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"The Blues": Not Just a State of Mind

Written by: Michael S. True, M.Ed

This article is copy protected and should only be reproduced by permission of the author. For information contact me at: .

     One of the most unrelenting and vicious side-affects of being isolated by age or disability is loneliness and despair. "The blues", that constant feeling that you are "not in control of your life", you cannot be a part of the "real world", or you have no one to turn to for help, can creep in like a night fog and take you down like an anchor pulling you underwater.

     Quiet desperation is no stranger to hundreds of thousands of individuals in all walks of life. It often comes in times of change. You have lost your job, you are homebound due to illness or injury, you have lost someone to death, you must depend on others to care for you, you cannot be a part of the mainstream of life due to your personal situation or limitations.

     In the midst of this isolation you may begin to feel like "there is no way out." There is nothing you can do to fix or change your life. You come to believe that no one "out there" cares about you or your problems. There is no hope for the future, no reason to believe that anything will ever get any better.

     Eating and sleeping patterns are often the first signs of anxiety and depression. Your mind goes over and over the same thoughts, hour after hour, then day after day. You may begin eating more or stop eating at all. You may wake at three in the morning or have extreme difficulty in falling asleep at night. You may sleep all day and night to escape the feelings that surround you. You may weep, or at least, feel like crying all the time. Or you may be angry and irritable without cause.

     Everyone is prone to depression. It is a human emotion. When a friend moves away, when we don't get that promotion at work, when significant life changes throw us for a loop, we get depressed. The mind goes into a sort of hibernation. Thinking about our daily routine takes a back seat to dwelling on how "impossible" our situation is. We often isolate ourselves and reflect only on the things that have made us sad or lonely.

Normally, during these periods, people seek out a person, who is close to them, a person with whom they can confide their innermost feelings. This could be a relative, a friend, a minister, a psychologist, a councilor, or our Higher Power(s). We seek comfort. We ask for advice, direction, and sometimes a shoulder to cry on.

The duration of normal depression can go on for days or weeks. Severe chronic depression can last months, even years!

     Often, people who know a person with depression sympathize for a short period of time. Then, they begin to get annoyed with the ongoing complaints and abnormal behavior. Often, when those close to that individual sense that there is nothing they can do to solve this mysterious condition, they tend to shy away from the person. They begin to ignore the person's need for support. This, in turn, leads to more despair and isolation for the sufferer.

     I cannot begin to describe what goes on in the minds of those who experience deep depression. It is like living a never-ending nightmare. The sun never shines and tomorrow never brings a better day. Thoughts of death as a way out become more and more frequent.

     The lucky ones do seek out and get help. One or more theraputic, medicinal, or holistic interventions may be able to alter the brain's chemistry and reduce the anxiety of this debilitating condition. Much more is known now about this condition than ever before. However, there is no one true cure.

     With the variety of medications available, often doctors can only attempt a trial and error approach to treatment. Different medications have different effects on those suffering from severe depression. Side effects may include: dry mouth, significant weight gain, heart problems, and sexual dysfunction, to name but a few. The need for ongoing adjustments and or changes in what is being prescribed is not uncommon. Second and third opinions can vary significantly in approaches to treatment, as well. Patience is very important during this time. A successful treatment can mean the difference between night and day; between disability and ability.

     Some people don't want to be labeled as being "sick" with depression. They may choose to avoid seeking out help altogether. They may not respond immediately to treatment and give up on it right away. Still others may succumb to the temptation to take more than their prescribed dose(s) of a medication or "self-medicate" and end up doing more harm than good.

     I don't want to paint a picture of hopelessness for those who live with this condition. If you, or someone you know, is in the midst of this type of crisis, the more understanding you have of the illness, the more you will be able to deal with it.

     First, and foremost, I want to convey a message of hope for those involved. You are not alone. You must treat ongoing feelings of despair as something akin to the flu or the measles. Seek advice from those you trust. Get information, (it is even available over the Internet), about the condition and possible avenues of treatment. When it gets to the point that committing suicide or venting your inner anger on others begins entering your mind, take control. Speak to a doctor, a counselor, or call a help hotline or the emergency room at your local hospital. Do not concern yourself with how others will see you or how much it will cost. Going without intervention, in the long run will only end in tragedy for yourself and those around you. Think about your family, your loved ones. You are worth something to them, and even more importantly, you are valuable as a human being. You have as much right to be a part of this world and its history, as do the kings and presidents.

     I cannot stress enough how important it is to connect with someone. Communicating with others brings strength and a sense of direction. We are social beings and this is a priority for our survival. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain.

     For those who are aware of an individual's inner struggle with depression, I also wish to convey a message. Whether you are a family member, a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, or just an acquaintance, you can mean the difference between life and death. Even if you don't know what to do yourself, talk to others who may be able to intervene. This is not sticking your nose into someone else's business. Would you think that this were the case if you were the witness to a car accident and had a cell phone to call for help? No, you would call 911! This situation is no different. You personally may be able to provide encouragement and support. This is an important first step. But even this may only be "first aid". If the depression continues you too, can contact a help line or medical person for further assistance.

     Statistics show that the winter months are a higher risk period for those experiencing severe depression. Be aware of your own mental condition and that of those around you. Communicate, share your awareness of your own or the apparent conditions of others with professionals and people you trust. Don't assume that these "blues" will just go away. Seek help. Depression can be conquered. Life is worth the living!

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