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This is your very first post. Click the Edit link to modify or delete it, or start a new post. If you like, use this post to tell readers why you started this blog and what you plan to do with it.
DEPRESSION ISN’T ONE SIZE FITS ALL: SITUATIONAL VS. CLINICAL DEPRESSION
Depression comes in all different shapes and sizes. It may look quite different from one person to the next and it can certainly feel very different too. This is often why depression may be difficult to diagnose for some and why it may be even more difficult for others (especially their loved ones), to fully accept or acknowledge their battle with the disease.
Depression can be mild in form for some whereas for others (like myself) it can be more severe. It can occur for a brief period of time in someone’s life or it can also last years for others (like myself). Depression may also be triggered by exceptional situations or environmental circumstances like the change of seasons, the death of a loved one or even something as joyous as the birth of their child. But whatever the underlying reason may be, having a proper diagnosis is the first step toward helping someone no matter how big or small their crusade may be.
Even though there are so many different types of depression, for example: Major Depression, Bipolar Depression, PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), Postpartum Depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder just to name a few, most can be separated into two categories; Situational Depression and Clinical Depression. And although there may be many similar attributes to them, it’s important to note that they all need to be approached and remedied in their own unique way because EACH and EVERY single diagnosis is real, EACH and EVERY single person is special and EACH and EVERY situation can pose a significant amount of danger to someone’s well-being.
Situational Depression which is also medically known as “Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood” is most often triggered by just that; a situation and is therefore usually more short-term. It may transpire due to a divorce, the loss of a job, the death of a loved one or friend, a serious accident or other major life changes including retirement or even by becoming an empty nester. Many of these situations can very often be supported by time and acceptance as well as a willingness to be as open and honest as possible with others about their feelings through the assistance of loved ones or a therapist.
Clinical Depression on the other hand can often be more severe and take a lot more than just time and acceptance to battle through. I know this to be true as I was diagnosed four years ago with Clinical Depression, also referred to as Major Depressive Disorder. Since then it has interfered greatly in my daily life and continues to affect my thought process as well. It is also most often due to a chemical imbalance in one’s brain that when supported by medication and/or therapy can help to manage the symptoms.
I no longer take medication (but my journey is not your journey) as it made many of my symptoms worse and also led to a diagnosis of Treatment Resistant Depression that I have touched upon in previous blogs and plan to talk about again soon. But in the meantime with the help of my wonderful, patient and very accepting therapist I continue to search for other ways to battle through my persistent and very unrelenting illness.
THINKING “HAPPY SOCKS” CAN’T CURE MY DEPRESSION
For anyone who follows me on social media you probably know by now that over the past week I have been selling “happy socks” and I have sold A LOT of them. There are so many happy feet running, jogging and strutting their stuff around the city as we speak, more than I could have ever imagined; like hundreds of them and let me start by saying that I truly am grateful that I was given the opportunity to do so. Who would have ever thought that socks could be all the rage or that people would be messaging me at all hours of the night for socks or that they would be lining up outside my front door just to get a deal on socks.
But you see these are not just any ordinary socks, these are also a stylish and sometimes bold fashion statement which will add a sparkle of self-expression to any outfit. They can be worn for just about every occasion; just ask our Prime Minister who can be seen sporting them around the world at every public event he attends (I may have just lost a lot of sales by pointing that out!). I bet he even owns a pair with Cannabis leaves on them in celebration of this week’s legalization of marijuana. Well either way, whatever your style is, I’m sure there is a pair (or 10) of happy socks that will fit your personality.
My husband has also hopped on the happy socks bandwagon and can’t get enough of them. He excitedly chooses his outfits each morning depending on which pair of socks he feels like wearing that day. That’s what happy socks do, they make people feel happy and it makes me feel happy knowing that I have helped make someone else feel happy.
The problem is though it can’t cure my depression or anxiety and to be perfectly honest, the entire process of selling happy socks (along with all of the other products I have sold over the past 4 years) is extremely overwhelming for me. I have experienced a heightened sense of panic and anxiety this week which has boiled over into other parts of my life as well only leading to injurious feelings of depression.
I’m pretty sure some people reading this may wonder what could possibly cause me to feel the way I am from selling socks but many individuals may not realize what else goes into the preparation and delivery of them, the set-up of displays and the ongoing need to restock, the having to answer 100’s of messages (not to mention the countless dumbass questions I get from total strangers), the frequent amount of people coming and going from my home (which in itself has caused several on the spot panic attacks) and the mess encompassing my dining room with boxes upon boxes of socks everywhere.
