How Do You Define Depression?

Depression.  I have survived.  I am here to tell you it is horrible,  something that leaves your spirit bare.

This past week I have been feeling down.  Down and angry.  I have expressed rage that I cannot understand.  In the midst of these temper tantrums  (I guess we never really move away from tantrums, do we?), I will begin to cry uncontrollably.

What is wrong with me? I often asked myself.  Why am I so crazy?

I thought and thought,  and finally realized: depression.

Before I went and confessed all to my doctor,  I decided to wait a few more days.  I am  glad I did.

After a couple days and a big blow-up,  my husband sat me down for a talk.  In the course of his talk he made me realize how much I was hurting him.  He and I are both working extra hard.  He at school, me at home.  There really is no inequity in the diversification of our roles.  However,  I was sitting in a cess pool of pity.  My anger and hurt were eating away all the compassion I once felt.  He, on the other hand, was struggling to maintain a healthy balance between family and work in order to keep our family thriving.

I decided that I need to take a moment for myself.  The next day I went to the temple.  After some much needed alone time,  I recognized my problem:  I was not depressed,  I was hormonal.

Have you ever been around a lady who goes crazy during “that time of the month?”  Well, I am that lady.  When my hormones are imbalanced in any way,  I become a, well something that rhymes with “witch.”

What scares me about this whole scenario is that if I had gone to my doctor he would have inevitably prescribed some form of SSRI.   I would have started taking medication that would only solve part of the problem.

Bruce recently wrote a provocative piece about this very topic.  He references an interview in which an author suggests that,

“mental illness is culturally determined, and that big drug companies have systematically worked to change the way other cultures view melancholy, for example, in order to sell them anti-depressant medications.”

While, as Bruce infers, this viewpoint may be a bit extreme, it does make me wonder:  how much do doctors consider a holistic approach to depression and other mental health issues?

My dear Mr. B is considering becoming a Psychiatrist.  He and I have had many discourses about the importance of holistic medicine, an approach that looks at a person’s life style to determine if any changes could alter the depression.

In my case,  the form of birth control I chose has altered my emotional state.  I should have recognized it immediately but I was so focused on depression that I failed to look at other options.

Believe me, I understand depression.  I have had my dose of that debilitating mental disease.  This time, though, I am lucky:  I only need to change my birth control.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “How Do You Define Depression?

  1. ck

    You should be so proud that you recognized what was going on. It’s is really hard to tell sometimes, especially when you’re home with kids.

    My birth control did the exact same thing. I had the Mirena inserted December ’08 and by November ’09 I had been in a pit of depression for three months. But because I’d never been depressed before and because it came on so gradually I had no idea. I just felt like everything was falling apart. I felt disconnected and apathetic towards everything. I had that thing removed in November and I feel like a new person.

  2. I definitely think we are an over-prescribed nation, but it seems many professionals are embracing a holistic approach. When I went to the doctor saying that my nerves sometimes go so bad I wanted to claw my skin off, she prescribed yoga, rest, and time in the sun. I just looked at her. 75% of America is on Paxil and I’m told to sit outside?

    Guess what. With yoga, rest, and time in the sun, I feel so much better. Of course, I don’t have a chemical imbalance — I have a lifestyle imbalance. There’s a difference.

    • Yes, it isn’t that problems that need medication don’t exist, I just think pressing pause and looking at the person’s lifestyle make cut down on the use of medication.

  3. I think we try to medicate for everything, often masking symptoms, and rarely sitting and discussing lifestyle, which can reveal a host of issues and possible changes to ameliorate the situation. Without medication.

    Meds are necessary for many conditions – and helpful. It is the knee-jerk response of medicating rather than diagnosing that is problematic.

  4. Medication is such a tricky thing. With my anxiety, I have chosen not to do medication and work more on the underlying issues. I tried taking vitamins and do the natural route, but I’m apparently allergic to several things!

    • Hey, I never said go the natural route…. ; )

      Kristina, I have a feeling that you are very in tune with your body and your emotions.

  5. It is amazing how much hormones can play into our mood swings. I don’t see anything wrong with taking medication for true depression, but you’re right that sometimes we overmedicate. I’ve been learning a lot about holistic medicine and am quite pleased with my findings. At the top of my list is colloidal silver. Thanks for popping by my blog. Glad it took me over to yours…enjoyed this post.

  6. I think what is often the issue here is that people go on medication mindlessly. Before they ask for that prescription, do they try to fix things themselves. Do they exercise? Do they make sure to eat right? Do they drink water instead of soda. Do they *try* to get enough sleep? People need to try those simple remedies before begging for meds.

