Posted by: jedwardswright | February 9, 2012

Does Spanking Contribute to Depression?

My mother spanked me when I was a child. I spanked my own children at times when they misbehaved.

I never considered that admission to be particularly controversial. Certainly later as a teacher I learned many non-physical methods of discipline that I wished that I had known about when my own kids were small, especially preventative measures. Definitely if I had to do it over again I would spank less, and perhaps not at all.

However, I didn’t think that being spanked had a significant bearing on my becoming depressed, nor did I believe that a little corporal punishment along the way was detrimental to my children’s healthy development.

Now along comes a research study that has me questioning all that.

In a recent article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) reports that research over the past 20 years overwhelmingly indicates that physical punishment of children not only makes them behave more aggressively and show more antisocial behaviors, but also lead to mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.[i]

According to the article’s authors, Dr. Joan Durrant of the Department of Family Social Sciences, University of Manitoba, and Ron Ensom of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, when parents in 500 families were taught to use non-physical methods of discipline, their children’s negative behaviors decreased.

My first thought is that physical punishment can encompass many things, from being slapped across the face to a gentle paddling on the bottom. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the parental behavior being targeted was in fact spanking a child with the hand. This would indicate that not only have generations of parents gotten it wrong, but that generations of children may have suffered from mental illness as a result.

I do remember being spanked as a traumatic experience that sometimes left me sobbing hysterically well after the paddling was over. Quite honestly, I had associated my distress with the humiliation of my mom’s insistence on spanking me on my bare bottom. Maybe there was more to it than that.

While I remain convinced that genetics plays a major role in determining whether or not we have depression, I do think that our childhood experiences and trauma as adults can be a large contributing factor to mental illness.

What do you think? Are you of the “It never did me no harm” school of thought, or do you genuinely feel that being spanked (or not) contributed to whether you became depressed?


[i] Canadian Medical Association Journal. “A Child’s Long-Term Development May Be Harmed By Physical Punishment.” Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 7 Feb. 2012. Web.

9 Feb. 2012. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/241245.php&gt;

Posted by: jedwardswright | February 2, 2012

Anxiety and Me

For me, anxiety and depression go hand in hand. They are soul mates who are rarely found apart.

 Doubt and despair have so much in common. Where doubt produces fear, despair extinguishes hope. Self-doubt paves the way to depression with whispers: “You knew you couldn’t do it,” “You’ll never amount to anything” and “You’re a failure, you know.”

My faith is a counterbalance to the negatives going on in my head, and without it I might easily succumb.

Still, I need strategies to fight back against the darkness. Usually these amount to replacing the negative thoughts with positive, and reminding myself what God says that challenges the statements rolling around in my head.

Recently, I tried something new which might seem to contradict this approach. Rather than fight my anxiety straight on, I let it have it’s say and exposed it to the light of day.

Here is what I did.

I wrote at the top of a page in a notebook, “Things I am anxious about today,” then began a point form list of my worries and fears. Filling the page was easy. Afterwards, I sat back and looked at my assembled terrors and found that they looked less threatening. I felt a little lighter for the experience.

One of the things I discovered was that a number of my anxieties were contradictory. For instance, I wrote both “I am afraid that we won’t sell the house,” and “I’m afraid that we will sell the house.” I had myself covered either way. No matter what happened, I would be anxious about it!

By revealing the absurdity of my fears, I felt better able to deal with them. It all seems less serious somehow.

I thought at the time I might write in my “Anxiety Notebook” every day, or every week perhaps, but so far I haven’t felt the need to go back, and it has been about seven days or so. I imagine that I will feel the need to uncover my fears again before long though, so I am keeping that notebook handy.

Maybe something like that would help you too.

Posted by: jedwardswright | January 24, 2012

Autism and Depression

Simply because someone is diagnosed with one condition does not mean that he or she does not have other identifiable disorders. Autism is difficult enough, but when combined with depression the impact is greater still. Obviously, it is more challenging to detect or treat depression in people with communication difficulties.

