Any stories of successfully breaking a depressive cycle?
November 29, 2006 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Any advice -- from experience please -- for breaking a friend's cycle of depression, hospitalization, and attempted suicide?

A friend of mine has struggled with serious mental health issues as long as I've known her, but until the last few years was mostly keeping her head above water. She's gotten much worse lately, having been in and out of the hospital for most of the last year, and she's been treated with nearly every option available in the conventional mental health system. I'm worried that she's going to continue to spiral down, and the dioramas and cartoons I make for her don't really qualify as clinical treatment. Given the nature of my question, I'm certainly not hoping someone will suggest some concrete solution I hadn't thought of that is bound to work. I'm just interested to hear if anyone else has dealt with a similar situation, and if you encountered any methods of breaking the classic depressive cycle in such a way that gives the sufferer at least a little more power over his/her own situation. Not interested in hearing about new drugs or anything involving ECT -- that's been covered.
posted by nímwunnan to Human Relations (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hi Nimwunnan, I suffered Post Natal depression after my Son who is now 11. At the time they didnt pick up that it was actually Major depression (Long-standing) that I had. I have had to struggle with depression all my life, but I thought it was normal.
The first thing I did was learn to stay on my medication; after all if I was diabetic I would have to keep taking my meds. The reason why this point is so vital is that I wanted to "be like everyone else" and not have to rely on tablets for the rest of my life. But I have learned that depression is a medical illness just like diabetes. It has to be treated correctly or it could be life threatening.
Secondly, I learned more about my condition from books and how to take care of myself. For example, if I get too tired (Too many late nights) I know that my depression would get worse, the same if I don't eat correctly, take too much alcohol, and/or not enough exercise and sunlight.
That's right, sunlight. Studies have shown that people kept in dimly-lit rooms for weeks will have much more sadness and depressive thoughts than people who get at least 20 mins of sunlight a day.
Finally, when my depression was at its worse I kept a log of my feelings and I could see by reviewing over the past days that I was actually feeling much better.
I think it's great that you are there for her:)
posted by pennee at 6:10 PM on November 29, 2006

I have major depression and for what it's worth, here are my suggestions...

1. A good psychiatrist. My psychiatrist is outstanding. His focus is on me feeling good, not just better. Somehow this better-is-not-enough approach makes a huge difference. Plus he's just incredibly competent - we did a tremendous amount of adjusting with medication in the first few months. Once I got to the point where I was as good as I was going to get with medication, he suggested...

2. Neurofeedback. You can find a practitioner here. It's crazy, but it has made a significant difference. Much more than the medication. I don't know how to adequately convey the tremendous impact it has had on me.

3. Early intervention. It's easy to get knocked over by depression, but it's also possible to see early warning signs (anxiety, staying up too late) before a storm comes in. Dealing with it then is much more effective than when it's in full swing. It's like physical pain - get on top of it quickly.
posted by orsonet at 6:23 PM on November 29, 2006

Nimwunnan - I was in your role and maybe my story might offer some advice/perpective. I had a longtime friend what had always struggled with depression (undiagnosed until her early 20s). After a pretty bad breakup in college, she attempted suicide with pain pills. The ensuing hospitalization and therapy (against her will at first) really helped set her back on track. Proper medication and lifestyle changes to eliminate some triggers for depression (toxic people, reckless behavior, lack of long-term goals and aspirations) really were instrumental in getting her back on track. For a while, she was getting her life back on track. However, a few years later following another bad breakup, the whole thing happened again. This time, she pretty much hit rock bottom - no job, no boyfriend, no place to live . . . However, unlike the first time, she finally acknowledged that "her way" wasn't working and that she needed genuine help. She approached her parents and myself for help and we were able to work WITH her to get her some professional help (therapy, proper meds). The point to my story is that all the intervention in the world won't do much until your friend is genuinely ready to make a change.

The forced treatment for my friend's first suicide attempt ultimately failed because she was not a willing and receptive party to it. The second time, when she genuinely committed her efforts to improve her life and situation, proved successful. It has been five years since and my friend is now working a professional job and living a life which anyone would call exceptional. She has removed all the negative triggers from her life and replaced them with hobbies, activities, and good habits like yoga, excercise, cooking, and social groups. But, the best part is that she is truly happy for the first time in her life. She's had breakups since (relationships were a big trigger for her), but she has learned to more appropriately deal with them in contructive manners. She's really learned about herself and has made many positive advancements because she is committed to staying healthy and happy.

She tells me frequently how glad she is that I stuck by her through the whole ordeal. I know that having a dependable friend helped her greatly, so please don't give up on your friend no matter how bad things get. I wish you and your friend the best of luck.
posted by galimatias at 7:46 PM on November 29, 2006 [1 favorite]

My younger sister dealt with profound depression for years. She also did the in-and-out-of-hospitals, counseling-and-meds thing and it didn't seem to work. Like your friend, she just barely kept her head above water. She made several suicide attempts and eventually got into self-injury as well, and it was all my parents could do to watch her closely and keep her alive.

Eventually she got better. It took a LONG time to hit upon the right meds in the right combination and the right dosages. Also, her physical maturation helped...once some of her late teen hormones died down her depressive symptoms calmed as well. Now she's extremely functional, married, going back to school, and generally doing great.

I guess the thing that worked in my sister's situation was sticking with counseling; a good rapport between her counselor, her psych, and her family; and the time to find the right combination of meds. If your friend has only been having hospital treatment for less than a year, she just may need more time.

This isn't to say that you should take a hands-off approach and just assume she'll get sounds like you've been very good to her and I bet she appreciates your support very much.

Good luck to you.
posted by christinetheslp at 2:13 AM on November 30, 2006

It's still controversial, but it worked for me: EMDR.
posted by IndigoRain at 5:54 AM on November 30, 2006

I recommend that you continue to be patient and understand your limitations in the situation. It concerns me that it seems you want to take on responsibility for your friend's recovery. It is such a helpless feeling to stand by someone who has any type of illness, but helpless we are.
posted by hipaa_chik at 1:20 PM on November 30, 2006

How is her exercise routine? A friend of mine suffers from periodic depression. I haven't known her during a depressed phase, but one of the things she told me she does when she gets depressed is find a friend to get her out of bed every morning and go for a jog together. You could offer to do that for her.
posted by footnote at 3:37 PM on November 30, 2006 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to say thanks to everyone who's posted so far. Already you've mentioned treatments I didn't know about. I should also mention that she's unfortunately lacking in

"a good rapport between her counselor, her psych, and her family; and the time to find the right combination of meds."

so if anyone can recommend an excellent psych in south-eastern Michigan, well, that'd be something. Anyway, thanks again.
posted by nímwunnan at 5:19 PM on November 30, 2006

« Older Just Who the heck is Lyndon Larouche?   |   How do I nurture a 15-year-old's interest in... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.