Battling Depression

Alexandra Labudda 17 July 2006

Since its beginning, the Textpattern community has been a joyful place to hang around, meeting skilled people and making digital friends. Sivert Nielsen (sivni) was one of those people, with a cheery attitude one liked to work with. Sivert built up the template repository, naming it “TextGarden”. He never came to finish his marvellous work. After battling depression and panic disorders for many years, he committed suicide on July 16th, 2005.

We like to allude to the topic of depression. Beware that approximately 10% of all people in western societies suffer form anxiety and/or depression; that means every tenth person visiting TXP Mag battles these neurological diseases.

In memory of Sivert L. Nielsen (1973 – 2005) TXP Mag in co-operation with Sekhu would like to offer the following very private insight to depression. We hope to provide you with some comprehensive information to reduce the stigma which still afflicts depression.

I’m no expert on depression, but having gone through it and still suffering from it to this day, I can say I have experienced it. Everyone, at some point, will have suffered from the symptoms of depression in their life. It is hard to distinguish between depression and something as common as sadness (though if it can be helped, it should not be common at all), but there are some common signs that doctors state can indicate that an individual is experiencing depression. This can range from the individual feeling miserable and sad on a regular basis, losing their appetite all of a sudden, feeling isolated and withdrawn to rarely enjoying activities they previously enjoyed, feeling anxious regularly, and becoming socially inactive are some of the symptoms which may sound familiar.

450 million people worldwide are affected by mental, neurological or behavioural problems at any time.
About 873,000 people die by suicide every year.
Mental illnesses are common to all countries and cause immense suffering. People with these disorders are often subjected to social isolation, poor quality of life and increased mortality. These disorders are the cause of staggering economic and social costs.

These symptoms are both stereotypes and facts of depression. They are, sadly, the easiest ways to determine if someone is suffering from mental illness. I say mental illness, as that is what depression is. It’s a condition that an individual suffers from, often through no fault of their own and can be caused from as something as minor as a disappointment to something more serious like a tragedy. To someone suffering from depression, even minor events are like a tragedy, and the world is painted in much bleaker colours than you may see it in. Not having given birth (I am the wrong gender for that), the symptoms of depression can appear in women who have given birth, and this is known as post-natal depression. I won’t focus on this, as I clearly have no experience of it, however, it’s an example where the individual should be happy, but inexplicably suffers from depression and rejects the child or anything to do with the birth.

An estimated 121 million people currently suffer from depression. An estimated 5.8% of men and 9.5% of women will experience a depressive episode in any given year. These figures can, however, vary across different populations.

As stated, sadly, the easiest symptoms of depression to be recognised in an individual are physical and social changes. But, what if the individual does not exhibit these symptoms? This, I have found, is the one which most people find the most difficult to deal with. If an individual exhibits symptoms that can be recognised, it’s easier to accept that individual’s depressive state, and the easier it seems to be able to help. Yet, if the individual doesn’t show any signs of depressive symptoms, it will come as a shock to many, particularly those close to the individual.

Common symptoms of depression can include: persistently sad or irritable mood; pronounced changes in sleep, appetite, and energy; difficulty thinking, concentrating, and remembering; lack of interest in or pleasure from activities that were once enjoyed; feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness, and emptiness; recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

What can frighten people is the normality with which someone suffering from depression can continue their life. This isn’t about being stupid, but that individual’s need to feel that they can rely on themselves to drag themselves out of the sadness they are suffering. They may not understand their condition fully, the fact is many that suffer from depression will not recognise it as depression until the symptoms become worse, by which time the individual will be in a worse state, and perhaps suicidal.

The most important thing to remember is that in most cases of depression, no one is to blame. There are exceptions to this, such as a victim of verbal or physical abuse. I can only assume that exposure to situations where sadness can rear its ugly head on a regular basis, such as working for child welfare, charity work and so on can affect an individual by overwhelming them with emotion.

