Posts Tagged ‘depression’

Recognizing my experience of depression in the pages of the DSM-V

A few weeks ago, my assignment for my Abnormal Psychology class – choosing a disorder and writing about it from a specific therapeutic perspective – gave me a reason to look through the DSM-V, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I went to the local library, sat down with their reference copy, and flipped through the pages. I skimmed the criteria of different disorders, searching for one that might seem intriguing, but not too triggering or something that I have directly experienced.

Major Depressive Disorder did not meet my second requirement; nonetheless, I stopped skimming and read through the criteria. And as I read, I recognized that two and a half to three years ago, I met nearly every point of the criteria, line by line. Part of me suspected this, but I hadn’t looked it up, not even in my old copy of the DSM-IV that I’ve had for years. If the page had been a checklist, it would have been full of check marks.

On one hand, the realization was sobering: I was severely depressed. That’s scary and serious.

On the other hand, I can also say that it’s factual, it’s true, and that reading the criteria simply confirmed what I already knew. I had a depressive episode, the worst I’d ever had. I acknowledge that before I experienced that episode, I likely struggled with mild depression, or dysthymia, on and off for years, perhaps since I was a teenager.

Alternately, I can also look at it like this: I was severely depressed. I went back to my hometown. There, I got the help and support I needed. I don’t know if I can say that I am necessarily better off because of my depression, but the support I got helped me get to where I am today. I like and appreciate my life now.

There is also something validating in seeing what I experienced written in words on a page. It tells me that other people have experienced this, that people have researched it, that treatment continues to be looked at and further developed.

I do recognize that a diagnosis is primarily a measurement used for medical, prescriptive, and insurance reasons. It isn’t consistently a defining factor in my life; at this point, the main thing is that I take two pills each morning. I also keep better track of my moods and I regularly use skills to deal with challenging situations and emotions.

I remind myself that I don’t have to make too much meaning out of the pages of the DSM; it’s a reference manual used in certain contexts. I know that if I experience and recognize the symptoms of depression again, I am more equipped to deal with it. I am therefore less likely to experience another major depressive episode. And that’s what really matters to me.

Friday link roundup 7/8

There have been several shootings, by police and civilians, in the past few days in the U.S. I want to acknowledge those here. If I posted a link here, it would be an article that looked at the whole of what has happened, as well as the individual lives lost, and the impact. On Facebook, where I find many of my news articles, I see people who want change, and I also see division and arguments. I don’t believe that “us vs. them” arguments are helpful. This article/blog entry shares Bobby Kennedy’s speech from 1968, “The Mindless Menace of Violence,” which he gave after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. As journalist Nancy LeTourneau says, this speech was relevant then and is also relevant in terms of these recent events.

There have been recent several attacks and many deaths in Turkey, Iraq, and more. This article discusses the lack of mass-media coverage for violence in non-Western areas of the world.

What is it like to be intersex? This article describes the experience of parents and intersex people alike.

A video on the difference between being sad and having depression.

I’m currently watching a documentary mini-series called Ascent of Woman, which is now available to stream on Netflix. In this series, historian Dr. Amanda Foreman travels around the globe and explores the status of women throughout world history. She also fills in some of the gaps where women have been written out.

This will be available for the next few days: First listen of guitarist Jeff Buck’s new album, Loud Hailer. I recommend listening to the final song, “Shrine.” I find it beautiful, and full of hope.

Friday link roundup 3/18

A school district in Canada is teaching children emotional regulation.

On feeling overwhelmed in the midst of depression.

A woman talks about voluntourism and short service trips to other countries – and argues that they might not make much of a positive impact.

An Afghan woman brings her art and feminist murals to the streets of Kabul.

The Real Reason I’m Losing Fat.  I found Jessi Kneeland’s article on her weight, body image, and emotional healing stunning on a number of levels.  I’ll include a few quotes here and allow you to read for yourself:  “My mom told me that my only job was to let myself feel all that sad. She told me to add “be very sadto my to-do list every day until I no longer needed it.”
“It’s all beautiful, natural, normal, and appropriate for you right now. That’s true when you have soft belly rolls, true when you’re totally jacked, and true when you’re light and lean. All reflect the ebb and flow of life. And none of it determines your worth, because your worth is intrinsic.”

Friday link roundup 11/13

Deanna Zandt – media technologist, author, and speaker – created a comic essay about her journey with depression:  Meditation vs. Medication: Facing Depression.   I relate to her exploration of using multiple holistic methods to help her manage her moods until even those weren’t enough.

“According to their Facebook page, ‘Guerrilla Grafters is a grassroots group that sees a missed opportunity for cities to provide a peach or a pear to anyone strolling by. Their objective is to restore sterile city trees into fruit-bearers by grafting branches from fertile trees. The project may not resolve food scarcity, but it helps foster a habitat that sustains us.’ Their mission, they say is to make delicious, nutritious fruit available to urban residents through these grafts.”  More about the San Francisco-based Guerrilla Grafters movement here.

