A woman lying in a hospital bed

What I Want to Say to Every Person Who Dismisses Electroconvulsive Therapy

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I’ll admit, I’m someone who really likes to get well-rounded information on anything I create an opinion about. This is especially true with areas where I have personal involvement, and after over a decade of active struggle with major depression and anorexia, I felt especially on top of some newer trends in mental health treatment. Yet nothing could prevent the devastating plummet I took into a major depressive episode last spring.

Knowing I had tried nearly 20 different psychotropic medications over the years, I had a fairly good inkling my recovery was not going to come in the form of a pill bottle. I was actively on the waiting list for a Ketamine Infusion Trial at a local medical center, but my consistent readmissions to psychiatric facilities wrote me off as a good candidate. I was encouraged by a zealous psychiatrist to pursue genetic testing, yet while the packet of genetic results I got to carry around made me feel momentarily reassured, they ultimately did little more than that.

All of this time, I continued to get worse; getting bogged down in major depression and growing increasingly intent on suicide. Feeling protective over my anorexia recovery, which became increasingly threatened as depression interfered with my appetite, I knew that if I started to starve myself once again both my mental and physical states would become irreparable. When electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) had been suggested before, I had always written it off because I felt protective over my memory and intellect, given that so many other parts of myself had been suffocated by depression and starvation. There is also such pervasive opinion and stigma from so many areas of society, even the psychological community. I know that some even still find it difficult to forget the shocking content of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

By summer my situation had worsened, and after three concurrent hospitalizations, I was brought to a well-known ECT center where I agreed to hear them out. I am so glad that I did because when I was forced to sit down with myself and think about why I was so fearful of the procedure, I came face to face with all of the subjective falsities I was holding onto. ECT does ultimately effect your memory, but not always necessarily in the drastic manner portrayed. You are anesthetized for the actual procedure, and for me it took less than 10 minutes. I was observed and given constant care until I was fully recovered. Most important of all, ECT has remarkable results for many.

I am not the typical ECT patient. I am a 25-year-old who, thanks to ECT, is also a full-time college student after a seven-year hiatus because of constant illness and hospitalizations. It’s challenging to juggle treatments and college, but ECT unequivocally saved my life and kept me stable enough to return to being a college student, which is a crucial aspect of my self-identity.

I am reaching out to everyone struggling with mental illness who has written off ECT because of “what they’ve heard.” Stigma is a powerful force. We mostly think of how it shapes opinion, but when it comes to ECT stigma, it can shape lives. It can deny the opportunity to save lives. I’m stealing the theme of NEDA week in saying – “It’s time to talk about it.” Electroconvulsive therapy is not brutal or painful or inhuman — it can be a powerful tool in giving people with debilitating mental illness a chance to be more than a patient; a chance to be more than their pain.

Editor’s note: This piece is based on an experience of an individual and shouldn’t be taken as medical advice.

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Thinkstock photo via Ingram Publishing

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I Don't Recognize the Man in the Mirror Anymore

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Where did I go?

Who is this person I walk around as every day? Who is the man staring at me in the mirror? That isn’t me. The man I see in the mirror is angry, sad, hateful, depressed, destroyed, tired. That isn’t me. I’m not his friend. But he is with me every day. Everywhere I go this person is with me. He’s empty. Cold. He isn’t the type of person I like having around me. He feels like a wet towel thrown over my shoulders and back. Weighing me down. Who is he? Why is he always standing in my place?

Where did I go? Where am I? I love to smile. I love to laugh. I love to tell jokes and make other people laugh. I have pride in myself and how I look. People love to be around me. I am ambitious. I have dreams. I have goals and I complete them. I’m happy. I’m in love. I’m enthusiastic.

But where am I? I just see him. I only see a tired, angry and depressed face. I see someone stuck in a mirror. I feel someone hanging on to me. I can’t see myself. Where am I?

I can see myself in old pictures smiling, being happy, enjoying life, being full of enthusiasm, living! I can remember those days. I can feel those days being filled with happiness, excitement and a sense of pride. The goals and dreams come rushing back to my mind when I see old pictures and think of older memories. I hear a song I would listen to back then and all my positive energy and emotions from then come to my mind. It’s the same thing when I watch an older movie. The memories are so alive! So was I!

Where the hell did I go? Where the hell am I? Where did I lose myself and who the hell is the man staring at me in the mirror? Why the hell is he trapped inside my mirror?

