Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Darkness in Depression

Recently a young girl took her life. Her birthday was only a few short days away. She was a talented, beautiful writer and attended several of my workshops. I do not know the details of her suicide, but I do recall a good friend (another Chris) counseling her while she cried. This article is dedicated to a life that was cut tragically short.

Lennon's Rain Giveaway 

Depression strikes everyone. During the teen years when a child grows at an incredible rate, hormones spike, causing a rush of emotions. This is a crucial time to help children realize how much their bodies control their feelings and to let them know they are not alone. Everyone suffers down days. It is a part of one’s physiology. I remember them as a child and even now have days that are inexplicably sad. What is not normal is when depression hangs on for days that turns into weeks and then months.

There are different coping mechanisms. Serotonin levels affect your emotions.  Exercise helps to balance those levels and yet is rarely prescribed. A good diet also feeds the body to help it maintain chemical balance. Another way to cope is to learn through others. When I was in college, this family came in almost daily to the camera store where I worked. For a month they didn’t show. When the mom finally came in, I asked where they’d been. A drunk driver hit the father, and he was now a quadriplegic. Another good friend in college lost his teen sister to suicide and an older sister to melanoma. These people rolled out of bed every morning and dealt with that, not always with a smile but with perseverance and fortitude. It’s not that I haven’t suffered tragedies, but while evaluating one’s own depression take a look at the world outside your own. Will this work for everyone? No, but it gives perspective, and it is a coping mechanism.

My uncle used to run a large hospital in Pennsylvania and was a leading psychiatrist. I often spoke to him because I wanted to be one. The difference between a psychologist and psychiatrist is that the latter is a medical doctor and can prescribe drugs. He told me he would never prescribe drugs unless he found a chemical imbalance after a complete physical. There is an alarming amount of children that are being medicated in this country and a significant increase in mental health problems. The drug side effects are often scarier than the disease. We need to take a look at the treatments and cause of this upsurge.

Someone close to me suffered from panic attacks caused by over committing herself in AP classes, voice, dance, and theater. A doctor and a social worker wanted to use drugs to treat her condition. According to the research, drugs aggravate the attacks. Do your homework and find a therapist that employs treatments with high success rates.

Ensure the people you love are getting the proper treatment and support they need to get through the speed bumps in life. Don’t let a day go by without telling your family and friends that they matter and you care.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

RIP Amy.


  1. So sorry to hear of your loss. I agree with you - there are ways to help with mental health problems that don't include medication. I think meds should be a last resort. Unfortunately drugs are an easy fix. No one really needs to do anything but put something into their body. No waiting for exercise to kick in, no giving up your favorite foods, no getting together to discuss things.

  2. Great post Chris. I think we all get caught up in life and forget about those closest to us because we assume they'll always be there. A small gesture to show you care goes a very long way. I definitely agree with exercise as well. For one, at the gym you are around other people and even if you do nothing more than smile as you pass by a runner, that connection helps erase a small bit of loneliness. And the endorphins from the workout help stamp out even more. I'm so sorry to hear about your friend.

  3. I missed this post so I am sorry I'm commenting late. I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager. I have good days and bad days but have my own coping mechanisms now x

    1. Hi Kirsty, it's hard to hear how many suffer from depression. I run almost every day to keep the seratonin balanced.

  4. I'm very late to this, but...

    I have bipolar disorder. I've had it since I was a toddler. Everyone in my family has a mood disorder, so I know it's genetic. I was finally diagnosed when I was 20. It is a sheer act of God that I lived that long. I must have made a dozen suicide suicide attempts since I was 11. Fortunately I was bad at it, though I need make a nice cut on my wrist that required surgery and then plastic surgery. I guess if I did both wrists I would have succeeded. All I know is that I was put on an anti-depressant and then lithium, and gradually, I started to have a life, one I didn't want to end. Every time the doctor would try to wean me off, I would either become severely depressed or psychotically manic. I would carve up my arms, and for variety I would stick cigarettes into my arms and legs. So we decided to leave me on the meds for good. I can tell you if I didn't take lithium I would be dead. Thank God for the meds - it's the only way I can have a life worth living. It is IRRESPONSIBLE to say use meds as a last resort. Sometimes they are the only thing that stand between life and death. I have dedicated my life to working in mental health and running mood disorder support groups. I have seen countless lives saved my these medications. I will tell you that many times, when the suicide impulse hops into the brain, a person literally develops a lust for death. If people don't recognize the little clues that are dropped, that person will eventually succeed. I just get very upset when people speak of casual depression that can be cured by running. You don't know the black hole that is major depression. Not only can it not by exercise, you find it a miracle if you have the strength to shower or walk to the kitchen to force yourself to eat.

    1. Hi Scott,

      I'm deeply sorry you suffer from bipolar disorder. I know several people who do. When I was growing up it was called manic-depression, and a good friend's older sister suffered horribly from it in high school. She was lucky she was diagnosed early and treated with lithium. She had a rough time and had some equally tragic experiences, so my heart bleeds for you. According to my uncle, a full physical normally shows a chemical imbalance and a need for lithium or other drugs. That's how she was diagnosed.

      Unfortunately, I know more people who have been harmed by the over prescribing of drugs than helped. If people need them, and some do, then they should be prescribed. Many of my daughters' friends in high school were medicated for depression and I doubt any of them had physicals prior to the prescribing of these drugs. My sister works in the mental healthcare industry too and says drugs are passed out irresponsibly and unnecessarily all the time.

      We have an alarmingly high rate of prescribed pain killer addiction in this country. My niece and a neighbor are both addicts, in their early twenties, and one has permanent heart damage. I have a book started about this (one of many) and hopefully will eventually finish. I have permanent damage to my body from a doctor prescribing drugs I didn't need instead of fixing the issue. It took a year before my parents listened to me and sent me to a specialist. Though surgery helped I will probably eventually die from what this idiot did to me.

      It's really great that you help others by working in the field and have first hand experience dealing with an afflicting disease. I'm sure you've helped others with your skill and experience. I apologize if I upset or offended you, and I agree that some people do need drugs to help with mental disorders but many do not. Recent studies have come out stating that our sedentary life styles are negatively affecting our health.

      On a lighter note, how did you like American Horror Story last season? Parts of it I really liked but I'd like to see more suspense and less gore.