Friday, February 4, 2011

It’s (Not) All in Your Head

Depression is not visible, like a broken arm. Depression does not garner sympathy and delivered meals like those that gall bladder surgery does. But, depression can cause as big as, if not a bigger, disruption in your life than some of the more visible ailments are.

If depression is not broken leg or a sinus infection, what is it? “Depression is a physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional response to something that is wrong. The million-dollar question is, ‘What is wrong?’” (Vernick, pg. 18)

Just in case you’re trying to decide whether it really is all in your head or if you’re actually, clinically depressed, let’s take a look at the symptoms (courtesy of Getting Over the Blues, by Leslie Vernick, pgs. 19–20).

Physical symptoms:
Chronic aches and pains not otherwise explainable
Sleep disturbances
Not taking care of your appearance
Eating disturbances (overeating or loss of appetite)
Loss of interest in physical intimacy with your husband
Low energy, lethargy, feeling of heaviness

Emotional symptoms:
Feeling guilty
Feeling worthless and undeserving of anything good
Feeling disappointed in oneself
Feeling sad for no apparent reason; excessive crying
Feeling numb
Loss of interest in things previously enjoyed
Feeling hopeless or pessimistic about the future
Irritability, sometimes feelings of panic
Withdrawal from family and friends

Mental symptoms:
Inability to concentrate
Inability to make decisions
Recurrent thoughts of death and/or suicide (call for help immediately!!)
Difficulty thinking and remembering
Negative or uncaring view of self, others, life in general

Spiritual symptoms:
Morbid preoccupation with faults and/or failures
Feelings of guilt not relieved by prayer
Hopelessness
Feeling abandoned or rejected by God
Lack of meaning or purpose in life
Loss of interest in spiritual things

Just a point of clarification here: we all suffer from some of these feelings at one time or another to some degree. The actual diagnosis of depression occurs when you have many of these symptoms over a period of longer than several weeks. Clinical depression is not something you can just snap out of or get over. Please, please, please make an appointment to see your family physician if this applies to you. If you think you’ll have a hard time verbalizing your symptoms, print this article out and put a check mark next to your specific problems.

Depression is a complex disease with many different causes. Sometimes a chronic illness can lead to feelings of depression. Check with your pharmacist to see if medications you may be on for other issues could cause depression as a side effect. Loss, major conflicts, or unmet expectations in your life can also lead to depression. Chemical imbalances in the brain may be responsible for depression. Since I do not have a medical degree, I make no effort to diagnose or to suggest treatment options for clinical depression. My purpose here is simply to point out that depression has many causes; it is not a form of punishment for some spiritual misdemeanor (usually); it is not something of which to be ashamed.

By understanding some of the symptoms and causes, we can more effectively treat depression so that we can be the homeschool moms that God has in mind for us to be. Be blessed and encouraged, my fellow homeschool sisters. You are not alone and you can be happy again! 

This article appears over at Heart of the Matter Online today as part of their ongoing series on depression. Check it out!