Depression is considered to be more prevalent among people with autism than people in the general population[i] and in fact depression is thought to be the most common psychiatric illness of persons with autism. [ii]Whether that is more because of the stress of living with autism or a genetic predisposition towards depression is still hard to determine, but it has been demonstrated that, like most of us with depression, autistic individuals with depression are more likely to have depression in their families.[iii]

Circumstances which may contribute towards depression in people with autism include the knowledge that they are different from others, difficulties with social interaction, loneliness, feelings of failure, and extreme anxiety.  Sexual frustration may also be a factor in teenagers and adults.[iv]

In addition to the usual symptoms of depression (e.g. sleep problems, increased or decreased appetite, tearfulness or social withdrawal), a person with autism may exhibit an increase in behaviors such as hand flapping,  echolalia, or rocking, or displays of inappropriate emotions.[v] They may be more susceptible to catatonia, which typically is expressed as slower movement and a decrease in self-care, or show greater obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Increases in aggression may also be symptomatic of depression[vi] and so can a decrease in interest in usual preoccupations.[vii]

Depression is thought to be more likely with age, so during adolescence it may become more prevalent. In the case of persons with Asperger’s Syndrome or other high-functioning autism the change to high school or college may be a particularly stressful time when depression can appear.[viii]

Some evidence suggests that the higher functioning a person with autism is the greater the odds of being affected by depression, but this is still speculation at this point. It is known that higher functioning people with autism are more prone to low self-worth, which would fit with this theory.[ix]

As for treatment, “most studies advocate the use of a structured form of psychotherapy, along with appropriate behavioral and educational interventions. In more able and older persons with autism, cognitive-behavioral strategies may help to cope with anger and depression, although these are seldom successful in isolation.” While medication is increasingly being prescribed for the treatment of persons with both autism and depression, this appears to be as a result of the known benefits for others with depression rather than any research on their effect on people with autism in particular.

While treatment for depression is not intended to treat autistic symptoms, it is likely to provide a better quality of life for both the person with autism and depression and reduces the level of support required from the family and community.[x]


Posted by: jedwardswright | January 19, 2012

A Prayer for the Depressed

Dear God,

All I see is darkness, but I believe that You are the light of the world.

Please shine your light into my life.

It is hard to have faith when it feels like I am wading through concrete.

Please help my unbelief.

It seems like I am so alone and no one understands that I am constantly in the pouring rain.

Please shelter me in Your arms of love.

I want to be myself again—the person You created me to be.

Please restore my personal authenticity.

My muddled mind sends messages of hurt and anger and unworthiness.

Please help the doctors to find the right medication to counteract the chemical imbalance in my brain.

Every day it is so hard to resist the urge to curl up in bed and pull the covers over my head.

Please encourage me on my way.

I need you, Lord, more than I ever have.

Please draw me closer to You when I walk away.

Even praying for myself is almost beyond my capability right now.

Please bring others near who will pray for me in my weakness.

God, you have brought me this far in spite of myself.  Be my Shepherd as the days unfold.

When I wonder where you are, You are there. When I wonder how I can, you give me strength. When I wonder why this pain, You bring comfort and grace.

Help me to be assured that You are there, even when I cannot tell.

Thank you for Your love, and patience, and mercy.

Your Child
Posted by: jedwardswright | January 11, 2012

I’m SAD in the Winter: Seasonal Affective Disorder

My energy level bottoms out about this time every year.

I live in the northern Northern Hemisphere, which means that in January, the amount of sunlight that we receive is at almost the lowest level of the year.

It has been unseasonably warm with almost no snow in our neck of the woods, so the most common topic of polite conversation is how we can’t complain about the weather. People aren’t dancing in the streets exactly, but on the whole everyone is thrilled with the current climatic development. Honestly even the sunshine has shown up more often than usual in the past month, so theoretically my battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder should be almost non-existent.

I wish life worked that way.

Instead, between recovering from the busy (but very enjoyable) holiday season and fighting the fatigue of SAD, I have been an almost full-time full-length resident of our living room couch for the past two weeks.

