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Depression and the Holidays December 21, 2011

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Depression, Medication, mental illness.
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Traditionally, this is the time of year that heralds short-term depression. Not clinical depression, but event-caused depression brought on by too-high expectations. For whatever reason- be it unwanted relatives, too much to do and too little time to do it in, or financial problems- life isn’t good for one reason or another.  Generally speaking, problems with families or money problems lead to a case of depression.  But make no mistake:  this kind of depression is seasonal and temporary and not as debilitating as the clinically depressed.

Major depression, or clinical depression is a serious medical illness affecting 15 million American adults, in a given year. About 8% of the population is clinically depressed at any given time, and 16% will have a bout of clinical depression in their lifetime.

Major depressive disorder is a disabling condition that adversely affects a person’s family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health. In the United States, around 3.4% of people with major depression commit suicide  and up to 90% of people who committed suicide had depression or another mood disorder.

Unlike normal emotional experiences of sadness, loss or passing mood states, major depression is persistent and significantly interferes with an individual’s thoughts, behavior, mood, activity and physical health. Clinical depression differs from short-term depression in several major ways.  It impacts the ability to function, affecting everything from sleep cycles to weight loss or gain to not enjoying the present.

In some cases, for example if the person is genetically predisposed to clinical depression or suffers from post traumatic stress disorder, short-term depression becomes clinical depression.  While the best way to prevent clinical depression is to minimize or eliminate short-term depression, doing this doesn’t preclude the possibility of it.

I have had one bout of clinical depression. It was when I was on massive doses of Haldol when my psychiatrist tried to stop me from having horrible visions. At the time, I couldn’t get out of my head pictures of gore and even murder and the voices in my head were exceptionally loud.  When I called Dr. K’s emergency number and told him what was going on, he prescribed 5 mg of Haldol twice a day.  To give you an idea of how much Haldol he gave me, the normal dose is .5 mg once a day.  But the alternative was going back to the mental hospital, which I had only left a week  before.  So I agreed to this treatment.

After about 5 days, the feeling of clinical depression came over me, but I didn’t recognize it. At first, I couldn’t get out of bed. Then I sat around and cried.  I had no reason to cry, even crying on my 25th wedding anniversary while we sat outside at a lovely restaurant in the middle of a beautiful summer day.  After a few days of continuous crying, my thoughts turned to suicide.  I so badly wanted to take a loaded handgun and blow my brains out that I would have done it in a heartbeat had I had the guns in the house. Incidentally, one of the requirements of my release from the mental hospital was that I had to get rid of all of my guns.  As a hunter, I had two shotguns and a rifle in the house before they made me get rid of them. Now I know why.

Anyway, when I became suicidal, my sister and husband insisted that I call Dr. K to tell him what was going on.  The only thing I could think of was that I didn’t want to “bother” him so I didn’t want to call him. Finally, after they threatened to call him if I didn’t , I called him. He immediately reduced the Haldol. Funnily enough,  I was willing to commit suicide but I wasn’t willing to disturb my doctor. Go figure.

Having suffered a major episode of clinical depression, I am empathetic towards those experiencing it . I wouldn’t wish it on my closest enemy.  It wrecks your quality of life and the quality of life of those surrounding you.

I can’t get the statistics out of my head. For example,  ninety percent of people who “successfully” commit suicide are depressed.  I am more convinced than ever, given my experience, that clinical depression is actually a case of a chemical imbalance of the brain and is nothing to be embarrassed or shameful about.  Detecting it earlier gives the person a better chance of being able to control it, both by medication and psychotherapy.  I don’t know why the psychotherapy works, but I suspect it affects brain chemistry in the same manner that medication does.

In my blog, my articles are tied to search engines. They pop up when certain key phrases are written in a search engine. The saddest and scariest search engine terms I have repeatedly seen in my blog are “how to commit suicide without people knowing what it is”. Fortunately, my blog entryis more of a “prevention” article, citing all of the ramifications of the act, rather than be a “how to do it”.  But even having that term come up on my search engine term at all is sad and scary.

Keeping holiday depression away is the best way to avoid clinical depression. But if you find yourself clinically depressed, it is critical to seek immediate medical help.  A psychiatrist is preferable to a general practitioner because he is more experienced in mental disorders.  It’s like going to a gynecologist rather than a general practitioner for a pap smear.  The more cases he has handled, the better your treatment will be.  Just remember: You don’t need to have your quality of life affected by this mental illness.

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