It's all in my head, or is it?
June 16, 2007 9:11 PM   Subscribe

I think I may have some sort of depression, but my parents don't really believe in mental health care for that. What do I do? [a bit long]

So, I think I'm depressed. I'm pretty sure it's not normal to cry every day. Frequent crying for no apparent reason, little to no motivation, have lost interest in things I care about, significant libido drop, bizarre sleeping habits alternating between insomnia and sleeping way too much. This has been going on at a somewhat low level for a while now (probably at least a year). It doesn't help that I'm home from college for the summer, and all of my friends and my boyfriend are all hundreds of miles away.

I am technically an adult, but I am still financially dependent on my parents. My parents don't really, uh, believe in psychiatric medicine or therapy. At the very least, my mom dismisses the entire field as being full of quacks. I don't really know where my dad stands, but minor anecdotal evidence leads me to believe he's more normal about the issue. (He has at least asked me if I were sick, given my odd sleeping patterns, and I said I didn't know.)

I don't know what to do. Were I at school, I could do something about it, because I could probably afford the subsidized treatment there without my parents having to know. (My school takes mental health very seriously.)

I do not consider myself a danger to myself. Although I think about suicide on a fairly regular basis, it's more in an abstract sense, and I am very sure that I couldn't bring myself to end my own life, as I have a pretty good one and don't want to give up on it. So, it's not a potentially deadly condition at the moment, it just makes life suck, and my mom continues to yell at me for having no motivation to do anything.

I'm also rather torn about the issue myself. On the one hand, I know rationally that depression-like diseases are chemical in nature, and there's only so much one can do. On the other hand, from my upbringing I'm thinking to myself that I'm just being a wimp, that I'm just making myself out to be a victim, and it's something I should just deal with on my own. And that therapy/drugs are just giving in due to lack of willpower. I am constantly trying to convince myself I am not depressed, but if I weren't, I assume I wouldn't have to. I've been this way so long I don't even know what normal is anymore. Again, I know on a rational and abstract level that this is not sound thinking, but if your brain is affected by a mental illness, it's kind of hard to get around thinking that way.

So, what can I do? I have read other depression threads on here, and I noticed exercise was a common suggestion. I have just started exercising today again after a hiatus for several months. (I used to be on my high school varsity team, but wasn't good enough to be on the team at my university. I've been taking gym classes for my particular sport, but I sort of lapsed this past semester after I fulfilled my PE requirement.) It was good, albeit tiring, and it reminded me how much I missed doing that.

How could I possibly approach my parents about this? I don't even know how I would approach my mom about this. My parents are very supportive, but my mom can be a bit conservative and traditional in some of her beliefs. I suppose I could approach my dad, but I don't really talk to him about medical issues (which are mostly female-related ones), so I don't know.

If you want to contact me personally, you can do so at
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (37 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Read "The Omega-3 Connection: The Groundbreaking Anti-depression Diet and Brain Program" by Dr. Andrew L. Stoll. Then go to the health food store (or Costco) and buy Omega-3 fish oils. Take as directed in the book.

Make sure you do NOT buy a fish oil that has Omega-6 in it. You want Omega-3.

P.S. Sorry I can't make links. Computer issues.
posted by Soda-Da at 9:21 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Tell your mom you need to see your doctor about menstrual irregularity and pelvic pain. If she goes with you, tell her to wait out in the waiting room. When the nurse comes in to take your comments, tell him/her the truth about why you are really there. They will be glad to help you, and there will be nothing on the bill that suggests why you were seen, only a billing service code shows up. If you need medication, there are several generics that are very affordable if you can't let them know, or ask for samples.

Note - your situation is very common. In many cases I see, a person between the ages of twenty and thirty-five who is seen for depression has a mother or father who had it as well, but shunned help in favor of drinking, social isolation, or some other maladjustment.

Please start your process by seeing a physician. And don't sell your folks short when it comes to your well-being.
posted by docpops at 9:31 PM on June 16, 2007 [5 favorites]

I empathize with you. I had depression once, so I know all too well what it's like to suffer from a depression. I had it as a young adult (so like, we're talking mid-20s here), but in what may give you a whole lot of hope, I got over it. Sadly, for my best friend and my eldest brother, who is in his mid 40s, they have yet to conquer their depression. And many other people I know are struggling with it too.

My depression came about because of a break-up with a girl I thought I loved. I know now that I didn't, but when I was with her the world seemed so blissfully excellent that my brain equated it to mean it was possibly love. So naturally, when it ended, I was devastated.

I know, as I'm sure you do too, that depression is an awful thing to have. My memories of it are every single day being a black funk. On the outside it would seem as though I might be a normal, perfectly functioning human being. I'd wake up, have breakfast, go to University and hang out with friends. But on the inside, it was a disaster zone. And it was only when I was alone that it would manifest itself in forms usually involving me, in bed, in the fetal position and just contemplating how much everything utterly sucked.