Am I depressed? “Yes” and “No.”

“Yes,” I find being chronically exhausted depressing, but “No” the depression isn’t too severe– thanks to my trusty medications. Let me goof up and miss taking my meds though, and I begin to wish that I had never been born. All you depressives out there know just what I mean.

I should add here that I have also been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia which when stirred into the mix doesn’t help either.

If you find your depression usually deepens at a particular time of year, particularly if that season is winter and you live in an area of the world that gets less sunshine, it is possible that you also have SAD. (Presumably for Aussies and New Zealanders the vulnerable time of year would be in June, July and August.)

What can we do about it? Sitting under a “natural” light source is supposed to help. While there are expensive lights that you can buy that are sold specifically for SAD, try first buying full-spectrum light bulbs from your local hardware or big box store. They are a much cheaper alternative to other light box therapies, and if they work for you, hurray! You just saved yourself a whole whack of money.

Try regulating your sleeping and waking hours to be more consistent, and sit under the light early in the morning to mimic the effect of the sun rising. If your sleep patterns continue to be erratic (awake at night and sleepy during the day), it may be a reasonable accommodation to use sleep medication occasionally to prevent becoming too exhausted and try to “reset your inner clock” to a more suitable sleeping schedule.

If you are on medication for depression, you may wish to consult with your doctor about a seasonal adjustment in dosage. If you aren’t on meds and SAD is having a significantly negative effect on your ability to enjoy life, let your doctor know that too. Even if you don’t choose to pursue a medical solution, it may be something to consider when diagnosing other conditions.

The best news about SAD is that every year, Spring shows up.  I know that this lethargy and tiredness will gradually be relieved in April and May and until then I am fortunate to be at home whereI have the ability to lie down and snooze when necessary.  

For those of you without that luxury, keep in mind that SAD when severe and untreated can lead to a major depressive episode, and you want to get medical attention before things get too bad. It is easier to prevent landing in the Pit than it is to dig yourself out. Don’t leave it too long before seeking your doctor’s help if you find you are in a downward spiral.

Here is some more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder from:

MayoClinic

WebMD

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Posted by: jedwardswright | December 18, 2011

Christmas Wishes…for Those Who Need Hope

This is a repeat of something I first posted on December 24, 2010.

Here are my Christmas wishes for everyone who is in distress or grieving or depressed this holiday.

For those who are alone, I wish:

  • that in the New Year you find companionship where you least expect it.
  • that you will feel the gentle warmth of God’s love.
  • that you are encouraged just knowing that someone (that would be me!) cares enough to think of you right now.
  • that you will find the courage to reach out to others this year: online, by attending a place of worship, by joining a club or class, by contacting family, or by volunteering

For those suffering the loss of someone they love:

  • that you will be blessed by the love and concern of others
  • that your memories will comfort you, not cause you sadness
  • that those around you will allow you to mourn in your own way, and at your own timing
  • that you will have hope for the future, and the strength to face it without your loved one

For those who are battling major depression:

  • that you will receive appropriate medical care
  • that the stigma surrounding mental illness will continue to lessen through education
  • that those around you will understand that you are suffering from a physical condition, not an attitude problem
  • that you will be able to get out of bed each morning and do what you need to do

For those who are in financial difficulty:

  • that you will find employment in a position that meets your needs
  • that you are always able to get the medical attention and medicines that you and your family need
  • that you will have the grace and fortitude to be able to accept the help that is available, knowing that someday, you will find a way to help others
  • that you will always have a roof over your head and enough to eat, for yourself and for your loved ones

For those who are living with physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse

  • that you find your way to safety soon
  • that you will understand that what is happening is not your fault, no matter what your abuser says
  • that you will realize that you are a person worthy of being treated better
  • that you will understand that verbal and emotional abuse are as serious as physical abuse
  • that you can comprehend that sexual abuse is still sexual abuse when it comes from your spouse
  • that you will make that call to a women’s shelter or abuse hotline, even if only to talk to someone who understands

Today is just one step along the journey. Where you are now is not where you will be a year from now. Circumstances may change, or you may choose to change your circumstances.

