Just Snap Out of It!

Just snap out of it! Well you don’t just snap out of pain. Pain is real. Whether it’s from a broken leg, childbirth or from clinical depression. I’ve experienced them all and I can personally say that at least with socially acceptable pain, it has a finite beginning and end. You can hang onto this when it seems over whelming. Mental illness is frightening in the same way of any other chronic illness. You don’t know how long it’s going to last. You don’t know if it’s going to come back and maybe be even worse the next time. However, the catch is no one thinks you’re taking the easy way out by taking medication for a “physical” condition.

With depression, one is supposed to grit their teeth and get over it. Get on with life, get out more, think happy thoughts. Stop whining, get out of bed, take a shower. Brush your teeth. There were times when I made sure that I only had one toothbrush on the sink at a given time because making a decision about which one to use was beyond me. Getting dressed involves way too many decisions, which panties, which shirt, which pants. Oh God, not 1 but 2 socks and then…shoes. Deliver me, Jesus! I have way too many shoes. I now understand completely why some women wear their house shoes to the grocery store.

The catch 22 is that all these activities do sometimes help depression, but the pain involved is beyond description. Unfortunately many people, even those in the medical profession, expect you to grin and bear it. Just get over it, walk it off. Or label you a hypochondriac. Depression is a lonely illness. It doesn’t show the way a cast or a crutch would, or stitches on your forehead. It’s been my dirty little secret my entire life. Telling an employer was not even an option. Telling friends was risky and telling a potential spouse is really scary.

After I married the first time  it came out that my first husband’s mother had been in and out of hospitals for manic depression her entire life. One night he announced that he did not believe that depression was a “real”  illness. He thought she was just too lazy to be a mother and wife. My blood ran cold. I asked what her symptoms were. He said, “you know.” Uh, no I don’t know, please be more specific. “She just wasn’t nice and got really lazy.” Define not nice and lazy. “She didn’t want to cook dinner or clean the house.” When she got like that his dad would check her into a mental hospital. Holy crap. I was terrified at this point. Mental note, start saving money to the hell out of here before you end up in the hospital. And I did. It took 10 years to work up the nerve to get into a serious relationship again after that.  It is sad that back when she was ill the only treatment for depression was electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). ECT is helpful in some cases, but it was her only option. None of the medications available today were created yet.

I spent the last week reading a book called the “Noonday Devil: An Atlas of Depression” by Andrew Solomon. Tortured by depression himself, he wrote what I think is the most comprehensive book about what it’s like on the inside of any I ever read. His book addresses many aspects of this disorder. To medicate of not. The politics of depression. Suicidal ideation. Nature versus nurture theories. The battle for insurance coverage. Depression in poverty and homelessness. Gender aspects of how men and women exhibit different symptoms of the same disorder. Recent break throughs and ongoing research of the brain. Solomon traveled the world and interviewed people of many cultures. One over-riding impression comes through. Depression is grossly misunderstood and overall it sucks!

One thing that jumped off the pages at me was the research that points to the fact that our brain is ever-changing and making new pathways. The scary thing about depression is that, left untreated, the brain learns to be depressed all the time and it gets worse. The misfiring pathways eventually nudge out the happy circuits. It is a physical change that is now visible on brain scans. Where medication comes in is that it helps to prevent this negative pathway creation in the brain so a patient has time to repair and develop new pathways and circuits in the brain. I’m all for it.

If it turns out that I have to take medication for depression for the for the rest of my life so what? I don’t tell myself to “snap out of” diabetes. Sure diet and lifestyle management is important, but I’m not planning on stopping diabetes meds anytime soon.

I’m feeling pretty good these days. Thank God for that. Sometimes I think that maybe I’m a boring person because I’m not as zany on meds. I don’t tend to pontificate as often. Now I kinda like feeling boring. It’s a helluva lot better than running around chasing my tail. Hiding, apologizing, and mending fences. Building a new me takes time and effort. But, most days I’m up to the challenge. Even if I do it in my pajamas.

14 responses

  1. You’re FAR from boring, young woman!

    1. LOL I am glad you think so!

  2. Good post. My family is rife with mental illness. It is the worst illness there is, including terminal illnesses. As you say, they have a beginning and an end. Mental illness is life-sapping. It makes me tired to even talk about it. I, too, will be so glad when the day comes that people realize and understand that illnesses of the mind are as debilitating, if not more so, than other serious illnesses. Thanks for stepping out and bravely taking on the mantle.

