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Author Topic: Depression Redux  (Read 2772 times)

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Offline Joe K

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Depression Redux
« on: May 11, 2009, 04:02:36 PM »
Depression: one of the most dreaded words in the English language.  The word even sounds dismal and that pretty well sums up the effects of depression.  Severe depression, often called clinical depression is a psychological disease that often goes undetected when it appears in conjunction with HIV infection.  (For the sake of discussion, I will simply refer to the disease as depression.)  Too often, depression can be present, but attributed to feelings surrounding HIV infection and can be excluded as a valid disease, in addition to the HIV infection.  I believe it is a vastly under-diagnosed illness and its treatment, is often seen as being more complicated that it has to be.  I have suffered from some form of depression for the past 40 years: I receive Social Security Income, not due to my HIV infection, but because I have clinical depression.

Depression can devastate your life, if left untreated.  My hope is that is you see yourself here, you will consider a mental health evaluation.  Depression is just that, depression.  It is not being unhappy because you do not have a Porsche or did not win the lottery, as being unhappy is fleeting and soon forgotten.  Depression hangs above you as the sword of Damocles, shrouding your existence in feelings of hopelessness and futility.  If left untreated, it can drain the very essence from your being.  It can be forever present, seldom witnessed; yet its effect remains unmistakable.

There are numerous signs of possible depression, and in the interest of clarifying what depression is/is not, I present a list of the most common signs of depression.

You feel miserable and sad.

You feel exhausted a lot of the time with no energy.

You feel as if even the smallest tasks are sometimes impossible.

You seldom enjoy the things that you used to enjoy, you may be off sex or food or may ‘comfort eat’ to excess.

You feel very anxious sometimes

You do not want to see people or are scared when left alone.  Social activity may feel hard or impossible.

You find it difficult to think clearly.

You feel like a failure and/or feel guilty a lot of the time.

You feel a burden to others.

You sometimes feel that life is not worth living.

You can see no future.  There is a loss of hope.  You feel all you have ever done is make mistakes and that is all you will ever do.

You feel irritable or angry more than usual.

You feel you have no confidence.

You spend a lot of time thinking about what has gone wrong, what will go wrong or what is wrong about yourself as a person.  You may also feel guilty sometimes about being critical of others.

You feel that life is unfair.

You have difficulty sleeping or wake up very early in the morning and cannot sleep again.  You seem to dream all night long and sometimes have disturbing dreams.

You feel that life has/is ‘passing you by.’

You may have physical aches and pains, which appear to have no physical cause, such as back pain.

Using the signs above, they can be combined, into symptoms, that can represent clinical depression.  If you have any of the following symptoms, generally five (or more), that have been present during the same 2-week period and represents a change from previous functioning, you may have clinical depression.

Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by feeling sad or empty or as an observation make by others (e.g. appears fearful).

Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by subjective report or observation made by others).

Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day

Psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or feeling slowed down.

Feeling or worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick).

Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others).

Recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

If you have depression, you will probably not experience all of the above signs, but will generally manifest at least half of them.  They will usually persist for at least 2 weeks and may increase in intensity.  I also include this list as education for others, because the effects of depression are far reaching and actually seem to be clearer when presented in a clinical fashion.  Unfortunately the complexity of depression is what I think is the most insidious aspect of depression.  It is so damn hard to describe to others, what you are experiencing, without sounding insane, even to yourself.  How do you tell someone that you can go from loving life, to suicidal thoughts and back again within a four-hour period?  Does that sound crazy to you?  It does to me and I live it.  However, I suspect, if you suffer from depression, what I have written might make perfect sense.

So let me take you on a voyage through depression.  The only reason I can describe this cycle, is that right now, I am on the outside looking back in.  When mired in depression, I do not have much perception of anything, nor can I see issues clearly.  The world looks bleak, there seems little hope and what I want many times, is for it to simply go away.  There are times, when the darkness becomes so black, that I have considered another existence.  I have wondered if maybe death may not be so bad after all.  But then again, I often do not really care because often, I simply cannot.

It is like hypnosis, or as if you are being controlled by a puppet master.  It can be quite surreal and the mood swings, within the same minute, hour or day, can be as wild as you can imagine.  I have gone from happily married to divorce, in a matter of a few hours, on those days when the wiring just does not connect.  It is all I can do to hold myself together, until the disconnect passes.  I feel like I am witnessing a train wreck in progress, yet powerless to do anything about it.  I often wonder if my actions expose my emotions, but since everything remains surreal, cognitive analysis is generally impossible.  I know I feel funny, but I am unable to change those feelings, until they melt away on their own.  At least I think I feel funny, but I cannot always tell, because it also affects my perception of things and causes me to doubt my own abilities.

