Posts Tagged depression

October is National Depression Awareness Month

sometimes I’m like this:

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sometimes I’m like this:

2014-08-26 15.54.44

occasionally I’m like this:

in library

I have clinical depression, anxiety and an unspecified mood disorder [possibly a personality disorder]. the stigma surrounding mental illness astounds me. I’ve never gone off my meds and have always been under the care of both a psychiatrist and a therapist since I was diagnosed at age 27. Currently I’m part of an extensive year-long mentalization program at McLean Hospital. It’s challenging to be mentalizing when I can’t afford anything, I have no career and therefore not engaging in interpersonal relationships as one would in her 40s. Also most of the time I feel McLean doesn’t fucking care about Amy Steele, her mental health and general well-being. I’m just a fucking number. I’m not a person with feelings and emotions and goals.

I’m really stuck. I’ve been looking for work for years. A friendship ended badly several years ago and I’ve been cyber-harassed for four years. I’m tired all the time yet I also have severe insomnia. I can have days (or nights) where I’m extremely sad or unmotivated. I’m insecure but I also think I’m rather cool. I think about killing myself often. I’m just not as professionally and personally successful and satisfied as I thought I would be by this time.

Every day I take several medications. I will always have to take those medications. In addition I exercise for my mind and body and I have cut way down on sugar intake. Two years ago I cut out diet soda and although I didn’t drink it in massive amounts I feel better.

Depression means keeping a mood journal. It means being kind to yourself. It means lots of self-care and not having as many expectations for oneself as you may have had. It doesn’t mean I’m lying about in bed all day and night. I have goals and aspirations. I do a lot but some days I get extremely tired both physically and mentally. And that’s okay.

I’ve had a few hospitalizations– very brief stays– that didn’t lead to much change in my care. After one major breakdown four years ago I changed psychiatrists and meds, I took CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) and completed a partial program. One year ago, at this time, I was in the hospital for a week where I was ignored, lost five pounds and then at my insistence got into a program at McLean Hospital (my psychiatrist had to call them but I had a psychiatrist who was a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital). After the partial at McLean in April, I was recommended for the Mentalization program and took a six-week introductory course. In August I started the year-long program which consists of weekly individual therapy and group therapy. Not sure what’s going on in the program and feel as much of a misfit and as judged as I do anywhere else.

Don’t call the police on someone who is depressed. The police are not trained to deal with the mentally ill. If someone says “hey I’m lying here with a bag over my head and I’m about to duct tape it” or “I just swallowed 200 pills” then yes, call 911. Otherwise, call that person directly and suggest a chat or meeting over tea. It’s much more useful and shows empathy.



–major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for ages 15 to 44.3

–affects 14.8 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.

— the median age at onset is 32.5

–Women are 2 times as likely to suffer from depression than men.

–20 million people in the United States suffer from depression every year.

— Many creative individuals experienced depression, including Ludwig van Beethoven, John Lennon, Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, Georgia O’Keefe, Vincent van Gogh, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Anne Sexton, Virginia Woolf and Sylvia Plath.

–Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults ages 18 to 44.


Anxiety and Depression Association of America


Psych Central



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book review: Finding Peace Amid the Chaos

finding peace

Finding Peace Amid the Chaos by Tanya Brown. Publisher: LangMarc Publishing (March 2014). Nonfiction. Memoir. paperback. 248 pages. ISBN 978-1-880292-49-5.

“As I eyed the pills, the significant losses in my life that brought me to that rock-bottom pit clicked on, playing slowly and nostalgically in my mind like an old, crackling silent film. I could see Nicole’s beautiful shining face smiling at me, but that was immediately wiped out by the blood at the crime scene, the funeral, the tabloids, the helicopters hovering over our home.”

Part-memoir, part self-help book, Tanya Brown chronicles her mental breakdown a decade after her sister Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder. It’s been 20 years this week since Nicole Brown Simpson’s murder and the OJ Simpson white SUV chase broadcast on CNN. Tanya (at least a decade younger than Nicole) internalized her pain and mental illness until she had a major outburst and took too many pills. I’m not fond of the book’s subtitle: My Escape from Depression and Suicide. There’s really no escape. It takes maintenance, patience and hard work when you have depression or another mental illness.

There’s a reason for the stigma associated with depression and mental illness. There IS no cure. Instead one learns tools to cope, tools to interact with others and tools to survive. Medication may or may not play a part in one’s stability. As someone who personally struggles with depression, I can relate in many ways to Brown. She initially says that she’s not addressing OJ in this book but then spends quite a bit of time on OJ or the trial and her thoughts on him. How can she avoid it? Now a life coach, Brown utilizes the book’s second half to provide tips for others. Clearly Brown studied psychology. She provides exceptional definitions of key psychiatric terms such as breakdown point, meditation and triggers.

