THE “D” WORD
So, there I was, slouched on the couch with my head at a funny angle staring at the ceiling. What's so special about my ceiling? Nothing. It's a plain, white ceiling - not even made of sparkly stuff. There I sat (it's hard to say for how long) when a little voice from inside me spoke up.
"Excuse me," I heard.
"Yeah?" I replied.
"You've been sitting there staring at the ceiling for a long time. You haven't even taken off your coat," she said.
"Em," I replied, ever the conversationalist.
"Honey," she said, "you're depressed!"
My eyelids blinked for a moment then returned to contemplating the ceiling. "So?" I asked listlessly, not really all that interested.
"Now, I'm not the one to nag," she explained, "you have plenty of other voices inside that do that." And I knew that was true. While I'd been gazing at whiteness, I'd been somewhat aware of holding at bay the low roar of inner voices that usually carry on vociferously. The Nag, the Judge, Miss Busy Bee and several of their counterparts are usually chattering away inside my brain. The temporary quiet of my mind was not meditation, unfortunately, but total meltdown.
"But," she continued, (I call her Ms Voice of Reason) "you may want to do something about this." And I knew I had to get up before my neck permanently froze at that awkward angle beyond chiropractic help, and the white of the ceiling became one with my eyeballs. So I pulled out my depression fighting bag of tricks (which I will soon share with you) and got off the couch.
Luckily, my bout with the ceiling was temporary. But if you've been checking out the plaster way too much, not eating, over eating, not sleeping, over sleeping, angry all the time or just don't care and it's not going away, maybe you should tell your doctor. In fact, definitely tell your doctor!
I recently saw on the news that one of the things people don't tell their doctors is that they are depressed. Well, that is probably because they are too depressed to do so. (Someday they will spend a lot of money on a research project and find out that I'm right.)
After my daughter's surgery, she seemed to be having a flair-up. She got depressed, I got depressed, my mom in Ohio got depressed. (IBD is definitely a family event.) When we went in for her check up with the doctor and surgeon, I mentioned it. The doctors were so concerned and supportive about it that we felt better immediately. I called my mom and she felt better too. Now that's good medicine.
I do not mean to make light of depression. It is serious, but I also don't want to depress you (or myself) with this article on depression. And, don't forget I'm a mom. So I'm not going to go into medical solutions other than to recommend you see your doctor. I'm going to hold your hand and go, "There, there, Dear, have a hug." Finally, here is that bag of tricks I promised. Don't forget children can get depressed too.
Try to see if there is a cause for the depression. Some of the medications for IBD cause depression. Not getting proper nutrition causes imbalances in the body that can show up as depression. Lack of sunlight in the winter is depressing to some people. Studies show that people sitting at their computer, spending too much time on the internet, get depressed.
My friends are great at reminding me that constant stress wears you down. It's depressing. Knowing the cause can help you find the solution. But if no reason seems to be there, don't beat yourself up. Whatever it is, mysterious as it may be, you have a right to feel depressed and a right to get help. I say this because sometimes part of being depressed is feeling you shouldn't be depressed and you don't get help that's available.
If you know the cause as suggested in trick #1, it may suggest an answer. I'm a big fan of vitamin pills. Ask my daughter what I nag her about most. Have a potato. Comfort food, they are discovering, may really offer comfort. Also, I recently bought a standing lamp for my home office to help chase the winter blues away. It helps to brighten things up. If you think it's your medication, be sure to talk to your doctor.
Hang out with someone who likes you. Go to the movies or stay home and watch a video with a friend. (Get a comedy) If it's your child that is depressed, don't let them watch cartoons alone. Let your child sit on your lap or next to you and watch together. Touch is a great healer.
Read a book to him/her even if they are old enough to read to themselves. Get out the cards and play a game. Get out the crayons and coloring books. When my kids were little they always liked coloring with me. Don't just stick a depressed child (or adult for that matter) in front of a TV alone. That's not good therapy.
Move. My non-medical description of depression is that it is stuck energy. Go for a walk. Combine trick #3 with #4 and go for a walk with a friend. That's walk therapy. If the weather is bad, try an exercise or yoga class. Too bad to go out, or too dark? Put on some music and dance. While watching TV, walk or jog in place. If exercise isn't your thing, go to the mall and look in all the store windows. Go to the art museum. Take your child to the Aquarium. Sweep the kitchen floor. Just move. It really does help.
Lighten your load. This isn't always possible but sometimes a solution is available. For instance, a college student dealing with IBD may be able to talk to a teacher about taking an incomplete and getting the final paper in during the summer or dropping a class and taking less units. Letting people know you are overwhelmed may get you some help or solutions you hadn't thought of yourself.
Care about someone or something else. Turning your attention to someone that needs help can be very therapeutic. When my daughter was 12, she had missed a lot of school and had so much to make up. As an incentive, I promised she could have the kitten she was begging for if she got all her work done. She did and I got her the promised kitty. The HMO should love me. It really made her feel better, it continues to make her feel better and it didn't cost my insurance anything.
A note to parents though, be prepared to take care of the pet yourself if you offer this kind of friend for your child. No matter how much children promise they will feed the pet and clean the litter box, do not hold your breath. And now that she is off in college, guess who cares for the furry darling?
Try volunteering for a CCFA Walk-a-thon. During the holidays, collecting canned food for the local food bank is a worthwhile activity for you and your child and it doesn't shed on your couch.
Back up. I'm not kidding. I typed this whole article and my computer crashed and I had to type it all again. How depressing is that? Put gas in the car, put your keys in the same place every time so that you find them when you are ready to go. Take care of yourself so that you are not in a constant fog of frustration that depresses you.
Keep a sense of humor. It is worth a bag of remedies. Put a smile on your face. Really, there is scientific evidence that changing your face to a smile changes the feelings inside. Watch an old "I Love Lucy" rerun and see if I'm not right.
As always, I wish you happy times and send good thoughts your way. And I wish you a bit of sunshine for those dark days that sometimes plague us all.
Copyright 1996 - 2002 Arlyn Serber