What I have learned about depression

     I know it has (again) been a while since I last posted.  I really have no idea if anyone is reading these or not but it does help me to get things off my chest.
     Recently I received a comment on Facebook that said I seemed to always be "negative" in what I posted.  And I discovered that it was true, I was mostly negative with a few cute cat videos interspersed to lighten things up.  So, I decided it would be best to write down the reasons why I think I am mostly negative and offer advice to those who care about someone with depression. 
     First, let me start by saying that clinical depression is not a phase or a state of mind.  It is a real problem with real options for treatment.  Web MD says " A constant sense of hopelessness and despair is a sign you may have major depression, also known as clinical depression."  There are many causes of depression including environment, chemical imbalance, other health problems and in some cases, clinical depression is inherited. In my case, depression runs in my mother's side of the family.  Mom was diagnosed with depression and was put on medications.  Since she had no real follow up at Mayo, her depression got worse as she faded into dementia.  My mom's biological mother, we discovered, was put into a "mental hospital" and that was the reason mom and most of her siblings were put up for adoption.  Though we don't know why she was institutionalized, I wonder if depression was at least part of the cause.  So, I do have a family history of depression.
     I am currently being treated for depression in different ways.  I am on antidepressants, at least a couple, I see a therapist and I see a psychiatrist who helps with medication regulation..  Combined, my depression is mostly controlled.  However, "mostly" is a key word.  In my case it will probably take most of my energy to just keep me at an even keel.  There will be times when my depression will be bad and other times that I will seen "normal".
     I have looked back to see if I could figure out why my depression has become more obvious lately.  I think this current phase started in November 2016.  First, the election left me wondering and worrying about my marriage, my healthcare, my freedoms and other important aspects of staying alive.  I was frightened by what the country was doing to itself.  Then in the midst of all this, I had to rush to my mom's side as her life was fading away.  She died three days after the election.  Even though her life had been pretty much nonexistent the last years of her life, I still felt a great loss.  Both these events, though not related to each other, put me in a downward spiral.  The facts that I have not been feeling well for a long time and treatments come at a cost have not helped.  Coming back up has been a long and ongoing process.
     Over the years I have learned, both from my own depression and my husband's, that there are things that friends and family can do and things they probably should not do to help a person with depression.  These can be different in every person with depression so I will talk about my experiences only.
  Let me start with the list of please don't do.  #1 - I often hear, "get over it".  When I hear that or something like it, I feel ashamed and guilty that I cannot "get over it". It makes me feel as if the depression is my fault.  #2 - Please do not offer your advise unless asked.  I realize that you are offering suggestions because you care but I probably have heard it all thousands of times in the past.  It didn't help then and won't help now.  Don't tell me that I should get out more, that I need to find things to cheer me up.  Yes, I know that my depression often makes me want to stay in the apartment and not have any social interaction but the more you tell me what you think I should do, the more I will not do it.  #3 - Do not compare me to someone you know who has depression.  Depression can manifest itself with very different  symptoms in different people.  Knowing that someone else did this or that and is much better now just reinforces the feeling of failure and shame.  #4 - Please don't be silent when you hear that I suffer from depression.  Often when I tell people I have been diagnosed with depression they shut down, they seem to ignore that part of me.  I know that talking about depression can be just like talking about HIV/AIDS, it is an uncomfortable topic.  You know it exists but if you don't talk about it you think maybe it will go away or not effect you.  That only makes me feel like you don't care.
     So, what can you do to help?  The one and only suggestion that I can think of is to please let me know that you are there.  Let me know that you will support me.  And if I need to talk, a shoulder to cry on, a hug or just some kind words, let me know that you will be available to offer your assistance.  Sometimes all I really need to hear is that someone out there really cares about me, my depression, my AIDS diagnosis and all other aspects of my life that when put together, make me the complicated and complex person that I am.
     Bear with me, there will be days when all I post, say or do will seem very negative.  There will also be days when everything seems good, that I have my sense of humor back and I am looking forward to the rest of my life.  And most of all, thank you for caring.

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