    For me, exercise is medicine. It vastly improves my mental state. If I don’t exercise, I get depressed–well, more depressed than normal, anyways.

    The IUD didn’t cause hormonal havoc, but the Norplant did. WOW, did that thing make me nuts.

    Good for you, Amber. And if you ever need a shoulder, I’m here.

  7. I have the same IUD, but surprisingly this is the first birth control that I have ever used that hasn’t made me sick, sick to the point where I can’t function. If it suddenly starts making me depressed I don’t know what I’ll do.
    I am so glad that you were able to recognize the signs and symptoms of what you were going through. I hope that you will recover quickly and begin being your happy self again.

  8. A commonly recommended treatment for depression (clinical or cyclical) is talk-therapy. Whether or not Mr. B becomes the psychiatrist Dr. B, he seems like a tremendous aid to you in his willingness to talk openly and support you.

  9. It’s wonderful when you can pinpoint a culprit for depressive symptoms, like a bc method, and alter it. I’ve had some garden variety depression and can’t medicate at all. I like fall asleep and wake up two days later. So I have to have other tricks up my sleeve, like writing about what’s bothering me or, like TKW, using exercise to stay happy and centered.

  10. I had similar issues with birth control. We tried a few different types but they all had the Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde affect on me. Things improved once I went off them, but there were other issues too. Like the way sugary foods affect my moods (I had three bowls of sugary cereal for breakfast one day and was such a basket case for the whole day that I finally made that connection), spiritual ways to calm my soul, and pouring my heart into my writing as a form of therapy. So glad you’re finding your own answers!

  11. I’m glad you have been able to find peace. The temple is the best source for that. Thanks for stopping by my blog again. I used Blurb to print my book. It is nice since you can suck your whole blog in all at one time. You should check it out.

  12. I get paranoid during the monthly hormonal changes. Greatest discovery of my life was when I recognized it. Now, when the thoughts come that every one hates me or is avoiding me I check the calendar- it is always that time of month again. And I tell myself I’m full of crap and move on with life.

  13. Melanie J

    It’s so weird to me that my body can trick me so easily sometimes. I’m not prone to mood swings or depression but I was stunned at what anemia did to my spirits for a month and a half until a blood test caught the problem and a little extra iron fixed it. The mind-body connection is powerful

  14. Just found your blog and I’m enjoying your posts!
    I had the same thing with my birth control at the first of my marriage, and it was horrible. I stopped taking hormonal birth control and never will again. It’s scary to have something in your body that can change your personality that drastically.
    My mom has struggled with depression her whole life, and I for one am grateful for medication for those who really need it.
    I also think that exercise is a great anti-depressant. I know I always feel 10 times better about life if I exercise every day.

  15. I agree that as a nation, we are way over-medicated. However, I am among the medicated (although not nearly as heavily as I once was), because when I go off, the depression just creeps back up…

    But it absolutely has to be part off a holistic approach. Medication can’t fix everything (as much as I sometimes wish it would).

  16. Eva

    Amber, great post – thank you for sharing, even though it is a deeply personal topic.

    I love your phrase “diversification of our roles.” Sometimes I struggle with feeling The Husband and I have an equitable division of labor. Thinking about it as different roles, as you recommend, is helpful.

    I’m relieved to hear you listened to your body, talked it through with Mr B, and figured it out. I think they key is finding a doctor who approaches care the same way you do. I want a doctor who is willing to use meds, but only after other options have been explored.

    • Eva, this topic, though personal, is something that needs to be discussed. Something that scared me the most is that I know my doctor would have just prescribed the medication. I was on medication before and I have nothing against it. But, this time? It wouldn’t have helped.

      Interestingly enough, the number one thing married couples fight about is diversification of roles. Let’s face it, women often take on a huge chunk of this responsibility. Yet, when I finally realized that my husband IS doing job–supporting us–I was able to let go of the resentment.

  17. I’m just glad you’re communicating—within your family and with all of us. Being connected and self-expressed even through our pain is at least a part of how we all come through tough things together (and realize how together we all are in things).

    Namaste (light and dark)

    • Thanks for coming over, Bruce. Depression is more of a family illness, isn’t it? I have found that overcoming depression was easier when my husband was on my side.

  18. Eva

    Amber, I was just re-reading your post and the comments here. I love how you say “I have survived.” I’m going to adopt that! Yes, it was miserable – but I’m a survivor.