After I broke up with this girl, my studies at University suffered badly. For the first time ever, I failed one subject and had to withdraw from another. This meant that I would probably have to extend my degree by an extra semester, if not a year, to make up for it. This only proceeded to depress me even more. As an impoverished student, the thought of being separated for an even longer time from the vast piles of money I was told I could earn with my degree... well, it just sucked.

It was late one night that I began my road to recovery. I was in a particularly gloomy mood that night. It was about 8pm, I had had a late class, I had very little money in my wallet and I was tired and just wanted to be home where I could brood in solitude. My bus was late. But finally it showed. I stood up from the bus stop seat and stood near the edge of the road, waiting for the bus to pull up next to me. And then my mind had a sort of Matrix 'Bullet Time' moment. The bus and everything around me was in slow motion and I imagined stepping out in front of that bus and ending it all. I wanted it so bad. I wanted everything to just end and I knew in that slow motion moment that if I did it then I would finally have peace.

But then everything returned to normal time and I actually said to myself "Whoa... that's fucked up." And I realised even more than I had in that moment just a few seconds ago that my death would bring me peace but would torment the driver, my friends, my family. It would be an incredibly selfish act and I couldn't let that happen. And so in that moment I decided that this was no way to live and I began a long hard road to recovery.

I know a lot of people think prescription drugs are the key to coping with depression and even recovering from it. Much like your parents, I am not one of those people. I believed then and I believe now that the human body has it within itself to recover from depression, amongst many other things. However, I recognise that for many people with depression, many of my friends included, drugs are necessary and I do not begrudge them that. I decided to explore other avenues, however.

I instead started looking into things such as meditation to treat my depression. And so I immersed myself in that line of study, reading everything and anything I could to overcome it. And then I started to meditate, spending endless hours in solitude, something I had become used to, meditating and simply trying to find my inner-self.

I won't act like it was an overnight fix, or an end to itself. It was a long, long road to my recovery and my livejournal and my other writing projects were instrumental in helping myself to overcome my depression. But I got there. It helped me get back into my study (I took on extra subjects in each semester, assuring I finished on time) and even ended up taking on an Honours degree. And then, one and a half years after immersing myself in meditative practices, I was writing in my livejournal and I realised that I was no longer depressed. I was actually happy, and had been for quite some time. I was happy being me, with how I looked and being single and pretty much everything to do with my life. And I haven't looked back.

I'm engaged now, after having met the girl of my dreams not long after writing that livejournal posting. We dated for two years before getting engaged in January this year. During those two blissful years, I have started a job I love, my friends have become closer, my finances have improved and I even won a Wii! Life has been great.

But whenever I read about people who are suffering with depression, or whenever I think about how close my brother came to taking his own life and who is still dealing with his depression three years on since being diagnosed with it, I can't help but think back to what I went through because I know the hell they're going through. I wish I could do more than just be there for them, but I know from my own experiences that that's all I can do for them. They will need to help themselves to a large extent first before they can truly overcome it.

It also makes me wonder why depression isn't something we're throwing more money at in a social context. They say everyone knows someone who has or has been affected by cancer. And we throw tonnes of money at cancer research and cancer wards in public hospitals. But depression seems to me to be more prevalent. I know at least 6 people who have it and one of those people is my brother. I only know one person who had cancer, my sister-in-law, who died last year after a long battle with it.

I'm not saying cancer research deserves less money, but it seems unfair that depression, which anecdotally speaking seems to be a bigger problem, is less well funded.

I think the reason for this is people don't get depression and if I'm reading your question correctly, I suspect that your parents will be people like that. Remembering back to when I had it, I seemed normal on the surface, and my parents didn't even know I had it until I told them my experiences with the illness following my brother's admission that he had it. I had never told them that I had had depression, only doing so because they pooh-pooh'ed the idea he had depression, arguing it didn't really exist and that he was just upset following his break-up with his long-time defacto. So I told them my story, and told them it was very real, and that it needed to be taken seriously. It's been a struggle to get them to accept this fact but I think they're almost finally there.

Without knowing your parents, I can't say how open-minded they are. My parents, though they are old and therefore as stubborn as most old people stereotypically are, are still able to be convinced of something if you hammer them long and hard enough with facts and evidence. If your parents are anything like mine, they will be concerned for you when you tell them you have depression and will want to help you (as any loving parent should) but they won't really buy into the whole 'depression 'thing at first. They'll say you're just sad.

I think that that's how most people see depression. "Oh he's just sad" they'll say. No. NO. He or she is depressed. It's a serious problem. They don't say "Oh he's just got a freckle" when someone is diagnosed with skin cancer. Public attitudes need some serious alterations before depression is taken as seriously as it should be.

