Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cloudy with a Chance of Sunshine

It's a bit cloudy and gloomy here today, after several days of somewhat glaring sunshine. I cut some newly bloomed roses and brought them into the house, into a couple of different rooms. Heavenly scent.

Haven't turned all the lights on yet, but if it doesn't brighten up soon I will allow this indulgence. (Ha! Someone used to give me hell on this quirk. I raise my chin at you.)

A friend just got out the hospital, I discovered yesterday, and it turns out it was for depression. I'm both relieved that he got the help and concerned it got bad enough to need inpatient care.

I've started talking about depression on the blog because it seems so "politically incorrect" to address. It makes people uncomfortable, like discussing religion and politics, and sometimes sex. Yeah, sex is way easier to talk about.

The truth is that there is always a good deal of the blues going on all over all the time. That we don't talk easily about it is maybe an indication of how strongly it can rattle us. And it isn't just the people who are down, but as the drug commercial so self-servingly highlights, it affects those around us too.

According to WebMd about 19 million adults suffer from depression. This obviously leaves out kids. I assume it includes old people.

If that number is remotely accurate during normal times, I'd bet $5 it isn't accounting for those affected by the current economic depression / recession or for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

If about 25.5 million people are unemployed or underemployed, which is about twice historical averages (based on eyeballing a cool chart on the Dept of Labor Website) and 19 million adults are depressed under "normal" circumstances, then a LOT of people are depressed.*

Sure, it's making a leap to say that all unemployed people are depressed. But it's common sense to say that most of them are probably at least bummed. Maybe not all of them, gawd bless those perky people (and please, keep them away from me). And maybe not all the time, but generally, being unemployed and underemployed is depressing.

But this is where those cool Venn diagrams come in so handy.

I'd draw you one, but really I'm not that talented. Imagine one very large circle that represents unemployed/underemployed people and another circle with a whole bunch of sad faces :( Now, overlap the circles and you have a good mental picture of how many bummed folks are walking around out there.

You can't quite just add up the two figures (those unemployed, etc. and those depressed), but you can guess that there is some huge figure that represents depression in this country. And remember, we still aren't talking about children who, we all know, get seriously down too.

If you wanted to be really fair you would add a circle for kids who are depressed (somewhere I'm sure there is an estimated figure, but I already don't trust it) and you can add a large circle for those affected by death and injuries from the wars. Now you have four circles and wow, that's a lot of people.

Here is the good news, and the point to my mental math jujitsu: Most of those 30 - 40 or 50 some odd million people are going to feel better at some point. Some pile of them are going to get jobs, or get over the divorce or death or whatever other sucky situation they are in, and they will move on and feel better. In other words, circumstances change and time heals.

Some will take medication and will feel better.

Some will get talk therapy (proven very effective over the long term, usually with long lasting benefits). Some will seek inpatient care like my dear friend and will muster thru.

Others will try a combination of approaches, or none of these. They may talk to friends, join a group (good idea) or actively decide to do something different.

I'd suggest to anyone dealing with that vortex, or the black sucking hole of hell, (as I like to call it, when I'm in a good mood), that a combination of methods probably hedges your bets.

I have another post I'll put up with my top ten ideas on what to do - a checklist. I hate other people's lists, at least the seemingly trite "let's talk about depression in three to five paragraphs" type articles in magazines and on the web.

Don't forget, while lots of people are good about finding ways to deal with their depression, huge numbers can't. I would suspect that we could get a handle on how many people are not getting better by looking for numbers on the chronically depressed, and suicide rates. And we all know unhappy people who just seem to go thru life that way - I'm sure they stay well below the counting-heads radar.

But that's another post. Today, it's too depressing. (hint - don't do depressing things when you aren't up for it ;)

Today I don't have sunshine, but my cravings aren't too bad. I don't need to curl up in a pool of it.

