How to tell whether your depression will pass on its own or if you require professional assistance.
Nicole is having an "off" day. She didn't do well on her history exam and isn't sure what her plans are for the weekend. I guess you could say that Nicole has a case of the blues.
As the day progresses, she shakes off the history exam and figures out a way to earn some extra credit to make up for the less-than-stellar grade. Later that night, her friend Jim calls and asks if she is going to the party at Jake's house. She says that she didn't know about the party but will attend nonetheless.
Nicole calls Ginny and tells her about the party and they agree to go together. As Nicole falls asleep that night, life feels okay once again.
Nicole is having what we all experience on a regular basis — transient feelings based on temporary circumstances. As she moves through her day, things happen that trigger certain thoughts and feelings, one of which is what we call depression. It's really more a feeling of disappointment, loss, or concern rather than "true" depression. It usually comes and goes with ease, depending on the circumstances at hand.
If you find yourself feeling the blues, don't worry. Circumstances are always changing and your mood will change right along with them. Just keep your eye out for unnecessary changes in mood. Try not to let circumstances control your emotional state. Rather, allow circumstances to come and go without disrupting your overall mood. Sometimes this is hard to do but it is definitely worth the effort.
Jessica comes home from a long day at work. Her boss chewed her out for errors found in the report Jessica turned in that day. Her son looks up at her as she opens the door and sets down her purse. He mumbles hello and then goes back to his video game. There are dirty dishes and dirty clothes scattered about. Her husband is away once again on a business trip.
As Jessica makes her way into the kitchen to begin figuring out what they will eat for dinner, she catches a glimpse of herself in the hallway mirror. She notices just how tired and ragged she looks. She realizes just how depressed she feels.
You have probably felt like Jessica at one time or another. It's that feeling of having never-ending responsibilities and demands. You find yourself pushing the snooze button more than once in the mornings. You no longer care what you wear on the weekends or how you look in general. You either tune out the ones you love or snap back when they tell you they have no clean clothes to wear the next day and ask if you will please do their laundry.
You manage to get through each day and take care of your responsibilities but the joy and light-heartedness has disappeared. You know you need something to look forward to but you are unsure if that something will ever come.
Jessica's depression is an example of what we call "dysthymia." In essence, it means that you have an ongoing low-grade depression that affects the quality of your life but does not impair your ability to live life pretty much on track day to day. It usually creeps up gradually and is related to life taking more from you than it gives.
Dysthmia is very common. Some people suffer from it for years; others can feel it release them in a few weeks or months. This type of depression is your wake up call. It tells you that you need to address self-care immediately. It is time to reassess your life and make adjustments so that your well-being, purpose, and passion are reignited.
People can treat low grade depression in a number of ways, including counseling, coaching, taking up a new hobby, taking a vacation and time out from responsibilities, or making significant lifestyle changes. Most of the time low grade depression can be treated without medication.
Talking to the right person, making the right adjustments, and taking time to care for yourself can do the trick. If those actions don't help, then you would benefit from consulting with a mental health professional.
Brad just turned 55. His wife divorced him six months ago and while his children are grown, he feels alienated from them, missing the time spent together as a family. He has tried to date but can't seem to find a woman with whom he relates. He's sure they will reject him as his wife did.
As this is his second divorce, he's beginning to give up on the idea of growing old with someone. The company he works for is not doing well and he is very concerned that he will be next in line when the next wave of lay-offs occurs. He certainly does not have the energy to start a job search let alone consider a career change. Brad feels lost, hopeless, and resigned.
Millions of people suffer from clinical depression like Brad. It's when you feel like life has beaten you down. It is difficult to sleep (or not to sleep), concentrate, and complete your daily responsibilities. Your appetite may be lost or insatiable, your self-esteem is non-existent, and you may find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol to alleviate the emotional pain.
Frequent crying spells are common and you may feel somewhat disconnected from the world. It may have been triggered by a divorce, loss of job, death, trauma (past or present), some other life transition, or simply your biology. Whether these symptoms feel familiar or new, they can be very scary.
Major depression is very difficult to manage on your own. If you find yourself lost in a black hole, please get help. Find a good therapist, doctor, or spiritual advisor you trust. Build a wellness team. The more people you bring on board to treat your depression from a holistic perspective, the sooner you will feel better.
Sometimes medication is called for, but for most people it is only needed in the short-term. Taking the time to explore what triggered the depression can help you heal and prevent the depression from reoccurring.
Please do not be embarrassed. Most people will experience a major depression at one point in their life. More importantly, most people will recover and be better because of it.
Depression has a bad rap. Depression, in and of itself, is not bad. Rather, it serves us in many ways. It tells us:
1. Something is out of balance in our lives
2. We are not taking good care of ourselves
3. We are suffering from a loss and need to retreat and grieve
4. We need to heal a past wound or trauma
5. Our brain chemistry is out of balance and we need to get treatment and restore proper hormonal balances
6. We need to pay attention to our overall health and well-being
7. To be kind and compassionate with ourselves and others
So next time you feel depressed, stop, look, and listen.
JULIE ORLOV, MAOL, MSW, LCSW has devoted 24 years to helping people transform their lives through her work as a psychotherapist, executive coach, trainer, speaker, and consultant. She is the author of The Pathway to Love: Create Intimacy and Transform Your Relationships through Self-Discovery and remains passionate about helping people create relationships in their lives that work. She holds a master's degree in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University, a master's degree in Social Work from University of Southern California, and a bachelor's degree in Psychology from University of California, Los Angeles. She currently lives in Southern California with her two lovely daughters, one loyal canine companion, and one temperamental love bird. For more information, please visit www.JulieOrlov.com.
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