If you google “depression and pain” you will likely find research quoting up to 75% of people who live with on-going pain also have clinical depression. Depression seems as likely to follow pain, as tiredness follows a fever. It 's hard to separate one from the other.
…Although, I surely did try to do so…for about three years.
I guess it was about a year after trigeminal neuralgia turned my world upside down, when my general doctor, “Dr. Solomon” (not his real name) first hinted to me that I was showing signs of depressions. I told him outright that this was nonsense. As a matter of fact, my exact words were:
“What are you talking about! I’m about the most non-depressed person I’ve ever known! I’ve never had a depressed day in my whole entire life!”
A few months later I was back in Dr. Solomon’s office seeking help for my insomnia. Leaning back in his chair, he said, “Judi, I believe this is yet again, another symptom of the depression you refuse to accept.” Without another word, he reached into his desk and pulled out a “Depression Assessment Inventory” and stuck it in my face, asking me to check the ones that applied.
I glanced through some of the symptoms on the inventory:
· Persistently sad, anxious, irritable, or "empty" mood
· Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
· Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
· Social isolation
· Insomnia, frequently waking up, or over-sleeping
· Decreased appetite and/or weight loss, or weight gain
· Fatigue, loss of energy
· Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
· Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Rather than making any check-marks, I snickered loudly, while I tossed the inventory on the counter between us. “This doesn’t prove anything, Dr. Solomon. Of course, I can put a check mark beside many of these, because I am in pain! But, if my pain went away tomorrow, so would these symptoms, because I am not depressed. I have a pain issue, not a mental health issue!”
You see, I knew people like me who had developed some kind of pain syndrome and once they allowed the “depression” card to come into play, they soon found themselves in the “mental” health part of health care. I had heard several stories of people being treated as though they were drug-seekers, hypochondriacs or psychosomatics, when, what they had was difficult-to-treat physical pain. I knew I had to be careful.
Dr. Solomon tried to convince me that the label wasn’t important. Instead, he said, the symptoms were what I should focus on, and he believed my symptoms would improve if I took an anti-depressant.
So I countered with this: “Well, if that’s the case, would you consider prescribing an anti-depressant without writing a diagnosis for depression on my chart?”
“No,” he said, sighing. (You know when doctors sigh you are pressing the limits of your doctor/patient relationship!) “Of course not, Judi. I couldn’t justify why I prescribed the medication unless I did.”
Sitting up straight, and refusing to back down, I still pressed on, “Then, forget about it.”
But, there was another reason why I rejected the label of depression so adamantly. I was naïve enough to believe that all depression was "sin" and as such could be overcome by faith. And, sadly, this attitude is one I learned inside church.
…In a short time, things would change. But, it’s too much for this one posting. I’ll have to write more tomorrow. Please come back.
Until tomorrow, Selah (pause and reflect)