Ruth just couldn’t seem to figure out what was going on. No matter where she went, even when there was seemingly no reason, she just didn’t feel like herself. Ever since her daughter was born, she felt overwhelmed and like she didn’t want to get out of bed — and some times, she didn’t. What’s more, anytime anyone offered to help, she found herself lashing out. The truth was, she didn’t say half of what she was thinking. She wasn’t suicidal, but she honestly confessed to her husband that some days, she didn’t care whether she lived or died.
Maxwell had been told he was a “natural leader” by countless people — employers, employees, mentors, coaches, and clients alike hailed his level headedness, keen eye for spotting business trends, and successes in real estate speculation as evidence of just how much this was true. But when the spotlight was off, he hardly recognized the man in the mirror. He was plagued by self-doubt at every turn, and lived in constant fear of losing what he’d had. He “knew” that all of his success had been little more than a long streak of good luck, and worried what would happen if anyone ever saw who he really was. With increasing frequency, he had trouble falling asleep, and even when he did, he couldn’t stay that way. Without really knowing why or for what, he felt guilty and believed that he was on the verge of letting everyone down. He’d experienced brief moments like this off and on ever since his first “real world” job, but had always been able to plow through. It just wasn’t happening this time.
Carol was recently offered a tenured teaching position at a large midwestern university, and jumped at the chance. Initially, she felt exhilarated at the new possibilities before her — a completely new city, a new work community, and a substantial increase in her quality of life with the pay bump she knew she’d be getting. But now that the newness of her move and position wore off, she feared she’d colossally underestimated how difficult the transition would be. She wasn’t connecting well with her boss, and though her peers seemed to like her, it wasn’t the same as it had been at her last post. To make matters worse, she couldn’t find a new church that she liked and so she felt spiritually off-kilter as well. While sitting at her desk, it occurred to her plainly — somehow, it had never occurred to her that moving to a new city meant that for the foreseeable future, she would be alone.
What is Depression?
The term “depression” comes from the Latin term “deprimere,” which literally means “pressed down.” It is isn’t uncommon for persons suffering from depression to describe it somewhat vividly, “like being in a dark hole” or “feeling totally hopeless.” Still others relate it to extreme feelings of apathy, a lack of interest in things that used to give them pleasure, and still worse, getting little or no enjoyment from virtually anything.
What’s particularly powerful and confusing about depression is its power to intersect with virtually every area of our functioning — vocational, social, emotional, physical, spiritual, etc.
Depression in Popular Culture
Because recent years have decreased the stigma of depression, particularly with many high profile athletes and celebrities admitting publicly that they struggle with it, depression has become an topic of conversation in the news and on social media outlets and blogs. The terms “seratonin,” “endorphins,” and “dopamine” have practically become common household references. What’s more, we’re utterly familiar with the host of psychiatric medicines designed to address depression from a strictly physiological angle. Sadly, however, many people fail to anticipate that the “take two of these and call me in the morning” routine is rarely effective to end depressions.
A Healthier Approach?
Part of the reason so many people looking for depression counseling in Nashville find themselves struggling under its weight is because they are so utterly convinced that the first and foremost task in treating it is to get it to go away. As much as we may want this to be true, a healthier approach includes the recognition that often times, depression holds meaningful keys to how we think and act. In fact, in some instances, our depression may be the only thing pointing to stark realities about our childhood, our lifestyle, or our inner thought life.
Just how common is Depression?
Depression has been referred to as the “common cold” of the mental healthy world, and some sources estimate that as many as three to five percent of the U.S. population (roughly 94 to 150 million people) may be suffering from depressive symptoms at any given time. What’s more, roughly twenty percent of the U.S. population experience depression at some point in their lives.
Is Some Depression Normal?
Undoubtedly, it is healthy to feel sad or down during some periods of our lives. For example, when experiencing the death of loved ones or the end of a relationship, most people experience “the blues.” At times like this, our sad feelings may simply point to the notion that we have lost someone or something we loved very dearly. But the feelings of hopelessness and despair the accompany true depression may be “normal” in the sense that they are “commonly experienced by others,” but this doesn’t make them healthy, easy to cope with, or able to be handled without the help of others.
Clinical depression is sometimes called the “common cold” of mental health since about 3 to 5% of the population are depressed at any one time, and about 20% are clinically depressed at some time in thier lives. The distinction between “normal” adjustment difficulties and clinical depression can be a subtle one.
Warning Signs of Serious Depression
Here are some symptoms of depression that may help you to distinguish it from a more “run-of-the-mill” sadness associated with a life event:
- Experiencing depression most of your day or over longer periods than what others seem to experience with the same issues
- Experiencing irritability most of the day
- Tendency toward social isolation and/or withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Sleeping more than usual, or difficulty staying/falling asleep
- Overeating to calm feelings of sadness, or lacking an appetite altogether
- Significant increases or decreases in weight
- Feelings of confusion about why you feel the way you do and about what precisely it is you’re feeling
- Inability to make decisions
- Losing pleasure in people or things you used to enjoy
- Missing class, work, or other important obligations
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Talking or moving more slowly than normal
- Recurrent thoughts of death (“passive death-wish”) or direct thoughts of taking your own life
Depression can affect anyone at anytime.
Feeling blue, sad, down in the dumps or just low is something we all experience at times. People are often prone to depression while coping with the multiple pressures of school, work, friends and family. We all can be pressured to a point where nothing seems to give us pleasure and it becomes hard to get interested in things or just to get started. When we experience these feelings, we may also notice other changes as well.
We may slow down, experience changes in appetite, become irritable, neglect responsibilities and/or self-care, and have difficulty remembering things. Students may notice an inability to concentrate in class. Employers may notice we do not seem to be as productive as usual. Family members may notice changes in our appetite or sleep patterns. We may experience tension and tend to dwell more on our shortcomings than on our achievements. This can become a vicious cycle. The more we focus on negative feedback, the more depressed we become and the more negative feedback we receive.
You don’t have to be trapped in this cycle! Let us help!
Most people in Nashville need help with their depression, but don’t know where to begin. The truth is, getting help is usually the first step. This can be accomplished by talking with trusted friends, family members, clergy, or other persons of influence who are able to guide us in the right direction. Many times, these individuals will recommend counseling.
Practical suggestions for right now.
If you’d like to find some things to try for yourself at home, here are some great suggestions! However, bear in mind that many of these suggestions are ones we struggle to execute on our own
- One: Focus on behavior. Most people struggling with depression tend to focus endlessly on their thinking — you might even call it a “morbid” introspection. But start a new path out of depression by choosing to focus on your behavior, recognizing that everything you are currently doing is getting you everything you currently have. If you want something different, you must do something different.
- Two: Seize the moment. When examined closely, most people struggling with depression who feel it is rather continuous will find that there are in fact moments where they have more energy and willingness than others. So, take a look at your life, and decide to act while you have the energy. Many people wait it out during these periods, telling themselves they’ll get help if/when things get worse. But of course, if you wait till you’re feeling worse, you may lack the energy to do so!
- Three: Find folks who get it. Your mind is a dangerous place — don’t go wandering there alone. Look around you and see who might be a good candidate to help. All of us have been the unwitting victim of well-meaning friends or family members who make it their personal mission in life to “fix” us. But there are folks out there — often those who’ve struggled from depression themselves — who understand better, and who are willing to listen as much as they dispense advice.
Whether you’ve been depressed for just a short period, or so long that it’s hard to know where to begin — draw a line in the sand today. You are not alone, and we can help!
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