Monday, April 4, 2016

Believe in Happiness: Discussing Situational Depression

I've been there.  I've been in that dark corner of gloom that makes one feel suffocated in sadness.  I have definitely been there.  But I've also found a way out and I believe in HAPPINESS.  I think this is something even the most awesome Moms of the Year deal with.  So I'm going to tackle it today.  Depression and Happiness.  Specifically situational depression (sometimes called Adjustment Disorder).

Get ready because this may get personal . . .

I've always been a pretty positive person.  I'm not very adventurous, drop-dead Barbie gorgeous, or extremely brilliant, but I am a glass-half-full kind of person.  I can see the good side to most people.  I can find joy in most situations.  I can be flexible and make things work.

But that doesn't mean I go through life imagining it to be something it's not.  In fact, I am very aware of other's feelings, hardships, and struggles.  I was born in the middle of a large family.  As a middle child, I learned early on how to see both sides of the fence very clearly.  So clearly, that it can be hard for me to make decisions because I understand both sides of the fence so well.  But I usually choose to find the good on both sides of the fence.

But there was a time when I couldn't see or feel the happiness in my life.  It happened after My Accident and Miracle.  (I was hit by a car as a pedestrian on the sidewalk when I was 6 months pregnant. You can read more {HERE}).   After the accident and the happy birth of my miracle baby, I should have been hunky-dory.  All had worked out okay!  But instead I found myself scared to be alone.  My Man was in medical school and gone a lot. I was weepy and anxious all the time.  I had mood swings.  I often did not even want to see my best friends.  I had also found out the day my Baby Girl was born that I would not be able to have more children.  This brought great sadness upon me at a time when I was very vulnerable to my emotions.  Dishes in the sink made me feel sooo stressed out, because I just wanted to spend every moment with my baby and children (since they were now all I would ever have) and I wanted the worries of the world to disappear.  I noticed that events that normally made me joyful, seemed somehow gloomy and dull.

I finally knew something was wrong one day when I was home alone with my three children and we had planned an outing at the park.  My newborn was by now around 3 months old.  I packed them up to leave and found out the garage door was not working and we would not be able to get the car out and leave.  I started to panic.  I felt like I couldn't breath.  I felt trapped!  Instead of looking at the situation and possibly figuring out a solution I found myself bawling uncontrollably.  My Man would not be home for hours and now I was stuck in the house with 3 little kids and nothing to do.  I was dealing with a case of Situational Depression.

Situational Depression is a short-term depression that occurs after a big change in your life, often a traumatic change.  Events like loss of a job, divorce, having a baby, retirement, death of a friend, or an accident are all things that could cause situational depression.  The key word here is short-term.  This depression is not exactly the same as clinical depression.  Talk to you health professional about the difference.

I feel very blessed that I was able to figure out "my problem" early on.  Going back to my story. . . . As I was bawling my eyes out that day without an understandable reason, a little miracle from heaven occurred when my mom (who lived 1,200+  miles away) called me on the phone.  Right in the middle of my crying, she happened to call to see how I was doing.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Anyway, we talked it out and she mentioned to me that I should talk to my doctor about how I feel.  So I did.  She gave me hope.

My doctor also gave me great hope.  As we talked about my situation, he listened.  He helped me find a anti-depressant that would help me for awhile.  But most of all he said, "This will not last forever.  You will feel happy again."  Whether that was to be true, I did not know.  But this statement gave me HOPE.  I needed hope.

With the support of my husband, my mother, and my doctor I began my journey to mental recovery. Since I couldn't completely control my mood on my own, I let the medicine help me while I PRACTICED HAPPINESS. I call it Practicing Happiness because I practiced things to help lift my mood everyday.  I did not want to be on meds forever, so I knew I needed to find ways to feel happiness on my own, even if it didn't always help or if I didn't feel like it.  So I went walking in the sunshine as much as possible.  I got out and visited with friends.  I watched movies that were uplifting.  I read my scriptures (a huge peace for me).  I tried to eat healthier and drink water.  I played with my kids more and we planned little parties together (the giggles of children can really raise your endorphins).  I attended church and gave service when possible (forgetting about your own troubles for awhile can really be good).  Sometimes these things worked, sometimes they did not.  But little by little, I felt my mood lifting and my sorrows disappearing.

