Depression the “Invisible Illness”

People are so quick to judge Robin Williams for his suicide, and others who have done the same.  Calling them cowards, or selfish.

Depression is very hard to understand if you have never been depressed.  Some people have had  days where they find themselves at a crossroads in their lives, unsure of what to do next in order to excel.  It feels a little overwhelming, and can easily bring you down.  There have been times when a loved one dies, and you are drowning in sadness.  You feel like there is nothing that will ever ease that pain.

I won’t stomp on those feelings, but they are not depression.  People like to say that they’re depressed.  Depression is easily confused with grief or frustration.  They both make you feel bad/sad.  Unless you’ve suffered from it first hand, then you realize that they are nothing alike at all.  Depression is an illness.  It’s a problem that won’t just “go away”.  Not even over time.

Depression is when you’re walking into work on a sunny day, and you’re observing the beautiful blue sky, but you feel nothing.  In fact you feel a little resentful.  You begin to realize that you are going to be sitting in at your desk for the next 8 hours, on sunny days like this for the next 10-20 years at some job or another.  A heavy weight pushes down inside you, realizing this thought.  What is the point?  What is the point of all of this?  Why do we spend all of our time here on this Earth doing things that we don’t want to do, just so that we can spend a few hours in our apartment/home or eat at a nice restaurant?  And in thinking those thoughts, you realize that there is no point.  That you might as well be dead.

Depression is remembering that you used to love going to the park on the weekend.  That you used to love to paint.  But now, you see nothing on a happy, sunny day.  The canvas is blank, and no images form in your mind.  Your brain is an empty space of nothingness that wants to do nothing.

Depression is being a famous actor, known for bringing comedy gold into our households.  Making everyone smile, but having no one really know your secret demons.  Depression is facing addiction, and struggling to escape its gnarled grasp.

Depression is feeling unloved, or unwanted by your family.  Depression is feeling like a failure over and over again.  Depression is watching a car drive by yours on your commute home from work, and internally wishing that they might crash into you.

Depression is hoping that you don’t wake up tomorrow morning, and when you do, barely having the strength to pull yourself out of bed.

Depression is painful, not only mentally but physically.  Your entire body aches, and you are overcome with fatigue.

I’ve suffered from depression my entire life since I was a teen.  For some of us, it’s ingrained in our genes.  For others, its brought on by an event that just won’t let us be.

Depression makes other people feel uncomfortable.  People like to pretend that depression is something that you can overpower if you have the determination.  That if you pretend that it isn’t there, then it will just go away.  Or that if you’ll just “try” and be happy, then you eventually will be.

Depression is a series of physical/psychological problems within a persons body.

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Some choose to treat their depression with medication.  Some choose therapy.  Some need that medication in order to even handle therapy.

I am of the personal belief that medication only masks the symptoms, and that in order to help you cope with (notice I didn’t say overcome) your depression, you need to take part in therapy as well.  I feel like therapy is really the only way to get to the root of the problems that you’re dealing with.  A therapist will tell you how to manage your symptoms, and how to recognize them when they appear.  They will give you the tools to help you pull yourself from that deep hole, and find a way to eventually be happy.

Anytime someone knocks therapy, saying something along these lines, I want to smack them upside the head for their ignorance:

“I don’t need anyone to pscyho-analyze me!”

“I am NOT going to see a shrink!”

“I just need to be left alone.  I don’t need any help!”

Sorry folks, but depression is something you just CAN’T do alone.  The only reason I am alive today is because of my therapist and my network of people who care about me.  I can say with honesty that had I not had friends and family push me into therapy during college, I would be dead.

That might sound dramatic, but it is the honest truth and I am not ashamed to admit it.  I am smart enough to know now that I have a disease, and that I will deal with it my entire life.  I can be happy today because I went to therapy, and learned the tools I desperately needed to survive.  I know how to handle my symptoms without the use of medication because I know what is causing them now.  I know now what brings on my depression, and I also have close family and friends who refuse to let me wallow.  But sometimes, even with family and friends it doesn’t help.

Don’t be so quick to judge those who choose the suicide route.  Yes, you have every right to be furious with them.  Yes, you have every right to be sad.

But you weren’t living their life.  You didn’t know the thoughts they were thinking.  You didn’t have to deal with their personal struggles every day.  Don’t call them cowards.  It is their life.  They are the only ones who have to live that life.  Not you.  Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone suicide.  I am just not so quick to judge having been through depression myself.

