Depression: An Outsider Looks Inward

Depression: An Outsider Looks Inward

Depression: An Outsider Looks Inward

Share
No
Depression Sarah Zabel

My friend’s phone call left me stunned and shaken. She had just been released from the hospital, where she had been admitted for suicidal ideation. “Suicidal ideation” was an unfamiliar term to me, but I could easily figure what it meant. Carolyn had been grieving a loss, but I had no idea that she had become depressed and suicidal. For me, Carolyn, and her family, it was the beginning of a long journey in coming to understand depression and so many of the other conditions that ride at its side.

Over the next 10 years, Carolyn would take a variety of medications for her depression and anxiety while undergoing psychotherapy. Though it all helped, it was not enough to ward off the suicidal ideation, which progressed to suicide attempts. Finally, after her third attempt, she was persuaded to try electroconvulsive therapy, which banished the suicide attempts for many years. But she wasn’t “cured.” She wasn’t restored to the Carolyn I knew.

Along with her family and other friends, I saw what she was going through but felt helpless to intervene. I needed to learn more about this illness, this depression. Two years ago, I retired from the US Air Force and set myself the goal of understanding, and then explaining to others, what depression is and how it is treated. My efforts finally became a book about the science of depression. 

It was a journey full of surprises to me, an outsider. For example:

- I did not realize the degree to which physical – somatic – symptoms are involved in depression, often in contradictory ways. Most people with depression either can’t sleep, or sleep too much. They can’t eat, or eat too much. Other aspects of the body are involved as well. Carolyn usually couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, and had a noticeably slowed speech pattern.

- Despite the prominent suicidality of Carolyn’s illness, suicide is not a regular progression of depression. The two have a different neurobiology. Different inheritance, and affect demographic groups differently. There is significant overlap though: about 60 percent of the people who die by suicide do so while in a major depressive episode, from unipolar or bipolar depression. 

- It is startling the degree to which exposure to the natural world shapes the brain’s development through early life, and then continues to affect mental health throughout one’s existence. Early exposure to microbial organisms guides development of the immune system and stress reactivity. Diet, sleep, and exposure to daylight affect mental health in the present day.

- Though there is a great deal yet to be discovered about how the brain works in illness and in health, there have been remarkable advances, many in the last two decades. Physicians have a greater repertoire of treatment options now, founded in a better understanding of how depression works. 

What I learned in this journey is empowering, for myself and for Carolyn. I am happy to say that today she is thriving. And yet I can never be completely comfortable; depression is a tenacious illness, and it can never be disregarded. I am increasingly confident, however, that it can be managed… that people like Carolyn can life a full and happy life.
 

Use of Website Blog Commenting

Use of Website Blog Commenting

ADAA provides this Website blogs for the benefit of its members and the public. The content, view and opinions published in Blogs written by our personnel or contributors – or from links or posts on the Website from other sources - belong solely to their respective authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of ADAA, its members, management or employees. Any comments or opinions expressed are those of their respective contributors only. Please remember that the open and real-time nature of the comments posted to these venues makes it is impossible for ADAA to confirm the validity of any content posted, and though we reserve the right to review and edit or delete any such comment, we do not guarantee that we will monitor or review it. As such, we are not responsible for any messages posted or the consequences of following any advice offered within such posts. If you find any posts in these posts/comments to be offensive, inaccurate or objectionable, please contact us via email at [email protected] and reference the relevant content. If we determine that removal of a post or posts is necessary, we will make reasonable efforts to do so in a timely manner.

ADAA expressly disclaims responsibility for and liabilities resulting from, any information or communications from and between users of ADAA’s blog post commenting features. Users acknowledge and agree that they may be individually liable for anything they communicate using ADAA’s blogs, including but not limited to defamatory, discriminatory, false or unauthorized information. Users are cautioned that they are responsible for complying with the requirements of applicable copyright and trademark laws and regulations. By submitting a response, comment or content, you agree that such submission is non-confidential for all purposes. Any submission to this Website will be deemed and remain the property of ADAA.

The ADAA blogs are forums for individuals to share their opinions, experiences and thoughts related to mental illness. ADAA wants to ensure the integrity of this service and therefore, use of this service is limited to participants who agree to adhere to the following guidelines:

1. Refrain from transmitting any message, information, data, or text that is unlawful, threatening, abusive, harassing, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, that may be invasive of another 's privacy, hateful, or bashing communications - especially those aimed at gender, race, color, sexual orientation, national origin, religious views or disability.

Please note that there is a review process whereby all comments posted to blog posts and webinars are reviewed by ADAA staff to determine appropriateness before comments are posted. ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit a post containing offensive material as defined by ADAA.

ADAA reserves the right to remove or edit posts that contain explicit, obscene, offensive, or vulgar language. Similarly, posts that contain any graphic files will be removed immediately upon notice.

2. Refrain from posting or transmitting any unsolicited, promotional materials, "junk mail," "spam," "chain mail," "pyramid schemes" or any other form of solicitation. ADAA reserves the right to delete these posts immediately upon notice.

3. ADAA invites and encourages a healthy exchange of opinions. If you disagree with a participant 's post or opinion and wish to challenge it, do so with respect. The real objective of the ADAA blog post commenting function is to promote discussion and understanding, not to convince others that your opinion is "right." Name calling, insults, and personal attacks are not appropriate and will not be tolerated. ADAA will remove these posts immediately upon notice.

4. ADAA promotes privacy and encourages participants to keep personal information such as address and telephone number from being posted. Similarly, do not ask for personal information from other participants. Any comments that ask for telephone, address, e-mail, surveys and research studies will not be approved for posting.

5. Participants should be aware that the opinions, beliefs and statements on blog posts do not necessarily represent the opinions and beliefs of ADAA. Participants also agree that ADAA is not to be held liable for any loss or injury caused, in whole or in part, by sponsorship of blog post commenting. Participants also agree that ADAA reserves the right to report any suspicions of harm to self or others as evidenced by participant posts.

RESOURCES AND NEWS
Evidence-based Tips & Strategies from our Member Experts
RELATED ARTICLES
Block reference
TAKING ACTION
Through years of sharing one anxiety-ridden saga after another, we’ve come to learn that, though…

Advertisement