Friday, December 27, 2013

10 things I wish I could have told myself when I was diagnosed with depression as a teen

I haven't written in awhile and it's been very busy.
However, with the new year & CBT on my mind, I wanted to send a little hope to others (ie when I read young peoples blogs) and healing for myself.
Mostly these are related directly to my issues but maybe they are relatable to others too....

1. You will get through this. Although you will continue to fight the battle of depression, you will blossom into a great young adult. 
2. The things that seem SO big now, you won't think about in ten years. Do not let your thoughts spiral out of control. 
3. You know the home environment  you are living in is not healthy. Although you have your basic needs met, your family is too caught up in coping with their lives to see your pain. 
4. This is not something that is in your head. It is real and do not let others (parents friends) tell you that this is not a real illness or you are doing this for attention. You are someone special.
5. The guilt you continue to feel is something that has two parts to it (1) it is part of the nature of depression (2) you are a caring person and can be easily guilted. 
6. Depression does not cure itself on it's own. Please, make a better plan when you go to college so that you do not stop taking your medication since you did not plan that far and spiral into coping with alcohol (yes story for another blog post)
7. You know that boy you thought you'd marry and he was your first love and you'd never thought life would go on without him? It will. See #2. Do not let others, like him, spiral your thinking of depression. 
8. Find some leisure activities. Currently you have none besides going on the Internet and self harm. Find creative outlets so when your feelings are overwhelming you will be able to cope. See #2.   
9. Start being in tune with your body and the triggers for your depression. Although your family is little support of this, start keeping a calendar of your mood, eating, hormones etc. it will do wonders for you down the road
10. You will get through this. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Where did all my friends who are girls go?... depression or me pushed them away?

I haven't written in awhile. I have been very very busy with work.
However, I have come to the point in my life where I realized I have no girl friends. (And in this article, I am referring to girlfriends in a heterosexual way, ie: my friends who are girls)
Okay- you say- what? You have to have girl friends! You are outgoing, friendly etc.
Well, I guess I have no problems talking to girls, but I cannot sustain a long term friendship unless it is completely connected.

I don't keep in touch with any of my girlfriends. I don't know the last time I called up one of them to talk. Maybe 6 months? Maybe more? I feel utterly and completely alone. I really do. I have completely isolated myself from them.  Honestly, I sometimes feel as though I am incapable and don't know how to have girlfriends. I can talk to people, I can hold conversations but I don't know how to have girl friends. Is it because I have felt betrayed by my friends? Yes. Is it because I feel awkward and I don't like rejection? Yes (isn't that a thing that girls think about guys... no with me, guys are not as scary).
All of my friends are guy friends and lets be honest, it is odd to just have male friends to me because most of them "want to date me" and I know I shouldn't continue to hang out with males who want to date me, while I am using them to fill my void of having no girl friends....
Plus, it is hard for me even to date because if I do become in a relationship, it is not enough because I don't have any other friends outside of the relationship because they are all male friends.

Honestly, this post was more deciphering my feelings. I am starting to think I have more diagnoses then depression. To me, labels are clear and concise and then easier to treat (from an OT point of view-my only OT point of view for today) but sometimes people and things don't fall under labels.... unless I am labeled as " lonely girl who is scared to make girl friends but miraculously has lots of guy friends" .....
until next time. stay healthy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Depression & Transitions-part 2 for OT blog day festival

In honor of world OT blog day festival, I decided to write some more about transitions.
Previous blog post (see below) or go to:

Consumer: Depression can effect transitions. As a date gets closer to a major life changing time (such as starting a level 2 fieldwork or going to my friends wedding) sometimes my depression kicks in and all I want to do is sleep. I am a person with depression who uses an "avoidance" technique. I feel that as if I just ignore it, I will not have to think about the transition and when it comes, it comes. Other times, I get so focused on minimal meaningless aspects of the transition (ie: see my blog post below, when I was moving to a place I had never seen, will I actually be able to park close to my apartment... I didn't think about the moving part or how I would sleep when I was not bringing a bed, I was fixated on this strange aspect of parallel parking). I realized for me: transitions turn on an avoidance technique that I either (1) ignore by sleeping / not talking about it or (2) don't think about the big picture and look at little details. This is either due to the fact that (1) I do not want to be disappointed (2) I feel too overwhelmed and want others to make decisions for me.  Even when people try to talk to me about this, I push them away and just say "Whatever" and I let the passive side of me take over. This is something I have recognize and know I need to work on, however, I am not completely sure how to work on it myself. As you read below, you will read the general advice I give, but I cannot say whether or not it would work for me because no one has ever done this.

