Combating Depression

I posted this in Mindfulness-Relaxation and was asked to move it to the main board. This is my first try at such a thing:

I once read a sign in a friend’s office. She had been a Social Worker, had become a minister and therapist for individuals combating substance abuse. Her sign said “If you think you can, you can. If you think you can’t, you can’t.” It was a small reminder that we are in charge of our thoughts and actions and ultimately we are in control of our lives.

If we choose to not be helped, if we become naysayers to suggestions or advice that comes our way, there is no way we will be helped. We do in fact become our own worse enemy. Sometimes depression becomes so overwhelming, we fail to see a positive in anything and want to drag others down as well.

Many members are always asking me how I keep so positive. Well it’s training, as simple as that but as difficult and grueling as teaching our bodies to run a 5K. Here’s my thoughts, please feel free to add:

I was taught to look for the positives in families I worked with and expound on those positives. I learned to do it to myself so I could show others how I did it. I am a believer of practice what you preach. So look for the positives in yourself - are you a good friend, wife, husband, brother, sister, mother, father,child? Do you listen to what others are really saying and not what you think they are? Can you set aside your problems, difficulties and help someone else with theirs? What would you tell yourself if you were someone else with the same behaviors. What advice could you give yourself? Oh, there’s a thousand things or more in which one can identify as a positive in themselves, just start looking. And please share with the group.

Exercise- Duke University did a study a few years back that showed 30 minutes of vigorous exercise three times a week significantly reduced depression. Now I know that vigorous exercise may not be what we are physically able to do, yet. But take a walk around the block or a park if one is close by. Take your dog with you, take an elderly neighbor or a young parent with a baby. I started with my driveway and can now walk around the block! Which leads to…

Socialization. When we get depressed, we find it to be an effort to be with other humans. It tires us, we develop lots of excuses that we begin to take as fact. But research has shown being social helps our brains fight depression. Take it easy at first, go to a library where it is quite, work up to going to a store when it’s not too busy, go out and eat meals with friends or family during slower restaurant hours. Know yourself, if I overdo in a social setting, I lose my words, my tremor gets bad, I find it difficult to concentrate. This doesn’t stop me from putting in the effort and if it gets too bad, we go home. I rest and try something else. Every week I try to add another 5 or 10 minutes to an activity. Because I put in the effort, my friends and family are helping with reminders to keep my sunglasses on, wear a hat, drink some water - simple things that mean a lot.

Volunteer - perhaps you are no longer able to work, perhaps you can volunteer at a soup kitchen, a school to help children with academics, meals on wheels, senior center - can you think of other places?

Eat healthy - I see this over and over again. If your insurance allows, hook up with a dietician or nutritionist. In the mean time change out the junk food snacks for healthy fruits, vegetables, and nuts to name a few. Make sure you are getting enough protein for your brain to heal and stay hydrated so your brain can heal.

Journal - write down the good and the bad. What was happening, what triggered the feeling, how can you control it? Learn what makes you depressed and what makes you happy, focus energies on the positive as you learn to control your triggers.

Goals - set them, long and short. Break down long term goals into many short term goals. There are quite a few goal setters here, if you need help start a discussion. I believe many members can help you break them down into doable steps if you cannot.

Ask for help when needed. Asking for help is a positive, just don’t ask if a friend or family member has just started a project of their own. Write it down
and come back to it when it’s appropriate. Think how you would feel if asked to stop what you are in the middle of. At the same time, if it’s truly imperative that something be done now, don’t hesitate to ask.

Life is really not all about you. Take an active place in life. Be as independent as you can. I really can’t cook by myself anymore. I can still grill with its slower pace. But it does help my partner and my family Sunday suppers if I can help prep, set the table, put food up. Yes I might take a little longer, but it still gets done. And it makes everyone feel good! I also do things my parents can’t do like brush their dog, pick up limbs and twigs (sometimes with help of one of those grabbers), help with the computer. It’s just finding ways to be a little more independent and at the same time being part of a group. What ways do you have?

Sleep - many of us experience insomnia or just the opposite, no energy to wake up. Practice good sleeping habits. Get the eight to ten hours needed in one shot. Try not to take so many naps during the day if you’re not sleeping at night. Now coming out of ICU, I slept a lot. This is part of the healing process. When I overdo it, I need to sleep more. If I find myself staying up too late, I set the alarm for the next morning. I have had to relearn to sleep well. I had a job that I worked some nights, some days and nights and some days. I really didn’t know when I was supposed to sleep. In ICU, I would be up at night mostly and try to sleep during the day. Crazy right!? All those doctors coming in during the day…took me awhile but my circadian rhythms are generally in line with the rest of the majority. Limit caffeine intake. Some of us have to stop caffeine mid day, some can’t have it at all. Any other ideas?