But keep at them, and try to remain rational when you do. Eventually they will come round. Mind you, having said that you'd be a braver person than I was during my depression. As I said, I never told them until after I had beat it, and I didn't tell them because of a mixture of privacy, anger and shame. But if you do tell them, I would imagine sitting around in the living room, around coffee and cake with some pamphlets or something would have been the way I would have done it. I'd expect there to be tears, anger, shock and a whole range of other emotions, not only from them but from you also. But again, since I never actually took that step I am sure that my advice is fairly half-arsed in that respect. Perhaps other MeFites could help you better here.

To you, and to everyone who has depression and is reading here my thoughts are with you, and I hope you get better soon.

Full disclosure; My answer was largely ctrl-v'ed from a previous comment I made in Metafilter. I have edited it significantly to suit your circumstances. I nonetheless believe (and hope) that you will find it useful.
posted by Effigy2000 at 9:44 PM on June 16, 2007 [8 favorites]

Please go see your doctor. A family practice or primary care practitioner should be able to give you a prescription for antidepressants for some relief, and a referral to a psychiatrist or a psychologist if needed.

As for your parents, all they need to know is that you're "sick". No other details, no other explanation, no other justification. Take care of yourself.
posted by Robert Angelo at 10:12 PM on June 16, 2007

If you do want to try to get your parents to understand (and that's a big if), then maybe a doctor may be able to help them understand. Most people don't really know what depression is, and I was amazed when I first learned of the completely physical changes that occur when one is depressed. It's a lot easier for someone to dismiss the overly-common and misunderstood phrase "depression" than it is for them to dismiss a list of physiological symptoms. And your mom's attitude can't possibly be helped by the fact that she, like most people, probably does not understand the difference between clinical depression and a simple case of the blues.

But, again, that's only advice if you want to try to involve them in this. You certainly don't need to if you don't want to, and you certainly should get diagnosed first. All you need to do is take the above advice and see a doctor. Get the help you need first and foremost, whatever it takes. Good luck.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:26 PM on June 16, 2007

My first anti-depressant prescription came from my general practitioner. I concur with telling your mom you have something else (stomach pains?) and just go in alone to see your regular doctor and explain the situation. Many anti-depressants have dirt-cheap generics (fluoxetine, for example, is generic prozac and comes in like a bottle of a hundred at Costco pharmacy for $14). If you decide not to go through insurance to get a prescription to keep your parents from finding out, shop/call around to find a pharmacy that has what you need cheapest. Costs vary from place to place, sometimes by a huge amount.

Exercise is good, and so is sleep regulation. Make sure you're keeping to a regular sleeping schedule and getting enough sleep (this is difficult when depressed, but try to go to bed at the same time and try not to nap). Make sure you're not skipping meals or letting your blood sugar drop.

You've mentioned that you're at home for the summer--you didn't say if you're working. If not, try to set up a schedule of some sort so that your life makes sense to you and has a comforting routine. Set small, easily attainable goals and work towards them.

Keep in touch with friends, through email, phone calls, or get-togethers if you still know people locally.

Good luck with the parents.
posted by digitalis at 10:37 PM on June 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

You can totally get over it. I'm in a position similar to yours: I'm a college student, technically an adult, who's still dependent on parents. And I know all about the situation with bringing up with my parents. My mom rejected the idea: I seemed happy to her.

I brought it up at the doctor's office anyway, and he prescribed me Lexapro.

It worked very gradually: at first I was happy because I knew I'd get better, but didn't really feel any better. But over time, I felt less crappy, until I got to the point I'm at now, where depression is pretty much a thing of the past.

It sounds to me like you most certainly have depression, and that it's worse than mine was. Your mom is probably like mine was, and means well, but is utterly and completely wrong.

Set up an appointment with your doctor. If you don't think your parents will 'like' that you're going for depression, make up another reason. (Afterwards, you can explain to your parents that you 'also' brought up depression during your visit "just in case," and thus not have to keep lying to them about it.)

You can be feeling so much better with treatment.
posted by fogster at 10:55 PM on June 16, 2007

Consider telling your parents that you are concerned about your symptoms and that you would like to go to the doctor to get checked for thyroid disease. One of the symptoms of thyroid disease is depression, and you should be checked for that before getting a diagnosis of depression (even though that hardly ever happens, as near as I can tell).

The symptoms can be the same, so if your parents can wrap their heads around you taking thyroid medication to get better, then they might be a little closer to you being ok with taking a different medication to deal with the same symptoms. Either way, you're the one who's sick, so your opinion about taking medication is the only one that matters.

