Don’t you wish you could start the New Year with a clean slate?
While we have a tendency to make resolutions to change behaviors and such, many around us will carry some of the old into the new year. I am speaking now of depression -- a heaviness and darkness that can create a dark place for many. While depression can be an issue any time of year, between the end of November and through the Christmas season depression seems to have a stronger effect on many of us. Why? Here are just some of the reasons:
- Lack of fulfillment
- Unrealistic/ high expectations
- Anger over the (excessive) commercialization of Christmas
- Excessive focus on gift giving and getting
- Excessive self-reflection on the inadequacies of life
- Loneliness at Christmas due to loss of loved ones, or perhaps their job
- Excessive stress, including financial stress that carries forward
- Inability to be with one’s family and friends during this time of the year.
Here are some facts about depression:
Information from: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
- 25 million Americans suffer from depression each year.
- Over 50 percent of all people who die by suicide suffer from major depression.
- If one includes alcoholics who are depressed, this figure rises to over 75 percent.
- Depression affects nearly 5-8 percent of Americans ages 18 and over in a given year.
- More Americans suffer from depression than coronary heart disease, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.
- Good News: Between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with depression respond positively to treatment.
- Good news: Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses.
- Good news: Almost all patients gain some relief from their symptoms.
- But first, depression has to be recognized. We have to be aware of it in ourselves and or in others.
Part of it's about awareness:
Back during Depression Awareness Week in 2016, in an article by Guardian writer Tim Lott entitled, “What does depression feel like? Trust me – you really don’t want to know”, Mr . Lott writes about the “awareness of a condition that a minority experience, and which most others grasp only remotely – confusing it with more familiar feelings, such as unhappiness or misery.”
“This perception is to some extent shared by the medical community, which can’t quite make its mind up whether depression is a physical “illness”, rooted in neurochemistry, or a negative habit of thought that can be addressed by talking or behavioral therapies.”
According to Lott, “Depression is actually much more complex, nuanced and dark than unhappiness – more like an implosion of self. In a serious state of depression, you become a sort of half-living ghost. To give an idea of how distressing this is, I can only say that the trauma of losing my mother when I was 31 – to suicide, sadly – was considerably less than what I had endured during the years prior to her death, when I was suffering from depression myself (I had recovered by the time of her death).”
His description of depression sounds as if he intimately and experientially aware of what depression feels like--that, “There is a heavy, leaden feeling in your chest, rather as when someone you love dearly has died; but no one has – except, perhaps, you. You feel acutely alone. It is commonly described as being like viewing the world through a sheet of plate glass; it would be more accurate to say a sheet of thick, semi-opaque ice.
Lott shares many other negative emotions we frequently hear when working with patients – “self-pity, guilt, apathy, pessimism, narcissism – make it a deeply unattractive illness to be around, one that requires unusual levels of understanding and tolerance from family and friends. For all its horrors, it is not naturally evocative of sympathy. Apart from being mistaken for someone who might be a miserable, loveless killjoy, one also has to face the fact that one might be a bit, well, crazy – one of the people who can’t be trusted to be reliable parents, partners, or even employees. So to the list of predictable torments, shame can be added.”
The author says, “There is a paradox here. You want the illness acknowledged but you also want to deny it, because it has a bad reputation. When I am well, which is most of the time, I am (I think) jocular, empathetic, curious, well-adjusted, open and friendly. Many very personable entertainers and “creatives” likewise suffer depression, although in fact the only group of artists who actually suffer it disproportionately are – you guessed it – writers.” Mr. Lott is a writer of course.
“We don’t understand depression partly because it’s hard to imagine – but also, perhaps, because we don’t want to understand it.”
In summary, Mr. Lott says, “I have a suspicion that society, in its heart of hearts, despises depressives because it knows they have a point: the recognition that life is finite and sad and frightening – as well as those more sanctioned outlooks, joyful and exciting and complex and satisfying. There is a secret feeling most people enjoy that everything, at a fundamental level, is basically OK. Depressives suffer the withdrawal of that feeling, and it is frightening not only to experience but to witness.”
Maybe you're not too big on resolutions, be if we can offer up a resolution this year, let’s resolve to be more aware of what those around us are dealing with, and be part of the solution, not the problem.
According to Chris Blackburn, founding partner and patient advocate for TMS Solutions, "The problem treating Mental Health is that once a patient has tried and failed three antidepressant they have a <7% chance of efficacy.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation has been effectively treating patients since its FDA approval in 2008, resulting in a >33% remission rate and a >66% response rate. Clinically The TMS Solutions Group is thrilled with a >47% remission rate and >80% response resulting in patients, literally, getting to smile again, having a resurgence of energy and their lives back!"
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