personal health

You are worth the fight

Dealing with depression and suicidal thoughts

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If someone broke into your house and assaulted your family members, what would you do? If you are like most people, you would defend your family and do whatever it takes to subdue the intruder. Your family members mean something to you, you value them and do not want to see them harmed.

Depression is an awful illness which can lead to suicidal thoughts or ideations and even worse. The care and concern you have for your own family members you lack for yourself. Your life sinks into darkness, and at times, it seems there is no escape. You may not think so, but YOU are worth fighting for!

Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day is the holiday season. It is supposed to be the happiest time of the year. With family gatherings, shared meals, engaging conversations, shopping and gift giving, how can this time of year lead to depression?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), almost five percent of Americans suffer from depression. But a National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey shows that in the United States close to eleven percent of patients report depression on their medical records, and a slightly higher percent of patients report depression on an emergency room visit. More than one in ten people are dealing with depression.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Those statistics were strictly depression. Now throw in anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seasonal affective disorder, bipolar and many other mental illnesses diagnosed along with depression, and it's easy to see that depression is a topic that needs to be addressed and taken care of.

Most people have had bouts with depression and can eventually recover. Others with depression sink deeper and deeper into the darkness and cannot escape on their own. The best comparison is with individuals quitting smoking. There are some people who can just make up their mind to quit smoking cold turkey and are successful; others try over and over and cannot kick the habit on their own. They need help from friends, family, medical professionals, and sometimes medications.

It’s also no coincidence that when depression hits its highest numbers it happens to coincide with the decrease of daylight or winter solstice. Depression linked to the decrease of daylight is known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Spending more time outdoors in the sunlight will help this, and light therapy is also effective against SAD.

WHAT IS DEPRESSION?

Depression is also called major depressive disorder (MDD) or clinical depression. It is a mood disorder characterized by sadness and loss of interest. It affects how a person feels, thinks and behaves.

It can lead to physical and emotional problems. Depression can lead to difficulties in doing normal daily activities. Depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and potentially suicide. This makes it vital that intervention occurs as soon as depression is identified.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
WITH DEPRESSION

The Mayo Clinic says the most common symptoms to look for include the following: sadness, tearfulness, emptiness and hopelessness, anxiety, agitation and restlessness, reduced appetite, weight loss or weight gain or increased cravings for food.

Small matters that lead to angry outbursts, frustration and irritability are also symptoms. You can also lose interest in activities you once enjoyed and normal activities like hobbies, sports or sex. Too much sleep or insomnia, or sleep disturbances, can indicate depression.

Feeling drained, lacking energy and even small tasks take an extra effort. Slowed thinking, body movements and slow speaking, trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and difficulty remembering things can be symptoms of depression.

Depression can also manifest through feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures and self-blame, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts and attempts at suicide.

There are many different indicators for depression. If you feel you are experiencing symptoms of depression and are reluctant to seek professional help, talk with a friend, loved one, a spiritual leader or someone you trust, BUT you should seek help from your healthcare provider or mental health professional as soon as possible. Together, you can fight the depression and choose a plan that fits your needs.

Many people feel there is a stigma associated with asking for help with depression. This thought process could not be further from the truth. Just like a bacterial infection, some people recover just fine, but others may have difficulty fighting the infection and may require medications or antibiotics. The same is true for depression; some may recover on their own, yet others need assistance and/or medications.

Treatments for depression

Formulating a plan of treatment with a healthcare provider or mental health professional is always the best option. Listen to what they say and follow their directions. There are a few things you can do to help diminish or alleviate the depression.

You may feel like your friends have abandoned you, but it is important that you find a couple of family members and/or friends and stay connected with them. Have them share good things going on in their lives. Think of the positives in your life. Even if it's just being able to say you have enough air to breathe, that is a positive. Start small and work your way up. Try to think of five positives in your life each day.

Fix your sleep patterns. Depression can cause you to sleep too much or cause insomnia. Do the best you can to get your sleep regulated, even if you need to talk with a healthcare provider about it.

Go outside! Even if it’s wintertime, bundle up, head outdoors and get a good dose of sunshine, or read a book or magazine next to a window allowing the sunshine in.

Get some regular exercise. Aerobic exercise is best, but do what you can. Aerobic exercise releases serotonin and other endorphins, also called “feel-good hormones.”

If you have mobility issues, or can’t make it outside, try light therapy. SAD lamps can be bought on Amazon for $20 and up.

If everything listed is still not helping you cope with depression, then follow up with professional medical help.

Depression can be caused by many different things, some biological and others circumstantial. Genetics and family history can play a significant role, that you have no control over. Other causes could be brain chemistry or hormone levels, which is why it is important to seek a healthcare provider. They know what tests to perform to check your chemistry and hormone levels.

Trauma in the childhood years can affect the way your body reacts to stress and fear. Substance abuse or alcohol misuse can affect your risk. Emotional and physical pain can lead to depression along with certain medical conditions such as cancer, heart attack, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, insomnia or a chronic (long-term) illness.

Many of the causes you have no control over, and you can see why medical intervention is necessary. If the depression and darkness continue, it can lead to suicidal thoughts, ideations, forming a suicide plan and potentially suicide.

If your depression has led you down the road this far, seek medical help or a mental health professional immediately. There is also a suicide hotline you can call; it is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Try not to be alone either. Call your mother, call someone in your family, or find a friend to come over, be with you and take you to see a medical professional.

Suicide is never an option. Your death can trigger depression in others close to you, and the circle continues. Make an effort to tackle depression now. No matter what your thoughts are about your self-worth, there are family and friends who care about you.

You are worth the fight!

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