Of course, these job roles are not exclusive to sadness, but are merely examples where contact with those who are suffering may overwhelm an individual with guilt or remorse about another’s situation, in comparison to their own situation.

Although major depression can be a devastating illness, it is highly treatable. Between 80 and 90 percent of those suffering from serious depression can be effectively treated and return to their normal daily activities and feelings

How does someone suffering from depression feel? In most cases they feel the world of negativity, a world without answers to their questions, an unforgiving world or society that seems to focus on the bad, rather than the good. An individual will feel isolated, lonely, and frightened about being alone, being excluded or not fitting in to a given structure. They will often not see a future for themselves, other than one filled with misery and sadness, that their presence will simply cause others to suffer as they are suffering. They focus on their mistakes, what they consider are their flaws, and have a focused belief that mistakes will be the only thing they will be capable of. Feeling like a regular failure is part and parcel of depression, and is one of the strongest elements that manifest itself into a daily routine in an individual’s life.

I didn’t want to write about myself, but I guess unless I do then none of this would be genuine enough. I have difficulty in writing about depression as it still makes me cry, and by that I mean my eyes well up with tears and they run down my face. To this day, I still don’t understand why even thinking about my depression can make me so unhappy and tearful. My chest begins to hurt, I find it more difficult to breathe, and have to take deeper, stronger breaths. I start to sweat, my head hurts, my body turns cold, and I feel isolated and alone, even though I have two of the best friends I could have.

Even with their support and their care, I still feel frightened and scared that I will amount to nothing, that I am nothing and that I poison everything I come into contact with; that by ending my life I am ridding the world of another bad egg. Sure, there’s worse out there, perhaps, child molesters, rapists and the like. I’ve never done any of those things, nor would it be my intention to. On the one hand I want to heal the world; on the other hand I want to rid the world of myself. It’s a constant battle that I have to fight with. Every morning I wake up and look in the mirror, I see me, and I wonder how much I will be able to take today before my next attempt at suicide.

There are several approaches to psychotherapy – including cognitive-behavioral, interpersonal, psycho-dynamic and other kinds of “talk therapy” – that help depressed individuals recover. Psychotherapy offers people the opportunity to identify the factors that contribute to their depression and to deal effectively with the psychological, behavioral, interpersonal and situational causes.
APA Help Center

It’s funny, but I even failed at killing myself, how’s that for pathetic? I can’t even get something as simple as that right. I used to drown myself in alcohol, whether it was early mornings for college, to being in college itself and passing out in class or in the toilets from drinking too much. The drugs came soon after, and they turned me into a reckless idiot. Things were further complicated because I suffer from psychosis, also known as schizophrenia Then I look back and think that it was a cry for help, and it eventually got answered, around four to five years later, after ten to fifteen years of suffering.

I acted normal for quite sometime before I turned to drink and drugs. People would wave at me in the school halls, I’d make people laugh in class, and the teachers liked me even though I could be a handful. I had friends a plenty, and yet I never knew why deep down I still felt isolated and alone. I only later understood that it was down to my upbringing, which was cased in lies and abuse that eventually made me understand why I was the way I was.

My example is an exception, and there are more exceptions, but you don’t have to suffer from abuse to be depressed, this is something I have already mentioned. I can’t list all the possibilities connected with depression, because they are everyday things. Where as one person could handle losing their job, or suffering from an illness, another may not and suffer from depression as a consequence. We are all susceptible to depression, and suffer from it in varying degrees, with some suffering more than others.

Most middle and low-income countries devote less than 1% of their health expenditure to mental health. Consequently mental health policies, legislation, community care facilities, and treatments for people with mental illness are not given the priority they deserve

I don’t have a magic bullet answer as to what to do if someone is suffering from depression, but what can you try to do to help someone suffering? I lived because my friends would not let me die, and they stuck close to me even when I wanted them to go away. They protected me, and one in particular understood my psychosis better than anyone I have ever met. They gave me the self confidence and courage to find help, because forcing someone to get help will not work. They’ll usually respond with, “I’m fine, stop making such a fuss” or something along those lines, anything to get you off their back. It was through care and understanding that my friends convinced me that I should consider medical help as a solution to my problems.

