How to explain depression to people? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 5 Old 10-16-2003, 09:56 PM - Thread Starter
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I finally told my parents about starting anti-depressants. I didn't want to because I knew what my mom's response would be, and sure enough, she was upset. She doesn't fully "believe in" depression, didn't understand how SSRI's work (thinks anti-depressants and sedatives are about the same), and feels hurt that I didn't tell her how bad things were.

I do understand her feelings. I didn't want to take anti-depressants for a long time because of some of the same beliefs. It took a lot for me learn more about them and to accept I needed them. I haven't purposely tried to hide anything from her, it's just hard to explain to someone on the outside what it's like on the inside, especially because my depression is mild enough where I was functional and pretty good at faking normalcy.

Other people have expressed that they wish they'd known had bad things were, but *I* didn't know how bad they were till I started on Lexapro and started to feel like my old self again. And they couldn't have DONE anything anyway, which is what they're thinking.

How do you explain depression and anti-depressants to people? The ways in which I feel different are very real, but they're subtle and difficult to explain to someone who's never felt that way or at least never needed help to stop feeling that way. I did explain how SSRI's work and told my parents it was clear from the positive effect they've had that my brain chemistry needed some help, but I'm not sure that made them feel any better. Any ideas would be most welcome.

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#2 of 5 Old 10-17-2003, 12:40 AM
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I don't have any suggestions but know what you are talking about. My parents definitely didn't understand, esp. my dad, who could only think to say, "you need to get over it and pull yourself together" uh, sure, dad, no problem.

I really have only found it helpful to talk to friends who have experienced it. I really don't discuss it with other friends as they don't have a clue what it is all about. And I know I didn't either until it happened to me.

So, I guess I wouldn't even bother trying to explain it to others unless you think they'll relate.

Good luck.
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#3 of 5 Old 10-18-2003, 07:46 PM
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The best comparison I have found is to compare it to diabetes. They are both an imbalance in the body to correctly produce a chemical needed to function on a healthy level. Just as we don't expect a diabetic who is insulin dependent to just "get over it" and live without his insulin, it is equally insensitive to expect a person dealing with depression to just get over it and pull themselves together.

My mother suffered from depression pretty much my whole life. She was hospitalized several times when I was young, yet I really didn't understand what depression was until I had to live with it. Depression isn't a "mental" disorder so much as it is a "chemical imbalance" and unless people are willing to think of it that way, there isn't much of a point in explaining it. The brain isn't able to correctly produce and use the chemicals it needs to function correctly and the result is depression, anxiety, social phobia, paranoia, etc depending on the individual person. If not treated, there are also effects on the body. Severe fatigue can result, people can have panic attacks, have heart attack symptoms, appetite is affected, nausea can result. None of these things can be "fixed" by the person simply by "getting it together. It is a physical/chemical illness.

I have always said that I don't consider myself "mentally ill," I am "chemically challenged." The thing to remember is that depression is in no way a personality or charactor flaw. It doesn't reflect on you as a person. You aren't "nuts" or "mentally ill." You have an illness that you are seeking treatment for. It's likely not permanent, and once you are on the meds long enough for them to have corrected your brain chemistry, there is a likely chance that you won't need them again.

Unfortunately, for many people, this is too much to understand and you won't get anywhere. I feel lucky that I have a wonderful supportive family, but the best support I have comes from my friends who also live with depression. You may be surprised as you begin to talk about your experience with your mama friends how many of them have walked the same path.

Good luck and keep coming here. We understand.
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#4 of 5 Old 10-20-2003, 07:23 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for the replies. I like the diabetes comparison and will try that approach.

I actually have a better understanding of depression myself since I started taking an SSRI. When I got markedly better 2 weeks after starting Lexapro, it hit me full force that it was a bonafide imbalance in my brain and not me doing a poor job at coping. I believed for such a long time that I was personally failing at what other moms could easily do. Although therapy helped me to logically understand that wasn't true, it wasn't till I quickly got better on an SSRI that I emotionally accepted it.

Two things I now know: 1) You are never too old to live and learn. 2) Never judge someone else's situation using yours as a benchmark.

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#5 of 5 Old 10-21-2003, 09:35 PM
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I agree with Jish, the medical/chemical explanation seems to work best. Although there are people in this world who just don't believe in it and you shouldn't waste your energy on them. Thankfully the scientific research is getting better and better - I also like to mention that studies have shown the blood flow in the brains of depressed people is different than non depressed people.

And I know what you mean about understanding depression better once you've started an SSRI - it's like the light turning on or something.
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