Clinical depression sucks and it’s only growing more common. Almost one in two people in the U.S. will suffer from depression or another mental health condition at some point and about one in 17 Americans actually has a serious mental illness right now.
Despite its rising rates, depression can be hard to wrap your brain around, especially if you’ve never had it. It’s not easily treated or cleared up by positive thinking, or yanking yourself up by your bootstraps, or shoving your feelings to the dark corners of the back of your mind. It’s so much deeper and more insidious than that. I once described depression this way:
“None of those external [good things you have going for you] truly register or resonate when you have depression. You can logically identify them as Good Things, and you know they are supposed to make you feel Good, but you can’t feel them, they can’t get in. It’s like your brain is wearing a full-body armor designed to keep only the good things out. Bad things … get ushered in instantly, like VIPs.”
People who don’t have depression don’t always know what to say that could possibly help to a friend or family member going through the all-encompassing yet simultaneously utterly numb sensation of your own brain turning against you. Here are a few things not to say (unless you want said friend or loved one to grow homicidal as well as miserable): Keep reading »
There’s often nothing more isolating than being told to “cheer up” or “it’s not so bad” when in the throes of a rough patch. Even when it’s clear that a shift in perspective or a perkier outlook could make a situation seem better, it’s not always possible to just flip an internal switch and suddenly decide to feel better. A new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reminds us of what psychologists have been saying for years — that these “positive reframing” phrases, which we use in an attempt to create perspective, are sometimes anything but helpful. Keep reading »
I remember my first panic attack in more detail than I remember losing my virginity or the first time I drove a car by myself. (I guess vivid terror of suddenly not being able to breathe really ingrains itself into your psyche.) It was 1998 and I was watching the “Psycho” remake with my family’s French exchange student. During the infamous shower scene, my throat and lungs tightened inside me like a figure eight knot. I got up and paced around the movie theater, unable to control my body and wondering if I was having a heart attack. I’ve had panic attacks periodically since then, probably due to a combination of biology and circumstance. I’ve made an effort to lessen the conditions that they occur in and for the most part, I live a pretty calm life. My anxiety only spikes in extreme circumstances, such as the rare times I’ve gotten temporarily stuck in a subway underground (I’m claustrophobic).
After a couple of years without anxiety attacks in my everyday life, I’ve started having them again. The stress is related to old stuff resurfacing in my life and the anxiety is pretty much the same, too: my chest tightens, my heart beats too fast, I can’t breathe, and I feel like I’m having a heart attack. (Or, you know, what I assume a heart attack feels like.) I’m 30 now. Panic attacks are still shitty and frustrating, but all the experience I’ve had coaxing myself through them over the years actually does makes them less intense and quicker to get over.
These are my thoughts on what panic attacks are like, how to deal with them, and what I hope other people could understand if they’re trying to help:
Keep reading »
I’ve never liked cats. I know this is an unpopular point of view, but the heart wants what the heart wants. And this heart wants everything of the feline persuasion to stay away from her. It’s the allergies, but also, I just don’t like the way they look at me. Should you want to join me in the pursuit of catless-ness, you might be interested to know that new research published in the PLOS ONE journal discovered a link between cat bites and depression. Keep reading »
I was diagnosed with clinical depression about two years ago. Sadly, this didn’t lead to me beginning a wacky romance with a free-spirited girl who taught me to embrace life and love myself for who I am. I just started taking prescription drugs, made a few lifestyle changes, and felt smugly justified about listening to Joy Division.
All the time I spent not “Silver Linings Playbook”-ing it up made me realize that a lot of what I thought I knew about depression was about as accurate as what elementary school children know about where babies come from. Read all five ridiculous things often believed about depression on Cracked…
This time of year is tough. These cold months between the holidays and the first day of spring are like one giant, perpetual Monday staring you in the face. I’m generally a pretty happy-go-lucky person, but when the chilly months roll around, my personality changes. I get down in the dumps over just about everything.
This time last year, I was living on the Florida coast, where I experienced my first sunny winter in over a decade. I’d always known I tended to fall into a funk each winter, but experiencing a January without snow made me realize just how tough a time I had each year. That Florida winter, I had plenty of energy and optimism — just like I do in the warmer months. When I’m living up north, a typical January for me usually means sleeping late, feeling hopeless and getting close to nothing accomplished. When I saw how good life can be year-round when winter blues aren’t part of the picture, I knew it was time to change how I approach the cold, slushy season. Keep reading »
It’s no secret that becoming a new parent can be one of the most trying times in a person’s life. Seven years later, I can still vividly remember those first few hours and days together, despite the foggy haze of sleeplessness I was in. A plethora of hormones coursed through my body, screwing with my emotions. I’d be happy but I’d cry, I’d be sleepy but couldn’t quell the anxiety that gripped me. I had read countless books and taken a few classes in order to prepare me for this moment. I still felt completely out of my depths.
Welcome to motherhood.
Thankfully, I had an incredible support system: an equally tired husband who had managed to cobble together a month of paternity leave (through FMLA, using up paid vacation, and taking unpaid time off), parents and in-laws who lived no more than two hours away, a doting doula who helped me not only through labor and delivery but with breastfeeding as well, eager friends, and even a visiting nurse provided by the hospital via our insurance. I was fortunate and privileged. Besides many sleepless nights and some stained shirts, I escaped my son’s infancy relatively unscathed. Yet, the same can’t be said for everyone. Keep reading »
Daisy Coleman, the Maryville, Missouri, teenager whose rape by a politically well-connected classmate attracted nationwide attention, tried to commit suicide this week.
Daisy was raped in 2012 at age 14 by some of her male classmates at a party she attended with a girl friend. Both girls were given alcohol by older boys and allegedly raped while drunk; one of the rapes was allegedly recorded with an iPhone camera and passed around school. The night, the boys dropped Daisy and her friend, Paige Parkhurst, off at Daisy’s home. While Paige made it inside, Daisy was left outside on the front lawn overnight in freezing temperatures while drunk. Her alleged rapist, high school football player Matthew Barnett, then 17, had all charges dismissed against him. Matthew is the grandson of a MO state representative. Keep reading »