Hygiene - some people who get depressed fail to take care of their hygiene properly. Take that shower or bath, brush your teeth, comb or brush your hair. Put on clean clothes.

Clean the house. This is probably one of the biggest tells of depression after hygiene. Our living space goes to Hades in a hand basket. Not only do we no longer care about ourselves, we don’t care about our homes or vehicles. It’s trying to get the energy just to get up. If you are physically able do an entire room in a day or two. If you’re not physically able, break the room into sections like a piece of pie and do a section a day. Don’t just move the stuff from one section to another! Put things up as you go. Ask the people you live with to pick up after themselves. Dirty laundry? Dirty dishes? While you are working on a room, do a load of laundry, wash the dishes or load the dishwasher. One pretty day in January, I cleaned my little truck. We had weeks of rain and cold. The truck had gotten muddy! And junk everywhere. Took me all day to clean the inside, vacuum, and wash outside. The next week, one of my friends needed to borrow it. I felt good knowing it was clean, and they couldn’t believe how well I’d done. If you can’t bend to do the laundry, have someone build a box to lift them, or help fold and hang up the clothes. Pick up after yourself. Can you imagine coming home from work just to find dirty dishes and trash piled around the person you love?

Numerous therapists have shared with me that if people limited negativity that comes into their life, they would start feeling better. Some ideas are to stop or drastically limit the news, either on television, newspaper, Internet. Limit what you read from the bloody, gory, and sad changing instead to humor. And don’t forget what you watch on television or movie, as well as the type of music you might listen to. We generally keep things PG13 and down. Why? Because R has lots of violence. We try to listen, watch and read those things that are uplifting. This doesn’t always happen, but we will end our day on a good note.

And as this group is all about breath and focus. Don’t forget to practice breathing all the time. If you only try to do it when you need it, it will be very hard. If you practice daily whether you need it or not, it becomes second nature and you will start the minute you feel angst.

And as they said on Bones today -“Sometimes you just have to Dance to the music given to you…Dance to the music that’s playing.”

So the discussion is open - how are ways you fight depression?
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Thought of another thing - limit alcohol and marijuana use. Both are stimulants and depressants. Why would we think a depressant could help us get out of depression?!

Though there are many reasons to feel depressed, I usually don’t. I attribute this partly to a drug I’ve been taking since the early 80s. I am referring to Carbamazepine, or Tegretol, which seems to keep me on an even keel. Originally designed as a psychiatric drug, it has been useful in controlling seizures, which is why it was prescribed for me. Since my aneurysm clipping, the doctors have kept me on this drug. In my experience, there have been no side effects.

David Andrus, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Good news David! Medication is such an individualized treatment, and sometimes requires lots of patience and willingness to be open, staying on it long enough to see if it works, or if one is like me, just keep having the side effects:) Glad your meds work for you, that’s awesome!

Your article hits home in so many ways. Since the clipping 8/17/07, depression has really come down around me. I am on meds, and under clinical care now. Unable to work, unable to finish goals I had in my life made me feel incomplete. Needed to find the new me, it was difficult to say the least. I do follow a lot of your suggestions. But I still find myself falling into that hole, gotten into the habit of pulling myself out, otherwise it gets dark and lonely. No one else is responsible for this, it is mine to do. Your words are a reminder of how to recover myself. If you don’t mind, I’m going to print this and keep it close at hand for a reminder OD whatTO DO not to fall into that hole. Thank you so much for your insight.

This really is an excellent post. As you say, it's not a simple "magic bullet", it requires consistent self-training. I have been trying several of these things myself, with some success. I was finding myself becoming almost agoraphobic because I found socialising such a strain, but I force myself to do it and it does help. Likewise volunteering - my local Age Care shop wanted regular help in sorting out their book displays, something I could quietly get on with at my own pace. I even took part in their Christmas fashion show! Healthy eating - yes - cut right down on sugar, caffeine and alcohol, eat little and often with plenty of fibre and protein. Exercise! I joined a gym and made myself go for at least half an hour every day for months, which, of course, apart from being a social experience, also rebuilt my muscles which had been weakened by months in a hospital bed. The people who run the gym will make you a programme suited to your needs and abilities. And Amen to everything else suggested above. Just keep on trucking.