Did I lose myself when I became a father? Did I lose myself after my wedding? Did I lose myself after my friend died? Did I lose myself after buying a house? Did I lose myself when I thought I was supposed to be an adult and act a certain way? Did I lose myself to alcohol? Did I lose myself when I stopped dreaming? Did I lose myself when I didn’t have any more goals? Where did I lose myself and how do I find myself again?

Did I get replaced by someone I thought I was supposed to be? Was the person I thought I was supposed to be, not a person at all? Was that person not possibly allowed to be happy or alive?

Is the person looking at me in the mirror…..me?

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An Insomniac's Rain Dance

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Imagine a rainforest and a whole valley of waterfalls, with Argentina on one side and Brazil on the other. Water, tinged brown from the jungle floor, so big and so fast and so loud that it feels more alive than your own beating heart. A rickety footbridge reaches high across islands of solid ground, much too close to an edge of the falls. You could reach out, a straining-calves-tip-toed reach, and feel closer to the squirming wall of water than you have to any wild animal. Soaked right through from just the mist of them, you hold onto the bridge and feel the joints of your legs and hips melt into the wood. These are the Cataratás del Iguazú, the place where I first offered up my life.

It was only a month before I was to return to Canada after a year of International Exchange, and I stared into the waterfalls with a feeling I couldn’t recognize. I wanted to jump. I stood there, holding onto the rail, and imagined my body being pulled through the water and disappearing into the depths of the jungle. I imagined my mother having to travel to this place to feel connected to me, and I felt some kind of deranged pride. I could become a part of this place forever, and I would never have to return to my isolated northern Indian Reserve, a place I never felt I belonged. I could die knowing I had accomplished living in a foreign country and would never have to travel back to that me again.

I was born a weird, chubby “half-breed” with no self-esteem. My father, a hockey player with green eyes and curly dark hair, was a drug addict who left when I was still an infant, and died when I was 14. My mother was the first female Chief of our First Nation, and she worked long hours at the Band Office, leaving me to be raised in part by my grandparents. Teasing and bullying was a daily pill to swallow, and every word and every rock thrown stuck deep inside me. Hating myself seemed to come naturally to me, and it’s a trait I have developed to genius levels. I was assured by authority figures that my inability to gel easily with peers was because I was different, and that someday I would graduate school and be able to leave it all behind. Someday I would find a place I belonged.

I arrived in a country at the bottom of the world with a desperation and a dream that I could be a completely different person. I could be beautiful and smart and popular; I could be the complete opposite of the introverted, shy, self-loathing person I had been. In spite of the brand new wardrobe, new blonde highlights, a foreign country and a lifetime of being told it was my environment that alienated me — I arrived to a devastating truth. I was exactly the same. The same hesitation and fear in a crowd, the same tongue-tied horror in social situations and the exact same disgust when facing a mirror. Except in Argentina I was thousands of miles from all of my friends and family and greatest supports. I couldn’t speak the language, and I had become a fat, rolling mascot in a country with one of the highest rates of anorexia in the world. My name in public crowds was “gorda,” fatso. My entire body became an entity I feared.

I was so shaken. I trembled there overlooking the valley of waterfalls, taken stock-still by the beauty and danger around me. I slipped my fingers over the wood of the rail and began to grasp it tightly. Words to vocalize my fear seemed crammed into the back of my throat, fighting to be heard. “Ven, ven!” The tour guides began to yell and direct us to the tour bus. I walked slowly, stiff and jangled, with warm water and tears streaming down my face, feeling like if I began to scream I would never be able to stop. I boarded the bus and wished I had someone I could confide in. I was scared of my own brain for the first time. I was only 18 years old, and I wanted to die.

Almost two decades have passed since that day, and I still just don’t know how to be in the world. My body feels too large, too clumsy, too hungry. My brain is clinically depressed, lacking the right finesse of juice and synapse. I always feel separate and apart from everyone else, like my presence on this earth takes up too much room. If you can imagine being seated on a crowded city bus and that stranger’s shoulder or hand invading your personal space — that creepy, icky feeling on the edge of you — that’s me. I live in that space every day.

The insomnia and hospitalizations started in my 20s. At times I get so severely depressed I cannot function, and all I can think about is death. Death everywhere, all over me. The impact on the friends and family who love me is paramount, and so I continue getting up each morning. I live day by day, often moment to moment.

I feel guilty and ashamed by my depression. There are so many in this world who have nothing. I have a roof over my head, milky tea and food in my stomach and a family who loves me. I have so much, and yet when I consider my life all I can feel is the sorrow that has scraped and flayed at the meaty parts of my brain and heart. My sadness sits on my forehead like a warm, sweaty palm.