My biggest wish for you all is that you would have hope. Do not give up. Do not give in. Keep reaching out.

God bless you all, every one.

Posted by: jedwardswright | December 15, 2011

The Hardest Person to Forgive

Maybe you have been horribly hurt by someone in your life: a family member, a friend, a co-worker, or a total stranger. Perhaps forgiving this person seems beyond your ability. Humanly speaking, it may be impossible, but with God’s help, you may be able to find your way to that place. I hope and pray that you can reach that point, because bitterness, like battery acid, corrodes the vessel that contains it. I know that I often have had a wound that I thought had healed re-opened, and I have to begin the process of forgiving over again. Letting go and letting God is not easy.

This post is not about that person. I have read many insightful stories and articles on the subject of forgiving others, but I have less often seen advice on absolving the hardest person of all to forgive: ourselves.

Depression, it is said, is anger turned inward. While we may seethe internally about injuries received from the outside, we are even more furious at the person inside for offenses we believe that we have committed, whether against ourselves or others. I am convinced that depressed people are more adept at beating up themselves than resenting those who hurt us.

Whether it is an action or a failure to act, a wrong decision that changed the course of our lives for the worse, a careless remark that hurt someone we love, or a self-abusive compulsion we continue to do, hating ourselves comes naturally to people with depression. We call ourselves ugly names, mourn our lack of insight or self-control, and generally tend to marinate our inner being in self-blame and feelings of hopelessness.

How do we get off this merry-go-round of repeated self-recrimination?

Admit that it is okay to make mistakes.

We are all too aware that we are not perfect, but we fail to acknowledge that we share that trait with 100% of the rest of the world. When we mess up, we need to remind ourselves that it is not only all right that we are human, it is inevitable.

Lower your standards.

Oh, this is a toughie! My demanding standards for myself have been instilled in me from the time I could toddle by parents who honestly believed that achievement would help make me happy, and while they weren’t entirely wrong, my perfectionism has caused me at least as much grief as pleasure.

It is acceptable to be mediocre at some things. It is possible to be at peace with yourself and not be the most successful person in your graduating class, or even on your block. A few dust bunnies under the bed never killed anyone, and you are not the only parent to drive your kids to school in your jammies!

Practice Positive Affirmations

My very first post on A Darker Shade of Blue back in April of 2010 was called “Positive Affirmations.” In a nutshell, it is about how to change in a positive direction the way you talk to yourself. I have used this method personally, and I have had great feedback from others who have tried it too. Please check it out and see if it can work for you.

Recognize that you are living with a medical condition

We need to cut ourselves more slack, because being a person with a mental health condition like depression is no walk in the park, to put it mildly. All of us have had days when just getting out of bed and having a shower is a major accomplishment. All of us require more effort to do fewer things. Just because the outside world doesn’t always get it doesn’t mean we should beat ourselves up over it.

Above all we need to take care of ourselves, take our meds, and when things are feeling really tough, pamper ourselves a bit . Have that bubble bath or light a few candles or buy that book you’ve been meaning to read one of these days. Be nice to yourself.

Celebrate Small Victories

Hey, if for you getting the living room cleaned or that report in to work is a big deal, it is a big deal! Jump up and down and yell “Hurray!” or call someone who cares and tell them you are having a good day. Buy flowers for that coffee table as a perk for finding it underneath the pile, or have a glass of wine with dinner and toast yourself for your success.

Remember God Loves You

Even when it feels like no one else give a rat’s posterior, remind yourself that God loves you anyway, and He will forgive you if you ask Him, as well as helping you to forgive yourself. He doesn’t want you to keep kicking yourself, because you are precious to Him.

The hardest person to forgive is the one who needs your forgiveness the most: you. Say it out loud, “ I forgive myself, and I am going to let it go.” Repeat as needed.

Posted by: jedwardswright | December 7, 2011

Will Antidepressants Change Who I Am?