Brown’s useful tools to maintain one’s mental health and ideally prevent further issues are worth reading. Anyone who’s been in a partial program or behavioral health program will recognize them. She suggests scheduling everything down to the smallest thing and checking each task off as you accomplish it. She reminds us to remain present. Mindfulness is a key concept for depression. Remain in today, in the now and don’t focus your attentions on the bad events in your past. Brown implores people to break away from negatives, express feelings [avoid the bottle up that could lead to a blow-out and breakdown], commend yourself, pay attention to nutrition and be sure to exercise. She also addresses identifying and managing your thoughts via a mood journal or daily journaling. All these tips take time to work in to your lifestyle. Brown shares some of her methods with readers. For example she avoids driving with the radio on and takes nearly daily walks with her mom. In the epilogue she provides contact information to book her as a speaker or to hire her as a life coach (a bit unusual for a memoir). Worth reading although a bit rough around the edges despite being written with a co-writer.

On the breaking point:

“Each of us has a mental breaking point. It’s that undignified moment caused by the overwhelming stress and aggravation of a volatile situation, when we finally wreak emotional havoc on those around us.”

On holding her feelings in:

“I, on the other hand, bottled up everything, kept my opinions to myself, and stayed in the background as I felt everybody wanted me to do. I worried more about pretending to be happy instead of taking care of me. Our polar opposite ways of dealing with the loss of Nicole eventually came to a head.”

Advice from Nicole:

“Delete the need to understand. We don’t need to understand everything. Some things just are.”

On meditation:

“Meditation, misunderstood by many who don’t do it, can be sitting in silence, meditating on scripture, doing yoga, listening to a guided imagery CD, or doing some deep breathing. It is something you do by yourself that puts you in a state of calmness, a space of solitude and peace. It’s a place where answers come to you because your mind is still, quiet, and calm. It’s a surefire way to shut out the technological distractions of the world and focus.”

RATING: ***/5

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from LangMarc Publishing.

purchase at Amazon: Finding Peace Amid the Chaos: My Escape from Depression and Suicide

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Lindsey Vonn on Depression

“People think that my life is so great. I travel the world. I’m a ski racer. Everything is great. I’m happy but you don’t know. Everything is not sunshine and roses.”

lindsey vonn

“Go talk to someone and be open about it. Don’t keep it to yourself and stay locked in your room.”

–to Katie Couric on a recent episode of The Katie Show, October 2013


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Mental Health Awareness Week: a restraining order led to my mood disorder diagnosis

think I'm crazy? it's just a mood disorder. won't hurt you, only me.

think I’m crazy? it’s just a mood disorder. won’t hurt you, only me.

When the police officers arrived at my door a few days prior I’d been given the option for lock-up or to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. I’d gotten quite angry with my neighbor and taken a shovel and knocked out the lights at the bottom of my driveway. I’d also spray painted “Hate the PO PO” on my garage door. As a bonus, I ended up losing five pounds while at the psychiatric facility. There wasn’t much she could offer me at this time. I’d been seeing the same therapist for about seven years and I’d always had a psychiatrist whether they’d been all that useful to me or not.

I’d been prone to angry outbursts at times and believed they were just part of my outspoken nature or my attitude toward completing work tasks I’d felt were beneath me or unnecessary to the goals for the particular organization. I’ve been fired, walked out on jobs, yelled and cried and remained in bed for long spurts of time. I truly believed this was all a manifestation of my clinical depression. Nothing more.

My male friend of a decade told me he planned to start dating. We’d dated for two years and remained friends for eight years. And not just call-you-up-for-a -drink kind of friends. My mom used to say we were like an old married couple. From an outsider’s perspective it looked as if we were still dating. We’d go out to expensive dinners, see plays and concerts and spent five consecutive New Year’s Eves in a lovely room at Boston Harbor hotel to watch the fireworks. We weren’t having sex even though I slept in his bed many nights.

This guy verbally abused me, controlled and manipulated me but I was insecure and he’d be mean and cruel and then nice so I wasn’t confident enough to just walk away. He once told me “I’m not letting you go” but then another time told me “reading is a waste of time” or “your liberal arts degree’s worthless.” I’d been dating various guys for the past eight years. Nothing stuck. So when he admitted he was actually exclusive with a woman, I freaked out. I knew, despite his claims, I’d lost him. Even though I spent a lot of time with him, I spent a lot of time independently of him. I’m a music journalist and went to shows alone. I went to films alone. I did my own thing. He didn’t like everything I liked and lived in Boston while he lived way out in the suburbs. Looking back now, I am glad he’s out of my life and regret I allowed any man to belittle me, control me, abuse me and take away my 30s from me. Luckily I’m in therapy and am working on that.

