May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I’d like to talk a bit about this often-neglected area of our overall health.
As I shared last week, I battle depression. I don’t say I “suffer” from the disorder because I’m a fighter and refuse to lay down and let it have its way with me. I feel the same way about the Type-2 Diabetes diagnosis I received last year. If I can treat what ails me with diet, exercise, and a minimum of pharmaceutical help. I’d rather do that than fill my body with an ever-increasing mix of potentially-deadly chemicals. As I grew up, I watched as my elders were prescribed this fancy new drug or that other drug, only to get yet another ‘script to deal with all the nasty side effects of the latest and greatest discovery. Yeah, no. I will take what is absolutely necessary, thank you very much.
But this isn’t about me. It’s about everyone’s mental health.
The last two years have been brutal to our society. Life came to a virtual standstill as COVID-19 ravaged the globe. Since the virus slammed into our world, more than half a billion people have been infected. More than six-and-a-quarter million people have died, almost one million in the United States alone. According to the Coronavirus Worldometer, the U.S. holds the record for the most COVID-19 deaths, a dubious distinction at best. It’s no wonder Americans are losing their minds.
Social isolation has driven many people to exhibit behaviors indicative of untreated depression, such as drug and alcohol addictions, malaise, losing interest in things you used to enjoy, and, of course, suicide. Depression can manifest in more than just overall sadness and lack of interest in life. For me, explosive anger is one symptom that alerts me to my depression trying to inch its way back onto the scene. Sometimes, I feel the anxiety build and can nip things in the bud. Other times, my stress level is good until it isn’t anymore, then I get snappish.
This year has been very stressful for us, trying to pull all the pieces in place. First Reader is having a hard time with all the delays as we try to move forward on our home project. And it all plays into our overall mental and emotional health. And just because our world is at a virtual standstill, it doesn’t mean that the rest of our family members don’t still need our strength and support, which we cannot ignore. It is all part of the dance of life.
Depression is a complicated condition that has many causes. Brain chemistry, genetics, and past trauma all play their part in developing the disorder. Left untreated, it can lead to risky behaviors from reckless driving, drug use, and promiscuous unprotected sex. On the other hand, some people end up over-treated, and the medication makes them numb, another undesirable side effect. I was lucky; my doctor was married to a psychiatrist and had some knowledge. She made sure to start me at the lowest dose and see if that made a difference—it did, so we left it where I started.
I don’t feel a need to talk to my doc about increasing the dose. Being a medication minimalist, I would rather keep things where they are. Changes to my diet and exercise routine have made a difference that I can feel. If I need medication changes, I’ll re-evaluate when we are back on the mountain.
I’ve included a few resources for you to look at, should you be interested. And again, please, if you have feelings of worthlessness and feel the urge to end it all, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255, dial 988, (En Español: 888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 800-799-4889) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. Talk to someone. Please.
Today, the Judd family released the cause of Naomi’s death: a self-inflicted firearm wound. We will never know why Ms. Judd chose to end her life; all we can do is speculate on her mental state. In the meantime, her family suffers the most from her loss, and the rest of us share their grief.