For many individuals looking on from the outside in may feel this is a great opportunity for me, it keeps me busy and earning a bit of pocket money which should make me happy and if I would only think happy thoughts, if I would only feel happy emotions, if I would only just choose to be happy then I will feel better. What many people don’t quite understand about depression is that it is not a choice. I did not choose to become depressed just like I would not choose to have Cancer and thinking that if I just chose to feel happy or if I just chose to think happy thoughts that I could heal my depression which can be very detrimental to the healing process and lets face it, if it was truly that easy there would be no such thing as depression.
I make choices every day in regards to my Mental Wellness. I choose to create healthy boundaries which is not always easy, I choose to communicate my thoughts and feelings even though it may be uncomfortable and embarrassing and I choose “me” even when the guilt is too overwhelming. So even if I can’t just choose happiness I can choose to continue to create those healthy boundaries, I can choose to continue to communicate my most intimate thoughts and feelings and I can also choose “me” which combined may one day allow me to “knock the socks” right off of this cruel and ferocious disease.
UNIVERSITY STUDENTS TAKING A MENTAL HEALTH “BREAK”
This week many University students in Ontario have been taking a break from the classroom and spending the week at home with their family, their friends and their textbooks. Traditionally, Universities have always had a mid-term break in February/March which is also known as “Reading Week” or “Spring Break” (depending on where you live). It is intended for students to catch up and begin preparing for the demands associated with the latter part of the semester, but we also know that for so many young adults it’s also a much needed break from reality.
It’s no secret that matters surrounding the Mental Health crisis have been on the rise at an exponential rate and our young adults are especially vulnerable which is why many Ontario Universities (and beyond) have stepped up to the challenge. Gradually over the last 5 or more years many Universities have taken note of this upsurge in Mental Health issues amongst their students and decided that instead of ignoring the problem they would embrace it by adding a “Fall Break” during first semester.
For many University students the adjustment to higher education combined with it possibly being their first time away from home can in itself be overwhelming for anyone, but whether it’s their first year of University or their fifth year more than a quarter of all students will experience a Mental Health crisis at some point during that time, and most often are depression and anxiety related.
Due to these alarming statistics, many of the Universities are now giving their students a brief, yet calculated hiatus from school in first semester as well they hope that it will help the kids stay mentally fit right through to the end of the term. Not all of the Universities have embraced this concept as of now but more than half of the top Ontario schools have joined the cause, ranging from 2 to 5 days off sometime during the month of October and I can only hope that within the next few years more and more schools will continue to follow the trend.
As a parent of 3 teenagers/young adults and as a person who suffers with depression and anxiety I only see the benefits from this added Fall break because no matter what generation you look at, the truth is, it’s never been easy to be young. People in their late teens to early 20’s are most at risk for Mental Health issues and suicide is quickly becoming the number one cause of death among teenagers & young adults today. Some students entering their first year of University nowadays are not even 18 years old yet when the Fall semester begins: how crazy is that?
Even though I said that no matter what generation we grew up in, its never been easy to be young, but I truly believe that the pressure our youth and young adults are facing today could be at an all-time high due to the hastily changing world around them. Between academic demands, social pressures, parent’s expectations, the extremely ruthless post graduate programs and the highly competitive job market (and tell me how these kids will ever afford to purchase their own home one day), many University students feel they are unable to ever relax or unplug for fear they will fail to succeed in this very demanding and stressful world they roam.
So truly it’s no wonder why so many University students are succumbing to the pressures and responsibilities laid upon them by their friends, parents and society as a whole and no matter how they choose to spend their “break” let it be the “break” they need, the “break” they desire in order to take a deep breath, refocus and turn the page to the next chapter of that very heavy textbook they are carrying.
SOCIAL ANXIETY: A THANKSGIVING WEEKEND TO REMEMBER
This past weekend was definitely a long one, both literally and figuratively. Not only was it actually a long weekend due to the Thanksgiving holiday (in Canada) but my social calendar was completely jam packed from dinner-time Friday night right through til dinner-time Monday night. The weekend was filled with celebration after celebration which included both family & friends. Sounds pretty magical doesn’t it? Well it would be for anyone not suffering from a social anxiety disorder.
Unless you struggle with a social anxiety disorder like I do I’m pretty certain you may not fully grasp the depths of my anguish and tribulation that come along with it and lets not forget how much effort it takes to get through. I have had some of these events from this past weekend on my calendar for weeks, if not months and if you think that helps, well unfortunately it doesn’t. It actually causes me more apprehension, more trepidation, more worry and more fear which gives me more time to anticipate, stress about and panic over.