This BFF [I no longer believe in such a concept] told me we’d remain friends yet he started ignoring me. We weren’t friends anymore. Sure, if I had some computer issue or mechanical problem this engineer would come over and fix it. That’s what he considered our friendship now. No more lunches, concerts, hanging out. I’d been his practice wife and now he’d found his permanent replacement. I started incessantly calling him and texting him. I just wanted to talk. I wanted an explanation why he thought it was okay to coldly shut me out and end our decade-long friendship. Being a typical engineer, he wasn’t going to give me any reason. He just planned to cut me off cold.


I flipped out and cried and lived on Klonipin and Diet Pepsi for weeks. I lost 25 pounds. I dumped my pony’s manure in his driveway with a note: “you treat me like shit then you deserve shit.” I left signs on his street about what a jerky friend he was. I created a blog about him. I’m a journalist and someone won’t speak with me, I’ll express myself through words. Nothing that salacious just a few things only I knew about him. I’d made it to get his attention, to get him to talk to me. And he did. He left me a message that if I took down the web site that he would deign to speak with me. So I did. That site was up for a few weeks at most. Of course in the meantime some work friend of his copied it and posted it to Reddit and from there a bunch of losers made it to be 300x worse than the original site which was truly for his eyes only. Now I have a libelous Google footprint that can’t be erased due to its anonymous sources. Edward Snowden like hidden sources.

So to cease communications with me the engineer took out a restraining order against me. I was devastated. He really must hate me. Did he ever care about me as he’d claimed? He’d helped me with so much even while knocking me down. Since writing wasn’t a real career to him [even though I made 50K at my last position as a Donor Relations Officer], he paid for me to get my Certified Nursing Assistant certificate and associates degree in Medical Assisting. He and paid for nursing school.

Strangely, even though I haven’t seen him since our “goodbye” dinner at Upstairs on the Square in December 2009, he’s attempted to renew the restraining order every year even though I don’t care about his new life, his family, don’t know where he lives. I do feel I wasted a decade of my life with him and there’ve been dire consequences. In a low moment, I tweeted his name a few times and a judge granted him a restraining order that I can’t tweet about him.

When I finally found myself at the Brigham and Women’s Psychiatry clinic three years ago [apparently it takes a true crisis/ hospitalization to actually secure an appointment with anyone], I was in rough shape. I’d yell at everyone. I’d cry a lot. I’d done a lot of regrettable things. I punched my hand through a window at one point. That hurt and scared me. I’d get easily enraged and would act out on that anger. I’d yell. I’d confront people. I’d swear and make a scene.

pills cocktail

The psychiatry resident diagnosed me with a mood disorder, unspecified. This made sense to me. A mood disorder means you get low lows and some highs. My mood disorder isn’t as severe as a bipolar disorder but it’s something that needs to be managed with medication and therapy. I take Cymbalta for depression, Topamax for a mood stabilizer and Klonipin for anxiety. I take a multi-vitamin and also prescription Vit-B and Vit-D which both help with mood. I also took a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy [DBT] class and a Cognitive Behavior Therapy [CBT] class. Both DBT and CBT help you to think before you react, to reduce your stress levels and to appropriately deal with your feelings.

If I’d known that I had depression and a mood disorder I’d have done things so much differently. I don’t think I’d have ever lost my position as a Development Officer at Children’s Hospital Trust. Sure I didn’t fit in exactly but I’m an excellent writer and researcher and no one questioned my work, they questioned my attitude. And due to the mood disorder I could only improve my attitude so much.

I’m not a victim but I have an illness. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed about as it’s a chemical imbalance. It takes an entire support system of professionals and vigilance on my end so that I don’t end up on the street or locked up in a maximum psychiatric ward. I’m now calmer and better equipped to deal with stressful situations. Things still bother me. I keep a mood journal. I see my psychiatrist every few weeks. Unfortunately Brigham and Women’s Hospital no longer accepts my current insurance so that’s a new hurdle. [I’ve been seen there since the mood disorder diagnosis and I’ve been a BWH patient for 20 years.] I have constant med checks and medication changes but I feel much better than I did five years ago.

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Stephen Fry on depression and suicide


Stephen Fry has bipolar disorder. He recently admitted that he attempted suicide last year. His first suicide attempt was at age 17.