What you are going through is definitely not ok, and you are right to try to see a doctor about it. It's hard to pick up the phone and make that call, but you really are not well (this is not a case of you being a jerk or a wimp or a crybaby); the sooner you do something, the sooner you'll feel better.
posted by stefanie at 11:05 PM on June 16, 2007

The other suggestions here are good - just one more thought. If you have your own car, you may be able to get mental health treatment in your area on a "sliding scale" - that is, on a reduced rate for people who don't have much money. Many therapists offer this. You can look in the phone book and phone up various therapists (who usually cannot prescribe medicine, but can still be very useful) and psychiatrists (who can prescribe), and just ask whether they do any work on a sliding scale. Think in advance about how much you could afford - could you afford $30 for a visit once a week? How about $30 every other week? If there is a university in your town, you could contact their health center and ask if there are any therapists in town that they refer students to.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:58 PM on June 16, 2007

In addition to eating healthy (omega 3's are important indeed. I now take a vegan DHA supplement) and exercising, you could start reading AskMe's favorite anti-depression book Feeling Good.
FWIW: it is not an established fact that depression is "just" a chemical inbalance and even if it were, that does not mean that you need pills to get out of it. I am one of those that suffered from a severe depression who feels that pills and doctors only made everything worse.
posted by davar at 1:17 AM on June 17, 2007

Although pills can and do help (heaven knows I have been on my share) at this point I think it would be safe for you to give the exercise a try-at least till you can get back in school. That and the Omega 3 might actually be enough. Try that, and also try to get into as much sunlight as you can (within reason.) Also up your B vitamin take and go easy on sugary foods.

If you aren't feeling better soon, or if you start feeling worse, or if you start thinking more and more of suicide, then get to a doctor stat. I like the idea of telling your folks it might be thyroid. Heck, it could be, for that matter. Then you can let your doc do the explaining, or at the very least doc can give you options and ideas for treatment you can get even if your parents don't help.

As far as your mom, just tell her you don't feel good. And ask your dad to ask her to quit yelling at you. Sheesh.
posted by konolia at 3:34 AM on June 17, 2007

Everyone has the right idea, just wanted to second the notion of good exercise, sleep, no or little caffiene, etc. while you're sorting yourself out. Seriously, it makes a big big difference.
posted by DenOfSizer at 3:45 AM on June 17, 2007

from my upbringing I'm thinking to myself that I'm just being a wimp, that I'm just making myself out to be a victim

Don't believe that shit and don't let anyone else put it on you. Depression gets so much of this "blame the victim" stuff.

Absolutely see a doctor using some method mentioned above. And read Dr Burns Feeling Good Handbook. They're both good and do not conflict. Be sure to read the past threads here on depression and do for yourself what you can:
get exercise
eat a good diet (keep a food/mood log to find foods that help/hurt your mood)
stabilize your bed/wake times, get 8 hours sleep
get enough daylight, or bright light indoors if that's absolutely not possible (but really get outdoors in the sun)
avoid too much tv and internet time
persue your interests, do things you like, and spend time with friends (or don't blame yourself if you don't have any)
Look into "mindfulness meditation", there's a new book by John Kabat-Zinn that looks good here. I think it has a CD with guided meditations.
Look at some of the new books on "positive psychology". I like Tal Ben-Shahar's work. He's proviled on NPR here. His video lectures at Harvard are here and his book is here.
I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting at the moment, but have a look at past threads for more things to try.

Go easy on yourself. Depression is hard. People may try to blame you. They're wrong.
posted by DarkForest at 3:58 AM on June 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

The suggestion to start with your family doctor is a good one. See if you can get a referral to someone in your health plan. You do have insurance, right, if even through your parents? If you lack insurance you need to get some, and now, even if it means taking a bs job with benefits.

Does your town or county have a community mental health program? If so they are worth calling.

If your parents are this conservative I am guessing they, and probably you, attend church regularly. Clergymen are often quite effective counselors in this area and they are typically bound to hold what you tell them in confidence.
posted by caddis at 5:25 AM on June 17, 2007

Forgot some of the obvious ones:

Cut out drugs/alcohol/mj if they apply.
Moderate on caffeine. After a lifetime of habituation, I don't do well with no caffeine at all, but I try to stick with 1 ordinary (not starbucks-super-caffeinated variety) cup per day.

I also second the omega-3 oils. I like both flax (a couple of teaspoons a day) and fish oils.

There was also a thread about eggs here once. I find that a hard boiled egg for lunch is a good pick me up.

Disclaimers: IANAD or psych. Good luck.
posted by DarkForest at 5:37 AM on June 17, 2007

Third the family doctor. He/she is obligated to keep your confidences even if someone else (i.e. your parents) are footing the bill.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 6:44 AM on June 17, 2007

Exercise is what kept me alive for about a year after I moved to another city. I didn't have a car, and had to ride a bike everywhere, and I also did gym (lifting weights).

Depression often results in, and can be caused by, a person looking inwards too much, being absorbed in oneself and one's situation. Like Effigy2000, I had a "bus" moment, and realised I had to do something about it.

The reason that exercise and gym helped me, I think, was that they forced me to look outside myself: it's hard to be miserable when your eyes are popping out and you're focussed on not dropping a heavy weight on your chest!

