Archives for Women and depression

Bipolar

How to avoid anxiety and loneliness when vacationing alone

Since my last major depression I have created for myself a small, insulated world - completely accessible on a 20-plus-year-old pink bike. My doctors, work, favorite restaurants, grocery store, dog park, gym and ocean are within a five mile radius of my cozy little house.

I like it that way. Driving a car is unnatural for me. It brings back heavy, gray memories of commuting 25 miles from the suburbs of Detroit into the city to work. In March, when dirty snow and a gray, seamless cloud took over the sky, the commute fueled my depression, already acute from months of seasonal-affective disorder.

Life got better after I moved to sunny Florida but depression still smothered me. Death and divorce will do that regardless of the weather. I responded by making my world small. I preferred riding a bike to driving. For awhile I had a scooter but then went back to my beloved bike.

When I ventured out of my bubble for work or vacation, I always had a reason and purpose. Conferences, graduations, reunions and exciting adventures meticulously researched. For years I have travelled with my boyfriend - a free spirit like me. We research what is available to see and do in an area, but make few plans and reservations besides renting a car.

We have slept in the back of an SUV and stayed in five-star hotels. When a mountain stream looked as though it might have some trout in it, we pulled over and fished. No timetable. No plans besides the occasional baseball game at legendary fields - Wrigley in Chicago and the Green Monster at Boston's Fenway.

Vagabond wanderlust.

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Coping with Depression

Crying to prevent my depression

My life improved when I accepted crying as a body function - like blowing your nose or peeing. I never worried that someone might think I was a wuss because I blew my nose. So, why is water coming from my eyes considered a weakness and peeing is not?

I got to pondering this enigma after a major depression that followed the death of my parents - 16 months apart - and then the death of my dog 8 months later. It took a couple years after these losses for the depression to really kick in. But when it did, it kicked in hard.

What I learned in my recovery was that I hadn't grieved properly. When sorrow smothered me, I stuffed it. When sadness came on me at work, I flung myself at a project to stop the tears. I was not going to cry - at least not in public. Of course, it's okay to cry right after someone dies or at the funeral. But not two months or two years later.

Get a grip. Suck it up. Enough already.
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Alcoholism

Take off your watch. It’s making you depressed.

I don't wear a watch. I have watches, very nice watches, in fact. I don't even know where they are - probably in a drawer somewhere.

I don't wear a watch because I have a thing with time. I learned early on in my recovery from alcoholism and depression that "time" was a problem for me. A very big problem.

I didn't realize my "time" problem until a friend in recovery asked me one day, "What time is it?" I looked at my watch and told him the time. Then he asked again, "what time is it?" And I looked at my watch again and told him the time.

"No," he said. "What TIME is it?"

I looked at him like he was crazy and said, "I don't know. You tell me, what time is it?"

"Now," he said. I had a D'oh Homer Simpson moment and then understood what he was trying to tell me. I was not in the present. "That's why I don't wear a watch," he said.
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General

Get me a sledge hammer: Depression as anger turned inward

About 8 years ago, during my last major depression, I was told that depression was anger turned inward and that if I did not get rid of my anger, I would not get better.

This baffled me because at the time I felt nothing but hopelessness. I had emotionally flatlined. I didn't feel angry. I felt exhausted. However, the people who told me this - my psych nurse and therapist - knew what they were talking about. They had spent decades treating people with depression. If they said I would not get well until I got rid of my anger, then I would get rid of my anger.

My therapist gave me a whiffle bat and wanted me to beat a pillow. Really? A whiffle bat? A pillow? I figured that if the amount of anger in me was enough to reduce me to a listless, despondent lump of flesh, a whiffle bat was not going to do the trick.

I put on my steel-toed work boots, found a metal baseball bat in the shed and drove to a junkyard. I asked the guys if I could have a few minutes alone with one of their vehicles. They raised their eyebrows and took me to a green truck. They left me alone.

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General

Justifying late-term abortions: Mother’s mental health is not enough

Last week Florida lawmakers passed a law banning most abortions during the third-trimester. A doctor who performs an abortion during the third trimester and anyone who assists can be charged with the third-degree felony.

However, the law makes an exception when a "physician certifies in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, there is a medical necessity for legitimate emergency medical procedures for termination of the pregnancy to save the pregnant woman's life or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition."

Without wading into the debate over abortion, I would like to weigh in on the exception in the exception of  "a psychological condition."

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Alcoholism

Mentally ill now and forever…amen.

Every now and then I get a glimpse of what my mental illnesses look like.

It's been a long time. I have taken my medications without fail for years.  I exercise, eat healthy foods, get as much sleep as I can, visit my psych-nurse practitioner every three months and I get on my knees every night and thank God for my sobriety. In other word, I do what I am told - an unnatural act for me.

But for the last two weeks I have been under an unconscionable amount of stress. I say "unconscionable" because I allowed it to happen.

As a reporter for a daily newspaper, I am accustomed to stress. For nearly 30 years I have lived with a deadline hanging over my head. I took six weeks off to have a baby, 8 weeks for my last major depression but other than the one- or two-week vacations, I have had a deadline over my head.

Recently, I accepted  an assignment which today I realize I should not  have done. I agreed to leave my home and my dog, suspend my exercise routine and healthy eating habits and forego nights of 8-hours of sleep to cover the Florida legislature's last two-weeks in session.

I did this once before, nearly 30 years ago when reporters were only expected to write a story for the newspaper. Now, we must also Tweet, blog and make videos. Despite my degree in political science, after 30+ years in journalism, I'm kinda disallusioned with politics.

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Coping with Depression

As she lay dying: Depression and my mother’s sad memories

Shortly before my mother went into hospice we sat alone together in her bedroom and she said: "If you want to ask me anything you should ask me now."

I was stunned.

My mother had rarely spoken about her childhood. She grew up on a farm in northern Wisconsin. They did not have hot water and she and her three sisters and two brothers took baths one-by-one in a tub in water that had been warmed on a stove. You wanted to be the first in line to get the cleanest, warmest water, she used to tell me. They didn't have much money. They worked hard. They churned their own butter.

I could not recall her ever speaking about her father - my grandfather, who died when I was very young. About all I knew was that he drank a lot. So I asked. She rattled off stories - none of them happy or funny. He took all six kids to school in the morning and then started drinking. She had seen him drunk, sitting on a curb. She was so embarrassed that if she needed to go past his watering hole she would take a different route to avoid seeing him.

He took the money she had saved to buy herself a car. When she announced she was going to college - the only one of the four girls in the family who did - he kicked her out. Women didn't need a college education, she recalled him saying. She went on to get a Bachelor's and a Master's degree.

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General

Botox: The new antidepressant?

Halle-freakin'-lujah!

We have a couple more studies that suggest that paralyzing key facial muscles with Botox can reduce the symptoms of depression.

In a recent 24-week randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study, done by Michelle Magid, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas, 30 participants with depressive symptoms were randomized and give injections of Botox or a placebo between the eyebrows (which happens to be exactly where I need it.)

The men were injected with 39 units of botulinum and the women were injected with 29 units. At week 12, the placebo group crossed over to treatment, and the treatment group crossed over to placebo.Participants were evaluated at weeks 0, 3, 6, 12, 15, 18, and 24. The primary outcome was a reduction from baseline of at least 50% in the 21-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale score.

In a yet-to-be-published study in the in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Eric Finzi, a cosmetic dermatologist, and Norman Rosenthal, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School, randomly assigned a group of 74 patients with major depression to receive either Botox or saline injections in the forehead muscles that enable us to frown.

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