Debbie you are so right about falling into that hole. I've fallen in pretty often so I can almost see when I'm sinking deeper into the hole and sometimes it takes a while to get out but sometimes I can snap out of it before falling too deep. I'm hoping I can find a counselor that can help me and I suppose meds will play into my recovery but until then, I find that humor is such a help and offers such a lift I forget about all my troubles. I know it's not that simple but laughing even when depressed really helps me. Moltroub, you made my night with your responses to my post about the coiling video. I laughed and it was like sunshine after a gloomy day. I still have my issues but could put things aside for a moment and it really felt good. I forgot I hadn't taken a shower for two days and that I was dressed like a bag lady but damn it if tomorrow wasn't another day! And now here we are this morning. Yes, I will take a shower! but back to the issue at hand, I have had to force myself to get into a routine because I'm lost without one not having work to go to so I find that helps. I will take a lot of these suggestions to heart and just having something to do is helpful as well. I also find doing a kindness to someone makes me feel good and that helps me. We are not alone in this world and it makes me a better person if I can help someone else and sometimes it's just simple things like letting someone get in front of you at the grocery line when they have two items and you have a full cart. You never know what is going on in someone's life and you could be making a difference for them in ways you never thought. Thanks Moltroub for posting this! It is a lot to read but I'm going to print it too and put it right next to my computer so I can look at it each day. As someone else said, you are such a positive person and I'm glad you're sharing this with us.

After having my annie clipped in March 2012, it wasn't until December of that year that I finally figured out I was suffering from depression and anxiety. The surgeon hadn't warned me about any of the effects I would be dealing with. I'd spent 2 days in bed just crying and sleeping. Then it hit me just like a slap in the face. So I made an appointment with my GP. She put me on anti-depressants, which I'd never taken before, and xanax for anxiety. I think all neurosurgeons who treat someone with an aneurysm should recommend the patient see someone to treat the side effects. They are very similar to those who suffer from a traumatic brain injury. Short term memory is another effect I suffer from. Insomnia was another I required medication to help me get the rest I so desperately needed. So, for those going through treatment, I strongly suggest looking for a GP who can help you through those tough first few months.

I agree, people should be warned about the side effects. It was dismal till I realized what was going on. Finding my new self and accepting it is difficult for me. I had a very busy life before aneursym…surgical scrub nurse, family (it felt like they grew up so fast) they being in their twenties, all moved on in life. Thought I’d be working till my seventies . Facing life on life’s terms. Hard to do but I try to live by that. Anything to stay out of that hole.

Print away Ms Debbie! Glad you found it helpful! I remember a psych class I took when I went back to finish my degree. Professor each day said 50/50 - 50% environmental, 50% genetics. This was a class on Schizophrenia, but he covered all types of depression from feelings of sadness to Bipolar Disorder. His final was 50/50 really - all the answers were 50/50. What he was driving at was that though individuals can be genetically predisposed, our environment plays an equal role. If one continuously is belittled or belittles themselves, our brain learns it. If one is affirmed or receives affirmations, our brain learns it. Eventually we decide that whatever we are told or tell ourselves becomes our truth. Each day give yourself an affirmation. A fellow student and friend had sticky notes all over her room and bathroom, even a couple in the kitchen. She had a nasty divorce after 24 years of marriage and really needed to get out of the rut she put herself in. She continued the practice long after she started healing.

Sally - your an angel! I forgot sugar ( as I ate a three day old donut). I generally don’t eat much sugar so thank you, thank you! I’m in awe of everything you are doing for yourself, you rock!

Wendy - what would I do without you? You started it! Laughter is a wonderful gift to give ourselves and others. I recall a study on it, I’ll look it up. And I would apologize for its length, but it wore me out trying to remember everything and the. I started dreaming about it. Really, I fell asleep with Ohana’s head on my lap. Pass it forward in simple ways is a wonderful idea, thanks! And I’m really glad you’re going to take a shower today, me too! I’m going to put clothes on as well…

My husband has had such severe depression since his craniotomy brain anuerism surgery. He has been in 4 different behavioral health hospitals nothing seems to work. His surgery was in nov of 2011. He is now going to a residential place for at least a month or more.

