Sunday, August 09, 2009

Things That Make You Go ...Huh???

I usually let these kinds of ideas wash over me, but this article, "Depression is Not an Illness" is so draconian, and, from my experience, mistaken that I had to respond.

The writer claims to be a retired , licenced psychologist. I worry others will read his post and feel their illness is their fault, or that somehow they are to blame for being depressed. I find it hard to believe that a person could be in the field of helping others...especially as a psychologist, and be so judgemental and mistaken in their understanding of a very difficult to deal with mental illness. My experience has always been that the major depression always shows up before all the activities he suggest cause depression show up/or disappear. My depression leads to my eating poorly, isolating, becoming inactive etc. Not the other way around.

This was my comment to him about his article...long-winded, but in support of all who struggle with MDD (or any other mental illness, I needed to say what I said...

"[My comment on his site...]
I am actually flabbergasted by this post. Not sure if it is satire (I hope so) or for real. I hope you post my response so others like me do not feel blamed for not relieving and avoiding their MDD. In case you don't I am going to post it on my website.

I struggle with MDD. I have had numerous clearly defined episodes throughout my life. Until this current episode I was the epitome of what you suggest makes a person happy, yet I still fell into severe and often lengthy depressive episodes:
good nutrition
- fresh air [I routinely biked, skied, swam outdoors and indoors, hiked, camped, canoed, gardened, walked everywhere was outside much of the time]
- sunshine.[.see above]
- physical activity[...ditto]
- purposeful activity[...worked(loved it), went to school(really, really loved it), danced, played music, created art, wrote, helped others]
- good relationships, [beautiful friendships, very open, nothing we could, and did not talk about.]

For me severe depression really did just pop out of nowhere. There was nothing wrong with my life during these episodes...I had a great life. It was the depression that stopped me in my tracks, not the other way around.

When you wrote, "When things are going well in our lives, we feel good"...I understood immediately that you misunderstand MDD. The sad thing about MDD is that even if things are going well this illness destroys a person's ability to feel good.

I find it difficult to understand how you treat people with depression when you place so much distance and dogma between yourself and your patients. When you say,

"Many of these individuals lived on a diet of soda pop [I can count on my hands the number of sodas I have drank in the last 5 years], cigarettes[don't smoke], and salami sandwiches[I think the last salami sandwich I ate was in high school...I'm 44]. Others drank enormous quantities of alcohol [I used to drink many other happy people I know...until I got as severely depressed as I am now. In which case it drove me to drink more to try to help my symptoms]. Few ate vegetables regularly[ was did well here]. Many stayed indoors almost all the time [see my above list of favourite and common activities]. Physical activity was almost always minimal [ditto]. Purposeful activity – i.e. activity directed towards some kind of goal – was seldom present [university? , and good honest, open relationships almost non-existent...[great friendships?]...

...Chronically depressed people, however,are individuals who have been neglecting these areas for years. They spend the vast majority of their lives indoors, watching television and eating snack food. They are often over-weight, have no goals other than the next TV show, and although they may have many acquaintances, they do not share their concerns and worries in an open and honest manner" struck me that you believe very strongly that "we"are so very different from you. We just don't try hard enough to be happy. If only "we" would try harder, "we" could be as happy as "you".

Have you ever really worked with someone with clinical depression? Contrary to your statement that we are indoorsy, crappy food eating, inactive, solitary, lazy, unfocused, fat, slobs.. [actually slob is my's how i sense we seem to you) people with MDD are a wide range of people...some of us even active, outdoorsy, friendly and friend supporting, anti-t.v., fit and interested and interesting people.

It becomes clear you have never understood what it is to be depressed when you state, "Depression or despondency is not as acute a sensation as pain". In the past I broke both my elbows at the same time, had a severe case of CMV related hepatitis that required hospitalization, have broken my leg, my ankle, my wrist, had three concussions, was injured in a car accident, had a doctor drill into my leg bone for bone marrow, basically have suffered a lot of physical pain.

NOTHING is as painful as severe and chronic MDD. When I broke my elbows I had just come out of the hospital after having ECT. For the first time in years I felt mentally well. I REFUSED any pain medication for my physical pain, for fear that my psychic pain would recur. NOTHING hurts like mental pain...NOTHING.


platensimycin said...

Just came across your blog.

Thanks for sharing your stories and thoughts with us :)

The Girl said...

That article made me so angry, too. This person should not be allowed to claim any kind of qualifications if he is going to spout this garbage and hurt so many people who are already suffering so much.
Yours was a great letter - well done. I hope things improve for you soon.

The girl with the flour in her hair said...

Well written rebuttal. The kind of ignorance that article spouts sets us back decades. It's unfortunate that in this day and age, people still feel like that.

I recently wrote a small article on depression:

If you have a second, check it out!

Aqua said...

Platensimycin...thanks for visiting. I tried to visit your blogs, but sadly they are closed to the public. I really must go back and read more about platensimycin though. You have peaked my interest.

The Girl...thanks I agree.

The Girl with the Flour in Her Hair (Great name BTW)..I read your article you are a great writer and it sounds like a beautiful and loving Mom too. Irritability is the worst symptom. The only thing that helps me with that is mood stabilizers. Epival really helped, but I'm on Tegretol now and it helps pretty well too.

Thanks for the comments,

Shahnawaz said...

Hi Aqua, I love your blog! I also commented on the "Depression is not an illness" post and I hope Dr. Hickey will take notice.

I think you have a lot of insight into your illness and are doing a good thing here. I hope you don't mind that I used you on my newly started blog, you can see why here: If you're not comfortable with being on there, I can take it off (no one reads it as of yet anyway haha).

munkyspooker said...

Aqua: First let me say your blog is a pleasure to read. Your writing is personal, candid, and seemingly well-thought-out. Major kudos to you.

I have read the article you mentioned in this post, as well as all of the other articles on the offending website. It seems to me the author is merely reaching out to anger the mental health community as a way to attack the APA, the establishment of the DSM, and drug companies - they're all mentioned in varying degrees in nearly every post of his. I'd take his angry, one-sided approach to be worth nothing more than a grain of sand - and a crappy grain at that.

Keep your head up, and "don't let the bastards get you down."


Anonymous said...

I often think that,(I could be wrong) except for an exceptional few, most people don't understand depression unless they have suffered with it themselves.

I read the article plus a few others and also can't believe what he is saying. I'm glad you were able to reply to it in a clear and well laid out manner. Take care.