At the peak of my depression, I am wavering between reality and the realm of depression.  When I can hold back the depression, my life continues, challenges intact, but continues nonetheless.  When I am depressed, it is like looking through a portal.  I can still see my life, on the other side, but I am powerless to return, nor do I care to and that lack of caring or desire is ultimately, what depression takes from you.  It is not that you are simply unhappy, because you are not anything.  You do not even feel sad or depressed, rather you really do not feel anything.  You begin to doubt your own sensibilities and often wonder just which way is up.  Actually, I do not even know if any of this makes sense, but how do you describe the indescribable?

So now, take these periods of depression and try to formulate both a treatment plan for your depression and a health care plan for your HIV.  Try to figure out how to take care of yourself, when you do not care about much of anything.  Somehow, you must find a way to compel yourself forward, but the amount of energy required always seems to be of inverse proportion, to what you want to accomplish.  Just going to a doctor appointment, can wipe you out for three days.  Add to that, your total lack of interest in anything, including food, your meds, exercise, etc. and you can be looking at some serious down time.  In addition, you cannot just snap out of it, so do not ever be so asinine as to suggest that to anyone who suffers from depression.  Do you really think anyone would want depression?

Treating depression can be serious business and often requires a multiple approach including medications and therapy.  The hard part though is identifying when you have depression, because when you have it, it does not just mean you are unhappy and you do not develop it over night.  The best advice I can offer, is you should consider a mental health checkup if you notice a drastic change in your life, due to increasing indifference.  I know it sounds like an oxymoron; seek help at the point where you have no interest in anything and be aware of that indifference, but it is the best I can offer.  (This is the time, when your good friends’ or partner, seeing you in these words, gently prods you to consider that you might be suffering from depression).

Also know, that you can maintain a wonderful life, assuming you diagnose and treat your depression.  You need to see depression for what it is: a disease.  Fortunately, it is a disease that can be treated successfully, often quite easily; however, there are cases that require more intense treatment.  Medication can play an important part in treating depression, but some of the antidepressants can take from 2-3 weeks to be effective and you just have to tough out that initial wait.  In addition, on average, many people must go through up to six drugs before finding one that works for them.  So if you are going to consider medications, please seek the guidance of a good psychiatrist in prescribing those medications, as most ID doctors are not that good at treating depression.  However, do not forget to review the drug recommendations with your ID doctor, because psychiatrists are usually not very familiar with all the possible reactions that antidepressants may have with HIV medications.

Therapy can also be an important form of treatment, but can present its own set of challenges.  Assuming you find a good fit in a therapist, there is always the background work that you need to do, to bring them up to speed and for some of us, talking about private, intimate details can be a formidable challenge.  However, therapy remains one of the few things in life, where you will only get out of it, what you put into it.  It is not a test, there is no right or wrong answers, nor is there any shame in admitting you need some help with your mental health.  Therapy also does not need to last forever.  We possess more than one form of health, so consider mental health treatment and a therapist to be no different from your HIV infection and your ID doctor.

Through my experience with depression, I have developed many tools that help me move through the dark times.  Some are very simple, such as diverting my attention, or getting some exercise.  Often a power-nap will clear the cobwebs or just remaining quiet for a period.  Others can be difficult and take some time, but the goal is always to identify signs of your depression and work on the issues that may be contributing to them.  A favorite tool of mine, is asking myself “what is the worst that can happen?”, when I become especially anxious.  Generally, when I answer that question and process the meaning, the anxiety will diminish.  Whether or not these techniques would work for you, does not matter so much, as you realizing that you can develop tools to help you in treating your own depression.

Treating depression may not be easy, quick, and often not for the faint of heart.  However, in the end, you have no choice, but to treat it and for one simple reason.  At some point in your treatment, maybe after months of trying some antidepressants, or months of therapy, or both, you will wake up one morning and you will notice a marked change.  Part of your being will once again emerge, from your depression and you will regain some of your interests and desires.  Each day, those feelings will increase and as you regain your life, your essence will return.  You will remember all the things you need to do, which in itself is amazing, but you will also have the desire to complete those tasks.  Everything that you love and enjoy, or hate and despise will return.  You will slowly return to your own reality.

For the first time, in a very long time, you will be able to look back and see not only where you were, but also how far you have come.  You will have stepped out of your depression and returned to your previous existence.  When you reach that moment, you will understand how important both the necessity of and the journey itself truly are and the fruit of that labor, will be very sweet indeed.

Too many of us live under the cloud of depression and that is not necessary.  I have decided to tell my story, because I know the damage that depression can do and all I ask is that if you see yourself in my words, that you consider a mental health checkup.  Depression is an illness and nothing more.  You do not deserve it, nor did you do anything wrong.  You do not have to swallow your pride to receive effective treatment, nor must you remain in the darkness.
Life is what happens, when you are busy making other plans.

Though you may be only one person in the entire world, to one person, you may be the entire world.