The idea that taking antidepressant medication will somehow affect a person’s personality is a common concern. People are afraid of becoming “zombies” or losing their creativity, or being “high.” In my experience, being on the correct antidepressant has made me better able to be myself without constantly battling apathy, exhaustion, and extreme mood swings (although in all honesty I do not have complete relief from these problems).

You don’t have to take my word for it though. Here are statements from other sources.

“antidepressants are designed to change only certain chemicals that underlie the symptoms of depression, not to change your personality. Most people who take antidepressants are actually happy to feel like themselves again, rather than feeling like a different person.” — [i]National Mental Health Organization (NAMI)

“SSRIs perhaps can be viewed as personality-normalizing agents” — LiveScience[ii]

“Will the antidepressant change my personality? The short answer is no. Antidepressants will reduce the amount of excessive or disabling depression you will feel.” [iii] — Brochure from Boynton Health Service, University of Minnesota

It’s true that taking an SSRI changes the chemistry inside your brain. This causes subtle changes in the way you feel, act, and behave [but] you just might like the new you. In one of the few studies measuring personality changes in response to antidepressants, those taking SSRIs felt more emotionally stable, outgoing, trusting, and assertive, and less hostile.”[iv] — WebMD

 

Although a recent much-publicized study conducted at NorthWestern University at Evanston, Illinois indicates that the Selective Seratonin-Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) Paxil does cause “personality changes,” these changes were limited to a decrease in “emotional instability and negative mood” and an increase in “outgoing behavior and positive mood,” and so far this research has only involved this one type of antidepressant. However, it is widely being assumed to apply to all SSRIs.[v]

In other words, SSRIs may cause patients taking them to feel less depressed, have fewer mood swings, and be less reclusive. This supports my own experience. All are positive changes that have not impaired my creativity, nor have they made me emotionally flat or chemically high. I am simply more balanced in my moods.

If you do experience any flattening of mood, there are two possible explanations. One is that you are not on the correct antidepressant for you, and you should discuss this possibility with your doctor. Another is that this is a side effect which is not consistent with the medication’s intended effect. In this case, your depression may be only partially treated and your response should normalize with time or an increased dose.[vi] Please don’t be discouraged. It is still likely that you can be successful treated with antidepressant medication.

So we return to the original question: will taking an antidepressant change who you are?

No, it will not affect your basic personality in a negative way. In fact, if you have been experiencing significant depression, there is a very good chance that you will feel more like yourself when taking medication.

Yes, it very well could help you become a more positive, less emotionally volatile version of yourself who enjoys activities and the company of others more – but you will still be you!

Posted by: jedwardswright | November 21, 2011

I May Not Be Who You Think I Am

I am a person with depression.

I am not lazy.

I completed two university degrees, have successfully worked at a number of full and part-time jobs, and raised two wonderful children to be exceptional adults. When I was an educational assistant I also tutored after school. When I was a teacher I worked 16-hour days to complete 20 lesson plans per week, mark students’ work, and write report cards. I write two blogs and have had a small number of poems and small articles published.

Despite all of this, there are some people who think that if I just got off my butt and tried harder, I wouldn’t be depressed.

I am not without a sense of humor.

In fact, one of the blogs I write is a humor blog called Mother Hen’s Nest. On occasion, I have been known in conversation to make some folks laugh so hard it has brought them to tears. I have even, at one point in my past, been known to perform in character in funny skits, and as a camp counselor I taught a theater class on clowning.

Despite all this, I have frown lines where my laugh lines should be, and there are those who are of the opinion that if I would just lighten up, I wouldn’t be depressed.

I am not looking for attention.

Okay, writing a blog about me and depression may not be the best place to make this argument, but in fact, I like to keep to myself lot. As a child, I was accused more than once of being antisocial. I like to be alone with my writing and my books a great deal of the time. The majority of depressed people actually withdraw from society to some degree and desperately cover up their depression because we are afraid that others will hold it against us. It has taken me decades to reach the point where I was willing to go public with my condition. I can think of many easier ways to grab the spotlight than being melancholy and miserable.