I like to say that everyone has a different breaking point.  Some people crumble at the smallest things, and others take enormous loads of stress before they finally crack.  Everyone is different.  What might seem like the end of the world to you, might be a “been there, done that” situation for someone else.  Over time, your breaking point with grow with experience.

When you are in that place, everything around you is like a creeping black void of nothing.  It is like you’re on the edge of a cliff, and a dark monster is grabbing you by the heels, dragging you down.  It would be much easier to just let go and free fall straight into the bottom.

If you’re reading this, and don’t understand it, then try to realize now that you cannot fathom what depression feels like.  And thus, have no place to judge those that do.  Make a conscious effort to be kind and compassionate for the suffering of others.  BE that person who will try and make a difference in a persons life who you know is suffering.

If you know someone who is suffering from depression, I ask you to do the following things.

1.  Talk to them.  Let them know that you are there to listen if they need you.

2.  Offer to help them get help.

3.  Actually listen if they offer up their feelings.

4.  Be attentive, and take any threats they make against themselves seriously.  Even if it sounds like they are joking.

5.  If your friend is threatening suicide, call the police to intervene.  Or talk to their family to have an intervention before anything drastic happens.

6.  NEVER try to play down their feelings, act like they’re crazy, or that they can just get through this on their own.

Keep in mind that those who are depressed enough to hurt themselves will not likely tell you.  Those that cut themselves or do things that seem to beg for attention are crying out for your help.  Take this just as seriously.

Depression isn’t a disease that just “goes away”, but you can help someone suffering know that they’re not alone.

Will you be that person?  Or will you choose to be the jerk that judges those that are truly suffering.  If you suffer from depression, I seriously hope you aren’t judgmental.  Just because you survived, doesn’t mean that everyone is as strong as you.

Depression isn’t weakness.  Eventually people will realize that.

Robin Williams, rest in peace.  I’m going to miss the laughs.

Gift_Aladdin

 

Why I Don’t WebMD

The vast majority of people with an internet connection are familiar with WebMD.com; a health website that covers a variety of health related issues. It also has a nifty “Symptom Checker” that you can use to self diagnose yourself with all kinds of fun diseases.

I used to be obsessed with this website. At times when I’ve done “research” on health related topics, I’m often brought back to this website. When I find articles on WebMD, my first thought is,

“Oh! It’s on WebMD! It must be legitimate.”

Not always the case. Plenty of studies that I’ve found on WebMD are just one time studies done without any other kind of follow up study to prove the results.

Here’s why I don’t WebMD for my health anymore.

 

It makes me crazy.

 

End of story. It literally turns me into a hypochondriac lunatic who apparently has cancer no matter what is going on with me.

This brings me to the subject of a new illness that I call “Information Induced Hypochondria”. Lots of people suffer from this problem, and I guess it’s not technically anyone’s fault.

We have this ability to Google to our hearts content about literally everything. Want to know how far it is to the moon?   How many weeks in a trimester? Why my poop is green? Is there really such a thing as German Dungeon Porn? (Cards Against Humanity certainly thinks so.)

We have flown headlong into an illness that most don’t even realize we’ve developed with our ability to instantly self gratify at the click of a button.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the internet with my medical troubles. All varying reasons. Potential pregnancy symptoms, medication combinations and whether they were safe, side effects of medications, etc…

And don’t get me started on WebMD. One time I had terrible gas for days. I mean like…rank. Frequent. Clear the room bad. (Everybody farts.  Everybody also poops if you’re in denial ladies.) But needless to say I was just a wee bit concerned that I had some terrible parasite or intestinal bug thing. So I went to WebMD. It didn’t ask me things like “What have you eaten lately?” Or “When was the last time you pooped?” Or “How much fiber have you been consuming?”

No it went straight to CANCER. I had colon cancer. Somehow at the ripe old age of 26 I’d developed a serious case of colon cancer, and I knew then that I was going to die of an ass related disease. (Not making light of colon cancer) but I most certainly did not have it.

Several people I know have used the symptom checker to try and self diagnose a problem, only to find out that they too have cancer.

Have hot flashes? Ovarian cancer. Diarrhea? Colon Cancer. Joint pain? Bone cancer. Persistent cough? Lung cancer. Just to name a few.

And sometimes it mixes it up. The symptom checker will give you a variety of things that could possibly be wrong with you, varying from normal issues to serious ones that frighten the crap out of you. Here, let’s test it.

