Are You Depressed?
Treatment, Part Four of Four

by Dr. Dorree Lynn

The other day, I answered the phone. A young woman I had not spoken with for over ten years was on the other end. "Dorree," she said. "My friend is in trouble and needs help. He doesn't want to talk to anyone, but I convinced him he would get along with you. I know you are not taking on new clients. But, will you see my friend for an evaluation, and try to match him with someone who is right for him?"

 At that moment I couldn't imagine seeing one more person, even briefly, so of course, I answered, "Yes." If someone was ready to seek help and had already turned to a friend, "no" was not in my vocabulary. Maybe one more troubled person could find the help they sought.

In most cases, depression is treatable and defeatable, but not by oneself. If you are suffering from depression, get help. If you are too blue to move, do what this young man did, ask a friend for help. Sometimes one can become such a total couch potato that moving seems an impossible task. If the rut hits your gut and the groove isn't smooth, don't be prideful. Tell someone you trust, that you need their help. Whatever you do, don't let foolish pride keep you from getting the help you deserve.

As a friend or loved one, the most important thing you can do for someone who is depressed is to help him or her get appropriate diagnosis and treatment. As with the young woman who called me, this may involve some time and effort on your part. You may have to be the one who does the listening, the research, and make the first phone call. You may also need to involve yourself in encouraging the depressed person not only to seek professional help but also to stay in treatment once it begins.

Your own patience may be pushed to your limits as you offer emotional support to someone who may seem ungrateful or act like a needy sponge soaking you dry. Your understanding, affection and encouragement may be required, and after a while you may not want to give it. Engaging a depressed person in conversation or activities can be hard work. If you get close enough to make a difference, the depressed person may get frightened and turn on you. And, there you are, feeling unfairly punished merely for doing a good deed. Your natural instinct is probably to swat the offender or to walk away. Don't, at least not yet.

Believing one's condition is incurable is often a part of the hopelessness that accompanies depression. As with many of life's troubling situations, the sooner the treatment, the better and the greater the likelihood of preventing serious recurrences. Treatment will not eliminate life's inevitable stresses and ups and downs: but it can teach you tools to manage tough challenges and lead to experiencing greater enjoyment.

When you're depressed, first and foremost get a thorough physical examination and make sure to eliminate any possible physical cause. If the depressed episode is sudden, seek to discover the precipitating event. Did something recent, such as the loss of a love, a job rejection, a move or a divorce or death, just occur? In these cases, depression is a natural and normal response to difficult life events.

Even if no obvious cause is found, your options are many. Psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both may help you get your feet back under you. Joining a support group can help. If you are spiritually inclined, follow that path. Other possibilities that can help may include acupuncture, yoga, exercise, change of diet, biofeedback, massage and numerous other alternative directions. If you are alone, are you lonely? If you are in a significant relationship, is it going well? Be curious about yourself and your life.

When you do seek help, make sure you find someone of good will and someone whom you trust. Don't expect instant cures. And, if you enter therapy, don't be surprised if you feel worse for a short time before you feel better. Talking about what is troubling you can bring instant relief or temporarily plunge you into deeper despair. Tears can be good. The human body contains nothing that is not useful. Therefore, we are supposed to cry at appropriate times. Grieving tears cleanse and heal.

I wish I had a magic wand that I could wave and fulfill wishes such as the one someone recently requested. "Can you cure me in 45 minutes?" he said. I laughed and answered. "If I could, I would be a zillionaire and life would look very different for all. No, the best I can do is to begin to know you. Together we will walk you out of the wilderness you are now in. and in order to that, I need your help. Please, reach out your hand."

This column is for you,

DR.D

Dorree Lynn, PH.D
Dr. Dorree Lynn, author of the forthcoming book Getting Sane Without Going Crazy, is a noted speaker, columnist, and practicing psychologist. Visit her at http://www.sanecrazy.com.