As an OT: If someone you are with does not want to talk about transitions, sometimes the best thing to do is just educate them and let them know about the choices. Moving to a new place or from community to home living can be very mentally taxing. Sometimes it is best, if the person is taking a passive role to really help to increase their independence and self esteem by empowering them and using therapeutic use of self to feel as though they are making decisions and learning new skills for the transitions. Even if you, as the therapist, are the one who is really suggesting and giving ideas, by helping clients to feel secure in how they are transitioning (even if it is discussing minor details at first such as parking) and then slowly working on bigger issues, this can help a client to not feel overwhelmed. As OTs we task analyse and break down ADLs/occupational tasks, but never forget the environmental factor of time and breaking down the anxiety/depression that comes with  transitions. By analyzing the transition and coping skills used to avoid the transition or be anxious by the transition, we can help the client to focus on individual aspects so they do not feel overwhelming. That's my two cents and I wish I had an OT to help me out with this ;)

That's all for now folks! Hope you enjoyed.

Previous blog post:
Transitions-discontinuity in routines
Transitions are hard for everyone. Transitions can be even harder for people with mental illness or disabilities.
OT perspective: Supporting clients through transitions are an important part of  OT. Transitions can be defined as a “discontinuity” or “interruption” in habits and everyday activities (Blair, 2000). Transitions can be as simple as having to  wrap a leg for lymph edema everyday to moving to a new city or starting a career. By understanding the environmental impact and time management of transitions we can fully help our clients.
Consumer: I have been anxious for the past few months about moving. So much so that depression has really kicked in. So many regrets & feeling alone & isolated. I am bad at saying goodbye. As my therapist tells me, everyone feels anxious about moving, it's big changes. However, as with depression, I continued to ruminate on how I am feeling & how I am scared of moving somewhere might trigger an episode of depression. These feelings felt so deteriorating that it was making me not functional. I couldn't pack, I couldn't do work. I reached put for social support & got help. I made lists, I used positive coping skills. Thank you family. 

What are your thoughts on transitions? How do you deal with client transitions? What coping skills do you use? 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What would my life be like without medication?

Sometimes I wonder what my life would be like without the medication I take. Since I've been on medication for about 15 years now it seems to me that it's a part of my personality. After all the medicine does change my brain chemistry so what am I really like without it? I sometimes wonder how different my personality would be without medication. I know everyone is seeing me as happy-go-lucky girl and sometimes I feel just very numb on the medication. If I get off of medication will I be a happy person or will I be more depressed? 

Since I haven't been off medication for that long I'm thinking of possibly trying to get off medication. I have many fears like people do that the medication could be causing changes that they possibly might not know about until the future. I'm also hoping to have children in a few years and there has been some articles linking antidepressants to various genetic disorders. I don't know how valid this research is or have really looked into any of the studies it's just  things that go through my mind. Honestly, it's very weird to take pills to get through your day. However a mental illness is just like a physical illness and I know other people who have physical illnesses feel same way. 

I wish I knew the correct answers to questions about the medication. However my psychiatrist told me & what I've heard from many mental health professionals is a lot of medication for depression is a trial and error. Although I am tolerating my mom right now I feel I could do more or take less medication. 

Occupational therapy view:.
Always discuss with your doctor if concerns and possible side effects of your medication 
Never stop your medication without talking to your doctor first
Sometimes it's good to keep a log of how you're feeling on your medication if you change doses or If you think you're noticing a pattern with your medication
Do not give up hope medication and therapy have helped many people Live functional lives with mental illnesses 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How is stigma subtle in words and actions?

"A mark of shame associated with something"
Stigma can be something that is outright: "Did you see that (any mental illness ie:) "schizo" on the street?" (using slang terms is also a form of stigma, along with using the illness before the person, it should be "person with schizophrenia")

I have one personal story to share about stigma. Although this is not "outright" that was "outrageous" stigma, however, this comment stuck with me in a weird kind of stigma way.
I had one day in graduate school where I did a brief lecture on research in mental illness to  students. After the lecture, the professor thank me and said "it was great that I was such an advocate". I briefly told her that I had depression and she said "Wow! You are so high functioning for having depression"....

Okay, is it stigma? Yes I believe so, this is implying that everyone with depression must have an outward appearance of not functioning. ( to be diagnosed with clinical depression it includes an aspect of lower functioning in various aspects of your life.) However, depression is a mental illness that you recover from, you can be "high functioning" when you are on medication/therapy/in treatment and have an outward appearance to world of being "high functioning" but honestly, inside, I still feel as though I have a long ways to go. At this time, I was sleeping, 12-14 hours a day that included naps/actual night sleeping due to my depression and only going to the grocery store 1x a month. In my head when she made this comment, I felt a few things, I felt gratitude that she thought my depression was under control, although it felt not very in control to me, and then again I felt stigma because this implied that everyone with depression must have an outward appearance of not functioning. Although I suffer from depression, I am high functioning, and I do not think that "high functioning" is a proper word to use. Many others suffer from depression and a comment like this shows lack of awareness of how widespread mental illness is and how it can effect so many people that we like to think are "high functioning"

Okay-off my soapbox. This may be an awkward article to some, and might not make the most of sense but it's just something that hit a chord with me.