Dealing with the here and now, I acknowledge my depression as a responsibility. Through years of experience, I know I must take my medications in the morning and at night. I must confront my anxieties and lows with a comforting voice. I must confront the bad voice, the one that repeats over and over again with messages of self-hate, with an authoritative mental smack. I must seek the guidance of a counselor every week and touch base with my doctor every few months. Sometimes I feel like a sickness that needs to be isolated and medicated, but I am grateful for the sinew of medication that tightens my thoughts and my will to live.

I have traveled the world, loved, grieved, sang out loud, graduated from a university, bought coordinated throw pillows — but a part of me will always be waiting there on the ledge. Now determined not to end my life but desperate for answers. Imagining confronting the face and dance of death beneath the waves. To meet my father, hear my grandfather’s belly laugh. To look deep into the abyss, and realize my purpose, my value, my joy all exist inside of me. To look away, up into the light of my life, and kick my hardest for the surface.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Thinkstock photo via littlehenrabi

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47 Little Things You Can Do If Depression Is Keeping You Home Today

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While most people don’t think twice about taking a sick day when they have a stomach bug or horrible cough, staying home with depression often comes with an extra layer — guilt. It’s too easy to beat yourself up for not being productive enough, which can feed the voice of depression that’s already working overtime.

But staying home doesn’t have to mean wasting time. It’s a chance to rejuvenate, to take care of yourself and to rest — all things that can give you more power to tackle depression in the future.

To find what people do when depression keeps them home, we asked people in our mental health community to share one thing they can do even when depression convinces them they can’t.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “Brush my teeth and change my clothes. Even if I’m not doing anything else that day, doing those two things makes me feel as if I did do something and the day wasn’t completely wasted. It sounds strange but it’s true.” Cassandra R.

2. “I make sure I take my dog out, and give him his treats and play at least one round of ball or rope with him. It makes him happy, which in turn lifts my spirits. I’d be lost without him.” — Kimberly D.

3. “I try to do at least one thing in the house a day. Even if I feel like I absolutely cannot, I find being in a clean house, even when you’re depressed, is better than being in a messy house.” — Alissa E.

4.Paint my nails. Small act of self care.” — Christina H.

5. “I would open all of our windows early in the morning, sit down in the porch and drink a hot cup of coffee… Simply peaceful.” — Isay B.

6.I will actively tell myself ‘I am alive,’ even if I don’t feel alive, or perhaps don’t want to be. Hug my pillow, splash my face with cold water or pace my breathing. I will fiddle with blue tac or watch a classic Disney film, acknowledging I can get past this, as long as I look after myself in the process.” — Ceilidh M.

7. “I enjoy painting. Art therapy has really helped me manage my depression and anxiety and it’s become something I can get a sense of achievement and pride from. This helps boosts my self-esteem and makes me feel better about myself.” — Rob R.

8.Work on my jigsaw puzzle.” — Roxanne B.

9.I watch a lot of movies. No serious drama that might trigger more sadness and no over the top comedy that will irritate me because the jokes are not written for adults… I stick to action, sci-fi and fantasy. Even if I can’t get out of bed, I can get lost in a good story.” — Karen F.

10.Put on some perfume that you like and hop out if bed and move somewhere else it could be the couch or any other chair.” — Chloe R.

11.Make yourself something to eat that you enjoy. It gets you doing something, even if it’s just a bowl of cereal. And you’re getting some food in you, and you enjoy it (hopefully).” — Justine P.

12. “Sometimes depression gets so bad that I find it difficult to enjoy doing things that I usually love, but one thing that always helps me is sitting on the living room couch and talking to my pet. He’s a very lively and active hamster, and just watching him run happily around and climb and just be adorable helps me feel more peaceful and less empty.” — Alejandra F.

13.I make a list of three things on my bad days and when I complete them I count it as a win against the depression.” — Patricia L.

14.I open the curtains. Just letting some natural light in can help me realize that the world is still there and even though it feels like it’s crumbling, everything is still moving forward.” — Ashley M.

15.Turn on the lights to make the room brighter even if I’m going to sleep all day.” — Jennifer B.

16.I try and read a book, something to transport me away from the dark cloud that’s over me. It lets me go into someone else’s life, even if it’s just for a minute, just a small comfort to enjoy some happiness.” — Becky U..

17.Text at least one person.” — Tanya H.

18. “Honestly? Listening to The Backstreet Boys helps a lot. Even on bad days, it makes me remember the importance of the little moments of joy like eating a chocolate bar, or petting my cat or the security of a duvet, can make things OK until the depression or anxiety passes.” — Claire Q.