So, find a few activities that get you focussed on other things, especially things that require a lot of concentration (such as exercise, or meditation-as Effigy2000 mentioned) or things where your attention is elsewhere.

diet/drugs/counselling.... all good, too.
posted by flutable at 7:08 AM on June 17, 2007

Depression often results in, and can be caused by, a person looking inwards too much, being absorbed in oneself and one's situation.

This is called Depressive Rumination. It's basically the wrong kind of introspection for someone with depression. Not that all introspection is wrong. Some kinds can be helpful. From here:

In another study, researchers showed that people who spend a few minutes a day writing down things for which they are grateful enjoy higher levels of optimism and happiness and are also more likely to achieve their goals.
posted by DarkForest at 7:26 AM on June 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Studies have shown that St. John's Wort is roughly as effective as prozac and zoloft (common antidepressants). Be aware, though, that it's famous for reducing the effectiveness of other drugs you may be on, like birth control pills. It's something you can get over the counter. Like a lot of other antidepressants you have to take it for a couple weeks before seeing the effects. You can talk to the pharmacist for free about what's going on, and they can help you with info about herbals, and maybe with referrals to services in your area.

Docpops has a fantastic suggestion above, too, I definitely think you should consider it.

Walmart sells common generic drugs for $4. Antidepressants include citalopram (Celexa), fluoxetine (Prozac), and paroxetine (Paxil). Good luck, and take care of yourself.
posted by selfmedicating at 7:55 AM on June 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

It's worth repeating... EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE! From a quick google of "effects of exercise on depression", read below. However - for me personally if I go more than a week or so without any real exercise I start to spiral into a depressive funk. Please, go get some exercise.

"In addition to the numerous treatments for depression, exercise has become an appealing new alternative to alter one�s mood. Many recent studies have been published supporting the belief that exercise has been proven effective in improving depression and in some cases has been able to prevent it all together.

The basic reasoning behind this theory is that exercising has positive effects on one�s body and mind. In support of the psychological benefits, it is argued that exercising increases one�s self-confidence as well as provides a feeling of accomplishment and mastery, which in turn may raise an individual�s overall outlook ( By compiling the findings from fifty-one different studies, Spence JC found that a small but notable increase in self-esteem was linked to the lowering of depression ( In addition to the increase in self-esteem, exercise can also provide a more grounded perspective on life. By participating in group exercise the individual is placed in an environment where it is more likely that he will interact with others. The interaction in itself offers a therapeutic affect for those who are so depressed that they choose not to even get out of bed.

But even more convincing to some is the biological argument that supports the link between exercising and improved depression. Currently researchers are studying the various ways the mind alters one�s mood, placing much of their focus on the brain�s neurotransmitters. The two most highly publicized neurotransmitters are beta-endorphins and serotonin. Beta-endorphins are part of the mood regulating chemicals that reduces pain and can even induce euphoria. In fact, it is even now believed that the increase in beta-endorphins when exercising is the true cause of the euphoric state, "runner�s high". However, there are little scientific findings to prove that beta-endorphin has a positive effect on depression ("
posted by matty at 8:55 AM on June 17, 2007

I'd recommend William Styron's Darkness Visible for anyone who doesn't understand how debilitating depression can be.

It's a devastating description of how depression feels. It's also reasonably priced and quite short. Try and get your mother to read it, to get some idea of how serious this is.

Please, do go to the doctor as soon as you can. And feel free to contact me any time via the email in my profile if you would like to talk off board. Depression's nearly taken my life twice. It's a serious disease, and there's no shame in treating it medically like any other. Like any other disease, lifestyle changes can help, but you'll probably need a bit of assistance before you can manage it fully that way. But things will get so much better, you won't be able to believe it. You'll get your life back.
posted by danteGideon at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2007

You may have some health coverage through school - call them and ask. Exercise, being outdoors and sunshine will really help.

Are you working? Hanging around doing nothing promotes depression. If you don't have a job, do volunteer work. Call the boyfriend and college friends so you have the feeling of a support network.
posted by theora55 at 9:58 AM on June 17, 2007

talk to your dad about it. this will be a great growing experience for you. just tell him that you are tired all the time and it's starting to worry you, and that you'd like to see a doctor to see if you have anemia or a low thyroid.

explain your symptoms to your doctor (you may very well have a low thyroid, btw, so do get it checked). explain your parents' resistance to psychiatric care and that you are dependent on their financial support for the time being. you should be able to formulate a plan. since you are not in immediate distress, your doc will probably feel okay prescribing an ssri to get you through the summer, and then once you get back to school you can get into counseling. (you may also be able to find low-cost counseling that you can afford yourself.)

alternatively, if you think your dad is open to the idea of counseling, have your doctor give you a referral and see if he will agree to be "the bad guy" in this case and insist to your parents that you need to do this. if they are conservative, they may be more easily persuaded by someone with a doctor's authority.
posted by thinkingwoman at 10:12 AM on June 17, 2007

Depression is like being in a pit. Some people are going to be able to, with a lot of work, scramble out of the pit themselves. Others will need someone to throw them a rope. Antidepressants are that rope, and there's no shame in taking them. I would say that they gave me my life back, except that I didn't have a life at all before them. I've had depression all my life, and I can't tell you how amazing it was to learn who the real me was under the depression.

