Depression is not something that I often discuss because, honestly–I am not really comfortable sharing that part of my life (yes, there are parts that I keep private).
That being said, depression is real and I have battled it.
The other day I read a tragic story about Madison Holleran, a beautiful 19 year old student at Penn State who took her own life. From the outside, she seemed to have it all–beauty, athleticism, brains and a charming personality. Her family noticed that the “fun/happy” part of her personality changed and seemed to be vacant when she was home for the holiday season before her suicide. They talked with her and got her started with therapy.
There is a video in the article that I linked above which tells her story.
Depression and migraines are connected. From the scientific angle, migraines alter the way that our brains can access and use serotonin. Serotonin is the neurotransmitter which is primarily involved in regulating our happiness/sadness levels. Add to that, the total isolation and pain of a migraine and it is easy to understand how depression is connected (this is a super simplified explanation–there is so much more to it).
In my experience, migraines + crohn’s + leukemia have brought times of sorrow that are way beyond a person’s ability to just cope.
I try to do the “right things” to keep my mental health in check. However, there have been times when no amount of journaling, praying, choosing joy, exercising, healthy eating, practicing gratitude, socializing, etc have worked. Those are the times that I have needed to see a specialist. And there is nothing wrong with that.
When I read about Madison Holleran, my heart broke because I wish that everyone felt like it is “ok to not be ok”.
Could that have prevented her suicide? There is no way to answer that question.
As much as society is trying to accept the reality that people struggle with mental illness in the same way that they struggle with physical illness–it is still very difficult for people to process. I think that is because people who do not have depression feel sadness, even extraordinary sadness at times so they don’t understand how depression is different.
And that is not their fault, until I first experienced it, I was the same way.
Depression goes from sadness to a numbness which seems inescapable because it alters the neurotransmitters, which alters the ability to think through options.
Thus, when a person is showing signs of depression or any mental instability, it is important to get them to a professional (psychiatrists are usually a better option than primary care docs because it is easy to be misdiagnosed, put on the wrong medication).
That being said, this morning I read this article which provides 31 tips for making life a little easier when you are depressed.
Again, this won’t solve true depression–a person who is truly depressed needs medical attention to get those neurotransmitters stabilized.
But this is a great list for someone who is slightly depressed, sad or even coming through treatment for depression.