Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Causes ad nauseum...

I'm not sure why, but it's happening with more and more regularity. Brain inflammation, virus, pessimistic outlook, born on a day that ends in Y... I have been getting a barrage of comments lately from concerned people wanting me to know the real cause of depression. You haven't seen most of these comments. They almost always include a link to a page dedicated to their cause, and I rarely publish comments with links such as those.

I value the integrity of my blog. I don't want readers to get confused and think I approve of or endorse most of these sites. It seems commenters who leave links are typically more interested in pushing their favorite site than they are in the post on which they've commented. So to keep my blog mine, I reject most link-laden comments.

But let's talk about this issue. Why are people so concerned that I hear about the real cause of depression? For the record, I believe depression is an organic brain disorder or disease caused by chemical imbalances or other mechanisms of which we are not yet aware. I also think high-tech MRI imaging will soon show differences between the brains of those with depression and those without. This is the kind of depression I have. I also realize there are situational factors which can bring about an episode of depression. Certainly, if I had cancer or MS, I think I might also develop depression. If I broke up with a boyfriend or someone died, I might be more prone to depression. And maybe someday we'll understand if situational depression looks the same in the brain as non-situational depression. That will be a big day!

Could I get depression if I had a virus? Sure, if the virus were significant enough to significantly alter my life. But I don't think the virus necessarily causes the depression. I think the depression results from the debility the virus causes. Those are my opinions based on the scientific facts of which I've learned.

Why am I writing about this? I guess because I'm a little offended by all of the suggestions. To me they smack of the ongoing stigma that surrounds mental illness. Why can't we accept depression as a medical condition? Is it because we can't see it in the lab or on an x-ray? Suggesting that I have brain inflammation or a virus is just about as offensive to me as telling me I don't smile enough. Where is the science? And why would anyone think, after ten years of struggle, I wouldn't have looked into every cause imaginable before accepting my condition? Before I accepted my depression for what it was--a brain disorder or disease--I examined every other facet of my life and health. We found the sleep apnea, but other than that all we proved was that I was incredibly healthy! Unfortunately, my brain is a little off.

Fortunately, my brain and my depression respond well to medication, which only reinforces my belief in an organic medical condition such as screwed up neurotransmitters. It also, like many other illnesses (MS, cancer, HBP), responds well to healthy living and exercise. It doesn't help to smile more. It does help to sleep more. In summary, it acts like a lot of other illnesses--illnesses fortunate enough to show up in a lab or on an image. Hmmm...

I don't know where I'm going with this exactly. I guess I just needed a little rant. As usual, I look forward to hearing what you think, but please, leave your links at home.


AmbyLand said...

I know exactly what you mean. I have been told that if I would just read my bible every day I would not be depressed. No one would EVER tell a diabetic that. It is frustrating.

Anonymous said...

I love this post! It could have come out of my mouth!!!

I am also lucky that anti-depressants work for me (along with exercise and sleep) and because the anti-depressants work so well I, also, believe that just reinforces my belief that depression is an organic illness. I have had people tell me to use herbal remedies (if they work for some that's great- when I had my major depressive episode they did nothing for me- I needed the "heavy duty" stuff) and have been subjected to phrases like "snap out of it" etc.

I am lucky that I respond well to drugs, an excellent doctor and things in place that work well for me. However wish depression was understood and the stigma surrounding it gone. I have to be so careful who I disclose to and am sick of the attitudes towards depression (that you're weak, you need to pull up your bootstraps or take some St John's wort or some such herb or health food store remedy).

Thanks for writing this!

Anonymous said...

I hear you.... People offer their opinions, and I know they want to help. But everyone's brain is different, and how one person perceives or reacts to a situation can be entirely different from another. Neither is wrong; just different. You just have to do what you can to get through the moment. I'm still working on it. All I can say is that I've learned a lot over the past year (the hard way). The only thing that really pisses me off is when people think we can simply "snap out of it." Ignorance is quite hurtful in this case.