Tag Archives: major depressive disorder

Suicide for Beginners Survey Update

calling yesterdayIt’s July 1st and I’m still not finished logging the Suicide for Beginners survey responses. Why is it taking so long? I had originally planned to be done with this part of the project by the end of April. So what the fuck happened?

I have Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety and mild OCD.

How the fuck is that an answer or excuse? Ahhhh – most of the people who took my survey KNOW why that’s a profoundly important answer.

As a person who has Major Depressive Disorder, I have very low energy at the best of times. Not everyone who has this disorder is always low energy. Some people with it are only low energy during a depressive down-cycle. Some don’t experience low energy as a symptom at all (I didn’t for the first half of my life of living with depression). But the majority of us find having depression emotionally exhausting and physically draining. I have a day job, a kid, a mom who depends on me to run her errands as she is physically unable to do so herself, I have pets, and all of this would reasonably make anyone a bit tired at the end of the day. But put depression on the heap and I’m done for.

I have tried getting some surveys logged in the mornings before work when I have the most energy. But most mornings I have enough trouble getting myself into the proper mind-frame to face a day of customer service.

There’s a whole other factor at play here as well. I’ve got no filter for other people’s emotional baggage. I’m also excessively empathetic. Reading long surveys in which I ask people to talk to me about the darkest and most vulnerable part of their lives is truly hard. For one thing, people with mental illness disproportionately experience abuse over people who aren’t mentally ill, particularly in childhood. So these surveys are filled not only with the pain of having mental illness, but the pain of abuse, disregard, bullying, disrespect, and marginalization.

These people are my community. They are my tribe. They matter to me almost more than any other people on earth. So it’s really fucking hard to sit down and hear all their pain and just fly through survey after survey – boom! Boom! Done. I FEEL their pain in no small part because I have experienced all of it for myself. It’s overwhelming.

So I’ve had to take it slow and take long breaks because it’s fucking heartbreaking to actually hear so many people’s stories about living with depression. Lordy, and this survey doesn’t even cover any of the co-morbid diagnosis’ most of us live with.

There’s another factor that’s made it hard too – those survey respondents who spewed mean shit at ME. But I’m saving that for the next installment of:

WHY IT’S JULY AND ANGELINA ISN’T DONE WRITING SUICIDE FOR BEGINNERS YET.

I’m just about to read survey #530 out of #584 total “completed”*.

*Survey Monkey’s idea of what constitutes a “completed” survey is pretty remarkable. There are some surveys they counted as “completed” in which the respondent answered exactly 5 out of 25 questions. Translate that into orgasm talk and you’ll have a riot on your fucking hands.

My original plan was to be finishing my first draft of the book by now. Shit.

But this is the very THING I’m trying to shed light on, isn’t it? That living with depression means adjusting your expectations and your goals because if you don’t do that you will hate yourself more than your brain already tells you to and you’ll struggle even harder. One of the most important things you can do for yourself as a person suffering life-long chronic depression is to accept that it will limit you a lot of ways, some of them obvious, many of them not.

I have 54 more survey responses to log. It doesn’t sound like much, but I logged in about 15 of them last night and felt so drained from it that I’m still feeling it this morning.

Once I’m done logging the responses I will be sorting my spreadsheets to reflect the numerical order of the answers which also means I have to clean up the notes and crap I scattered all over them that will get in the way of ranking them. Once I get everything ranked and cleaned up I will take each individual spreadsheet and evaluate my findings and take notes on what I think they mean. Then I can begin to actually WRITE THE DAMN BOOK.

I had originally planned to be done with my second draft by the end of the summer so I could start sharing with beta readers and writing query letters to agents. With non-ficiton you don’t actually have to wait to finish your book before querying agents (whereas they will not even consider your novel if you query them before it’s finished) you just need chapter outlines and a synopsis, but I know I have to write this book no matter what and I need to have written it to properly query it. It must take shape first before I present it because I’m not 100% sure how I’m going to arrange the book and prioritize the chapters until I’m writing it.

