Red Flags

Over ten years ago, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder – Recurrent, which means that I’ve had multiple episodes of depression. It’s important for me to learn to recognize the symptoms of an episode quickly, because the faster it’s treated, the sooner it goes into remission.

According to psychiatry.org,

Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home.

Depression symptoms can vary from mild to severe and can include:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite — weight loss or gain unrelated to dieting
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., hand-wringing or pacing) or slowed movements and speech (actions observable by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Symptoms must last at least two weeks for a diagnosis of depression.

Given these symptoms, it’s critical for me to know my red flags – my warning signs – that an episode might be lurking. These are my indicators prior to actual depression symptoms – they tell me it might be coming.

Here are some I’ve noticed.

  • Listening to music loudly –
    • in an effort to drown out my negative or ruminating thoughts.
  • Desire to be alone, or in the dark.
  • Not wanting to go to my regularly scheduled activities – anhedonia.
  • Saying “I’m sorry” a lot.
  • Difficulty concentrating when reading a book or even watching a t.v. show.
  • Wanting to stay in bed, even if I’m not tired.
  • Feelings of self-pity.
  • Crying – maybe. Sometimes I can’t cry, which is also a red flag for me.

When I see several of these characteristics, or if someone close to me notices, it’s time for me to contact my psych doc and let him know that I might be headed into a depressive episode.

[Side note: even though I know these things about myself, I am always surprised. You’d think that after ten years, I wouldn’t be shocked to discover the journey back into depression. I guess it’s a good thing – I don’t ever want to get used to it. I need to accept it, and make every effort to be mentally healthy, but I don’t want to be resigned to a life of depression.]

Over the 10+ years that I’ve battled depression, I’ve gotten better at seeing these things quickly, which means we can modify my treatment and get me the help I need so that the episode doesn’t deepen. Maybe that means adjusting my meds. Maybe it’s increasing my therapy sessions.  Maybe it’s simply monitoring them, being self-aware.

It’s a call to pay attention.

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Ooh and Ahh

My husband and I have a long-standing joke. It’s “ooh and ahh.”

It started many years ago, when he built a shelving unit in our first garage. It was a big piece, 2x4s for the ends, big sheets of plywood for the shelves – stacked three or four high.

When he finished building them, he asked me to come look, and to “ooh and ahh.” For the next week or so, every time we were in the garage, or backing the car out into the driveway, I’d say “Ooh! Ahh!” Like the crowd response to fireworks.

The game stuck, and whenever he would build shelves (I figure he’s built this design five or six times), I’d “ooh and ahh” for a week or so. He’d plant a garden, and I’d “ooh and ahh” when I was in the yard. He’d paint a room, and I’d “ooh and ahh” every time I came into the space. He’d install self-made organizers in a closet, and I’d “ooh and ahh” when I’d organize my craft supplies onto the shelves.

This past Saturday, he built shelves in the spare room closet. “Ooh. Ahh.”

 

On Sunday, he built the garage shelves again. “Ooh. Ahh.” He organized the stuff from the garage walls onto the shelves. “Ooh. Ahh.”

 

 

 

Yesterday, I unpacked all the books and photo albums we’ve had in boxes for the past couple of years. I organized them on the bedroom closet shelves.

When hubby got home in the evening, I asked him to come check out my handiwork.

His response? “Ooh. Ahh.”

Good answer!

Out of Sorts

Friday – what a weird day after a long week. I feel discombobulated today – out of sorts. Perhaps a culmination of the past few days.

Saw my psych doc on Monday – my emotional scale scored better than last month’s, so that’s good. I’m pretty stable in the psych world, so don’t need to see him for two months. That’s progress.

Feeling frumpy: saw an ear-nose-throat doc and audiologist on Tuesday – 40+% hearing loss in each ear – prime candidate for hearing aids. I’m only 54 years old! Have gained 5 pounds so my clothes don’t fit right. Can’t read anything without my glasses on. Feeling sorry for myself. Need to figure out how to accept these changes and move on without discouragement. As I’ve said before (last time with humor:) – getting older isn’t for sissies! Paul talks about being content in all circumstances (Philippians 4:11) – not until today did I consider that might include ageing.

Got a haircut on Wednesday, but she didn’t listen and cut where I told her not to. Makes me miss Susie, who did my hair almost perfectly for 12+ years!

