Welcome back! Last week, we heard from our Guest DO, Dr. Robert Ellis. His blog on chronic illness was very informative! We are lucky to have such knowledgable doctors who volunteer their time to write for us. So very much appreciated.
Our guest DO this week will be Dr. Charles Ross. He will be responding to the Community Bloggers this week. Please read his response to this weeks blogger at the end of the post.
And now, we visit with a man who lives with day-to-day depression. I bet a lot of you will relate to his blog. He is blogging anonymously, and chose the name MAP as his byline. He feels he is slowly slipping off the edge, and doesn’t know where to turn, or what to do. Let’s hear what he has to say…
My day starts with medication once I’m out of bed. This is to keep my emotions on an even keel, otherwise I’m not any use to anyone, socially. I only hope by writing this that it helps someone learn or understand what people go through. Depression is hard on me. I can’t remember when it started for me and as best as I can recall, it crept up slowly over years of abuse of one kind or another. During school, being bullied was one of the major things I had to look forward to every day. During weekends and the summer months, I spent most of my time either working or hiking up the mountain behind our house. I would be gone all day, and as long as I was back by night/dinner, I wouldn’t be in trouble.
When I graduated, I went from one source of abusive tolerance to another, finally settling on marriage. I was not a good husband. I was still not mature when I got married and trying to have a child only forced more depression into an already bad situation. I would often spend time working overtime, or for free, so I didn’t have to go home so soon. My time was watched like that of a prisoner by the warden…no outside communication other than work. I worked, came home, and was expected to spend time doing work around the house or spending all my waking time lavishing attention upon the wife. Her abuse was three-fold, and after 10 years of tolerating it I began making plans to leave. This only exasperated things further, as I was told and made to believe, that I was worth more dead than alive ( her figuring my insurance from work ).
I spent much time being destructive both physically ( self harm ) and emotionally, cutting myself off. It was during this time that I had actually began to make plans for suicide for the first time. Not caring to go on, not caring about anything but ending the pain of living. I had a friend that figured out what was going on, and had he not stepped forward and literally talked me out of it, I would probably not be here now. I have come up with several different plans on how to end my life, and even how to take a few people with me when I would act. This thought is with me at all times now, and only the medication seems to keep me from acting out, along with the support of friends that understand that I need help.
I used to cry a lot for many of my early adult years. It’s been probably 6+ years since I’ve cried at all. I am physically not able to, even when I want to. My current wife understands and does the best she can, but lately it seems that my meds are slipping off the mark. Within the last week or so I’ve been in a mentally dark place…sleeping too much…not eating or hardly eating…locking myself in my room most times. We have an 80′ trailer we live in, and my living quarters at the moment are within 30′ unless I go outside. Most days it takes an effort to get out of bed and unless I have to be somewhere I just stay in my room. I use steps that I have learned to fight falling deeper into depression, but they are slowly not helping as much as they used to. I constantly have to find new ways to distract myself.. either with music, gaming, being social, seeing doctors, going for walks, and anything else that helps in the moment.
I guess what would be considered a cure, would have to deal with not only physical triggers, but emotional ones, and chemical imbalances of the brain. In the end, all I have is distractions and medicines.
Here is the response to MAP’s blog by Charles Ross, DO:
MAP’s blog addresses a very common mental health issue. Most everyone experiences thoughts of depression at various times in their life. When these thoughts overwhelm our ability to remain in mental health balance, harm to self or others can result.
So my first thoughts are that MAP or anyone else with thoughts of depression that are spinning out of control needs to know that he or she is not alone. There is a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline available 24/7. The number is 1 800 273-8255. If you are thinking about harming yourself or others, call this number and speak with a counselor that understands what you are experiencing and can help you find your way out of the black hole of depression. If you have no access to a phone, then ask anyone for help to get to an emergency department at the nearest hospital. At the hospital you will likely be evaluated by a mental health professional in your county. Most times, out-patient visits can be scheduled but sometimes hospitalization is appropriate. Everyone’s situation is unique…..so there are no hard and fast rules here. Just reach out for help as you would if you had a high fever or severe stomach pain.
When your thoughts are less intense, and you are feeling safe, you have many other paths that can lead you back to your path to health. First define your goal or goals. Write down what you want in your life….like “I want to feel joy every day” or “I want to be able to leave my home and walk in the woods” or “I want to feel loved” Only you can decide what is most important to you. Also, define how you will know if you reach your goal….like “I feel love when I focus on loving thoughts toward someone else” or “I feel joy when I focus my attention on some wonder in nature like a flower opening or a hummingbird flitting about.” So first write it down and then read it every day. Ask yourself every day if what you choose to do is helping you reach your goal. If not, then make another choice. The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress Free Living by Amit Sood is a wonderful book to help you understand and practice how to pull yourself out of the black hole of depression. Focusing your attention on what you are grateful for and what brings you joy are key elements in finding your path to the health you deserve. Forgiveness is another important element…that is forgiveness for others as well as yourself. I encourage everyone to read this important resource. It just might change your life for the better as it has mine.
If you do not read or the reading has not helped you find your path to health, then consider private counseling with someone you connect with. Try a different counselor if the first one or two are not good fits for you. If you require medications, then consider a consult with a psychiatrist who is well versed in medications.
MAP gets it correct when he expresses the need to address the physical and emotional triggers and the chemical balance in the body. Added to these would be the spiritual and social connections one requires for health. What MAP calls distractions can be viewed as very positive choices and different paths toward health. Finding joy with music, finding joy and excitement with playing games, finding social connections (especially performing acts of kindness), focusing on nature and finding joy going for walks, and very importantly focusing on what is happening in the moment (being mindful) are important tools in achieving the health one deserves.
Charles S. Ross DO board certified in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine. Currently practicing Lifestyle Medicine. Has been a practicing physician in Oregon for 40 years. Currently, 1/2 time Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at COMP NW. Practicing Lifestyle Medicine in Oakridge, OR one day per week. Teaching total health improvement classes for free weekly in Oakridge and online for those with computers.