Let’s start with specific definitions about depression…
an affective disorder characterized by periods of mania alternating with periods of depression, usually interspersed with relatively long intervals of normal mood.
Disclaimer: I’m just a person who has dealt with depression since my late teens, although the diagnosis did not come until my late 20’s (1977-78). I am not a doctor and am only offering my perception of what I have learned from my own depressive episodes. After each section below add “in Terry’s opinion.”
What depression is not: (in Terry’s opinion…like that)
- Something that should be taken lightly
- Something that can be “shaken off” by looking on the bright side or be reminded how much you have to be thankful for
- An adjective – depressed is an adjective which can be found on any “feelings chart” - example: “I felt depressed after watching the news tonight.” Feeling depressed means sad and gloomy; dejected; downcast, but usually passes with time
What depression is:
- A noun
- A chemical imbalance in the brain which results in irrational thinking
- A condition that can hopefully be treated with medication…though this can be tricky (finding the right medication/dosage/interaction with other drugs/being able to “stick with it” because often the meds don’t kick in for about 3 weeks – and that can seem like an eternity for someone walking a thin line)
- Can cause anger, despondency, excessive sleeping, withdrawal from society, flat facial affect, extreme weariness (to name a few)
What medication for depression or bipolar disorder is not:
- An upper/stimulant
- A med that will magically take away problems/issues
What medication for depression or bipolar disorder can hopefully do:
- Balance brain chemistry
- If medication is for clinical depression, the aim is to bring the brain’s level of rational thinking up to sea level, which in turn, allows the person to begin dealing with issues (with the help of a therapist, which I highly recommend).
- Medication for bipolar disorder is targeted to hopefully lower the manic stages back into a normal range and raise the depressive episodes up to a coping level.
My personal experience with clinical depression - the above picture is what I try to image during these times
Over the years, my episodes have greatly diminished in length and severity. Environment plays a large part of triggering my depression. However, I have had three serious episodes in the past twelve years and all have involved medication. The first happened after a change in the medication I had been on for years. The new medication seemed to have no effect on my system at all. The second was altering my medication dosage (actually increased it) which caused a serious nose dive. The third was a severe adverse reaction from Ambien, which occurred last fall.
ON MY SOAP BOX:
You know those pharmaceutical commercials flowing on TV these days listing the plethora of really severe side effects? Unfortunately, I know they're true…but in my opinion, absurd.
Especially the ones that say:
“If you should begin to experience serious mood changes or have suicidal thoughts, stop taking the medication and call your doctor.”
I literally want to scream at this idiotic statement (although I know by law they are required to mentio "potential" side effects). BECAUSE, if a medication you are taking is causing suicidal thoughts, you are already in an irrational state of mind, and most likely do not have the ability to make a rational move, such as calling your doctor. (makes me grind my teeth)
OFF MY SOAP BOX:
A final note about Robin Williams, which spurred me to write this post. I’ve always felt he suffered from bipolar disorder, simply because of how hysterically witty and quick his mind worked (manic stage). It’s like his mouth and body fought to keep up with his mental wealth of thoughts.
Then I saw him in Good Will Hunting (still one of my favorite movies). During the entire show he played such a low-keyed person. If you have a chance to watch the movie, pay attention to his eyes. There are several scenes that touched me to the very depth of my soul, the hollowness, the sadness. I believe he was either in a depressive episode during the filming of Good Will Hunting or he absolutely 100% knew how to play the part of someone who had experienced the depths of that darkness.
Just my thoughts… (to be continued)