No one understands the depth of my depression

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

Q: I have had depression and anxiety for years. My depression is getting worse as well as the anxiety as I get older. Some days, I can’t even get out of bed because I on those days, I wish I would have died in my sleep. I can hardly function anymore. I see a doctor, and I am on medication. I am a good patient and do what my doctor tells me to do. But no one in my life understands the depth and seriousness of my depression. How can I get the message to them what living like this is like? What resources are available for them to help them understand what I have to live with everyday?

A: Long term derpession is exhausting and demoralizing. I’m so so sorry that you have been suffering for so long. People who love you may find it intolerable to think that you are this unhappy and discouraged. In their own feelings of helplessness, they might minimize your pain. My guess is that it’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they can’t stand it that they haven’t found a way to help you feel better.

But – first things first. Before you resign yourself to living like this, I hope you will make another appointment with your doctor. Make sure you schedule enough time for a complete review of your situation. The symptoms of depression can be a result of a number of things including an underlying medical condition, medication side effects and interactions, and/or a sleep disorder. The trouble is that a depression that stems from a life stress (like terrible losses) or inadequate coping skills, looks very much the same as a depression that is caused by something else.

If you haven’t had a complete physical in awhile, ask your doctor to give you a thorough check up. This should include labs to check for such things as infection, thyroid, and liver function, as well as vitamin deficiencies and electrolyte imbalances. Make sure your doctor has a complete list of every medicine you are taking, even over the counter medicines like pain relievers and cough medicine. Medicines that seem too ordinary to even mention may be interacting with the drugs your doctor is giving you to help the depression. Please, please be honest with your doctor. If you drink alcohol (even a little) or use street drugs, they may also be contributing to the problem If you aren’t sleeping well, tell your doctor that too. Irregular sleep patterns can also contribute to depression.

Doctors are under a lot of pressure these days to see many patients in too little time. If your doctor isn’t willing or able to listen to you or to give you a thorough work up, it may be time for a second opinion. You need someone who will take the time to do the detective work necessary to discover if there is something that has been missed in the past that has contributed to so many years of suffering.

If everything medical checks out, then I suggest that you see a psychiatrist for a trial of anti-depressants and a counselor to learn ways to manage the depression. A healthy lifestyle that includes a balanced diet and regular, aerobic exercise will help too. A good book to look at is Feeling Good by David Burns and Aaron Beck.

Doing all this is a lot of work. If it feels just too overwhelming, you may need a buddy or two to help you out. My experience is that people are more willing to be helpful when they are given something manageable and concrete to do. Maybe someone could go with you to appointments and help you advocate for yourself with doctors. Maybe someone would be willing to take a walk with you every day. Maybe someone else would be willing to work through the Burns and Beck book with you. Finally, sometimes it is helpful to ask your psychiatrist to include your support people in a session or two to explain what depression is about and to think together about how best to help you.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Oct 2006

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2006). No one understands the depth of my depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 21, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2006/10/30/no-one-understands-the-depth-of-my-depression/

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