Friday, January 28, 2011

A New Beginning

We recently moved into our new home that we have been building for the past seven months.  We have loved it!  One especially unique blessing that this new house has presented to us is the opportunity for a new beginning - a fresh start.  Of course we are starting new with our physical surroundings, but with this move I also wanted a new beginning and fresh start in both my individual and family life.  Over the past year and a half the debilitating affects that depression has brought about in my life have created such upheaval that I feel as if my family is having to literally rebuild a foundation.  My children, particularly my oldest child, has most directly felt the ramifications of a mother who has been ill for an extended period of time.  It's difficult to assimilate the realization that my family has been so greatly affected by an illness that I was suffering from.  I've had to remind myself on many occasions that the best I could do in my situation, was to not give up.  I  had to continue to implement different methods of treatment to find a good combination that worked for me. And I've had to continue to practice and apply the principles that I've learned in working with a professional counselor.  But most importantly, I couldn't give up.

In a study conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences they found some very interesting information in relation to depression.
"The WHO-funded study looked at the ‘disabling effects of depression’ on 200 patients who were attending the Out Patient Department (OPD) at the Department of Psychiatry at AIIMS. For over two years, the patients were monitored and assessed thrice before coming to the conclusion that depression can affect the productivity of a person much more severely than physical disability.  
Depression is highly common and according to WHO by 2020, it would be the second-most prevalent condition worldwide. Depression affects more people than HIV or road accidents. The disease usually brings with it a high level of disability,” said Dr Rajesh Sagar, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS who conducted the study.
The chief objective was look at the ‘disabling’ factors that come with various mental illnesses. Besides depression, patients with five other mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, dementia and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), were part of the study.
Among all six illnesses, the disability levels of patients suffering from depression and schizophrenia were found to be the highest. 
Among patients who were monitored during trial, 43 were suffering from depression. The promising find was that almost all patients improved after one year of treatment.When the bouts of depression were severe, the disability too, was severe. But as they continued with treatment, their depression scores reduced. Small things like refusing to socialise, not going to work, no concentration or inefficiency are all factors that count as disability and put the patient out of action,” added Dr Sagar. 
According to experts, the study is significant as it establishes the severity of mental illnesses in comparison to physical illnesses. “People usually do not consider mental illnesses, especially depression, as a handicap. While someone without vision or with a physical handicap can be happy and efficient, depressed people cannot perform their duties and hence their condition is worse than a physical disability,” added Dr Sagar." (Krishnan, Vidya  "Depression more debilitating than physical disability: AIIMS study, Indian
I am not qualified to claim an accurate opinion comparing physical and mental ailments.  I personally have not walked in the footsteps of a blind person or a physically handicap person.  I believe that each of life's adversities bring with it different challenges that only the Savior can truly understand.   I have a great admiration for the individuals who carry the burden of any one of these physical ailments and I would love to emulate the courageous traits of so many of these faithful people.  I in no way want to minimize the challenges that physical ailments present to so many people, however I believe this study is applicable for the sake of promoting a better understanding of depression, and shedding additional light on how this mental disorder truly affects it's sufferers.

As I have fought my personal battle with depression, I have dealt with the debilitating affects that accompany it..  I have awoken to many days of struggling just to get myself out of bed.  I have felt the overwhelming heartache and despair of a mother and wife who could barely maintain and care for the basic needs and necessities of her family because of  the crippling affects of depression.

I have had times of such an extreme lack of energy and motivation mingled with such deep feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness that many of my day time hours were spent much like a physically ill person.  Many of the simplest tasks felt like insurmountable mountains to climb.  For me to even get my kids a bowl of cereal or to put dishes in the dishwasher, at times was an overwhelming obstacle.

I had a difficult time talking with and connecting to others.  I didn't feel capable of relating to elements outside of my world of darkness and despair.  Concentration and decision making became very arduous.  I couldn't think clearly.  I felt as if fog had encircled my mind, creating a barrier to navigate my way to added mental clarity and understanding.

As a result of these debilitating affects of depression, I've had to really work on adjusting my way of thinking and doing things.  Two predominant concepts that I consider to be important in coping with the debilitation of depression are first, the idea known as "do nothingism."  And second, grasping the concept of properly prioritizing.

David Burns in his book "Feeling Good The New Mood Therapy," discusses the components of the "do- nothingism" concept.  He said:

"One of the most destructive aspects of depression is the way it paralyzes your willpower.  In its mildest form you may simply procrastinate about doing a few odious chores.  As your lack of motivation intensifies, virtually any activity appears so difficult that you become overwhelmed by the urge to do nothing.  Because you accomplish very little, you feel worse and worse.  Not only do you cut yourself off from your normal sources of stimulation and pleasure, but your lack of productivity aggravates your self-hatred, resulting in further isolation and incapacitation.
If you don't recognize the emotional prison in which you are trapped, this situation can go on for weeks, months, or even years.  Your inactivity will be all the more frustrating if you once took pride in the energy you had for life.  Your do-nothingism can also affect your family and friends, who, like yourself, cannot understand your behavior.  They may say that you must want to be depressed or else you'd  'get off your behind.'  Such a comment only worsens your anguish and paralysis.
Do-nothingism represents one of the great paradoxes of human nature.  Some people naturally throw themselves into life with great zest, while others always hang back, defeating themselves at every turn as if they were involved in a plot against themselves.  Do you ever wonder why?
If a person were condemned to spend months in isolation, cut off from all normal activities and interpersonal relationships, a substantial depression would result.  Even young monkeys slip into a retarded, withdrawn state if they are separated from their peers and confined to a small cage.  Why do you voluntarily impose a similar punishment on yourself?  Do you want to suffer?  Using cognitive techniques, you can discover the precise reasons for your difficulties in motivating yourself.
In my practice I find that the great majority of the depressed patients referred to me improve substantially if they try to help themselves.  sometimes it hardly seems to matter what you do as long as you do something with the attitude for self-help." (Burns D. David, Feeling Good the New Mood Therapy, p.81-82)

