Polish artist and graphic designer Dawid Planeta summons gigantic beasts in his series of grayscale illustrations set in a mysterious land. Titled Mini People in the Jungle, his work explores the artist’s personal experience with depression, visualizing the mental journey through dark times. Planeta explains, “It’s a story of a man descending into darkness and chaos in search of himself.”
I just felt like shit and slept as much as I could. I showed up to work. I kept my commitments. I spoke when asked to, but I felt more than unhappy. I felt like I just didn’t care.
(The Fix does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor does anything on this website create a physician/patient relationship. If you require medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, please consult your physician.)
When it comes to mental health, a DIY approach might not be the best option
I’ve been leading support groups for a while now, and one of the more interesting themes I’ve noticed is a DIY (“do-it-yourself”) attitude toward our mental health work. Overall, this is healthy and true. We are each responsible for our own emotional experience, and activities such as journaling, meditation, and mindfulness are typically solitary experiences.
In truth, these more solitary activities are foundations for the bigger work that comes down the road for us. As we start to heal our little wounds, we gain confidence in the process and the capacity to approach some of our deeper hurts. (I like to use the onion analogy: We start by handling all the surface layers, and as we make our way through each layer, we get closer and closer to the central issues of our lives.)
Eventually, we start to see outward evidence of our healing. Maybe we begin to engage with our friends more frequently, or perhaps we start looking for a new job. Inevitably, someone who knows us is encouraged by the progress we are making and offers a helping hand. “Hey, I know someone who is hiring; want me to make a recommendation?”
For the emotionally healthy, the default response here would probably be, “yes, please.”
But those of us in a storm might kindly refuse.
I’ve crossed paths with this specific scenario multiple times, both in my work and my personal life. Those who refuse the help will typically explain the decision with something like, “I want to know I did it on my own.”
I think this is, at least partially, a cultural response: Here in the United States, we worship at the altars of Ayn Rand and the proverbial bootstraps. We adore the self-made success story, holding them up as examples of what a little hard work and determination can achieve.
We rely on societal structures to help protect us, guide us, and meet our fundamental needs.
But no one succeeds in a vacuum. We are all inter-reliant upon each other. To deny this core truth is to deny our essential humanity.
Like Frank Sinatra sang, “The best is yet to come.” Author and journalist Jonathan Rauch agrees, and he has science to back him up.
In his book, “The Happiness Curve,” Rauch says new research has found people tend to hit their midlife slump in their 40s, but will almost always be happier as they age. Seems counterintuitive, perhaps, but it makes sense as people’s values and the circumstances in their life change.
Not everyone feels the manifestation of happiness in their old age. There are instances when bad things do occur — illness, lost jobs or forced retirement and general ageism toward them. Plus, older people tend to feel lonely more of the time.
Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds paused mid-song during a concert at New York City’s Madison Square Garden to share an important message about mental health.
“We have a stigmatization in our society today that is hurting our youth, even killing our youth,” the 30-year-old singer said on Tuesday to more than 20,000 fans. “We cannot hide the fact that we all need help. It is not a broken thing to be depressed.”
Reynolds paused the concert at an appropriate time, as he was singing the band’s 2012 hit “Demons” — a song that talks about having a dark side and repeats the phrases, “Don’t get too close / It’s dark inside / It’s where my demons hide.”
During his speech, the frontman emphasized that there’s no shame in having a mental health problem, such as anxiety or depression, and asking for help.
“I have a therapist. It does not make me broken. It does not make me weak,” he told his fans. “There are many people out there tonight who are holding it into themselves, not talking to their friends, their parents. If available to you, a therapist — don’t hold it in, talk to somebody. You are not broken.”
From the New York Times.
By Judith S. Beck
In C.B.T., clear steps are intended to help build hope, solve problems and make a plan to avoid relapses.
After a week of devastating news about suicide, there has been much discussion of the need for people who may be thinking of ending their lives to reach out for help. But some people who are suffering may be skeptical that therapy could make a difference.
Research has demonstrated the effectiveness of cognitive behavior therapy, or C.B.T., in treating suicidal individuals and decreasing subsequent attempts. A 2016 review of 15 randomized controlled trialsfound that C.B.T. “is a useful strategy in the prevention of suicidal cognitions and suicidal behaviors.”
Throughout my career I have used this method to treat patients with many different types of problems and diagnoses, including suicidal behavior — which may occur along with problems like depression, addictions, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Medications can be very effective in treating certain diagnoses, but those medications may take some time to take effect. Therefore the suicidality must be addressed before the medications will be helpful. Sometimes individuals will need to be hospitalized in order to keep them safe until C.B.T. or medications can help. But inpatient treatment is not necessary for everyone who has suicidal thoughts.
Courtesy of Shoppers Drug Mart and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.