The discomfort associated when struggling with such a condition goes far beyond just feeling awkward in social settings and like every other aspect of my mental illness, I just need you to know that I do not choose to feel this way as irrational as it may seem to many people and statistics show that social anxiety is now among one of the most common of all the mental disorders combined. Many people from time to time feel uncomfortable or nervous in social situations but when the stress of the situation goes above and beyond your normal comfort zone it can become very overwhelming.
There are many ways that having social anxiety can rear its ugly head and each individual’s situation may be different. For me it’s honestly just as simple as having to be around people (which can be extremely difficult to bypass, even as I continue to try and avoid going to many popular hotspots in and around my community), it’s having to engage in simple conversation, it’s having to enter a room filled with people whether I know them or not, it’s feeling like I don’t belong, it’s feeling like people are staring at me or judging me and it’s wishing that I could just blend in with the furniture.
I did survive this very long Thanksgiving weekend but not without experiencing every symptom associated with social anxiety at some point during the weekend. Many of the symptoms and emotions included severe heart palpitations (all day, every day), hesitation, nausea, headaches (which could have very well been due to the crappy, rainy weather or drinking alcohol which I avoided as much as possible for many reasons), shortness of breath (imagine you are drowning and trying to keep your head above the water as you intensely gasp for your next breath), irrational thoughts, crying and restlessness.
Having social anxiety can be just as frustrating and infuriating for your loved ones as it is for the individual itself who is suffering. My husband will firmly attest to this, especially on a weekend that he and my children were looking so forward to enjoying. I know it was not easy on him either this weekend (nor were the days preceding it; okay let’s be honest, nor have the last 4 years) having to continually shield me, protect me and accommodate my sudden outbursts and rollercoaster of emotions due to my social anxieties, most of which I tried to keep hidden behind closed doors, only adding more stress and pressure on him (I know you’re all thinking, he’s one lucky guy!).
Although this weekend was filled with many sudden outbursts and a rollercoaster of emotions and although I didn’t get to eat any turkey or pumpkin pie (actually I hate pumpkin pie so that’s okay), it was a thanksgiving weekend I will not soon forget. I was surrounded by genuine friendship, I was embraced by genuine hugs and I felt a genuine love and acceptance by so many and that is truly a lot to be thankful for.
*PLEASE READ* THE STIGMA IS KILLING US *PLEASE READ*
Okay, I’ll admit we have come a long way in the last 10 years pertaining to the stigma surrounding Mental Illness but it’s not nearly enough and there has been way too much proof of that in recent weeks and months. I’m pretty sure that anyone who has ever suffered with a Mental Illness (both past and present day) has placed blame upon themselves for getting sick (myself included) because of the ignorance and irresponsibility of others. I’m also pretty sure that those same people have dealt with name calling and even been told that if they just try harder it would all go away (myself included).
One thing I do know for sure is that by having to endure these misconceptions brought about by society will lead many individuals to feeling ashamed and embarrassed for something that is not in their control (myself included), not to mention feeling like a burden to their loved ones (myself included) and therefore many choose to just suffer in silence instead.
According to the Mayo Clinic a “stigma is when someone views you in a negative way because you have a distinguishing characteristic or personal trait that’s thought to be, or actually is a disadvantage.” These negative stereotypes couldn’t be a more accurate definition of many people’s harmful perceptions and beliefs toward individuals living with a mental illness and guess what; we aren’t all deranged, vicious threats to society as the stigma has also empowered many to believe.
A Mental Illness stigma can lead to all sorts of discrimination, sometimes in an indirect way, but many times it is directed right at the individual, but either way, it is very damaging and can lead to worsening symptoms. Often when the stigma is placed upon an individual suffering with a Mental Illness they feel an unwillingness to seek proper treatment for fear of being judged or excluded especially when there is a strong lack of understanding from family and friends.
Although I have become a strong voice in the fight to end the stigma surrounding Mental Illness, I still live with the warped perception brought upon by the ignorance of many people in society. It often leads me to feel ashamed, embarrassed and like a complete failure even as I advocate for change. And even though I feel these emotions I have not allowed it to stop me from continuing to advocate for change by speaking my reality, by allowing you into my most intimate thoughts and by educating others through my blogs and social media platforms.