Don't try and tell your parents now. Tell yourself very firmly that the time for that is after you are feeling like yourself again. 'Sufficient unto the day are the evils thereof.' Today's task is to get to the doctor. Tell your parents you aren't well. Tell them you are worried because you are sleeping too much. Tell them whatever you need to tell them, but get to the doctor. Tell them you need a generic drug... there are a lot of generic antidepressants available. It will take a few weeks before it starts working. You may have to try a few drugs. But depression is the most treatable mental illness, and you WILL get better.

When you are better, you tell your parents. Maybe they'll understand, and maybe they won't. But they won't stop loving you. My parents didn't understand for a long time. My dad, in particular, thought I was using the pill as a crutch, and ought to have been able to do without it. But he also (not without some grumbling) accepted that it was my decision. Perhaps your mother will be less accepting and try harder to convince you not to take them, but she'll still be your mother, and you'll be well enough by then to say 'I know you are only worried about me because you love me, but I'm going to continue to take these pills because my doctor thinks I need them, and I agree.'

Best of luck to you. You can beat this!

(I don't recommend St John's Wort, mainly because herbal supplements are not regulated, and therefore, you will not be getting consistent amounts of the active ingredients per capsule. But take Omega 3 by all means!)
posted by happyturtle at 10:14 AM on June 17, 2007

Yes, yes, yes, go to your doctor!

Exercise and try to get enough sleep.

St. John's Wort is available at Walmart, etc., if you have to wait until you can get a Doctor's appointment, and may help. It wasn't enough for me by a long shot, but others I have known found some success with it.
posted by misha at 11:53 AM on June 17, 2007

I agree with everyone else saying call your physician. If you can't get an appointment with them anytime soon, try calling your community mental health center. They may be able to help you as well.
posted by whatideserve at 12:19 PM on June 17, 2007

I recommend telling the "truth" about why you're going to the doctor, even if it's not the whole truth. Generic things like "I haven't been feeling well" and "I'm tired all the time" are best, and if your parents push then add things like "it could be anemia or thyroid problems". I wouldn't recommend saying that you're going for unrelated reasons like menstrual cramps or stomach pains, because it will make discussing it much harder in the long run. But definitely go to a doctor.

Eating right and exercising are definitely important to keeping yourself healthy, mentally, physically, and emotionally. You may find that to be all you need. You may find that you need medication short-term to get yourself so that you can take care of yourself in other ways. Or you may find that you need medication long term. Like any other illness, it's often about finding the combination of things that work best for you.
posted by sourlime at 12:37 PM on June 17, 2007

A book I read recently mentioned that depression can sometimes be a sign from your subconscious that you aren't happy with something in your life, but you haven't yet dealt with it. Your conscious is ignoring the problem/pattern/general malaise and so depression may manifest as a way of making you wake up and reevaluate things in your life.

I'm not sure the book is overly helpful - I gave it as a gift to a friend struggling with depression - but there are others that have loyal followings for their ability to sympathize and help. Perhaps one of the most popular is David Burns' Feeling Good (which I can personally recommend). On the other hand, my friend found a lot of solace in Gwyneth Lewis' Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book on Depression.
posted by AthenaPolias at 1:29 PM on June 17, 2007

Argh - and I meant to add this at the end of my first paragraph:

Because of this, you'll find plenty of books on depression advising you to keep a journal. It's a wonderful, private outlet for all of the dark things you are thinking, but also may help you work through some items that are bothering you. Additionally, the journal is a great way to track your progress, be it up or down - often times you won't know if you are getting better or worse, but the journal can show you, in your own words, if you are becoming more positive/negative than you were in the past.
posted by AthenaPolias at 1:31 PM on June 17, 2007

I like everyone's else's doctor suggestion. But also, just leave the house every morning in jogging clothes. It's hard to control your emotions -- but it's fairly easy to control your feet. Just leave the house every morning, walking and then maybe jogging a bit. Bright sunlight in the morning helps. Exercise helps. It's a double whammy. Alternatively, join a gym. (The double whammy there is social contact + exercise instead of sunshine + exercise.)

Living at home over college summers put me in a total funk too, not as bad as what you're going through, but it did suck. Every single summer I tried it. When on the second summer I saw myself sliding into the same funk I'd been in for the first summer, I made a last-ditch effort to escape and found a last-minute job opening at a summer camp. Or call your college friends and have them come visit, or go stay with them, or something. There are super-cheap sublets in most college towns over the summer, too. I don't know how depressed you are, but you can muster the energy to get the hell out, and if your depression coincides with coming home, just get out of there.
posted by salvia at 2:18 PM on June 17, 2007

On the one hand, I know rationally that depression-like diseases are chemical in nature, and there's only so much one can do.