The site includes an interactive tool that Canadian women can use to learn more about their mental health. It is free – click here to see for yourself.
Unlike other diseases, addiction is a problem that impacts not only the person directly involved but also their friends and family members. When someone you care about has a problem with substance abuse, the effects spill over into your own life. Yet even when you recognize the signs that your loved one needs treatment, you may still feel confused about how you can help.
Recognizing the Signs
The Mayo Clinic lists some common signs that indicate your loved one has a problem using drugs or alcohol:
- Problems at school or work, such as missing days or poor performance
- Physical health changes, such as weight changes or lack of energy
- Neglecting their appearance
- Drastic changes in behavior, especially in relationships with family members or friends
- Money problems, especially sudden requests for money
Even when you recognize these signs, you may face some barriers to helping your loved one get treatment. To begin with, the person may not be ready to come to terms with what’s going on. They may be in denial about the problem, fearing the changes and uncertainty of seeking treatment. Some people who recognize they have a problem may worry about the stigma and what others would think of them if they were labeled as an “addict.” Despite these barriers, as someone who cares about this person, you are one of the greatest resources they have for recovery. Showing that you will be there for them long term is instrumental in helping them overcome these barriers.
Knowing How to Help
Addiction is a complicated disease, and there isn’t a single solution that works for everyone, but the way you approach your loved one will make a difference in how they react. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) recommends learning all you can about addiction. The more informed you are, the better you will understand what they are experiencing. Don’t wait for the person to hit rock bottom before having a conversation about treatment, though. They could be in danger of overdose and other negative effects on their lives before reaching that low point.
When you talk to them about getting treatment, make sure the person is sober, and express your concerns with love and support. Avoid lecturing because they are more likely to push back if they sense judgement. Regardless of how they respond initially, don’t expect your loved one to quit on their own. Stay in contact and continue to show your support so that they will hopefully come around to getting the professional treatment they need.
Understanding Types of Treatment
Every situation is unique, and that means that the treatment program that is right for one person may not suit someone else. Some people choose outpatient treatment, which usually involves visiting a facility during the day but then returning home at night. The other option, or what most people mean when they refer to rehab, is inpatient treatment, which involves staying at a facility 24 hours for round-the-clock care.
Once you choose outpatient or inpatient rehab, there are also different treatment approaches to consider. Some, such as 12-step programs, are faith-based and are built on Christian principles. For someone who isn’t religious or has a different faith, there are alternative programs. Some of these follow a model similar to 12-step programs, while others are more holistic, integrating other aspects of mental health into treatment.
Some people with substance abuse disorders will have a dual diagnosis of addiction along with another mental health condition, such as depression. In this case, the person will need treatment that addresses both conditions. You can help your loved one by searching for a program that suits their beliefs and other factors in their life.
You can’t force anyone to get treatment, but you can provide the strong support system they need. Keep in mind that recovery, like addiction, is a long-term process, not a one-time fix. If you can stick with them and be the solid rock in their life, they will have a greater chance of getting help and staying sober.
Photo credit: Pexels
Far from the familiar waters of an Olympic pool, swimmer Michael Phelps shared the story of his personal encounter with depression at a mental health conference in Chicago this week.
“You do contemplate suicide,” the winner of 28 Olympic medals told a hushed audience at the fourth annual conference of the Kennedy Forum, a behavioral health advocacy group.
Interviewed at the conference by political strategist David Axelrod (who is a senior political commentator for CNN), Phelps’ 20-minute discussion highlighted his battle against anxiety, depression. and suicidal thoughts — and some questions about his athletic prowess.
The ‘easy’ part
Asked what it takes to become a champion, Phelps, 32, immediately replied, “I think that part is pretty easy — it’s hard work, dedication, not giving up.”
Pressed for more details, the Baltimore native described the moment his coach told his parents he could become an Olympian and he recalled the taste of defeat when losing a race by “less than half a second” at his first Olympics in Sydney in 2000, which meant returning home without a medal.
“I wanted to come home with hardware,” said Phelps, acknowledging this feeling helped him break his first world record at age 15 and later win his first gold medal at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
“I was always hungry, hungry, and I wanted more,” said Phelps. “I wanted to push myself really to see what my max was.”
Intensity has a price.
“Really, after every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” said Phelps when asked to pinpoint when his trouble began. He noticed a pattern of emotion “that just wasn’t right” at “a certain time during every year,” around the beginning of October or November, he said. “I would say ’04 was probably the first depression spell I went through.”
That was the same year that Phelps was charged with driving under the influence, Axelrod reminded the spellbound audience.
And there was a photo taken in fall 2008 — just weeks after he’d won a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics — that showed Phelps smoking from a bong. He later apologized and called his behavior “regrettable.”
Drugs were a way of running from “whatever it was I wanted to run from,” he said. “It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from.”