Speaking to comedian Richard Herring, Stephen said:

“I am the victim of my own moods, more than most people are perhaps, in as much as I have a condition which requires me to take medication so that I don’t get either too hyper or too depressed to the point of suicide. I would go as far as to tell you that I attempted it last year, so I’m not always happy – this is the first time I’ve said this in public, but I might as well. I’m president of Mind, and the whole point in my role, as I see it, is not to be shy and to be forthcoming about the morbidity and genuine nature of the likelihood of death amongst people with certain mood disorders.”


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No Shame Day: My Name is Amy. I have depression and mood disorder and I have No Shame. #NoShame.

Picasso– Weeping Woman

My name is Amy Steele.

I am a journalist, a nonprofit writer, a volunteer, a vegan, a medical assistant, a feminist, a compassionate individual.

I have major depression, anxiety and non-specified mood disorder.

everyone’s afraid of the truth. it’s easier to judge. to avoid. to stigmatize.

When I was 16, I developed bouts of anxiety when traveling to France –had an incident on the plane– but was fine during the exchange program. In college, I spoke to some therapists about feeling sad but no one ever said I needed medication or I was depressed. When I drove X-Country at 22, it got a bit worse. I felt strange driving in some wide open spaces or when camping but I managed it through visualization and breathing. After my first year of graduate school in Washington, DC, my housemate and I drove South and I just couldn’t make it beyond North Carolina. I went home to Boston and finished my masters degree at Boston University. I went to a psychiatrist and he prescribed Xanax which helped.

I really don’t remember anyone officially diagnosing me with depression but I had an awful time finding the correct medication and a decent psychiatrist. I started meds at age 27. I’ve tried beta-blockers, Zoloft, Paxil, Prozac, Serzone, Abilify, Lexapro, Wellbutrin and many others. I’m now 42 and in the hands of a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital department of psychiatry. I’m taking cymbalta for the depression, clonipin for my anxiety and topamax to keep my mood from swinging too far out-of-bounds (don’t want to be yelling or crying too much).

Over the years I’ve gained weight, lost weight and felt crappy. I’ve been briefly and mistakenly hospitalized and lost many friends. I’ve had people unreasonably judge me. I’ve had people who know nothing about me call me “bat shit crazy” or “insane” when I’m not. I’m *still* being harassed online due to my mental illness. I had to change my phone number and email and twitter. I lost my best friend two years ago because I had a breakdown and he cowardly wanted to get married and end our friendship.

People often don’t want to take the time to understand what you’re going through. Those are the people who should feel shame. Those people are despicable. If I had cancer or a physical illness, I wouldn’t be judged at all but because mental illness is just that people think that we have some sort of control over the chemical breakdown of our brains. A guy recently told me it was all “mind over matter” and being on meds was “BS.”

We do the best we can. We need support. We don’t need the stigma. We don’t need to be put into a box and told we’re having a bad day or going off the edge or that we’re crazy or that we’re having a meltdown. Don’t do that to us. You can hug us. You can listen but don’t label us.

I have an illness that I’m managing with a very good therapist (I’ve been seeing him for eight years), an excellent psychiatrist and medication. It’s not easy. I have good days and bad days and better days and worse days. I walk. I eat well. I do yoga.

suggested reading:

My name is Amy, and I have No Shame.

Please visit The SIWE Project to share their stories and hear others’ accounts of their battles with mental illness and to check out @thesiweproject on twitter, hashtag #NoShame.

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CELEBS: Catherine Zeta-Jones and others can reduce stigma of mental illness

On Monday, Catherine Zeta-Jones’s publicist announced that she’d been hospitalized for treatment of bi-polar disorder. She has bi-polar II disorder which means she has more periods of depression than mania. She’s had a stressful year and external situations take a toll on anyone and particularly those who already have a mental illness. The best part of this is that Catherine Zeta-Jones can provide a high profile example that mental illness is a disease like alcoholism that needs constant monitoring and treatment but shouldn’t mean that people feel the need to keep the person at a distance.

according to the CDC, 1 in 10 Americans reports depression at some time during their lives.

Although Tom Cruise disastrously stole away her true message, Brooke Shields wrote a wonderful book about her post-partum depression called Down Came the Rain.

Ashley Judd has a new memoir, All That is Bitter and Sweet, where she discusses her battles with depression.

Judd also stars in the film Helen [available via netflix instant] where she plays a woman who hides her depression and has a major breakdown. It’s an excellent performance and quite a good film. I have depression and I thought the depiction very accurate. Although depression manifests itself differently in everyone.

The rich and famous aren’t immune.

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