What Is This Heaviness?
John, a 15 year old boy, described an increasing heaviness and sadness that dated from the late summer. He said that he noticed that he just could not do his schoolwork as well as in the past. He had trouble just being with his friends. He noted being very irritable at even the littlest things. He just plain “felt awful.” When asked what he thought was wrong, he just shook his head saying sadly, “I don’t know…I really don’t know”
However, when I described just what a depressive episode is to him, he seemed to brighten on the spot. His head lifted from his downward glance to say that he said he has been so worried and scared. He said he had no idea what was wrong with him, just something dreadful was going on. There was even a small smile as began to understand depression for the very first time.
A Pocket List of Names
The following story was told about a child who had been having a lot of thoughts of hurting himself.
…He and his therapist decided to write down the names and telephone numbers of some people that he could call if he started feeling suicidal again. The child, on his own, put this list in his pocket when he went to school. Having the list in his pocket made him feel less alone and he did not have suicidal thoughts that day.
The following passages are taken from When a Parent is Depressed, a book written for families facing depression. When a Parent is Depressed is published by Little, Brown, and Company and can be purchased at your local bookstore, through the publisher’s website (www.twbookmark.com), or at any major online book retailer.
Symptoms of Depression
Families need to share the knowledge that depression is not “having a bad day” or feeling the normal pain of losing a job or a relationship. It is a diagnosis in which a set constellation of symptoms comes together and is accompanied by an underlying biological disorder. The core symptoms are:
1. A persistent sadness, manifested by feeling down and blue and crying almost every day and/orA persistent loss of pleasure in almost all activities
2. One of these must persist for two weeks or more to meet the formal diagnostic definition of depression, but they often last far longer and they often occur together.
Beyond one or both of these symptoms, depression is an associated set of changes in seven additional areas. These are:
1. Loss of energy and fatigue
2. Diminished appetite or increased appetite accompanied by weight gain or loss of ten pounds or more
3. Changes in sleeping with either excessive sleeping or sleeplessness, often with early morning awakening
4. Periods of agitation or of being slowed down in speech and action
5. Feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive guilt
6. Indecisiveness and inability to make decisions
7. Recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal ideas, wishes to be dead, or an actual suicide attempt (27-28)
Four Key Elements to Getting Treatment
1. Getting help means first realizing that something is wrong, that there are nagging thoughts and feelings and sleep disturbances that won’t go away. It means considering the possibility that depression is present.
2. Getting help also means recognizing that help is available and that treatment works.
3. Obtaining treatment means finding someone who is skilled and experienced in treating depression and who will work with you over time. Such caregivers are often found through the assistance of friends who have wrestled with depression, through family, or through your trusted physician. This caregiver must be able to explain in language you can understand the nature of your specific depression, and what the range of appropriate treatments is. … And then it means that you and this person make a choice. You try an approach and then follow it through to make sure it is working. Unfortunately, it may also mean battling with insurance companies to make sure they pay for the coverage you require.
4. Obtaining help means staying in treatment until the signs and symptoms recede, often a period of months. Sometimes one approach doesn’t work completely and you need to try another one. (49)
Strategies to Sustain Change
1. Continue to put into words what it is you are trying to deal with, and continue to explain it to others.
2. Be clear about what concerns for your children’s and family’s welfare you are trying to address.
3. Decide what needs to be addressed immediately and what can be addressed later.
4. Take action quickly in a crisis, especially getting help for you or your child if depression recurs.
5. Be willing to explore your history in a new way.
6. Go over the conversations and actions that work and use those strategies again. (137)
This passage was taken from When a Parent is Depressed, a book written for families facing depression. When a Parent is Depressed is published by Little, Brown, and Company and can be purchased at your local bookstore, through the publisher’s website (www.twbookmark.com), or at any major online book retailer.