Had a good lunch with women from Book Club on Thursday – nice to be included. Took a relaxing nap during the afternoon thunderstorm. Reading a fantastic book for next month’s Book Club – I’m devouring The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. Have had the book for 24 hours and am already on chapter 17!

Today is a lovely sunny day, but for some reason, it’s causing me to miss my Fort Myers house and pool and beach time. Sitting outside on my porch in Virginia is just not the same as on the lanai in Florida.

Leg pain has greatly abated – only hurts when I turn a certain way. So I won’t turn that direction! So glad to finally have relief, after weeks of severe pain.

Several friends going through really tough times. Have prayed hard for others all week, which is as it should be. Still, only one success story from them all – feels discouraging. So much pain and difficulty, and I am helpless to do anything. But praying is doing something – it’s allowing God to work. You go, God!

Missing my kids, my old friends. As always.

Need to remind myself that days like this happen to everyone. Just a funk. A week of ups and downs.

Tomorrow is Saturday – a lazy day, but includes dinner out with my husband to celebrate Mother’s Day. Then a new week. Glad this one is over soon.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month

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I Googled Mental Health Awareness images, to find a new Facebook Profile picture to represent this month. There are lots of posters out there!

Imagine different colors and shades of green, different fonts and different pictures.

Here’s what some of them say:

 

 

 

Wear green!

Break the stigma. Break the silence.

1 in 5 people will suffer from some form of mental illness in any given year.

1 in 4.

Not all pain is physical and not all wounds are visible.

You wouldn’t be ashamed to tell your friends you have the flu, so why do we stay quiet about mental health?

Inspired – Informed – Involved.

Be aware!

Keep talking about mental health.

About 900,000 people commit suicide every year…and mental disorders are one of the most prominent and treatable causes of suicide. (That number is now actually closer to a million per year worldwide.)

No Health without Mental Health.

Stand up against stigma.

You’re not alone.

Depression. Anxiety. Phobia. Panic. OCD. Schizophrenia. Eating Disorder. Self-harm. Post-traumatic stress. Bipolar Disorder.

Take care of your stress.

Let’s talk about it.

Silent no more.

Behind the mask.

Be the change.

You are safe here.

And one of my favorites, from Consolidated Agencies of Human Services in Hawthorne, NV (cahsnv.org):

[Encourage others to seek help. Raise awareness of mental illness and where to get help. Teach respect for the daily challenges of poor mental health. Advocate to expand availability of effective treatments and supports. Nurture understanding among all.]

 

I urge you to find out what’s happening in your community this month to reduce the stigma of mental illness. Learn about mental health. Attend a lecture. Participate in a walk. Reach out to a hurting friend. Seek help if you think you have a mental illness.

Let’s talk about this!

“Start with where you are.”

A good friend gave me this piece of advice, and I’ve taken it to heart, especially in writing. I find that it keeps me honest, vulnerable, and hopefully relatable.

I remember when she said it. I had just arrived at church, getting ready to facilitate our depression support group. I told her that I had had a few rough days, and thought I might be descending into depression again. I couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to lead this group if I was depressed. She encouraged me to be honest with the group, to just share what I was experiencing. I followed her advice, and felt myself supported and encouraged, even as the “leader” of the group. Expressing my struggle was an example of vulnerability to the group, and they in turn opened up and shared with each other.

When learning about writing, authors are encouraged to write about what they already know. For one thing, it’s easier to write about something I have gone through. Secondly, no one can argue my own experience – it’s mine, and it’s true.

So I use this approach here in my blog. I start with where I am. I try to write about what I’m feeling, or what I’ve felt or experienced in the past. It’s my past – who can argue against what happened or what I felt? Or it’s my current situation. Not anybody else’s. It’s real for me.

My desire with this blog is two-fold. To help Christians who fight depression know they are not alone. While our specific experiences may be different, there’s definitely commonality among fellow sufferers.

My second hope is that I provide understanding to a reader who might not know what depression is, or what it feels like. Maybe that reader has a friend or family member who struggles with depression. Maybe someone in the church wants to reach out to the hurting, but isn’t sure what to say. I hope that what I write will ease that difficulty.

So I write from where I am, or where I’ve been. I hope I offer education, reduce stigma, and open doors for communication and understanding to those who suffer with this disease.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” – 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (italics mine)