Will it even be done by 2018? I don’t know. I do feel a sense of urgency as mental illness is being offered up more and more as an explanation and the core issue behind mass murders, homophobia, racism, and pretty much all crime. Which is excessively wrong – people don’t understand mental illness who don’t have it and they also don’t understand how a human can kill another human so obviously mental illness is linked to violence in their minds. This must stop! Obviously, my book may not help stop people from being ignorant and keeping all of us mentally ill people chained up in humanity’s claustrophobic closet of horrors, but I can’t give up just because my project might not achieve what I hope it will help achieve.

First I have to write the post about the people in my community who are making things worse for the rest of us, but especially ME as they tell me to fuck off. Then I’ll get as many more survey responses logged as I can today.

 

Powell's parking garage

Different Types of Depression: Not All Depression Is The Same

Mental illness has been a subject of much fear and mystery to humans for centuries.  We fear that being mentally ill means we’re morally compromised, not safe for others to be around, tainted by the devil, bewitched, possessed, being punished by God, not trustworthy, scary, or just plain bad.  People have a very hard time thinking of the brain as an organ in our body, like all other organs, that may be damaged or neurologically different or broken.  To admit that our emotions might be largely controlled by chemical deficiencies in the brain freaks people out.  If our emotions are nothing more than chemical messages being sent from our brain to our nervous system – what does that say about our will, or spirits, our SOULS?  Does that mean that what we feel isn’t really real?  Are emotions and thoughts nothing more than electrical impulses?

Many strides have been made to change the medieval fear people have about mental illness, lots of progress has been made scientifically to expand our understanding of what causes it and how we can treat it.  Unfortunately there is a huge movement of people who refuse to believe that the brain can have disorders that are out of our control – that can’t be fixed with will power, positive thinking, diet, and exercise.  These people are very vocal and to the population of people with major depressive disorder, very dangerous.

Depression is often accompanied by anxiety, as is the case with me, but I’m only addressing the depression specifically here.  You can take it that many of the triggers and causes of depression are the same for anxiety but the treatment can be quite different.  Cognitive behavioral therapy helps ease my anxiety but does nothing to ease my depression.  So please note that I’m only discussing depression here.

It is also important to note that I’m putting this in layman’s terms but will provide links to professional descriptions of depression for you to read yourself.

Different kinds of Depression:

Major Depressive Disorder – Major depression can run in families and is commonly described as being an issue with chemical imbalances in the brain or a problem with the brain’s ability to communicate with the nervous system or deliver the chemicals necessary for balanced functioning.  It is characterized by debilitating depressive episodes that interfere with a person’s ability to function normally.  Some people may only experience one episode in their lifetime but most often this is a recurring problem.

Situational Depression – This is depression that you experience because of external factors such as job loss, death of a loved one, sickness, poor diet, not enough exercise, bad relationships.  If you address the factors that made you depressed the depression will most likely ease up or completely disappear.

Bipolar Disorder – Another chronic depressive disorder (and there is more than one classification for this one) that often runs in families.  This depression is distinctive for the dramatically alternating depressive and manic states experienced.  A few classic problems experienced by people with bipolar disorder are difficulty maintaining relationships, risky behaviors such as wild spending of money, unsafe sexual activity, and carelessness with personal safety.

Suicide – suicidal ideation may accompany any of the mood disorders but NAMI lists it as a separate issue on their site.  Feelings of being a failure, of hopelessness, of being overwhelmed, of worthlessness, and of powerlessness can all contribute to a desire to kill one’s self.  One of the dangers of suicide is that a lot of people who succeed at committing it don’t actually announce their intentions.  But if someone you know expresses suicidal thinking it’s imperative that they get help from a professional – NOT a New Age guru or from life coaches or from anyone who has no clue about the complex issues of the brain and how they can collide to inspire a person to kill themself.