When I first told a friend about my sensory processing disorder diagnosis, she responded with “I realized recently that not everyone processes everything the same.  I wish I had known this sooner.”  Temple Grandin discusses the importance of different kinds of thinkers and a new approach for thinking about thinking.

I see this as hitting more of the mainstream:  An article from the U.S. News & World Report about children and sensory processing disorder.

As time goes by, more and more Native languages are on the brink of extinction.  An 81-year-old-woman, the last fluent speaker of the Wukchumni language, created a dictionary of her tribes’ language and is actively working to teach younger generations.

A discussion of systemic racism on college campuses.  A recounting of the recent events at Mizzou and their connection to the past.

Friday link roundup 10/9

I just learned from a friend about “yarn bombing,” which is somewhat like graffiti or public art, except with crocheting or knitting.  I find it fascinating. See an example here.

John Oliver on Mental Health.  Poignant, funny, and worth taking the 12 minutes to watch.

Tips on supporting people with depression.

In Finland, they prioritize kindergartners learning through play.

The debate team from a correctional facility recently beat Harvard’s debate them.  Why we shouldn’t be surprised that convicted criminals won.

Deciding to Live Again: The Impact of Blogging

 To find other posts in this series, go here.

At times in my life, I have struggled with sharing deeply.   Writing in my blog has been a way of getting it out there, the raw emotion, the fear, throwing away my tendency towards self-censorship, piece by piece.  It helps me let go of things I hold onto too tightly.  It helps me sort out new developments in my life, as I learn more about myself and gain awareness about my mental health and sensory issues.  Blogging has helped me hone my writing skills, to express myself clearly and succinctly.  It also gives me a sense of purpose.    In the past year, I have gone from posting occasionally to posting several times a week.

Reading others’ blogs has helped me, too.  The experience of reading something and saying, “hey, me, too,” has been such a relief and comfort.  Depression and my inner critic often lie and say, “You are alone.  You are the only one.  No one else will understand.”  The blogging community disproves those kinds of thoughts:  I am far from alone.  It is also encouraging and inspiring to see you all out there, overcoming obstacles, expressing yourselves, and spreading awareness.

Thank you for being out there, for reading, for sharing yourselves.  It means a lot.

Deciding to live again: Art and Self Connection

Art has been a touchstone for me throughout my life. However, when I’m busy, sad, overwhelmed or depressed, I often forget to do art.

When I’m depressed, it’s extremely important for me to remember to create something – it distracts me, it soothes me, it helps me express myself and work through things.

I did expressive arts therapy sessions for a year (2013-2014), and those sessions always felt like tasty treats where I had the freedom to move, play, and create.  Those sessions were a saving grace in the winter and spring of 2014 where I often felt like depression and despair were slowly suffocating me. Later, while in the hospital, most days included a session of art-making.  Sometimes there would be a theme but mostly we had the freedom use the plethora of materials in the classroom.  It felt so good to have the space to create art just for myself.
I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I made this in one of the art sessions while I was in the psychiatric hospital in Spring 2014.

I had flurry of inspiration and creativity the week I visited my dad in mid-June, but when I returned to stay in late June, everything caught up with me:  sadness, exhaustion, the many hours I had spent trying to maintain energy I really didn’t have.   I didn’t start making things again until after I took a wire wrapping class in the fall.  At that point, I spent hours playing with and strengthening my fledgling wire wrapping abilities, which up to that point had been mostly intuitive.  I returned to painting in the late fall, and got interested in a type of printmaking – monoprinting  with a Gelli printing plate, which is similar to printing with a gelatin plate, only this plate is made to last.

“Starstruck” – a print I made using a Gelli Printing Plate.

I remember a day this past winter where I was anxious and spent the day making a chain out of wire, piece by piece.  The process soothed me.  I remember days where I would make prints for at least an hour, excited to see what each would become, and this lifted my spirits.  Making mixed media collages gave me purpose on days where I felt discouraged and lost.  Working with gemstones and creating meaningful jewelry added to my growing sense of hope.  I remembered how much joy art brought me as a child, and brought that energy and enthusiasm into my creative time.

A custom piece I made for a friend

A custom piece I made for a friend

I now have an Etsy shop and am building up my art business.  My financial rewards have been small so far.  At the end of the day, I know that no matter how much money I make or whatever else I do, I am an artist.  When I lose track of that, it’s easier to lose sight of myself and what I need. Doing art helps me bring myself back into focus.  In the past year, art has been an essential part of my healing, self-expression, and creating a life I want to live.  My emotional, mental, and spiritual rewards from my artistic practice have been well-worth the journey.