Are You Depressed?

Sometimes depression sneaks up on us. It slips in the unguarded back door of our psyche like a thief. Depression seeks to rob us of having good stable mental health. Don’t fight this enemy on your own. Seek professional help if you are struggling with depression.

How do you know if you’re struggling with depression? To an observant close family member or friend the answer seems self-evident. But the sufferer is often the last one to recognize or admit that she or he is struggling with depression.

My realization that I was struggling with dysthymic depression came about by my going to a community mental health clinic (mhc) in my small town. I was assigned a peer specialist.

My Peer Specialist had worked as “floor staff” in mental health institutions for more than twenty years. Through our weekly talks he had pin-pointed the type of depression I’ve had since my teen years. Even though he was limited to what type of therapy he could offer, he still recognized what I was experiencing, and gave it a name. And him doing that was the “key” that opened the door for me to receive the right kind of mental-emotional wellness therapy.

He suggested I attend some of the group therapy programs that the mhc offered. That sounded good to me so I started with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). From there I went on to attend their other classes. My going there lasted about ten months. That was in 2007-2008. I felt great and had made several changes that I needed to make that came out of the one-on-one I was receiving and the weekly group therapy as well.

I’ve since gone back to therapy. Currently I’m seeing a licensed therapist. She uses Cognitive Therapy techniques, which have been very effective for me.

There are different types of depression, though. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That’s the “Bible” for finding out about personality disorders. This is a thick reference book that gets updated when new research information becomes available. Most of us don’t own a DSM-5, but any reputable website on mood disorders would reference this book along with experts in the field of cognitive development.

The DSM-5 does list depression as a mood disorder. The different types of depression are: Major, dysthymia (melancholy) depression, dysphoric (which includes PMS), and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). These are the most common ones, at least.

If you think you might be suffering from long term sadness, then get a thorough checkup by your physician. Include a blood test. That test will reveal if you are low in Vitamin D or other essential vitamins. Also, a blood test will reveal any health problem or blood related diseases such as Hepatitis C. Fortunately, most of my adult life I’ve had a yearly physical.

Let your doctor know that you’re struggling with “dark moods.”  He or she might suggest a certain medication, such as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake) to help lift your moods. There are multiple new ones available to help people overcome depression that are less or not addictive than the old meds.

I’ve found that “Talk Therapy”  (Cognitive Therapy) is best for me. So, I’ve been able to avoid taking medication for depression. But I do take certain supplements every day that help lift my moods. I’ll discuss supplements later. I’ll only say that supplements can get expensive. And you’ve got to know which ones work best for you. By all means, start by talking with your primary care physician.

Please consider going to a Behavioral Health Center like I did. They offer mental health counseling that includes the family if needed. Ask to see the therapist on staff there. Let him/her know that you’re feeling depressed even if it’s just some of the time.

The cost of going to these Mental Health Centers (aka: MHC) is often free. They have group counseling classes that are designed to inform and guide you into making wise choices. Also, like me, you’ll get to have a “peer support specialists” that will talk one-on-one with you.

If you need to detox from illegal drugs or over medicating then most of these mental health counseling centers are connected to a detox unit. If you can’t control your intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, then please check into a detox unit. Most problems are fixable. It just takes you being a part of your solution, not a part of the problem.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Have you had thoughts about self-harm and/or had suicidal inclinations?

If you’re feeling suicidal or need to talk to someone immediately, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t put your loved ones through the agony of you making a tragic decision.

There are often reasonable and successful solutions to our emotional health problems. It just takes us seeking those solutions in the right places.

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Better Not Bitter

Below is a story of how my maternal grandfather became better, instead of bitter. He was born illegitimately and unwanted. But he grew up to become a caring and responsible husband, and father. He went from being a “Crop Sharer” to owning 15 acres of farmland. And it’s how he accomplished much more than all of that.  He left a legacy that’s lasted well into four generations by now.

I live within fifty miles of where my grandparents were born and raised. And so do many of my relatives. Therefore, I’ve left names out so as not to be in unnecessary conflict with my large extended family members.