What has kept me fighting is simply the fact that I now know that I have actually made a difference in so many lives, I have actually changed people’s lives, I have actually changed people’s perceptions surrounding Mental Illness and I have actually been shown so much gratitude and kindness from lives I have touched. Many of these individuals were too scared to ask for help before delving into my life and learning that it’s okay to not be okay and after speaking wholeheartedly with me have actually taken that first step toward helping themselves or a loved one.
I started off this article by telling you that although we have made great strides toward ending the Mental Illness stigma there is still a very long way to go. Last week I spoke of not one but two suicides which occurred right in my very own community and it was heartbreaking. What was even more heartbreaking was hearing that the system failed them, but the truth is, when someone who had been suffering in silence takes their own life, it is not the “system’s” fault, nor is it their loved one’s fault, the truth is it’s no one’s fault but the F*#@ING STIGMA. So who’s with me? Who’s ready for the greatest showdown ever? Who’s ready to stop the stigma from killing us?
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Whenever I hear of someone dying by suicide I am quickly hit with a range of emotions that are very difficult to talk about. I have spoken many times about my emotions surrounding the death of a celebrity by suicide and how it pertains to my mental health, but when it takes place right in my own community, well that’s a whole other story which is exactly what happened this past week, twice.
For the majority of my life I have lived in a community that is particularly Jewish and it is also where I knew I wanted to raise my children so that they too would feel the same connection and familiarity as I always had. I also felt that in doing so my kids would feel a sense of belonging, a sense of support and a sense of comfort which I truly believe they do. While at the same time still ensuring that they know there is a whole other world outside of their community and that they learn from a young age the importance of being inclusive, being tolerant and being compassionate towards others.
When someone passes away it is always sad whether or not you know the person intimately or you hear about it through your community as it probably will have a great impact on many people you know. Either way it is difficult sometimes to know just what to say or how to react to their pain and sadness. Now imagine for a moment how you may feel when you learn that their loved one’s death was by suicide and the stigma that follows such a tragic and sudden death.
Their loved ones are not only left with the ‘normal’ pain and sadness related to their grief and loss but they are more than likely also facing a whole other range of emotions too. They are probably undergoing feelings of anger, guilt, shock & confusion as well as feelings of shame, judgment and alienation because of the stigma attached to suicide by society. If their loved one had died from a terminal illness, a tragic accident or even old age, they would not be left with a shadow cast upon their grieving process due to that same stigma.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child which to me is an analogy signifying the true importance of community. It reassures us that no matter what, we will always feel a sense of belonging, a sense of support and a sense of comfort. And when someone is grieving the loss of a loved one by suicide just knowing that they have an entire community assuring them that they do belong, that they are supported and that you are there to comfort them is the perfect way to help take the stigma out of the equation altogether.
But boy do I wish that it was that simple; that I could just snap my fingers and the stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide would be gone forever. To know that I wasn’t being judged or alienated anymore for my illness or that a loved one left behind after a suicide, who is filled with great pain and sadness, wouldn’t have to live with the added emotions of shame and guilt often brought about by society.
I am surrounded by a great community and so is my family, it’s that same great community I have lived in most of my life who have been providing me and my family with a sense of belonging, an overwhelming sense of support and a powerful sense of comfort but like any other community it’s still far from perfect. I can still see the intolerance, I can still hear the indifference and I can still feel the exclusion and it breaks my heart knowing what others have to endure too, which is why so many people choose to suffer in silence and why so many loved ones feel so alone. But it shouldn’t have to feel this way, not when you have an entire village behind you, not if each and every member of your village makes the change together.
A BIRTHDAY POEM: A VERY HAPPY SWEET 16 RACHEL
My baby girl turns “Sweet 16” today,
And being 15 now seems to be so passé.
I can’t wait to see just what this year ahead will bring,
Like learning to drive, and among other things.
You are growing up oh so very fast,
That I only wish I could make these moments last.
In the blink of an eye you’ve become such a bright and impassioned young lady,
But no matter what, you’ll forever be our beautiful little baby.
I know you may not believe it sometimes but being the youngest of three,
Has got so many wondrous blessings that I think you might agree.
Jacob and Hannah are always there for you when you need a helping hand,
And they will protect you forever and a day, no matter what their lives command.
You are truly lucky to have so many special friends; some who have stood the test of time,
Because having friends by your side means there is no mountain you can not climb.
You are such a creative and talented artist, ‘specially with a makeup or paint brush,
That I know with all your tenacity there ain’t a dream you will not crush.
Dad and I couldn’t be more proud as you keep reaching for the stars,
And most of all, always know that you are loved, no matter where you are.
Sent from my Samsung Galaxy smartphone.