I came to recognize the benefit of abiding by the "do-nothingism" concept.  If i could get myself up and doing something I could usually find greater satisfaction in the act of "doing," than I originally thought I would or could.  The key to this, is finding the strength to get up.  Even if what is accomplished is perceived to be very simple and insignificant, it's at least a step in finding some satisfaction and sense of accomplishment in the act of doing.  I found for me personally that I typically struggled more with negative thoughts and I felt more emotionally insecure on days that I couldn't find the strength and willpower to get up and do something.

Knowing that I had limited strength and energy, I learned to recognize the importance of properly prioritizing.  I use the word properly because depending on our various individual circumstances our priorities shift.  As we go through different seasons and experiences in life are priorities tend to fall into different levels of importance.  It is up to each of us individually to determine the proper place of our priorities based upon our circumstances.

I personally believe there are certain principles that should always be top priorities.  These consist of our relationship with God and our Savior, Jesus Christ, and our relationship with our families and ourselves.  Beyond that I believe each of us according to our personal situations may vary in the way in which we choose to prioritize.

To take this idea even a step further, we can learn to properly allot time and energy spent in any given area by becoming more familiar with and aware of our personal perspective in relation to our changing circumstances. 

For example, you may be used to reading a chapter in the scriptures everyday.  But perhaps in your individual circumstances it is more proper for you to read only one page in your scriptures and spend more time on your knees praying.

Consider a situation in which you have a previous extended family commitment.  However,you also have a child who is struggling and is in need of the listening ear of a loving parent.  Instead of rushing out the door to get to your extended family commitment, you decide to take the opportunity to sit down and talk with your child who is longing for the love and understanding that only a mom or dad can offer.

Envision yourself as a dutiful relief society teacher.  You love to prepare lessons with hand outs and you must have a decorated table to set the tone for the lesson.  However, if you also acknowledge the difficult and time consuming personal situations that have overtaken your time, the importance of finding the additional hours for hand outs and table decorations diminishes.  In this situation you've recognized that if your lesson is prepared with love and prayer under the direction of the Spirit, it won't make any difference whether your table was adorned with beautiful decorations, or you crafted the most creative hand outs.

I am a person who loves to be of service to others.  However, I have found myself in situations when I have placed so much effort and time into serving, that I found myself drained and depleted.  I left little time to nourish and care for myself, leaving me all too often unable to accomplish other things that were of high importance to me.

I am a great advocate of self care.  I haven't always been.  I admittedly clung to the wrong perception of what caring for myself truly meant.  I think many times we, including myself, envision caring for ourselves as being selfish.  We think that taking time to nourish our own mind, spirit, and body demonstrates an unwise use of our time.  That of course can be true if we spend so much of our time doing things for ourselves that other areas of our life become neglected. The ideal is to always strive to maintain balance. With that being said,  I also think it's important to understand that there will likely be circumstances in our life when it may be necessary to spend more time caring for ourselves than we otherwise would.  During these times it's imperative to remember that selfishness involves a disregard for others; it's purpose is to satisfy or meet one's personal needs without concern for the welfare of others.  It involves an "all about me" attitude.   That is not the purpose behind or the reason for nourishing and caring for ourselves.  We care for ourselves not because we are selfish, but because it is healthy for us - mentally, spiritually, and physically.  We won't be able to fully appreciate the benefits and blessings of service if we are neglecting to care for our own selves.

President Harold B. Lee once said, “You cannot lift another soul until you are standing on higher ground than he is” (“Stand Ye in Holy Places,” Ensign, Oct. 2008, 47).  In order for us to be able to stand on higher ground, we must take the time and the initiative to nurture our mind, spirit, and body.  As we do this we will find that our capacity to help lift others to higher ground will dramatically increase.

I've learned to recognize that for the sake of my health, I can't live a fast paced life.  I have to be content with a medium paced lifestyle.  I've learned that I have to take care of me and that's okay - and even healthy for me.  I've recognized that I can't allow undue stress to consume me, or else I will soon feel the aftermath in the form of depressive symptoms.  This may be a life long pursuit for me to continue to discover and rediscover how to cope with clinical depression.  In the eyes of the world and their perception of my outward struggles with this illness, I could very likely be classified as one who has digressed.  However, if you ask me, I would suggest just the opposite.  I have had to adjust my priorities in a new and different way that might not appear appealing to others around me, but they work better for me in my situation.  The understanding and knowledge I've gained through my experiences have given to me a deeper testimony of eternal principles that are irreplaceable.  This has been the component that has allowed for me to gain a greater capacity to love, forgive, serve others, and to more fully emulate our Savior.  To me, that is progression!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post! I'm dealing with a similar issue and it's good to hear another voice that has come through it.