Any stories anyone would like to share would be appreciated.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Isolation and depression, as a friend or family member, how does depression effect you?

As I have talked to people with various addictions, one thing I heard that rings true is "Isolating myself from others so they don't know how bad it really is". I guess the it could be many things, "it" could be a substance such as substances or "it" could be taken a different way, such as the symptoms of depression.

I feel that sometimes I am isolating myself because I don't want to discuss "it": how I am doing in general with my everyday activities. I sometimes feel very silly because things are going "so right" in my life and I still tend to feel down. But once again, this is due to depression, and the few people I discuss it with, mostly do not understand. They may say things like "Why don't you come out?" or "You have so much to be happy for! How could you feel down?" I have had friends even get mad at me  and lost many friendships over isolating myself. The only true friends I have are ones who are able to keep coming back to me. It is almost as if I have the "All of nothing" complex. If I want to be with my friends, they are my world. When I am in my "depression" world, my friends are "out of site out of mind". Obviously, I am not being a very good friend. Although it is not an excuse, active clinical depression, in research, is linked to worse relationships in regards to all types of relationships. It makes me even sadder writing this, but it's something that I feel everyday.

OT Thoughts:
If someone you know is suffering from depression, you may feel effected too & this is entirely normal. 
You should always understand that your safety and your mental health is important, even if you don't have a mental illness. Sometimes it is easier to blame ourselves for how someone acts with a mental illness then recognize that it is the illness and not you or the person with the illness who is pushing you away. Different things can be helpful for different people. I don't have all the answers and I don't claim too, but here are some good ideas/resources...

These 15 ideas are taken directly from: "15 ways to support a loved one with a mental illness."by: By MARGARITA TARTAKOVSKY, M.S. Read more indepth here:

1. Educate yourself about the illness
2. Seek out resources
3. Have realistic expectations
4. Reach out for support
5. Work with your loved ones treatment team
6. Let your loved one have control
7.Encourage them to talk to their mental health professionals
8. Set appropriate limits
9. Establish equality
10. Realize feelings of guilt and shame are normal
11. Recognize your loved ones courage
12. Help yourself
13. Be calm
14. Convey hope
15. Get political

Here are a list of websites for support for families/friends of someone with a mental illness: - All about mental illness and impact on families. This section is specifically for depression:
Mental health support groups for people with illness & families:
15 ways to support a loved one with a mental illness

Monday, August 12, 2013

My experience with my IEP for depression as a child & OT: How do we help children combat stigma of IEP/mental illness?

Although my blog is typically about depression, today I am going to discuss a little bit about my experiences with IEPs.

I had an IEP since I was in middle school due to being hospitalized due to depression and missing approximately 100 days due to depression in 1 year. At 12, I was unable to "attend" my first IEP meeting. However, in the future, as a student, it felt very awkward. When I didn't go to class due to an IEP meeting or having resource, I felt as though I had to make up excuses. Most people did not know I had resource or was in "special ed". Being in high school, I felt I had to lie to my friends about my schedule having resource on it or missing class to go to the social worker. Since outwardly I came across as a "typical" student, the stigma of a mental illness was too much for me to discuss with peers.

(OT perspective)
I know now that the only way to combat the stigma of a mental illness is to discuss it and educate people. However, when you are a teenager, how do you take on this responsibility? Middle school, high school, those are very hard times. Students already feel different and awkward and it's even harder when we feel as though we have to hide from other students and carry a deep dark secret. This dark secret is due to the fact that the stigma of having a mental illness still exists, especially around children, because mental illness is something hard to understand.  The stigma of all illnesses must be extinguished. We, as professionals, aim to educate all children about disabilities. This means all disabilities, including disabilities that are visible and those that are not visible.  

Some ideas:

  • Discuss with a student on your caseload, if appropriate, about feelings about special education.
  • Aim to do an inservice for teachers on incorporating barriers to breaking stigma into teaching
  • Work with other professionals to develop skill groups/after school/extra curricular groups promoting mental health and healthy living
  • Ask your students what would be most helpful
  • Arrange with local organizations/speakers come in who have a mental illness to talk about their experiences and life (Some local organizations do this to combat stigma)
  • Please comment and write your thoughts. I would love to hear anything you have done.