Despite all this, there have always been those who are under the impression that I am holding a pity party and inviting everyone to attend. Apparently, if I would just get over myself, I wouldn’t be depressed.

Contrary to appearances, though, this post isn’t all about me. It is about the millions of people like me who suffer every day from the stigma that depression is only for lazy, humorless, attention-seeking cranks who need to get a life.

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is a medical condition that creates an imbalance in brain chemicals that regulate mood. It is not “the blues,” or feeling down, or having a bad day, or week, or month, or year.  It is not that out-of-sorts feeling that everyone has had at one time or the other.

Rather MDD is an oppressive blackness that makes everything in life appear negative and hopeless. Most people with this disorder have contemplated suicide at some point, so it a life-threatening illness that needs to be taken seriously. The good news is that most people with MDD can be successfully treated by medical professionals.

If you are someone with depression, I hope that you have or will get the help you need from your doctor. No one should live in misery unnecessarily.

If you have someone in your life with depression, please be careful not to imply that they need to get their act together, get a sense of humor, or quit feeling sorry for themselves, no matter how tempting it may be. (I know that sometimes we do try your patience.) It is like encouraging a person with a broken leg to run in a marathon.

I am a person with depression, and I may not be who you think I am.

Posted by: jedwardswright | November 9, 2011

You Have Nothing to be Depressed About

Let’s say that your life is going pretty smoothly.

You have a good job that pays reasonably well. Your spouse is an understanding, pleasant person. Your kids are healthy and doing well in school. You have a nice house, your car doesn’t need repairs and there are no bill collectors on the phone demanding to know when you will pay up.

Everything is rosy. Your friend however, the one with the leaky roof and marriage problems and car payments and the kid doing drugs, can’t figure it out. What do you have to be depressed about?

It’s a good question – so now you feel depressed and guilty. Why is it that you can’t simply pull up your socks and enjoy all the great things that you have going on?

Let’s be clear. Depression falls into two categories.

There is depression that is situational or circumstantial. This is what happens when you receive a devastating blow: someone you love dearly dies, you lose your job or your health takes a turn for the worst. Understandably you experience serious sadness when something disastrous happens. Alternatively, maybe there are a lot of obstacles and hardships you are facing, and you feel totally overwhelmed and anxious. This could be another cause of situational depression.

People understand this kind of depression. They bring casseroles or give you leads or send cards. They tell you that they are so sorry, they pass on leads for new employment and they wish you better times soon. Sometimes this first type of depression may even lead to the second kind.

The second category of depression is not caused by tough experiences or reverses in your circumstances, although at times it may accompany such situations. This kind of depression doesn’t really care whether your life is peachy or in the dumpster, because it is caused by brain chemicals that are out of whack. We generally realize that our blood pressure or blood sugar can get out of balance, so we get medical treatment for these conditions and hopefully change our lifestyles accordingly as well. We are not as aware that the neurotransmitters in our brains can sometimes be out of balance as well.

Neurotransmitters are designed to send messages to the rest of the body. One kind of message that they send or “transmit” is the type that regulates our moods and emotions. Serotonin is the best known of this type of brain chemical. If there is too much or too little of these neurotransmitters on the job, our moods are no longer properly balanced, and we may feel incredibly down or depressed.

This is a physical condition, and it requires professional treatment. It is not your fault that you can’t seem to wake up in the morning or that you are dragging your butt all day. There is a reason why you don’t feel up to playing with the kids anymore or want to sit in a dark room and cry. Your body is telling you that something is wrong.

The good news is that there is treatment, and most people with depression respond positively to it. Start by talking to your primary care physician about how you are feeling. Don’t be embarrassed, because most doctors have heard it all before a thousand times…and because, remember, it is not anything within your control.

The less you have in your life to be depressed about, the more likely it is that your depression has a physical cause. As for your friend with all the problems, you can explain to him or her that in fact, you are suffering from a health condition, and you hope to feel better soon.

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