Those suffering from depression often equate the illness to living underwater: interactions feel muffled, perspective is blurred, and completing even simple tasks can be slow and difficult. For the estimated 14 million American adults suffering from depressive disorders, the powerful current of isolation, numbness, lethargy, irritability, and helplessness can interfere with every aspect of life. While depression is incredibly common, stigma and misconceptions about the condition often prevent sufferers from getting the help they need. Below, True Life’s Executive Medical Director Dr. Krista Roybal answers some common questions on depression.
Q.) When I bring up my struggles with depression to loved ones they either encourage me to “snap out of it” and “cheer up,” or remind me of the many things I have to be grateful for – which only makes me feel guilty for not feeling better. Are they right? Am I “too blessed to be depressed”?
A.) I’m so sorry that you are struggling, and that your loved ones aren’t responding with the sympathy you expected. Unfortunately, depression is largely misunderstood, and though your friends and family may have the best intentions, they are likely unaware of the complexity and severity of the disease. Similar to chronic illnesses like cancer or autoimmune disease, depression does not discriminate. It can affect anyone at any time, even those who are otherwise “blessed.” Depression is a biological, brain-based disease, and it requires proper care. If you haven’t already, please seek professional help. A great practitioner or center will not only provide you with that compassionate support you are seeking, but also help you in educating those around you.
Q.) Ever since my dad’s death last year, I’ve felt hopeless, restless, and can’t sleep through the night. My primary physician recommended antidepressants, but I declined. I’m just grieving, I’m not depressed…right?
A.) My condolences on the passing of your father. Losing a parent is never easy, and there is no right way, or right length of time, to grieve. It is certainly true that grief can turn into depression, just as pre-existing depression can complicate grief, and the symptoms are nearly identical: despair, fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep disturbances, inability to concentrate, and loss of interest. Personally, I’m much less concerned with whether grief or depression is causing your suffering, than I am with the fact that you are suffering. One year of struggling with sleep, energy, and motivation has probably been incredibly disruptive to your sense of wellbeing. You might find that talking with a mental health professional about your loss, and exploring options for healing that may or may not include medication, helps you adjust to this new reality and find the strength to return to a full life.
Q.) A close friend recently confessed that she has depression. This came as a shock to me as she consistently optimistic and cheerful. Is there anything I can or should do to support her through this?
A.) You’re a good friend to ask this question. Depression can be an extremely isolating illness, more so when loved ones shy away in fear of saying or doing the wrong thing. Often the most powerful thing you can do is to simply be there. That might mean holding your friend’s hand while she cries, offering to drop by with dinner, or leaving her a sweet voicemail. Don’t be afraid to ask her if there’s anything you can do to make her feel better. I would also recommend that you learn as much about depression as you can. Popular myths about depression, including the idea that those who present as optimistic and cheerful can’t be inwardly depressed, can be harmful and minimizing.
If you have questions about depression or want to learn more about treatment of depression or other mental health issues, please contact us. We would be happy to provide information, resources, and support.