I wish to become half the man, that my dog thinks I am.

Remember me with simple acts of kindness and I will live forever.

Offline Dwayn20

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  • dbscooter0@gmail.com
Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2009, 02:49:35 AM »
What you have written is how I have felt most of my adult life.Start seeing a psychologist two years ago even though have been positive for twenty years for sure and possible as long as twenty five years.Every thing you have described is on the mark.Two years ago we had to put my dog down after that it got so bad and was in so much physical pain I was having trouble doing household things I had all ways done.Went to the doctor and they started me on Cymbalta 30mg a day that worked for a while then they bumped it up to 60mg a day that worked a little longer.Then came a time they raised it to the max dose 120mg a day which has helped a lot.But my pardner of twenty years is a hard person to live with I have been told that I really need to get away from the negative abuse.He thinks the you can control your emotions like you have a on and off switch.Nothing get to him excepted when I was admitted to the hospital twice then he showed emotion he cry when we went home.Now he is bitter with me because I have no control over my penis he says the reason I can,t get it up is because I don,t love him.With the Hiv meds High Blood Pressure COPD Depression An Concern about possible infecting him.I even had him come to the ID Clinic and see the doctor so she could exspain to him in one ear out the other.
So I got tired of fighting about it and he can,t type very well I set him up two singles sights if I can,t give you what you need maybe some one else could.I  wish I could undo what was done.This one to this to that.I know I have mental issues as far back as 1980 when I was dischaged from the army with a section eight which means you have mental issue I was active for 5 months before I started having problem did not care any more toke two bottles of pain meds to kill myself I have not had a epasode like that but I was seventeen years old playing army. I was not ready and with what I know now I Proble never would have been.I thank you for your post it was very good and lots info I know Personaly.
Scooter

Offline PeteNYNJ

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  • When life gives you AIDS...make LemonAIDS!
    • Dance for Me, Puppets
Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #2 on: July 06, 2009, 06:40:22 PM »
Thanks, Joe, you really hit the nail on the head.  I have had some form of depression since I was a child.  It comes and goes, sometimes lasting weeks sometimes months.   I am at the point where I am so tired of talking about myself and how I feel just to have people tell me "oh, don't be depressed".  They mean well, but have no idea. 

I am kinda just suffering in silence until I go back to my doctor this month and try something new.


Offline Ric Wilke

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  • Posts: 573
  • I joined AIDSmed.com 10/2002.
Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #3 on: November 23, 2009, 07:24:14 PM »
Dearest Joe,

Thanks for putting so many things in perspective for me.  This is one of many reasons why I have always considered you "my brother."

Love always, Ric 

Offline Trace67

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  • Live, Love, Laugh!
Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2009, 10:52:19 AM »
Hi friends:

Excellent postings. I have also suffered from mild to severe depression all of my adult life both before and after I was diagnosed. I have been on Effexor XR and now Prestiq. Unfortunately, I still have my days and months where it prolongs and some periods I am ok. In my case, there is definitely a genetic link as both my biological mother and father suffered from depression and mental illness with my biological father committing suicide at 41! How many of you also have parents or siblings that suffer from depression? I really think that there is a strong genetic correlation!

Offline Snowangel

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Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #5 on: November 25, 2009, 07:02:37 PM »
Wow.  I am so glad I opened this post, I have no idea what redux means but I saw you wrote it and I thought it would probably interesting.

I can't put into words right now how your post made me feel but I am still crying. I have been thinking a lot recently about how you would know if you have depression or not and it looks like I might.


Thank you, Joe!
Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important

The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge..

One thing you can give and still keep...is your word.

One thing you can't recycle is wasted time.

Offline jm1953

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  • Posts: 255
Re: Depression Redux
« Reply #6 on: November 26, 2009, 09:13:52 PM »
Joe:

Great posting!  I have clinical depression.  I believe it is hereditary and I take after my mom.  She was in really bad shape for four years and had to be hospitalized for one year.  However the key to her recovery , as had been very helpful in mine, is finding the right psychiatrist and getting on the right medicine....  Also finding a good therapist.

It is my opinion if you are clinically depressed, and on anti-depressants/anxiety medication, you should be seeing a therapist on an ongoing basis.

It has been in just the past few years when I was diagnosed clinically depressed that I really get what my mom was going through.  And it was Hell!!!!  I wish she was still alive so I could share this with her.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge on this very important subject which I feel affects most of us with HIV whether newbies, or long termers.

Best,

jm1953
Positive 25 years. 7/21/2012 Current CD 4: 780 Viral load: less than 50. 38 to 40%
Current drug regimen, Isentress, , Emtriva, Sustiva Wellbutrin, Klonipin, Allegra, Ambien, Testosterone, Nandrolone, Vicodin, Benedryl, Aspirin, lots of vitamin supplements.

 


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