During my early years of depression, I was placed on Prozac a drug so insignificant to me that I used to take four or five at a time. I was so depressed; I was desperate for a solution. It was during the time I would cry myself to sleep, break down at random times, even during class with no triggering mechanism around. Prozac didn’t work for me, and eventually I stopped taking it and was placed on another drug called Paroxetine This drug is lethal and I urge anyone that is prescribed this to turn away from it. Not only does it increase suicidal tendencies, but it caused a number of side effects in me that made me suffer greatly. Nights were filled with cold sweats all over my body, and my body would curl in on itself and force itself to remain in that position while I sweated, and suffered from insomnia. This drug has been linked to suicide cases, so I would say it is best avoided as there are many better alternatives now.

During the last nine months I was prescribed Duloxetine, also known as Cymbalta, a drug that was being experimented on me in my ward. I was the first to take it, and the results were positive. I’m still depressed, at times I feel suicidal, but I feel far more in control than I used to be. The drug has helped immensely. On top of this, I gain from therapy, which has helped me understand myself far more than I understood nine months ago. I’m not saying that Duloxetine will work for everyone, indeed it’s not miracle drug, and like other drugs it may not work for everyone. It is the drug, however, that has worked for me.

Depression is a medical illness which affects an organ, the brain, which in turn affects the rest of the body. One can no more snap out of depression than one can snap out of diabetes or heart disease

The therapy is presented as a science, I feel like a doctor learning about depression, the science behind the triggers and finding solutions to them. The same would apply to another individual, because after all they are an individual, but therapy shouldn’t be an alternative to medication, but a compliment to medication. Medication alone, I have learned to understand, is not a solution in itself and can only improve things for a while before the depression hits back. Unless the individual is taught to confront and deal with the causes, then it’s likely they will relapse.

What would I do, if I suspected a friend was suffering from depression? I would do what anyone else would do, and ask if they were well, if there was anything wrong, and that my door was always open whenever they wanted to talk about anything that was bothering them. They may see it as a token gesture, but I would then make sure I remind them that it’s not a one time offer, but an open invitation whenever they felt like it. I guess I would also let them know that I was concerned about them, that I was worried they were suffering from depression. If I wasn’t reassured I would probably try to find some professional help and discuss the options that were available. Perhaps a free session of psychotherapy I could tell my friend about, and let them know that I would be happy to go with them if needed.

Many sufferers believe that treating depression is a futile exercise because once you have depression, you have it for life. This simply isn’t true and the depression itself feeds this feeling of helplessness. And believing that depression is incurable further exacerbates the feelings of guilt and shame and fuels the depression. Depression has a specific cause and this root cause can be effectively treated so that depression can be beaten once and for all
How to End Depression Stigma by Christopher Green

There are so many things I would try to do, but in the end it would be up to the individual to be motivated enough to make the choice to ask for help. All you can do is try, and if the worst happens, and that person takes their life, you can never blame yourself or the individual for not trying hard enough to get help. Sometimes the depression is so great that all sense and logic is lost, and the individual becomes vulnerable to dangerous thoughts and acts that would endanger their life.

Often they will just remain as thoughts, but sometimes they may act upon those thoughts and risk their life. If they do and survive, then the worst thing you can do is to tell them off, it will only make them feel worse. I’m not saying congratulate them, but instead let them know that you’re not happy with what they’ve done, that it has hurt you as much as it has hurt them to go through with their actions, but at the end of the day you’re glad that they’ve pulled through and that you want to help them get better.

Depression is serious business, its symptoms are serious and so are its outcomes, but it can be dealt with if treated early enough. Even in its worst stages, it can still be treated and it’s never too late to try. If you know someone suffering from depression, you can help them by being there for them, and letting them know you are, don’t’ give up hope but keep trying and you might be able to help someone suffering too.


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