I say this in every thread about depression, but I'll say it again: every mental and emotional experience you have is "chemical in nature". That does not suddenly erase the reality of thoughts and emotions. (and this is not new insight, either - go back to hegel, or spinoza - or aristotle - for thought & matter as two sides of being). Just because your sadness can be traced in the physical expression that is the chemical construction of your emotional brain-state, does not mean that the cause is an irrelevant, impersonal, completely physical problem. Far more people are prescribed anti-depressants than are likely to have been born emotionally malformed, so to speak.

A doctor doesn't really know how these things work, either, and anti-depressants don't work all that much better than placebos (though placebos work very well against depression, so take from that what you will). Plus, going through various meds can be a real pain, SE can suck, etc, so it's worth trying some other solutions first if you feel up to it (or at least, try to do other things in conjunction with meds, using medication just as a boost to get you back on your feet rather than a long term solution).

I think the main thing you need to do is change your frame of mind. You've gotten into a certain habit of being, and your body has really learned how to be depressed. It's true that you can't just "decide" to be happy, but I think you can sort of re-habituate yourself. People have mentioned exercise. Getting involved with a new project could also help - are you depressed because you're away from all your friends and your bf, and stuck with your parents? Do you miss people? Do you have things to do over the summer? Having a regular schedule and activities which feel meaningful often makes a big difference.

It often feels like we're something of a depressed society, because rather than working together for a common good, or focusing on living a good life, each of us is isolated, trying to entertain ourselves & blindly consume, without actually searching for meaning anymore. Or something like that. And now we try to solve the problem in exactly the same way: take a pill, consume a product, rather than actually work out the meaning behind the problem ...
posted by mdn at 3:20 PM on June 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

anti-depressants don't work all that much better than placebos

However anti-depressants coupled with therapy of some sort does work better than placebos and is an effective treatment. The pills work to stop the symptoms for a while, then the therapy helps you work out how to become/stay normal long term. The second part doesn't always need to be formal fancy therapy, even a support group run by a trained councilor can really help. If you do have depression it's the mild/medium kind, not major depression, and is very treatable (while still being life stealing and totally awful).

Go to your doctor. Really it's that simple. They will be able to guide you from there, whether you're depressed or something else is going on.

Your description sounds just like me in my mid-twenties, and I eventually lost two years. But a total cure is possible it's wonderful to be able to live normally and know you'll never go there again. Do what you need to do to make that happen, and work out your parents afterwards.
posted by shelleycat at 4:17 PM on June 17, 2007

Please consider seeing a naturopath or an acupuncturist. You may also want to examine your diet in terms of your B-vitamin and zinc intake.
posted by solongxenon at 9:10 PM on June 17, 2007

I had to think about this for a while - there's a lot of good stuff in here, so I wasn't sure I had something to contribute, but here goes:

I, like a few others here, was in exactly your position after my first year of school. My new life was in the new place, and I really didn't want my old life back, but had no choice.

I ended up keeping a lot of things from my folks - my worries, the depth of my relationship with my boyfriend, how my beleif structure had changed from the one I'd grown up with.

I have the feeling you're in the same boat, a little bit. They want to have you 1) back just the way you were, or 2) want to know who you really are, but aren't prepared for what they'll get. My folks wanted both - and they had the predictable "OMG" responses that I figured they had when I finally did tell them about stuff, but that was years later. After counseling.

So you're lonely, and having little or no contact with the place/people you now call "home". Perfectly normal stuff.

Suicidal ideation, miserable, crying, not so much. But I don't know yet that it's Depression, in the clinical sense. It could be high anxiety, which is a tiny bit different, and has more practical treatment than "tell me about your childhood" talk therapy - at least it was for me. There may or may not be a need for drugs.

I had the same kind of mother, too: "You're not crazy!" whenever I mentioned I might need counseling. Dad was privately more open, but he'd always back Mom. Now if a doctor was to tell your mom you need X,Y,Z, she might come round, but this is one point where you may hae to say "Mom, this is something I need, and pretending it doesn't exist won't make it go away. I need help, and I need your help getting it."

I'm not saying there won't be a row, but you need to be able to express your needs, and get them filled. If your life up to now has been an excercise in not filling your needs "for the good of X" it will be that much harder. But I guarantee it will get even harder with time. You'll learn it now or you'll learn it later. Sooner is better.

So, of course see the doctor for thyroid and other issues, but also get yourself to some sort of evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist. Simple tinkering with your body chemistry may help in the short term, but you'll need to sort your head out, too.
posted by lysdexic at 5:08 AM on June 18, 2007

Not eating refined sugars (including corn syrup) and not too much refined grains (like pasta) helps my depression a lot. That is, if I eat sugar and white flour I WILL get depressed. If I'm depressed anyway, stopping eating them may or may not help get me out of it.