I read something once where a guy said a good day is when you aren't miserable or terribly uncomfortable, which is true most days for me. Damn I'm grateful for a generally upbeat disposition. And I'm ok with the occasional bouts of the blues. They suck (in more ways than one), but I've learned a lot from those dark spots.

Most days it's about making lemonade. And adding tea, not a shot of vodka ;)

*I'm not going to try to figure out how many people are depressed by the wars - when I do take a stab at it I'll be interested in the number of casualties, of course, (seriously injured) and fatalities. Then I'll multiply that by an arbitrary number of close friends and family who are seriously affected by the death and life-altering injury of our soldiers. Yeah, it's a lot. A helluva lot - and again it's what I call situational depression - people get depressed when someone dies or is injured. It is not a "normal" state of affairs for us to be in two wars.

I'm glad to report that NPR did a story about the Veteran's Administration trying to get a handle on the true cost of war, that includes these sorts of "soft" numbers. Granted, so far they are only looking at the cost of long term care for our disabled veterans, but it's a start.

Monday, April 12, 2010

When You're Between a Rock and a Hard Place - a Mental Checklist

Note to a friend:

ok, cause I like to look stuff up :

and it makes me feel less helpless ...

I think it's weird articles about depression don't usually address what I call situational blues. I mean if your dog dies, your sad, and even depressed sometimes. Pretty common sense to me.

Not that you asked, but since it runs in my family and I first had to deal with it after Darryl died [25 years ago] (I did consider suicide) and then after the two suicides [in my family] (one from depression, the other probably addiction and probably both from bi-polar), and even recently with job/money problems I've learned, thru the years that these few things help most:

1. know that losing your perspective is a big part of it. Choices seem really limited, and they may be, but usually there are more than you can see when you are really down. Don't let the depression fool you. It lies!

2. let yourself be down when you can. To me it was like a rip tide. Instead of fighting it, I did what I had to do (the minimum) and then let myself stay in bed sometimes, watch tv or sleep extra. I sort of swam parallel to the shore until it lifted. More than 2 days of it was a *really* big warning flag, unless some event had set me off, like a death.

3. I try to practice extreme self care - that means trying to eat, sleep, and get up and around a bit. I don't push myself hard, but gently. I know that when I get a few things accomplished, I feel a bit better, even if only a tiny bit.

4. (more self care) I give myself credit for bad days when I can only get one or two things done, besides getting dressed, eating, taking care of G, walking the dogs.

5. (more self care) I make damn sure to stay in touch with a few close friends/family. I may not be able to call them when it is at it's worst, but I make a point to call them as soon as I can after. Even just saying "I've had a few really bad days" makes me feel less alone. I make myself reach out even when I don't feel like it. Again, friends/family help me fight tunnel vision, which adds to the whole cycle (worthlessness, being trapped or stuck, no energy, no interest in anything, can't solve my problems, etc. etc)

6. I told my friends and family, when it got real bad, to check on me. Again, a life line is there to keep you from going under - use it. You would do the same for me/them!

7. I've had a few close friends who have gone on drugs for a short time to get thru. I made sure to find out what I would do next if it got worse.

8. I also break down a list of the "big rocks" when I feel up to it. This makes all the swirling shit seem a bit less overwhelming. I put them in "boxes" : Health, Kids, Money, Job, House - sometimes that's all I can list. Sometimes I have to add a box called "Problems with ex". On a good day I'll add easier stuff, like Spirit.

9. I do believe - know - that the universe responds to prayer. Even just [saying] "help" can make a huge difference. I ask for signs, and then watch for them.

10. Oh yeah, and whenever I can I make sure to think about what is good in my life. I say "thanks" for healthy kids, my health and for the loving people in my life. And other times I get mad at G-d. I think she can take it ;) The other day, I thought we were going to have a throw down!

Let me know if you want to talk about it. If you don't mind the emails, I'll send notes when I need to check on you. That ok? Mind if I offer suggestions?


[love the way I ask if it's ok to offer suggestions at the END of the note - pushy broad]