19.Breathe. It’s something our bodies do naturally and something I can control when my mind turns upside down and chaotic. Maybe I didn’t get out of bed or eat anything or take a shower, but I managed to breathe through it all and on hard days, that’s enough for me.” — Talia B.

20.I play guitar.” — Claudiu S.

21.I talk to my partner. I talk about the stuff I can’t explain — that I’m having a bad day and I don’t know why, that I feel blue and angry and mad and worthless and so stupid. That I wish I wasn’t me because I don’t even know what my trigger was today. He doesn’t say anything back. But just having that sounding board, knowing that all the thoughts that are dragging me down are in the open makes me feel less horrible. There’s not a lot of people I open up to because I feel judged and I’m so tired of hearing ‘get over it’ and having someone sympathize when they don’t really know. But I hope everyone has at least one… someone you can curl beside or just talk to.” — Nat N.

22.I try and spend at least 10 minutes a day talking to someone else. Sometimes I struggle with that, because I just don’t want to be around others, or my anxiety goes into overload, but if I’m able to force myself to face those 10 minutes, then nine times out of 10, I come out of it feeling a little bit better as a result.” — Lydia A.

23.Play video games. I can’t begin to tell you how much this game has helped me cope on tough days. I suffer from agoraphobia and the expansive world of Skyrim invites players to roam across its beautiful landscape and cities… I get to feel free even when my disorder is acting up very badly.” — Ea H.

24.Sometimes I get up and stand on one leg. It’s a simple, almost silly thing but it can feel like the only thing I have control over when I’m severely depressed.” — Emily J.

25.I keep a ‘love’ memory box with every love note, dead flowers and love letters/cards my partner has given me. Along with pictures and event tickets that we have been too. I go through it to remind myself of how much he loves me, and everything he has done for me. It helps me understand that there is someone out there who I mean the world to! Even though I know that already, battling depression can make you foggy and forget about how much someone loves you! Especially on those days when the depression hits you so hard, all you want to do is lay under the covers all day and wish you could just fall asleep for a really long time.” — Verónica L.

26.Make dinner for my family. It may not seem like a big deal, but for my family it is. I was pretty much bed bound for a long time and even though I’m doing better I still get into funks. The thought of making a tasty and nutritional dinner for my family as we sit and talk about our days always helps.” — Ashley R.

27.Write. Even if it’s uncomfortable, I write. Sometimes it helps to go back and analyze the mind state I was in when I penned the words and other times it just helps to manifest the inner workings of my brain, during my dark times, into something tangible and real rather than a jumbled, toxic mess inside of my head.” — Kaine S.

28.A hot bath does wonders for me.” — Vivian G.

29.Bake. Reminds me of my grandma and good times. Smells yummy, too.” — Jaimie M.

30.I try to always sit outside for at least 15 minutes!” — Darci O.

31.I will do my makeup. It gives me a sense of doing something and keeps me busy for a short period.” — Louise J.

32.I write in my positive journal whether I feel like it or not. It keeps me going!” — Tammy O.

33. Read and read and read and research and listen to other people on forums like The Mighty, all day long. Gets me through.” — Natty H.

34. “I’m trying to draw what I feel to show other people like my doctor or therapist what’s going on in my head because I can’t use my words.” — Týnka Š.

35.I find videos that make me happy or really sad movies because sometimes when I cry really hard I feel a bit better afterwards.” — Ashley M.

36.I get up with kids talk to them. Tell them nice things about their clothes or behavior and tell them have a good day at school or etc.. Making my kids smile is the best reward for me. It gives me a reason to live and a purpose.” — Jen T.

37.I write slam poetry and perform in front on the mirror because it reminds me it might some days overshadow my happiness but it cannot overshadow my ability as a writer.” — Sarah C.

38.I take my pup out to the front yard to pee. Then she gets so excited she begs me for a walk. We walk to the park, we play wrestle, chase each other and before I know it I’m laughing. Taking her out to pee changes my day sometimes.” — Nat C.

39.I can love my daughter. I may get more frustrated, and not want to play with her, but I still love my daughter, even when I don’t want to love anyone else, especially myself.” — Tori H.

40.Yoga. Keeps me calm and grounded, and allows me to keep control of my breathing when I feel like I can’t control anything else.” — Brooke B.

41.I spend my day behind a sewing machine, it helps me to see material results of my work. I also cuddle a lot with my wonderful guinea pigs.” — Markéta V.

