(A stack of books I needed for research for a novel)
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I am working on a novel that deals with depression. I’ve spent a lot of time researching the topic, both in books and through interviews with counselors, professors, pastors, and with people who have overcome depression and who are currently struggling with it.
I also have another advantage to writing this: I have struggled with depression myself.
In fact, 1 in 4 people will deal with depression at least once in their lifetime.
Mental health has recently become a more openly discussed topic, especially after the death of Robin Williams. However, depression in particular is not blindingly obvious. In fact, unless you experience suicidal thoughts, it can be extremely difficult to know that you are depressed. I have met more than one person who has struggled with depression for years without knowing it.
Not 48 hours after I had resumed work on this book, someone I haven’t seen in years wrote me a Facebook message. They said a few things about their life, and I recognized the symptoms. They were shocked when I suggested maybe their stress was something more, but when I presented the symptoms they fit. This person was depressed and had no idea.
As established by the American Psychiatric Association, people who are clinically depressed show one or both of the following symptoms:
1) Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
2) Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities of the day, nearly every day.
Additionally, depressed people exhibit at least 4 of the following:
1) Significant weight change (+/- 10 lbs in a 2 week period) when not dieting, or a significant increase or decrease in appetite nearly every day.
2) Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much nearly every day
3) Being either restless or slowed down more than usual nearly every day
4) Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
5) Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day
6) Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day
7) Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideas, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide
Men in particular are silent victims because they experience depression just as often as women do, but society equates masculinity with an inability to express their emotions. Due to this social norm of men ‘not having feelings’, most men attempt to distract themselves from their negative feelings through becoming a workaholic, an alcoholic, exhibiting substance abuse, or through other forms of ‘self-medication’.
One form of depression I have not researched is postpartum depression. Here is an article about postpartum depression with useful information, including the fact that postpartum depression can occur at any time in the first year, and that postpartum depression can take on other forms such as anxiety.
There are a lot of resources out there for dealing with depression that make it possible to recover without seeing a counselor or taking antidepressant medications (but I would still urge you to see a counselor – they’re great listeners – and antidepressants are very useful and I am in no way suggesting they should not be taken).
One book on self-recovery from depression that I liked (though it is for ‘spiritual’ people and not of any particular religious affiliation, so there’s some mumbo-jumbo you may find less than helpful) called “Unstuck” by James S. Gordon, M.D. I also found a book specifically for people who are close to someone who is depressed, but are not depressed themselves: “When Someone You Love Is Depressed” by Laura Epstein Rosen, PH.D. and Xavier Francisco Amador, PH.D.
Know the signs. Make the changes. Luckily, with the depression, realizing that you are depressed is literally half the battle.