How to Talk About Depression With Friends and Family

    Communicating your feelings and experiences of depression to friends and family can be a daunting task. It’s often difficult to find the right words to express just how you’re feeling, especially when those feelings are shrouded in stigma, misunderstanding, or fear. However, opening up about depression is a vital step towards recovery and building a strong support system. 

    For me, depression had me not wanting to do anything. Not even asking for help and being depressed had me laying in bed for hours on end not taking care of things. It was frustrating, and the thing that turned the corner for me was getting angry about not having the mental faculties are used to have. I used to be able to think really fast before the chemo. And after, I was under a fog, and couldn't remember words sometimes. 

    I did find help with some psychiatric help, and some testing. But none of the bone marrow transplant team would suggest or help me in that way. I had to push for and ask for help. When I did talk to the psychiatric people I asked them for help in getting my speed of thought back and getting rid of the fog.

    One of the articles I came across when researching how to do that on my own was a medical journal that was speaking about the effects of Adderall on adolescents. Now I am 53 and at the time I was 51 I didn't really think that I was an adolescent, but I thought, this article was talking about white matter destruction, and not being able to repair that white better through the use of Adderall type medication.

    My understanding was that was the outer layer that needed repair, and the inner layer was the CPU so to speak of the brain. The article said that Adderall-type medication, Ritalin too, would help the adolescents regrow that brain matter, and that is one of the reasons they think better afterward.

    I came to this conclusion after reading those articles on stimulants. I was on Ritalin as a child, and I feel it made a huge difference to my mental abilities as a child. I was a failing student for years as a kid, and after 5 years of Ritalin, I was able to bring my grades up to a B average by 9th grade and near straight A's by 12th grade. Now in college, I get nearly 4 points GPA, with one A- it did bring my grade down. But I have the brain speed and no fog to speak of after the change I was able to get help with. 

    Read this article by Davis, et al., (2013) it speaks of more medications than I even mentioned here, but the medication I was after was something that would heal bringing fog and speed of thought at the same time. The medication that I finally was given after all the testing and speaking with the mental health facilities was bupropion. I'm not saying that this will help everybody and I'm not a doctor, so please consult your doctor before taking this advice. But this particular medicine did reduce my depression and my speed of thought increased dramatically.

    After getting this help a couple years ago, I started taking a four-year degree program to finish out my bachelor's degree in IT. I am now three months from completing that at 53 years of age, and I have almost all of my speed of thought back and mental clarity. I do come up short of words at times because part of my issue is the tremendous pain that I deal with from some sciatica, stenosis, spondylosis, and bulging discs. Another reason for my depression was not being able to work and losing that sense of identity.

    One of the things that most people don't understand is they wrap their sense of identity into what they do for work and not who they are as a person. And even for people that retire, this becomes a problem. Find your identity in something other than work as my suggestion for this.

Talking to family and being able to have their support is super important and something I wish I had or off when I was going through my treatments.

Here are some tips to navigate this important conversation:

1. Choose the Right Time and Place: This is a deeply personal and potentially long conversation, so choose a setting where you feel safe and comfortable. Ensure that you have plenty of time and privacy to discuss your feelings without interruptions.

2. Be Prepared: Before the conversation, spend some time reflecting on what you'd like to communicate. You might find it helpful to write down your feelings or to practice what you want to say. Keep in mind, that it's okay to express uncertainty or confusion about your feelings.

3. Use 'I' Statements: To avoid placing blame and to express your feelings clearly, use 'I' statements. For example, instead of saying "You don't understand me", try saying "I feel misunderstood when I can't fully express my emotions."

4. Educate Them: It's possible that your loved ones may not know much about depression. Provide them with information about depression's symptoms, causes, and treatments. This can help them understand better what you're going through.

5. Express Your Needs Clearly: It's important to tell your loved ones how they can support you. You might need emotional support, help with daily tasks, or companionship to appointments. Being specific about your needs can help them understand how to assist you best.

6. Be Patient: Remember, your friends and family may initially react out of surprise or confusion. They may need time to process the information. If they don't react the way you expected, try to be patient and give them space to absorb the information.

7. Consider Professional Help: If you're finding it particularly hard to express your feelings, consider inviting a mental health professional to help mediate the conversation or provide guidance on how to disclose your condition.

    Opening up about depression is a personal decision and one that requires courage. But remember, there's no "right way" to have this conversation. Your feelings are valid, and you deserve support and care. Always reach out to a mental health professional if you're feeling overwhelmed or need advice on coping with depression.

    Note: This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you're struggling with depression, please reach out to a healthcare professional immediately.

Reference

Davis, J.Ahlberg, F. M.Berk, M.Ashley, D. M.Khasraw, M. (2013). Emerging pharmacotherapy for cancer patients with cognitive dysfunction. Ncbi.nlm.nig.gov. Retrieved June 04, 2023 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC40156 74/

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