    1. Taking up the mantle. I like that. Maybe I’ll start walking around in a batman cape when I’m in a mood. Everyone will run for the hills. 🙂

  3. Very good post on the subject. I posted this http://singlemaltmonkey.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/some-thoughts-on-the-sudden-passing-of-gary-speed/ just last week. I’ve learnt a lot about depression since I became close to someone who suffers from it. Caring has been a learning process too since there are certain “skills” and “sensitivities” you develop over time. (I suspect Mr.Husband might agree.)
    I hope as much as I can that you stay well – and that the knowledge and understanding around depression continues to grow.

    1. Mr. Husband does agree. It has certainly been a learning process for him. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. Whoa, I’d never heard that about the pathway creation. Very informative. I’ve always liked the analogy of depression and diabetes: why there’s shame in one but not the other eludes me. The idea of just gritting one’s teeth and carrying on is too much.
    P.S. I like boring, too.

    1. Yep for years experts have been saying our brains are finished making connections when we are toddlers. Through advances in brain scan technology they have retracted that. Old dogs can not learn new tricks, but people can. It’s never too late to learn a new skill or a new way of thinking. 🙂 Yippee!

  5. I wonder what my mom would have been like if she’d had the chance for proper meds? She was in Bellview for at least several months getting shock therapy for manic-depression in the 60s and the four of us kids were in an orphanage for nearly two years. She had her ups and downs ever after, but managed to avoid getting hospitalised again. Crazy growing up with a crazy mother (Dad disappeared when I was about 5.)…

    Strangely though, she did not believe mental illness was a real thing. As far as she was concerned, ‘it was all in your mind’ so it wasn’t real. Only the stuff outside of your mind was real. She considered meditation, yoga, any kind of inward looking or self examination to be like practising witch-craft, so there could be no self-healing…

    And when we began to show signs of depression as teens, her advice, suggestion, orders were to ‘snap out of it.’ I remember crying and asking her how? How do I snap out of it? I’ll do it. Just tell me how… and she told me I was being ridiculous – and to snap out of it!

    I was 30 before I was able to function without the cloud of depression over my head, dropping over me whenever it was so inclined… and nearly 40 before it stopped lurking at the edges.

    I did it without drugs and without ‘professional’ help. I can’t take any kind of mind or mood altering drugs or painkillers stronger than aspirin – no matter what they are, prescription or recreational – I am inclined to freak out. A shot of valium left me mute for two days. Two drag of pot left me comatose. Two darvonocet – I couldn’t move most of a day. I had worse reactions when I allowed myself to be talked into some of the more interesting 70s-80s diversions. I’m a very cheap drunk. And it wasn’t that my ex didn’t think I was crazy, he just didn’t think spending money on my mental health was worth it, so I was on my own.

    Knocked it on the head with my own brand of smile therapy. Definitely not for everyone – I was in the right space and time and was determined to conquer it. It took years. But it worked – I was able to see it at last, see it and grab hold of it and get it under control. Work with it, not against it. And the results were incredible… I discovered I really can do anything I want – and haven’t stopped – it was like ‘leaving home’ at 41…

    I happened to do it without meds, but that does not mean I think other people should or shouldn’t… When ‘home’ is that horrible dark place where you are the person screaming at you and tearing yourself down – however anyone gets to leave is the right way… and there are so many right ways…

    One thing I never ever of working, even anecdotally, is anyone ‘snapping out of it!’

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. It breaks my heart when I hear how people suffer from mental illness. To me the cruelest barb of all is when the person themself believes that they should be able to pull them selves up by their own mental boot straps. Sometimes it works, for example you, but when it doesn’t I’m extremely grateful that there are more options today. Mr. Husband says his life is a lot more livable now since I got the help I so desperately need. I agree with him. He’s much less annoying when I’m in a good mood. LOL

      1. Thanks – I didn’t mean to write War & Peace… but it all seemed relevant… and if it was me doing it by pulling myself up by my bootstraps, it sure took a hell of a long time – those boots were down damned low… I think of it more as analysing the good things about myself for years and years and not letting the hyper-critic win all the time… oddly, a longtime friend (who is no longer a friend) said to me, as I was really winning the battle – personally, professionally, everything in my life was changing for the better… she told me I was getting too arrogant, and I should pull my head in because she couldn’t stand being around me anymore… and that instigated getting rid of people that kept me down, in my place… ugh!

      2. A former friend is right. When we makes changes in our lives some people don’t like it. I have a quite a few formers that fit in that category.

  6. Good God, I can relate to this. And thanks for mentioning the book. I have not read Solomon.
    Also on meds,

    1. It’s not an easy read. At times I almost quit. But once finished I was glad I did.

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