“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them — every day begin the task anew.” -Saint Francis de Sales
My first depressive episode came at the age of 19, again at 23 and then again at 27. A decade later I would graduate with a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. In that time came pharmacology and psychotherapy. I also found what behaviors and beliefs helped me take care of myself and have allowed me to maintain my mental health ever since.
It was in the middle of my last depressive episode, at the age of 28, when I realized yoga was more than just a wonderful way to exercise, for example. Over the years, I have found Yoga Studios to be harbors of community, generosity and solace and return to them whenever I feel myself drifting too far out to sea.
As a Clinical Psychotherapist, I understand the patterns, chemistry and treatments for Depression. I also understand the resistance and denial that can come between my patients and their care. I resisted the same insight I give to others: meditation, medication, exercise, gratitude, support. I tried to deny, numb, or diffuse the symptoms just like everyone else.
A mood disorder doesn’t care about a wall of certificates and diplomas. When I recognize the signs that depression is lurking, I must return to a self-care discipline which I know will bring me back into balance.
Sometimes I sit across from patients and want to say, “Me TOO!” Of course, I don’t. I’d never say just how much I understand, but I do know it gets better and what has helped me.
A Psychotherapist is trained to separate their reactivity and bias from their work. I often tell my patients “I am clinically trained to not take stuff personally.” I encourage their honesty and we explore their transference onto my neutrality in our sessions. By remaining unknown beyond a few obvious or innocuous personal details, my life, past and present, remains outside of my office.
But clinical orientation has not made me immune to circumstances or genetics. A life separate from the work exists after my last appointment, and within that space lie relationships, politics, disappointments, loss; the messy stuff of life. Maintaining my own psychotherapy and mental health check-ups are not just best practice (to ensure counter-transference does not interfere with my work) but the best choices for my personal growth and relationships.
While our own challenges make us more relatable to others, if we insisted upon shared experience (as a condition for accepting support) we would certainly exhaust much of the help that is offered. A professional does not have to experience something to know about it. Many male doctors have delivered babies. Nevertheless, we all have a unique version of a universal struggle, even those who help and heal. That is both my professional and personal opinion.
The signs and symptoms of Major Depression include the following:
- Feelings of sadness, tearfulness, emptiness or hopelessness for more than two weeks
- Angry outbursts, irritability or frustration
- Loss of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as sex, hobbies or sports
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or sleeping too much
- Tiredness and lack of energy
- Changes in appetite
- Anxiety, agitation or restlessness
- Slowed thinking, speaking or body movements
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or blaming yourself
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts or suicide
- Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches
If you or someone you know is struggling with any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks please contact your doctor or a mental health professional and ask for an evaluation.