It takes a week to notice the difference.

(This is not to knock any of the above advice, all of which is good, but diet change is an easy, passive, thing to do, which is all I'm up for when I'm in a real depression. )
posted by small_ruminant at 10:58 AM on June 18, 2007

"But I don't know yet that it's Depression, in the clinical sense."

Clinical depression is exactly what it is. DSM-IV defines a major depressive episode as someone experiencing 5 or more of the following:

1. depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
2. markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective report or observation made by others)
3. significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), a decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: In children, consider failure to make weight gains.
4. insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
5. psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feeling of restlessness or being slowed down)
6. fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
7. feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick)
8. diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others)
9. recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide
posted by selfmedicating at 5:52 PM on June 18, 2007

[I am not a doctor, nurse, or clinician of any kind.]

A lot of comments here suggest that you should exercise more, eat better, get regular sleep, and think positively. These are all fine ideas, and doing any or all of them isn't going to hurt you.

However, you mention that you're torn between the idea that this is something beyond your control and the idea that you should be able to control it. I'm concerned that your depression may be more serious than you've described it (you may not even realize how serious it is), and I want to suggest that you address this medically. It may be that, right now, making those sorts of behavioral changes feels impossible. If that's the case, you really need to commit to seeking medical help.

Speaking from my own experiences with very, very severe depression:

I too felt torn between thinking this was something I could control (I was raised in a Midwestern "just get over it" environment), and the knowledge that things in my life had definitely gotten way beyond my control. Eventually, after a few years (!) I realized that what I was experiencing was NOT "normal," nor was it acceptable. However, I didn't have any language at the time for talking about mental health issues, nor for thinking of mental health as part of my overall wellbeing.

During college, I dated a wonderful guy whose dad happened to be a psychiatrist. My friend had worked on a suicide hotline in high school, and thanks to his background he recognized that I was having severe mental problems and that I needed to see someone about it. I was PETRIFIED at the thought. He spent weeks talking me into going, and came with me to the first appointment (during which I was terrified). Things did not immediately get better from there, but slowly I began to see that there was a chance I might not have to live the rest of my life with that suffering.

I encourage you to see a doctor at home, if at all possible. Maybe you can tell your parents you don't have any energy lately, and that you want to get checked for anemia, thyroid problems, chronic fatigue syndrome, etc. In my experience, if you tell the doctor what is going on and explain the situation with your parents, they may write you a prescription for an antidepressant that will help you stay afloat until you go back to school.

Once you're back at school, I assume you'll feel much more in control of your options (if you're anything like I was, I didn't feel like I could pursue mental health stuff while I was living at just wasn't done). Make an appointment with the counseling center, with a doctor (psychiatrist, if you can), and with anyone else who might be able to help you. Work with them to figure out what is going on, and don't stop asking for help until you get help that is HELPING you. In my experience, it has taken years of trial and error to get back to "normal," but it has been worth it.

Many people are against the idea of using antidepressants, and advocate trying many other things before using them. I'm not sure just how depressed you feel, but I would encourage you to seriously consider just taking them now rather than waiting to see if things get worse. You DO NOT want to let that happen...I can tell you that it's terrifying to be so depressed and suicidal that you cannot see how you will ever escape it.

I understand the internal back-and-forth of is it or isn't it something you should be able to control on your own. I understand the time spent wondering whether what you're experiencing was caused by nature, nurture, or both. I understand thinking you can try to change your sleep patterns, exercise habits, eating habits, and emotions...that if you would try harder, things would get better.

What I had to do, and what might work for you, is to say to yourself "it's okay for me to be uncertain about what this is and what caused it, but I still need to address this. I need to take care of myself, and if that means addressing it medically, then so be it. I don't have to like it, but I DO have to do it."

I take medication every day now, and have a feeling that I'll be doing so the rest of my life. I HATE the idea of taking it, but eventually I had to tell myself "it's fine if you hate it, but you know it's the only thing that really works, so take care of yourself so you can live your life." In fact, last week my psychiatrist added another medication to my regimen, and I was very against the idea. I still am, but at this point I would do anything to avoid going back to the torture of depression as I experienced it.

So, maybe don't worry so much about your internal's fine that you have them, but don't let that stop you from taking steps to get better. Similarly, do what you have to to get to a doctor while you're at home, with the knowledge that you will make appointments with your school's counseling and student health services (make the appointments now for this fall, if you can!).

Lastly, I found that reading memoirs about other people's depression helped me begin to realize that I wasn't the only person who had experienced this (I honestly thought I was, when it all began). Someone has already mentioned Styron's book; there are many more.

I realize this is a very long answer, but I have been through hellish depression and I hope something I've said here will help you (and/or anyone else reading this) avoid having to experience those depths.
posted by splendid animal at 11:11 PM on July 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

« Older How do I simplify my graph?   |   Looking for wedding gift ideas for the groom. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.