42. “Accept it… by accepting that; yes, today is a darker day, my depression has a stronger hold on me, I’ve found I tend to actually manage to get through the day. You can’t see the stars shine without the darkness. With no dark, there is also no light. Acceptance is a major thing to being able to get through/live with depression.” — Deb C.

43.I always call my grandma and grandpa to see how they are doing. I love them so much even when it gets bad, I always want to make sure they’re OK.” — Kylie J.

44.Wash my bedsheets then put them back on my bed. The smell of clean laundry really helps. Makes you feel fresher and happier.” — Debbie S.

45.Write a thank you note that’s long overdue – ‘past due’ (it’s never too late) – put a stamp on it and walk it out to the mailbox. Always keep stamps and thank you cards.” — Carol M.

46.Drink a full glass of water. I know that sounds simple, but for me it’s a big deal. Even if I can’t eat, drinking water is something that I can stomach down.” — Cassey M.

47.Text my loved ones and tell them I love them and appreciate them. It makes you feel good to make others feel good, and it’s just enough of a connection to ease the isolation.” — Leah V.

What would you add?

 



47 Little Things You Can Do If Depression Is Keeping You Home Today
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Even Mental Health Professionals Get Depressed

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I have been a psychotherapist for some years now, although I haven’t worked for a while due to my health conditions including depression and anxiety. I never really understood chronic depression until I had it myself, and always thought of depression as an external issue causing internal symptoms.

Depression is an inability to cope with life situations… so the answer is to look at making changes, find acceptance of situations and choose how to move forward feeling more in control and able to manage this new chosen life. Textbook right?

Wrong.

What about those who have no choice, no way out, no change to be able to make? Sure one can always try to manage how we deal with the things we can’t change or choose, but what if it’s something that is soul destroyingly endless? What if it’s something that won’t ever improve? What then?

These are all my questions to my own therapist who has no answers for me. Because there are none. There are no fixes or positive mantras to change the fact that my depression comes from a deep sadness of a life I now find painful and difficult without a cure. No matter how many things I am lucky enough to be grateful for, I cannot get past this negative energy that comes from this body that feels broken. It has a hold on my emotions I can’t break.

A wise friend once told me there is no fix, only love. To listen and hold a person when they need it and to accept them.

This has been the most powerful knowledge to me as a therapist and a human, purely to know I can still have value as a person even though I won’t be able to assist recovery in all people. This, in turn, has helped me to educate those around me of what I need from them in supporting my depression battle.

Support is always possible. I’ve learned this is the absolute key to being in a therapeutic role.

So if there is anyone reading this who cares and supports people with long term chronic depression, let go of all you want to do for people, and focus on being a human with empathy and kindness, because for me and possibly others, this will be enough to support someone through making it to another day and stop them from feeling alone. We can’t always take away someone’s feelings or make them well, no matter how upsetting this might be, but it’s still so very important to just be there for others in any way we can.

From a patient and a colleague in the caring profession.

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When I Was Told to 'Prove' My Depression

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Prove it.

Two words that both invalidate you and put you on the spot at the same time.

By saying this, you are showing me you don’t believe I’m in pain. You are telling me just because I don’t look depressed means I must not be. What you don’t know is my mom is gone and there have been months at a time when I cried myself to sleep every night.

You are telling me I don’t deserve the title. Like you earn the label depression by reaching a certain point where it’s obvious to everyone. Not only that, but in front of everyone you have just challenged me to show you I’m depressed. What do you expect next? Do you want me to jump into the fire? Break down crying? Or do you want me to just give up and pretend I never said anything. I’m sure it would be much easier for you if everyone around you was perfect.

Guess what? They aren’t.

The worst thing you can do to someone who struggles with anything that isn’t obvious to the public is to make them feel like they aren’t entitled to feel that way. You are questioning the only thing they feel anymore. You are telling them you don’t respect them enough to not make fun of their illness. Just because depression isn’t obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s not there.

All a depressed person wants — other than a nap — are people who understand. Be this for them. Understand feelings should never have to be proved to you. The fact you were told about it in the first place is a victory. Don’t expect us to wear depression like a sign. That’s not productive and it isn’t fair.

Next time you are thinking about telling someone to “prove it,” think about what you are actually saying. To those who are told to show your depression: don’t. Your illness is your illness and it’s completely up to you how much you want to show it. If dealing with it on your own is the best thing for you, then do it. Don’t allow someone else to be the judge of our pain. Nobody else needs to validate you. Just focus on you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

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