My maternal grandfather was born in a very rural part of Western North Carolina, on April 5, 1898. His mother was sixteen and not married.  

After his birth, grandpa was handed over to be raised by other family members on both sides. That may have been the best decision since his mother had few resources to count on. His birth may not have even been welcomed news on her side of the family, because she was a middle child of fourteen children.

The 1900 Census shows his mother as a seventeen-year-old living over in Georgia with relatives. No baby or toddler was mentioned as living with her. (Census is collected the year before it’s published).

His dad had rejected his son, also.  But, apparently not everyone on his father’s side shared those feelings. My grandpa is listed in the 1910 Census as living with his paternal Grandmother in the community he was born in. Grandpa always went by his father’s surname

There must’ve been strong physical similarities between father and son. I’ve seen pictures of my grandfather’s half-brother and both share similar physical features.

Since his dad owned the only store in that community no doubt my grandpa crossed paths countless times in his early childhood with him. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure grandpa being rejected by his father was a difficult emotion for a young boy to bear.

His dad must’ve been a little hard to live with. I’ve found that he was married and divorced twice during his adult life. His head stone shows that he died in his fifties. And is buried in a single grave. No wife is listed on the headstone.  

In my childhood I remembered my grandpa as being stoic in nature.  Even so, he did seem to enjoy our family gatherings at his and granny’s farm. I’m sure us kids got on his nerves, constantly running in and out of their house, but he rarely showed it. He enjoyed sitting alone on his porch swing regardless of the weather. And did so when things got to be too much for him inside the house.

During grandpa’s early teenage years he was sent to live with an uncle just over the state line in GA. He owned a large apple orchard and needed his nephew’s help.

Grandpa didn’t stay long there, though. Within the year he was sent to Berry Boys Industrial School (the forerunner of Berry College). Their records have him listed as being taught carpentry. A skill he would use later in life.  He left Berry around a year later, never having graduated. His name and attendance record were found in their archives.

From there Grandpa joined the Navy and sailed to France. The year was 1917 and America was fighting WW1 on Europe’s Western Front. He’s listed as having served as a machinist on a frigate on his discharge papers.

After the war ended in 1918, my Grandpa found his way back to his birthplace. But why go back there? Grandpa had always been rejected by his father. I know this because I was told when his dad died in 1932, he left nothing but his last name to his illegitimate son.

About 1919, grandpa moved ten miles over to Murphy, NC. By then he was twenty-one, and looking to settle down. And Murphy proved to be just the right place to do that. This is where he met and married my granny. During the twenties, they had their four children. My mother was one of the two middle children.

During the Great Depression my grandparents became crop-sharers. Once, they got established than they became very frugal about all things.  Even so, it took years of “penny pinching,” for them to buy fifteen acres of farmland that included a small house.

In time Grandpa was able to add on to it and included indoor bathroom as well. It became a comfortable spacious one level home. They lived there for the rest of their lives.  

Life was hard for my grandparents. But I never knew them to be bitter about things, though. Instead they grew better about how life had turned out for them.

They never owned a vehicle of any type because grandpa had seizures. He never drove nor had a license. He did do house painting and carpentry when a ride was provided for him, though. Granny worked in mills or babysat children. Those jobs were their only income until they could collect Social Security. Plus, they farmed, raised chickens, and “bartered” whenever they could.

They were blessed in many ways all through their lives. I have many good memories of being at my grandparents’ house. Every family gathering at their house always included cousins, aunts and uncles, and lots of good farm fresh food. In the heat of summer afternoons, all of us kids would gather under a huge Weeping Willow tree at the edge of their yard. That’s where Grandpa would cut each of us a slice of cold juicy watermelon.

Grandpa and Granny were members of a small local church that they walked to on Sundays. They were the “salt of the Earth” kind of folks. They helped their large extended families however they could. All my childhood they seemed contented with what they had accomplished and how life had turned out for them.  

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32