Friday, September 7, 2018

Dear Ellen "I have it all but I'm still depressed"

Green money

Someone filled out the anonymous form (now closed)  and so we have a question of the day:

What is your advice for finding true happiness inside and out? I’m sure I’m an undiagnosed depressed soul. I’m educated, employed, mother of 2 with a great husband of 22 years. I never feel happy and I’m sure I’m negative to my friends and family. I want to break the cycle. I’ve tried medication in the past but it was ineffective.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having a bad time and glad you’re reaching out.

You have a lot of blessings but as you note, depression can hit you regardless of what your circumstances are. That’s what makes it so difficult. 

Somehow or another, we have talked ourselves into thinking that's it's only okay to be depressed if you have a solid reason. But the fact is that depression can hit anyone at any time.

Don't worry about whether you've 'the right' to be depressed. It's just an issue you have to deal with, like having spots or sore feet.  

Also, you’re not alone!

The 2017 National Health and Morbidity Survey found that 29% of Malaysians suffer from depression and anxiety disorder - that’s more than double the 12% who reported having these issues back in 2011.

So, giving it's a really common problem, let’s start with the how you should approach tackling depression.

Ideally, you:
1.      See your family doctor to rule out physical issues like thyroid problems. More on that, here.
2.      Talk to a therapist to see what stresses are in your life and to get an accurate picture of exactly what is going on.
Only at that point do you see if you want to explore medicine or therapy or both. Some more thoughts about that here.

I don’t know what you did or how long ago it was but if it’s been a while, please adopt that approach.  

Everyone is different so be fully informed first and only then take decisions that suit you and your needs.

Also, a thought about the medication. NOTE: I am not a doctor and only medical doctors can discuss this properly. However, may I ask how long you took meds? Because a lot of antidepressants take several weeks before they start working. Doctors sometimes forget to explain that, and so people pop a pill for three days, expecting instant results, and then quit.

If you did that, then factor that into your decision making.

What would I suggest you do right away? Rule out physical stuff and then talk to a therapist, starting with your workload.

I say that because, from your short description, it sounds like you have a lot of roles and responsibility. Are you perhaps overworked? Is everyone around you pitching in or are you somehow bearing the whole load?

Also, what about your self care? Do you do things that are fun for you?  A little happiness scheduling may be of benefit.I wrote a blog post on how that works, here.

Then, work on your communication. You recognise you’re a bit negative, and that is a habit you can change. Get some help with that, and learn to tweak your responses a little. A good strategy for that is cognitive behavioural therapy. And yes, there's a blog post on that too, here.

I hope this helps you start your journey to happiness.