|"My Depression" water photo colorized, 2009|
Yesterday I blogged about being adamantly opposed to my doctor’s suggestion that I was depressed, despite the fact that I had several symptoms that fit the description for depression quite well. Regardless, I refused to accept it, on the grounds that my symptoms were the result of horrific physical pain, rather than “a condition of mental disturbance” as “Dictionary.com” defines it.
Depression, did not, and still does not fit well. There needs to be a different classification of depression or depression-like symptoms that arise from severe pain. It remains an ongoing concern within the pain community which struggles to receive good care, and is one of the reasons that the recently disbanded “American Pain Foundation” (which existed to advocate for pain initiatives at the state and federal level) note on their now defunct website when referring to their demise, "...the current climate towards improving the plight of people with pain in the US continues to be precarious and hostile.”
I have helped dozens of people get good care.
Here are 4 things everyone should do at the very least:
1. 1 - See yourself the “customer” who is seeking the best care possible, rather than a “patient” who behaves passively, and is grateful for whatever tiny bit of time or measley morsel of help he can receive from doctors. (But always, always treat others the way you want to be treated--with respect and integrity!)
2. 2 - Become knowledgeable about your illness, research and treatment options.
3. 3 - Prepare for appointments--write down your questions; ask the doctor questions about what he/she is writing down and for summaries of his/her findings and treatment suggestions. (For example, I learned, by asking my doctors, how they cannot prescribe any medication without a diagnosis stipulated in your record to back it up.)
4 - 4 - Keep your own records to manage your care.
(sorry, don't know why I can't get this box to look good! )
I would have liked to have fought the depression label,
but my body didn’t cooperate.More about that further down.
Depression as “sin”. Undeniably, social stigmas against people who are depressed abound. For example, just a few days ago, Mark Dayton, a Minnesota gubernatorial candidate, revealed that he has been dealing with depression throughout his adult life. As I write this, political analysts are forecasting the end of his political campaign. We seem to think there is something inherently “weak” or “unreliable” about a person who has depression. And, although we might not even realize it, we believe that people with depression should be able to “do something” about it.
Church folks tend to reflect this same stigma--we just use different words. In churches, it seems our prevailing attitudes have been that depression is "sin" that can be overcome through intentionally pursuing God. Having heard many prayers for people who have depression, they usually sound very much like this:
“We pray that (name’s) downcast spirit will
seek the joy of the Lord to be his/her strength.”
Just like outside the Church, Christians seem to believe the person who is depressed should be able to “do something” about it--this time “seeking the joy of the Lord”. Before I was faced with my own depression, I believed this too, even though it is not what the bible teaches.
Okay, back to me…
I went along living out my life with pain and the varied depression-like symptoms, for many more months after refusing my doctor’s depression diagnosis. Then something happened…like it usually does.
I began to wake up feeling very weighted down--like my feet were encased in cement blocks, and as though someone had draped a lead blanket over my chest.--like the ones they lay on top of you at the dentist office when you get an x-ray. As the day progressed, I would gradually feel better, yet, each morning the heaviness reappeared. I hoped it would get better on its own, so I didn't tell anyone about it...
...until God made me deal with it after a few weeks. A good friend I'll call "Meg" brought over our favorite Panera salads for lunch, and promptly told me that I looked terrible. (It’s good to have friends who love you enough to be real--I mean that.) Being with her released something inside of me and soon I was blubbering all over my chicken salad about the weighted down feeling and much more--how I felt I was missing out on life, and how ashamed I felt about the apparent weakness of my faith when God was so good to me, how pain had somehow changed the chemical functioning of my brain, etc… Meg allowed me my tears, before she said in her no-nonsense kind of way,
“You can call this whatever might make you feel more comfortable, Judi, but the truth is, you have depression. No doubt about it. Yes, pain has caused it, but, that doesn’t change the fact. You have tried to make it something else…a new form of depression, or a faith issue. Neither is relevant. What is, is that you've got it and it must be treated."
You know how it is when the right words spoken at the right time seem to sweep away all your arguments and doubts? That’s what Meg’s words did for me.
Meg had four more words on the subject: “Call your doctor now.”
|This is how I felt about calling my doctor!|
And she wasn't going to leave me alone until I did so.
To be continued… (That’s right--I’m not finished yet!)
Depressed, but still clinging to Hope!