Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Depression, Drugs, and TV

I've seen a couple of ads on TV recently that are attempting to sell people on asking their doctors for or even demanding a particular anti-depressant medication. Generally, I have a hard time watching commercial pitches for any drug, particularly prescription meds. It seems to feed the craving for the cure-all for any and all problems. We have become hungry for more and more easy cures to every ill, and not willing to take the time to search and seek out the answers that can really be of help. It may be a medication, or it may not. I remember a very dear physician of mine, who helped me through an extraordinary array of physical problems that set up just the right conditions for clinical depression. I expressed my deep disappointment that while some things had gotten better, others had gotten much worse. What was wrong? Wasn't there some sort of blanket diagnosis that could bring me the cure to all that ailed me? She said "There is no such thing as a medical 'magic bullet.'" In my case there may be some questions among various professionals about whether the various illnesses I fought and the depression following, might relate to the "chicken or the egg" theory - which really came first; which generated the other? While I am certain that I had suffered through various episodes of clinical depression as a young teenager, (being the target of severe peer-abuse), I never sought a therapist's help nor did I take any medication from any sort of physician. I basically worked my way through it, and growing and maturing helped ease things on their own, and developing a higher self-esteem (the most challenging aspect) certainly made my life better. As I have often told young people who are struggling, my life has only gotten better as I have gotten older. Let's face it: being a teenager SUCKS! Nevertheless, along with some physicians I tend to feel that the problems I tackled were more intertwined than not, regardless of which came first. Chronic severe pain is like a pebble in a quiet pond...the ripple affect seems to go on forever. Now, on to the TV commercial:

This particular ad has a narrator speaking about what depression feels like. I have to tell you that I have never seen nor heard it more accurately portrayed than in that commercial. The two different ads I have seen (for the same product) show a person disappearing into their surroundings. In one of them, a man standing in front of a shelf of groceries in a store simply begins to blend into the shelf, until all that shows are a dim pair of eyes and his shoes. The narrator talks about the sensation of just not being a part of your surroundings. This is so right on target, at least for me. Even though I would participate in certain activities, when I could force myself to go through the motions, I truly did not feel like I was there; nor like I mattered (most of all to myself); nor even like I existed. And the really puzzling part of this type of depression is that many people never pick up on it. They might think, "wow, she's grumpy," or" if she smiled she would be happy," or "snap out of it," - totally unhelpful nonsense. This feeling was/is something I could and cannot deal with on my own. Not to say that my prayers and those of others were not beneficial; I'm quite sure they led me in the right directions when I started seeking professional help. After two or three psychiatric hospitalizations, a couple of "near" suicide attempts, and a shocking variety and amount of psychotropic medications, things slowly began to turn around. Part of this happened when the issue of pain was, finally, addressed (my or my husband's ideas about this never seemed to matter). The FDA and other so-called authorities on narcotics and other pain medications have frequently hog-tied physicians, threatening their licenses and their ability to practice, should they be labeled as "over-prescribers." This was particularly true 25 or more years ago. Slowly but surely, the regulations on the use of narcotics both in short-term and long-term situations have started to ease up, but there are still some out there who simply do not believe in treating pain with narcotics, unless you are terminally ill (and sometimes not even then). Happily, now, new pain-control techniques involving a combination of therapies including nerve blocks, topical analgesics, exercise, bio-feedback, and exercise have greatly contributed to the arsenal now available to physicians and their patients. I should know...all have been tried, with varying success, to deal with both the pain and depression. (One of my brothers once suggested I stop using the possessive when referring to illness - to not lay claim to it, as in "my depression," or "my illness," or "my pain." He was right. Best to objectify it as much as possible, and try to observe it, rather than own it, or identify myself with it. I have since done my best to follow this advice, and it does help in a way to not speak of sickness as something that belongs to you, but as something outside of the essential human that you really are.)

There really is no point to this entry in my blog...just some things I've been thinking of lately...I am currently recovering from a particularly difficult episode of depression. A different medication seems to be working very well, in combination with hypno-therapy, and prayer (as always). Depression is a very difficult disease, in all its many forms. (The particular brand I deal with is Bi-Polar II, which is a form of manic-depression that, rather than cycling constantly between mania and depression, tends to be primarily either one or the other most of the time, with only very occasional detours in the other direction.) If there is ever any question in your own mind, or those of others around you that you may be dealing with it, please seek competent help. Don't be afraid to shop for the right physician and/or psychiatrist or psychopharmacologist, or an experienced psychologist - all or any of whom can hopefully lead you down the road to a cure, control, or a remission of the problem. Find someone you can honestly relate to, keep yourself as much as possible surrounded by people who understand; people who can learn when to intervene on your behalf, or to leave you alone for a while. And never underestimate the power of prayer - your own, and the overwhelming power of the intercessory prayers of others. Don't give up hope, never give out of trying, don't let yourself give in without a fight. Remember, "this too shall pass." The good times and the bad times, the healthy times and the sick times, they all come and go in their season. Feelings are never always the same...feelings change. God's undying and never-ending love for us does not. Even if you lose sight of it, it's still there. Blessed assurance.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I was unaware, somewhat clueless, I confess. You are so precious, and I have been so grateful for the way you've loved on Abby during some of her tough times. You are definitely a favorite aunt, in spite of your own pain. I'm so glad you've decided not to "own" it. A very good example for me. I will be offering this up to Abba tonight.

  2. Thank you, Starla. You and Dick, by being such great parents, helped to guide and lead Abby into becoming for herself such a wonderful, delightful, thoughtful, and totally engaging young woman. I can't tell you how much I enjoy "conversing" with her...our senses of humor mesh very well, as well as our views on what's happening in our world - plus we are able to disagree amicably. Abby and Sharon Tohline and I have really started a friendship between and among ourselves, and at this point I would love to see the three of us get together and just have a great time really getting to know each other...maybe we'll be able to work that out some day.

    Thanks again, for the comment, and please feel free to comment any time on my blog - at this point I really crave the comments - and be sure to register as a follower (you don't have to read it every day to be a "follower." It would just add to my self-esteem to see more than two or three faces on my follower's list! ;-) Love you, Paula

  3. Paula, what a brave post. Thank you for pointing me to it. I know how tough it is but hearing others speak of it, makes one at least feel not so alone. Thank you.

  4. Depression is such a hidden injury, a self invalidation that sometimes starts on the outside with messages from others, but can also come from within and without warning. Some people are lucky to have a flip side that helps put the desolation into perspective but some don't and they have to work to find one. Speaking the way you have here suggests you're not for losing yourself to this so maybe the next step is to make it work for you, get it to pay its way by giving you material for wherever it is you want to make a difference. Courage takes all sorts of forms, doesn't it?