In order to treat depression it is vital for a professional trained in diagnosing mental illness to discover which specific kind of depression an individual has because the methods for treating each one are very different.  If you medicate a person with bipolar disorder with medications appropriate for people with major depressive disorder you could make their condition much worse.  Approaches to therapy may also vary quite a lot.  A person with situational depression is going to have much different needs than someone with major depressive disorder.

I was suicidal as a teen and was given the most awful collection of advice during my suicidal years from idiots who knew nothing about depression and made me feel worse about myself because their suggestions didn’t fix my depression and that compounded the feeling that I had depression because I was a weak and bad person and that if I was stronger or not a complete failure then getting more exercise would lift my depression like everyone said it would.  When I finally did get professional help I wished I’d gotten it 18 years of suffering earlier.  I wish to god I hadn’t listened to so many ill-informed people who don’t know anything about mental illness, half of which really didn’t believe in it at all.  People who think mental illness (especially depression) is just a state of mind are ignorant and dangerous to those of us suffering from serious persistent mental illness.

I’ll tell you what else: my parents never knew I was even depressed.  My friends knew I was depressed and some of them knew about my self harm but I did not go around threatening to kill myself.  It may have been obvious to close friends – I certainly had a fixation with death and dying but I don’t think anyone knew how many times I came close to doing it and how much time I spent planning how I would die.  Just because someone isn’t threatening suicide doesn’t mean that they aren’t thinking about it and will become very serious about it.

Here’s my urgent plea to all of you:

If you know someone who seems really depressed do NOT give them advice on how to treat their depression unless you are a professional.  Give them your ear, show that you care and are there for them if they want to talk or need your help – but do not advise them on how to fix themselves unless you are a professional and have discovered what specific type of depression they’re suffering from.  If you want to be more helpful and haven’t already read about depression from expert sources the first thing you should do is some reading.  If you’re really concerned about someone gently suggest they get professional help.  It can be a scary step to take but also can transform a life of suffering and struggle into one of quality and balance.   I’ve gotten someone to get psychiatric help and they went from talking about suicide to living a much more balanced and happy life.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness is an excellent and reliable source for information about all mental illnesses and I highly recommend you read about the different kinds of depression listed there:

NAMI information about different types of depression

The National Institute of Mental Health is also an excellent source of reliable information.  I’m giving the link that describes the different kinds of depression but they have many more pages about treatments, clinical trials, scientific information, lists of symptoms.  Please dig through their site to inform yourself if you haven’t already done so:

NIMH – What are the different kinds of depression?

For those of you who love and trust WebMD they also have reliable information (I’m pretty sure they get theirs from the previous two sites but they word things a little differently and might strike a better chord with some:

WebMD – Types of Depression

The very first step to treating depression is to find out what kind you have.  Get help.  It may take a few tries to find a doctor you trust but that’s really important.  If you go to a psychiatric doctor and don’t like him/her then they won’t be able to help you.  I lucked out the first time and found a great psychologist but don’t give up if it takes you a few tries.  If you suffer from depression – getting professional help is the best thing you can do for yourself.  You do NOT have to take medications if you don’t feel they’re right for you (but in many cases other types of therapy are more effective in conjunction with medication – that’s just a fact, not my opinion) but you do need to find out what kind of depression you have in order to plan your treatment.

It’s not your fault:  if you suffer from chronic depression it is NOT your fault.  It is NOT anything you did wrong or anything you did at all.  External factors such as diet and exercise can definitely make clinical depression worse (or better) but that isn’t the cause and won’t be the cure.

You are not alone.

You’re part of my tribe.  Our tribe is very large and vulnerable but the more we talk about mental illness and bring it out into the light the less of a stigma will be attached to it and the less ignorance of others will hurt us.  You are not alone.

One last thing – if you or someone you know is at high risk of committing suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:

1-800-273-8255