That was an excellent article about depression. I can relate to all of it. I am new to the area (3years) so all my family is in Kitchener Waterloo. My husband didnt know his early retirement meant taking care of me. I am friends with neighbours but feel i am a burden since i was so independant before and i am only 54 . I have taken a taxi to church to meet new people and met a great group of folks. I hate asking favors of anybody but i have to now but i do think twice if its needed. Its been a very long winter but now with sunny days in the forecast it helps the grey moods. Stay strong and focus on better days ahead.

Cari, I understand what you’re saying. I’m gonna tell you what my beloved Dr. Wolfe told me - I don’t know. I love that gal! The doctors don’t know what side effects a patient will have. I read on the American Stroke Association, I think, that people having an SAH and it may have included a procedure to fix a cerebral aneurysm, can develop depression even a couple years post procedure with no signs prior. I wonder if the doctors are hesitant to some degree as they don’t want to give us any suggestions we would fixate on. I fixated a lot right after getting out of ICU and probably in it as well. Dr. Wolfe did tell me to seek out help from my GP when things come up or call her office. But I’m such a chicken, I check in with her before I start anything. Mostly she has said yes, good for you, a couple things like getting my spine checked with that dye and you can’t move for 24 hours, she emphatically said no, there are other test I can have.

Tara - that really sucks, For both of you! It is good news that he is going residential, there has to be some improvement I hope. Sometimes hospitalization is the safest place. Hopefully when he is in Residential Setting, he’ll have one doc and one Case Worker, and one Therapist who can work together as a team and help him as he is ready. Being proactive though exhausting can really help both of you. Try to attend the team meetings as often as possible.

Thank you! I do all of the suggestions and they help. In the dark abyss of depression it’s hard to be beyond it. Our brain chemistry is impacted. I take St John’s Wort- a mild herbal antidepressant and it helps me. It’s also important we seek counseling. My occupational therapist is also a counselor for me. I think we all go through a grieving process too, hopefully coming to a place of acceptance and peace with ourselves, while continuing to heal, adapt, adjust, overcome. I think it’s important to do whatever fills your soul and make it a priority, not last on the list after work, chores, etc like it might have been in the past. I still believe our brains are amazing and continue to grow. I tell people I am making new neurons and pathways! :slight_smile:

I just want to say that I find this article so helpful right now! Thank you so much! It has taken me nearly 9 years to figure it out, but I realize now that I have been suffering from the effects of depression ever since my aneurysm in 2006. I have just recently begun seeking assistance, but I'm wary to go "just anywhere" because of the pitfalls that occur because of the lack of knowledge of what I've been through/survived. It sometimes is difficult to even find a physician that understands, let alone prescribes the right medications. Trying not to be negative and trying to take care of what I can myself, I just wish I could get physicians to respond to inquiry voicemails, etc. I will try not to be "my own worst enemy" and will keep pushing forward! Your article is taped to my refrigerator to remind me each day. Thanks again!

Your thoughts on depression. I’m going to try cuz I’m very depressed after four Annie’s.

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Don’t you find your friends tend to back off after you have gone through what we have. So I’m becoming a hermit

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A website on Biological Causes of Depression is: may be helpful .

This one addresses the anatomy...the limbic system, and the transfer of data by neurons, etc...

And, we have to remember that the arteries coming up our neck and spine pass thru this same area on into aneurysm locations... and, the catheterization, guidewire, micro-cath and device delivery systems pass thru those arteries...thru that same area... to reach the aneurysm...

likely, the Reptile Retriever equipment does, too...

A website on biological Causes of Depression is: may be helpful

It addresses the anatomy of the limbic system...the thalamus, hypothalamus, amygdala and the pituitary, hormones, the CSF ventricles...around the area of the brain stem...where the cranial nerves and more are located...

The arteries coming up our neck and spine pass thru this area to reach an aneurysm for treatment.

Then the catheterization of our arteries, a/w/a guidewire, microcatheters, and the device delivery systems are passed thru these same arteries/areas...

Read the link Pat, thanks! It reminded me of another thing. As I read Daniel’s discussion and all the responses I receive hope and positiveness in the many responses. I see a trend - those who see positives chose different words to describe their life. Instead of suffering an aneurysm, maybe they use experienced an aneurysm. Instead of road blocks, they see challenges to face and conquer. How about if we change our words? Make them sound more positive than negative. Yes, I know it’s semantics, but maybe it’s another way for our brains to rethink.