have a sustained impact on mental health. The body takes on a fight-or-flight stance that can cause elevated blood pressure and increased heart rate. This is normal, however, if we internalize the event or series of events, the result is traumatic in itself.
I have seen that happen first hand. In the late 1990s, I was a case manager for several non-profit agencies. Over and over, clients came into the office reporting depression from the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City Bombing of the Federal Murrah Building.
Instantly, 167 men, women, and children died. 684 people survived, and many later succumbed to their injuries.
One of my clients had to have 36 surgeries to extract shrapnel from her body by the time she came in to see me. She presented with symptoms of depression and drug abuse. I made the appropriate referrals and offered services, but it was devastating to see her suffering.
Depression affects the overall state of your well-being. Humans are interconnected beings of body, mind, and spirit. What affects one, affects the other. I want to focus on how depression affects your emotional and physical health in this section. We’ll talk about spiritual health in the last half of this article.
Emotional: According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) you may be depressed if symptoms last over two weeks and interfere with daily activity. Other signs of depression are as follows:
Overwhelming feelings of attachment.
Fixation on death and/or thoughts of suicide.
Inability to concentrate or remember.
Feeling unmotivated to fulfill work or social commitments.
Loss of sex drive.
Physical: It may surprise you that depression can manifest as physical symptoms. Paying attention to the following signs may alert you to an onset of a depressive episode.
Fatigue or consistent decreased energy
Decreased pain tolerance
Back pain, headaches, or aching muscles
Digestive or bowel irregularities
Before you undergo any sort of treatment for depression, talk to your doctor. They will determine the best path to treat your depression because it involves many factors. Four methods frequently used are exercise, medications, brain re-training, and mindfulness.
The Exercise Effect
We know from the vast amount of information and studies that exercise can be an effective treatment for depression. So much so that exercise can be comparable to medication and psychotherapy.
For instance, exercise has many benefits including releasing endorphins, increasing energy, and gaining confidence. Exercise improves physical health while keeping depression at bay.
You can start with a simple routine approved by your doctor. There are numerous activities and apps to help motivate and keep track of your physical exercise. For example, an exercise plan for heart health may differ from an intense plan of sprint running.
Know your limits and take it slow. Over time you can push your boundaries to achieve a higher level of activity.
Medications: One way is to prescribe antidepressants. However, you may have to try several kinds of meds or combinations before you find the one that works for you. Over the years, I’ve tried many. But the one I’m taking now is the icing on my cake.
One time, I misplaced my meds and had to go a week before I could get them refilled. I thought I was going to lose my mind. My family formed a search committee because they thought I was losing my mind, as well.
I cried for no reason, yelled, threw things while they dodged my aim. The second I looked around, they ran for places to hide. Suffice to say, I’ve not run out of meds since then.
Brain-Train: Our brains are a 3-pound elastic neuro-plastic mass-tic of grey matter that we can reprogram. As the Discovery Mood and Anxiety Program likes to say:
“The final frontier may not be out in space. It could be inside our minds.” — Admin.
Dr. Jeffery Shwartz, the author of the book, Brainlock, developed a 4-Step method to change your brain:
Re-label. The idea is to relabel an unwanted thought, feeling, or behavior as something else. For instance, instead of “I’m guilty” say “I’m having feelings of guilt.”
Re-attribute. The 2nd step is to ask, “Why am I having these thoughts?” Your answer can be, “I’m in the middle of a brain glitch!” The next logical step would be, “What can I do about it?”
Re-focus. This is the hardest step to take. You become in charge and tell your brain what to change. You replace the old thought with a new one. For example, “I’m guilty.” becomes “I am worthy!”
Re-Value. The last step is the culmination of the previous three. With consistency, you will see changes in your behavior and thought processes. Old thoughts become new. Old behaviors fall away. You will be happier and life will be good.
Mindfulness: There is a massive body of evidence supporting mindful meditation as an effective treatment for depression. In addition, current trends suggest that meditation along with prayer offers added benefits.
However, prayer is not only meditation, as some would suppose, but it also goes a step beyond yourself into the presence of the Divine. When I paired my prayers with my breath, something changed.
I breathed in strength and breathed out joy. I discovered that praying verses of the Bible intensified my prayer life. The first verse I prayed using my breath was:
“…for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10, NIV)
Consequently, I started praying Scripture. I looked up verses that were short enough or used a portion of a verse to pray in one breath. That is how I came to develop a habit of praying I call — Breath Prayers. It has been a game-changer for me.
Whew! I packed quite a bit of information in this one article. Now, I have the whole kit and kaboodle. I know I am depressed; I am aware of the symptoms, and I know what to do about it.
Maybe this article can help. I am reminded of what my good friend says:
By all means, please consult your medical practitioner or appropriate professional with any concerns or questions. Everybody is different — this is not a one-size-fits-all issue. Thanks for taking care of yourself! —