Talking about Depression

 
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Q: My doctor increased my antidepressant dose. This has resulted in side effects, such as a dry mouth and tingling in my hands. My family want me to stop taking the medication and counselling. If it hadn’t been for the pills, I might have done something to harm myself. I don’t want to scare them but I wish they would stop putting pressure on me. Life is difficult enough as it is.

A: There are still many misconceptions about depression in the community. Many people—especially those who have never suffered from depression—think it is simply a matter of “pulling yourself together.” They have no idea of the severe emotional pain that depression can cause, so much so that people feel desperate enough to contemplate suicide.

It is hard to talk about depression in some families. They find it difficult to talk about feelings, especially negative ones. Secrets can flourish simply because family members do not consider it appropriate to talk about certain things.

It is impossible for family members to support one another if they do not know each other’s struggles. They may only be able to give you the support you need when they know the extent of the problem you are facing. Choose a time to speak to them, individually or together, when there are no distractions.

Perhaps it would help you to write what you want to say to them beforehand but it is important they realise that you are involved in a life-anddeath struggle. Be as unemotional as possible, to prevent them from becoming overwhelmed by emotion. But you need to say enough to get the message across. To deal with depression, you need the support of your family.

Try to think of some positive ways they can support you and share these ideas with them.

The best treatment for a major depressive episode is a combination of medication and counselling. I would urge you not to give up on either of these things. Not only does the chemical balance in your brain—a very real thing—need to be rectified but your thought patterns could also benefit from change. Pessimistic people view problems as pervasive, permanent and personal. They are more likely to develop depression than optimists. To change the way one thinks takes time and practice but it can be done. Don’t give up.