Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rainy Days and Mondays

What I've got they used to call the blues
Nothin' is really wrong
Feelin' like I don't belong
Walkin' around
Some kind of lonely clown

Karen Carpenter sang how Rainy Days and Mondays always got her down. As we are all sadly aware, Karen’s “blues” were far more serious than simply bemoaning a day of crappy weather or that Monday morning chaotic feeling we sometimes experience at the start of a work week.

Something was really wrong with Karen Carpenter, even if she articulated it as “nothin’”.

Karen Carpenter is singing about depression. Karen passed away on February 4, 1983 from complications due to her struggle with anorexia nervosa, a relatively little understood illness at the time of which depression is a strong underlying component.

It is now 2008. It's twenty-five years later and tremendous progress has been made in the understanding and treatment of many mental illnesses, depression included, and yet so many myths about depression are still in existence. The problem with these myths is that they imply that somehow depressed people are just whiny or worse, weak and that prevents people from seeking treatment.

Depression is not a weakness. It is a serious medical illness that can happen to anybody and it can be treated.

Talkin' to myself and feelin' old
Sometimes I'd like to quit
Nothing ever seems to fit
Hangin' around
Nothing to do but frown

It’s hard to imagine the depths of sadness, hopelessness and despair that accompanies depression if you have been fortunate enough not to have experienced it. It rips you of your personality, it strips you of enjoying anything and it fills your mind with desperate, terrible and horrifying thoughts.

It’s feeling stuck in a deep hole with no way out and not having enough energy to get out even if someone tossed a ladder down to you. It’s a feeling of hopelessness that just voids you of everything that you were, are or had ever hoped to be.

As if being stuck in a hole alone isn’t bad enough, just to torture you further, there’s a window in this hole. A window where you can watch everyone going about their lives seemingly unaware and uncaring of the pain you are experiencing. Seeing people laughing and smiling and going about their day with other people will make you weep, triggering a sense of loneliness and isolation that is indescribable. Everything, even good things, somehow manage to trigger and tangle themselves around the worst of memories. The monster has taken over.

It is ugly, it is painful and it can totally be treated.

Common depression symptoms include:

• Persistent sad, anxious or "empty" feelings
• Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
• Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
• Irritability, restlessness
• Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex
• Fatigue and decreased energy
• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
• Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
• Overeating, or appetite loss
• Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment

If you or someone you love is dealing with the above symptoms, get help. Call the doctor and get an appointment to discuss options including therapy and/or medication if necessary.

If you (or someone) is feeling suicidal, get help immediately. Get to the emergency room, call 911 or call 1-800-SUICIDE, where live counselors are available 24/7 to help those in immediate distress.

There is hope and there are people who care. Don’t surrender to the depression monster. Gather up every bit of strength you have left and start kicking it in the ass. You can win. I did it, I've known a lot of people who've done it and you can, too.

October 5-11 is National Mental Illness Awareness Week. I am hoping that by getting personal stories and information out there, people will see that mental illness is not something to feel shameful, hopeless, embarrassed about and to seek the help that they need. I am welcoming guest bloggers ,so if you’d like to contribute a post or have me link to a post you’ve already written, please just let me know.


This Eclectic Life said...

Excellent, my friend. So many people deal with depression and keep it hidden. Sometimes, they refuse to recognize it, altogether. I try to face it head on, but there are times that I need help. I'm glad you are getting the work out to people.

The Rock Chick said...

Shelly: thanks!!! If you want to write something about it, I'd be honored to have you as a guest blogger.

Damien said...

Great post. Sorry it took me so long to find it! I love your voice here, reassuring and informative. Folks die every day without a voice like that.

pjazzypar said...

I was a big fan of Karen Carpenter. She was an comparable talent who was plague by vicious bouts of depression and of course anorexia nervosa. It is hard to believe that she has been gone for a quarter of a century. Medicine has advanced since that time and much more is known about eating disorders. Thanks for sharing your life so openly and honestly. I believe you help relieve some of shame and guilt felt by those who might be suffering with mental disorders. Keep rockin' Rock Chick!

Dustin said...

I can relate.

I've been there, too. The really difficult thing for me when I was going through it was realizing that I wasn't weak. Realizing that seeking help was a good thing, not a sign of giving in to the weakness.

What also needs to be realized is that just talking about it once or just to a friend is sometimes not enough. Sometimes you need to talk about it frequently and with someone who is trained to follow your thoughts and help you realize where you need to go with it.

Great post, Jessica!

The Rock Chick said...

Damien: thank you! I'm hoping people will hear it!

pjazzy: I loved Karen Carpenter, too. Her voice was so distinct and she could connect with a song like few can. Yes, medicine has advanced considerably with depression and eating disorders since Karen's time. I hope I can, pjazzy!

Dustin: that "weak" stigma that's out there just kills me. Nobody thinks anyone's weak if their heart, kidneys or liver isn't functioning correctly, but if the brain isn't, it's a different story. Thank you for writing what you did!

Crystal said...

Depression and anxiety disorders are both dirty beasts I wish I never knew.

The Rock Chick said...

Crystal: me too!