Suicide - Depression is Serious; Death by Chocolate Serious..........
By Lynn Patton Matthew Patton Foundation
Depression is Serious; Death by Chocolate Serious………
This article is the third in a series of articles about stigma and mental health problems. The hope is that we end stigma and talk about these problems as easily as we talk about ice cream. Today’s topic? Depression.
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by a persistent sense of sadness, discouragement, hopelessness, and loss of interest in regular activities and life in general most days of the week for at least two weeks. It has physical, emotional, behavioral, and psychological symptoms that affect how we feel, think, and function. Approximately 50% of those with depression will have an anxiety disorder. I, personally, have three: general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD. Others experience panic disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
In the case of depression, stigma plays the starring role of the villain. Dr. Louse Andrew writes: “Persistent ignorance about depression and misperceptions of it by the public, and even some health providers as a personal weakness or failing that can be willed or wished away lead to painful stigmatization and avoidance of the diagnosis by many persons who are affected by the disease.” Even worse? Stigma may prevent those with depression from obtaining proven treatments that in many cases cure situational depression and successfully manage chronic depression. Without treatment a person suffering from depression may “find” their own “cure” by isolating, using drugs and alcohol, or most sadly, committing suicide. The Center for Military Health Policy Research and Center for Deployment Psychology have found that 90% of completed suicides are among those with mental health disorders at the time of their death, particularly, depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
So, my flavor choice for depression? “Death By Chocolate.” This flavor consists of milk chocolate ice cream I equate with the low level depression felt most days of the week, dark chocolate bits I equate with suicide, and crispy almonds which I equate with those small snippets of time when I feel happy like when I watch my daughter dance or listen to my children laugh and have fun.
At this point, I could list facts about depression, but you can find that important information on our website. Instead, I am going to bare my soul and describe some of what my days are like with depression since Matthew died by suicide.
Although I am in treatment, like everyone else I have good and bad days, but my bad days are more frequent and last longer since losing Matthew. Some days I wake up and wish I hadn’t. There are days I want to end my life, which would be a win for the dark chocolate bits. I am still here though because most days milk chocolate wins (and by now I understand my bad days are temporary). On those days, I sometimes stay in bed because I am tired and don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t eat, laugh, sleep, or think clearly. But then there are days I do get out of bed and try to survive my sadness, emptiness, and hopelessness. It is hard, but I have many support systems in place and I have developed numerous coping strategies throughout my years in THERAPY. I use distraction, positive self-talk, and I reach out to my military family and friends. I also use my helping role through MPF by educating and advocating for you, researching and writing articles like this, and most importantly to me, talking to Soldiers about suicide prevention with the hope I can save a life and in doing so save my own. So I survive the day, always with the hope that I get a bite of crispy almond every so often.
What I want you to learn most from this article is what depression is not. Depression is not something you can “snap out” of and it is NOT a sign of weakness or character flaw. It is a medical condition that has effective treatments. If you or someone you know have some of the feelings I described, please get help. If you or someone you know can’t do it because you are not well enough, reach out to someone who can help you obtain care. Please do not ignore depression because it can be deadly. Let’s not associate Death by Chocolate with depression; let’s think of it simply as a delicious flavor of ice cream that we stay alive to enjoy.
You can find more in-depth information about depression along with credible resources at matthewpattonfoundation.org under the facts tab.