In the middle of my recovery, my husband came to the realization that he was also dealing with some of the same problems as me.  Medical school was very draining for us.  The debt, the distance from family, the never-ending schedule was hard.  It did not allow for family time or personal time.  My Man was gone from 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every single day--including Saturday.  His only day off was Sunday.  He studied in the quiet basement of one of the med buildings, so the noise of our young household would not distract him.  Some days he never saw the sunshine. And in the middle of all this, here we were trying to raise 3 little ones.  Not to mention my accident that caused him to get behind because he was helping me, and just the mental worry we went through--including our son who had post-traumatic stress from witnessing my accident during this time too.  So yes, My Man was also struggling with situational depression.  A lot of times we think it's only women who deal with this kind of thing.  But men do also.

So we became a team of trying to help each other through this hard time.  We talked a lot and just tried to be supportive.  We took walks together as much as possible with our kids.  Because of the stress and depression though, sometimes arguments would build and build.  We had to force ourselves to stop arguing and remember that often it was the stress or the depression talking.  We had to leave the situation and talk about the problem later when our emotions were more stable.  We also had to learn to let some things go.  We were not in a place to solve every problem that came our way.  Oddly enough, we became a more loving family during this time.  Not a perfect family.  Just a family that felt very strongly bonded together by our trials.  We depended on each other so much.  And we depended on God like never before.  We felt hope increase in our home.

Little by little our moods began to lift on their own.  Our doctor decreased our anti-depression meds and slowly weened us off them.  Our stress level also decreased some and we got better at handling it too.  Within 2 years were both completely med free and depression free.  Now, does that mean life is perfect for us now?  Nope.  We still have our trials.  But it's better.  Much better.

What I learned from my experience with situational depression:

* Realizing you need help or have a depression issue is a huge relief.  A huge load was lifted from my heart when I realized what the problem was--and that I could get help.

* Admitting you have depression is not a sign of weakness.  It takes a lot of strength to deal with depression.

* I now know that depression can happen to anyone.  Sometimes we may think we are immune to such problems.  But depression is real.  It's not a made up thing.  People with depression do not want to feel judged.

*  For me, depression is something I had to work on.  Like a sickness in the body, you have to help your body get better.  You have to help your mind and emotions heal with depression.  That is why we "Practiced Happiness" even when we did not feel it.  Some depression will go away.  But there are some kinds of depression that do not go away so easily.  Make sure you are talking regularly with a supportive health professional.

* Don't give up hope.  HOPE is huge when you are feeling depressed.  Hope may be nothing more than a mere thought in your mind or a quick sentence you say.  When my doctor said, "This will not last forever" I held onto those words of hope.  Hold onto your hope and keep going.

*  I am only an expert on my own experience with depression.  My story may not be the same as your story.  What worked for me, may not be the answer for everyone.  And that is okay.

* I believe in Happiness.  Depression is real, but so is HAPPINESS.  There are so many things to be joyful about in life.  Teaching ourselves to look for the blissful things in life is good for the soul whether or not you have depression.   When you've been through hard times, your heart appreciates the happy times so much more.  Maybe that is why we have them in the first place . . . .

I hope this has helped anyone that is looking for help or maybe just wanted to know that someone else out there understands a little.  Like I said, this is only my point of view.  Go ahead and share yours in the comments below.  Have you found happiness after dealing with depression?

And remember, be thankful for the rainy days . . . they only make the sunshine sweeter.

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  1. From one who has suffered from depression in the past this is such a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing your story and your faith

    1. Thanks for your comment! I believe we should always have hope!


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