I’ve been trying to go up 22 floors of stairs (technically 44 flights) a least twice a week starting last week for the first time. Also, my right ankle is still kind of sore from tearing a ligament in January so I’ve been putting some weight on my left foot without realizing it. This morning I woke up with a wicked cramp in my left foot, right in the arch. Hurts like hell!

Now, you know and I know that it’s from climbing stairs (and probably not wearing the correct shoes while doing so) but let’s just assume that I’m stupid and have no clue that I should make the connection. Instead of thinking back to what it could be related to, I’ll go ahead and see what the Symptom Checker on WebMD thinks it is.

 

Okay so I’ll start off with putting in my basic information. I censored it for you people at work. 😉 Scandalous!

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So now it’s going to take me to the next step where I’ll tell them what part exactly is bothering me. Easy enough. My foot!

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After that I’m going to tell them what is wrong with my foot. Pain obviously.

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Damn, this must be super legit! They’re getting really detailed about this foot pain I’m having.

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And the verdict? What do I have Dr. Internet?

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What?! What the hell is Sciatica? Peripheral Neuropathy? I’m not even diabetic! How did this happen? My foot might be broken?! I had no idea that I could have broken my foot and not known it! Metatarsablahblah-wha?! WHAT? Holy crap, I’m dying of FOOT. Why did no one tell me I could have such terrible things happen to my feet for not reason at all? What is this world coming to?!!!  Even Multiple Sclerosis is on this list!

Well, maybe it’s not that bad. Let’s see what some of those things are.

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Okay, not too bad. Except that it now thinks that I have some other spine related problem if I have this…

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Nerve problems because of the wrong shoes? That could be it. You know, my husband tells me all the time that my pinky toe looks a little weird because my shoes are pretty tight. That’s probably what it is.  Wait.  Surgery? I might need surgery?

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WHAAAAAAT?! I’ve developed MS?! I’ve watched House, and it never ends well when it’s MS.  Holy crap, this awful disease is going to start in my foot, but eventually I’m going to be all kinds of messed up? I won’t be able to balance or talk right?

I’m doomed. I’m literally doomed.

I might as well not even go see a doctor because, well…I’m doomed.

🙂  We all know I don’t have any of those problems.  The truth is, I have a cramp in my foot.  Just a cramp.  It will be gone in a few days, and maybe even less if I get the hubby to rub my feet.  But if I didn’t know any better?  I might just be freaking the hell out.  And with freaking out comes more Googling to try and self medicate without the aid of a physician.  Just as dangerous.

SERIOUSLY FOLKS. Stop using internet self diagnosing tools. Moral of the story. If you’re not feeling well, and it’s persistent, go to the freaking doctor!

Stop Googling, hoping that someone on Yahoo Answers will tell you what’s wrong with you, or that WebMD will know. The internet is NO substitution for a doctor. And if you don’t have insurance? Walgreens Take Care Clinics are $75 with no insurance. And I’m sure there are other clinics that are free. What are they called?   Oh yeah, Free Clinics.

The body is a mystery. Which is why thousands of medical professionals study the body in order to tell you how it works. They are called physicians.

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I will quote my Gynecologist who called me out on it long ago when I Googled an Endometriosis related issue instead of just asking her.

“Go ahead and confess Katie. You’ll feel better. You weren’t “researching”, you were Googling. Tell me, what medical school did Google go to?”

I know, I know. It’s really hard when you’re feeling like crap and you have to wait until the appointment to find out what the hell is wrong with you.  It’s even worse if you have to wait on test results, but Googling, or self diagnosing via the internet will not make that problem go away any faster. 9 times out of 10 you’re going to need some kind of a prescription anyway that you can’t get from the internet. (Well you could, but probably not legally)

If you think you’re pregnant, you’re not going to be any more or less pregnant if you have to wait a few days to pee in a cup at the doctor’s office. (Or on a stick at home) If you think you broke your foot? You should probably already be IN the doctor’s office getting an x-ray instead of icing your foot at your home computer.

Have I made my point? I think I’ll be staying off of medical websites from now on, or any other self diagnosing websites.

Feel free to continue “researching” via the internet if you want. But I’m probably going to assume that you’re a hypochondriac when you choose a website over a physician.  Or I’ll give you my sympathies on your diagnosis of internet cancer.

 

End rant.  😉

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