It gives you a feel of the many emotions, concerns and thoughts that surround the topic of mental health. But the best way to increase awareness and knowledge, we believe, is to learn from real patients. To help show what it’s like to live with depression, we thought we’d share some of our members’ candid answers to the question, “What does your depression feel like?”
“My last depressive state felt like I was in a well with no way to get out. I would be near the top, but oops….down I go. I truly felt that I would not be able to pull myself out of this one. I felt hopeless, worthless and so damn stupid, because I could not be like other people, or should say what I think are normal people.”
“It feels like living in a glass box. You can see the rest of the world going about life, laughing, bustling about, doing things, but they can’t see you or hear you, or touch you, or notice you at all, and you cannot remember how to do the things that they are doing, like laughing, and just being ordinary and satisfied with it. You are totally alone although surrounded by people.”
“It feels like walking in a dimly lit hallway (or totally black, depending on the severity) with no exit in sight and no one else around. You keep walking hoping to come to the end, trying to feel along the walls for some sort of door that will take you out of this tunnel, but to no success. At the beginning you feel like there has to be an end or a door of some sort – something to get you out, but as you keep walking, your hopes damper by each step. You try yelling for help, but no one hears you.”
“Depression is very much like feeling as if I have no arms nor legs and (what’s left of) my body is upright in the middle of a road on a cold, dark, foggy morning. I can’t run. I can’t walk or crawl. In fact, I have no options. I have no memory of how I came to be there. I know I’m going to die, I don’t know when or exactly how. There’s nobody around who sees me or understands my situation. If somebody gets close by and I scream, they’ll run away in fear. My family has no idea where I am and I’m alone… except for the headlights down the road.”
We continue our series from last week of getting to you the person, not just the “patient.” Here’s an interview with member “Bradley25,” a member of our PatientsLikeMe Mood Community who was interviewed for our January newsletter. Read on to learn more about how comparing his condition over time has helped give him hope as well as his goals for 2011 . Enjoy!
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(Amy) Where do you find hope?
(bradley25) I find hope when I look at my continued progress. When I look back and compare the severity of my condition over the years, I am amazed at how far I have come.
Fifteen years ago, my life was a complete wreck. I was in and out of the hospital and had trouble holding a job for more than a few months. Ten years ago, I had many of the same problems but life was improving from a treatment plan that I held. Within the last five years, I have found a good doctor and am properly medicated.
Although life isn’t perfect today, bipolar disorder no longer controls my life, and I find it interferes less and less with my job, social life and daily routine.
(Amy)What was the highlight of your holidays?
The holidays did not go so well for me this year. I had fun spending time with the family and seeing some old friends, but my family visit was a little too long and I was ready to leave shortly after my plane landed. Unfortunately, this year’s holiday highlight was the return trip to the airport since I knew it would not be long until I was back in my own home.
(Amy) What are you resolutions or goals for 2011?
I made some drastic changes to my life in July and plan to continue to work towards these goals. The most important change I have made in my life is sobriety. I am clean and sober and have been for the last six months. This change was a long time coming and is the largest obstacle in my long-term physical and mental health. Although it is often difficult, I notice many positive changes in my attitude and overall health.
(Amy) What are you most interested in learning from other patients this year?
I find I offer advice to patients more often than I listen. Offering advice helps me; it makes me think about what I am suggesting. More often than not, I find I offer good advice that I do not necessarily follow myself. Hearing the words come out of my mouth can cause me to think about why I may not be doing what I am suggesting and to make changes in my own life.
In honor of this month’s Mental Illness Awareness Week, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening in our PatientsLikeMe Mood community. Launched in 2008, the community now has more than 18,000 patients. Below are some interesting facts about the community, so please read and share on!
DID YOU ALSO KNOW…
You can search for patients under 15+ diagnosis categories, including depression, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, addiction to tobacco, addiction to alcohol, eating disorder and more.
Some of the top topics “tagged” in our forum discussions to date include specific treatments (like Lamictal, Lithium, Wellbutrin and Seroqul), as well as borderline personality disorder, coping, anger and journaling.
Last week was Mental Illness Awareness Week. Did you know there are more than 18,000 patients in the PatientsLikeMe Mood Community? Stay tuned for another blog tomorrow with some interesting tidbits about this community. To warm us up, here is a recent newsletter interview we did with three-star member – marathoner452. Read on to find out what she recently told our very own Amy Morton about what brings her joy, returning to teaching, and what she has learned from the PatientsLikeMe Mood Map.
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(Amy) What brings you joy?
(Marathoner452) My two-year-old niece and four-month-old nephew make me so happy.
During my most recent depression, my niece and her parents (my nephew wasn’t born yet) lived at my house and just waking up in the morning and knowing that as soon as I made it downstairs she’d be chanting my name and wanting to sit on my lap at breakfast and pop the bubbles in my cereal was enough of a reason to live another day.
You don’t remember much from when you’re almost two-years-old. I wanted her to remember me. When she gets old enough to understand, I intend to tell her how she helped save my life.
(Amy) What is your top priority these days?
(Marathoner452) I am working on moving back to live with my girlfriend, who has been diagnosed with depression herself. I lived there for two years prior to moving home a year ago at the crisis point of a severe depressive episode.
This means leaving behind a job that’s brought me to stable over the past three months, working as a job coach with adults with developmental disabilities and finding something equivalent once I move. Friends and family both have expressed concern over living that far away from my strong support network [back home], but I’m willing to take the risk.
(Amy) How does your condition affect your social life?
(Marathoner452) I am by nature a very introverted person, and when my anxiety is heightened by a mood episode, I become even more withdrawn. I’ll even cancel plans to spend time with close friends because even the travel or being around strangers is uncomfortable, and I’ll avoid answering the phone. Kinda ironic that I want to get back to being a teacher!
(Amy) What keeps you coming back to PatientsLikeMe?
(Marathoner452) See above. Online forums such as PatientsLikeMe and web chat are perfect for me – low stress and on my own schedule. Crowds and oftentimes even in-person support groups are too intimidating.
I also find all the charting to be very interesting. Sometimes the Mood Map survey will show me something I didn’t even know, like wow, I didn’t realize I was feeling that anxious. And these days I love when it pops out a really high “function” score. That makes me feel like there is hope for me to lead a stable life.
(Amy) Thank you so much for sharing with us today, Marathoner452!
Many patients have already benefited from the information in the report, so we decided to create a video that highlights our patient members’ tips and experiences. Check it out on our YouTube or Facebook page, but if you visit the latter don’t forget to become our fan!
If you want to know more about patients’ experiences with inpatient therapy, you can download the full report here. It includes even more tips and personal stories, interesting facts about the PatientsLikeMe community and a worksheet that will help you make the most out of your hospital stay. Of course, none of this would have been possible if patients like you were not willing to share. We are always eager to hear what you have to say, so please share on.
Once again, special thanks to our summer intern, Shane, for his work on the video!