Depressed? Don’t be ashamed; ask for help

I have suffered from depression for four years now. I don’t know what that means to you but to me it means a world of change.

Many of my friends and colleagues would be shocked to hear of my affliction, as I am always putting a brave smile on, and I like to think that I go out of my way to help others and make life easier for everyone around me. Does the word clinical before the term depression make it any more acceptable to society? Is it something that you think is a label to solve an emotional puzzle in a person, or do you know someone affected by depression? Do you think it is just an easy term for people who feel blue now and again?

Last year a friend of mine lost a daughter to depression. You can never ever anticipate the outcome of the signs that the affected person may or may not be exhibiting, but the next time someone tells you that they (or know someone who) are suffering from depression, please don’t dismiss it as that person having a ‘rough day’ or simply ‘seeking attention’. Depression is a medically proven condition that medication is often prescribed for. I’m normally not one to draw attention to my downfalls, but I feel like this is a serious issue that is not getting taken seriously as it should be by those who don’t understand it.

Sure, we all have bad days, we all cry for no reason, we are all overcome with feelings of anxiety, guilt, sadness and confusion from time to time, but have you ever gone though a week of not being able to drag yourself out of bed? And I don’t mean a lazy spell of reading your favourite true crime books and eating bon-bons for 48 hours. I mean gut wrenching, muscle inhibiting nothingness that consumes you, makes you feel so numb you think nothing will break you out of the spell.

If you feel like this, or have felt like this, or know someone who claims to feel like this, please don’t shrug it off as another bad day. There is a difference between needing a pick-me-up manicure compared to a trip to your doctor to discuss your feelings.

For me, I was stubborn and refused to admit anything was wrong with me. I was pregnant with my second child and four months into my pregnancy. I had lost 20 pounds instead of the happy weight gain that so many expectant mothers experience. I couldn’t eat, I forced myself to eat toast and an apple to start the day, but even that was a challenge. On one of my weekly check-ups to monitor the baby’s health, I burst into tears and my doctor literally had to hold me for a half hour until the tears abated. She put me on antidepressants straight away and showed me clinical test results proving that the meds were safe for the baby as well as myself. I continued to lose weight (a total of 40 pounds in all, despite my best attempts at eating healthy) but my daughter was born healthy and has never had any medical reactions to the antidepressants I was taking. She is now almost five and is ready to enter kindergarten, and this all seems so long ago, the turmoil I went through.

Sure, I am still on antidepressants. I’ve tried going off of them, but it’s not an easy thing to do. Do you know what causes depression symptoms? Serotonin is a neurotransmitter primarily found in the gastrointestinal tract. Too many big words for you? Let me rephrase: lack of serotonin causes depression. Serotonin can be in short supply due some of the following quick reasons; a) not enough serotonin produced, b) there are not enough receptor sites to receive serotonin, or c) serotonin is being taken back up too quickly before it can reach receptor sites.

I simply want you to be open to the notion of depression being a serious medical and emotional matter. It isn’t a matter of Johnny not feeling good, or Sally spending a third day in bed crying yet again. It’s serious, it’s treatable, it’s dangerous if not treated, and I’m not too proud to admit that I suffer from depression.

Please check out the following sites if you think you or someone you know might be differing from depression: www.depressionhurts.ca and www.heretohelp.bc.ca

I am 100% available and will keep all communication anonymous should you feel like talking about depression; please email me at cfletchr@telus.net

If you are suffering from depression, think you might be, know someone who might be, you are most definitely not alone and you are not to blame.

Here is to seeing a smile on everyone’s face, no matter what your ‘label.’

-Cindy Fletcher is a columnist with The Aldergrove Star