It’s only a setback

Yesterday was the birthday of a friend who died by suicide within the past year. His Facebook page is still active and mutual friends were leaving him birthday wishes. Seems weird to say happy birthday to someone who is no longer here on earth with us so I opted not to leave a message. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t thinking about him. Quite the opposite actually, I thought about him a lot yesterday as I do many days. Some days I think he is one lucky bastard because he completed his suicide attempt and is no longer here struggling. Other days I am angry at him for completing his attempt as he had so much life and love to give to others. Mostly though, I just remember how much he did for people including kids. He was very active in BACA. He was also a fire fighter. I will never forget him reaching out to me after my fire to see if I was ok and if I needed anything. That was the thing about Nico, you may not have talked to him in a while but he was still the first one to want to lend a helping hand when you needed one. Nico – I hope you had a party in heaven for your birthday yesterday. We miss you!

I titled this message today “It’s only a setback” because the strong feelings I have had recently about Nico and his suicide reminded me of my struggles and I feel like I have taken a step back recently. I am reminded though, that setbacks happen. It’s ok to have a setback as long as you realize it and get back on track moving forward. Coincidentally, I had a therapy session yesterday which allowed me to talk through my feelings and work on moving forward.

Dealing With Holiday Depression

Dealing With Holiday Depression

Happy Halloween! Today seemed like an appropriate day to post 21 Comics that Capture the Frustration of Depression…

21 Comics That Capture The Frustrations Of Depression

For those who have suffered, are suffering, or simply want to learn more.       Posted on Sept. 19, 2013, at 1:13 p.m. by Heben Nigatu – BuzzFeed Staff

[Editor’s note: This is by no means a definitive list. The comics featured here can not and do not represent everyone’s experiences. But there are some things they do capture. Part of the difficulty of depression is that it is a pain that is unnameable. Sometimes, art is the best way to capture the things we do not know how to say.]

Drinking, Depression and Their Dysfunctional Relationship

Read this article today and thought it was appropriate to share:

ALCOHOLISM

Alcohol is a depressant. This, we know. But the immediate effects of a few cocktails can feel far from depressing. And for someone who’s already down and out, the mood-enhancing effects of alcohol can prove pretty tempting… hence the prevalence of booze as a form of self-medication. Check out your local bar, and there are bound to be more than a few folks occupying booths and bar stools who suffer from clinical depression.

Compounding this issue is the fact that binge drinking is, um, everywhere. Forty percent of college students report the behavior, and according to the CDC, one in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month. The CDC’s list of health issues associated with binge drinking is sobering (so to speak), and includes unintentional and intentional injuries, alcohol poisoning, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, high blood pressure, liver disease, neurological damage and sexual dysfunction. Nobody needs those on top of depression, now do they?

For many years, I, like lots of others, used alcohol as my socially acceptable method for feeling better. The problem was, the aftereffects were unimaginably worse than the temporary high. After a night of heavy drinking, my anxiety and depression were amplified to the extreme. When I cut out excessive boozing, things got better. A lot better. And that’s no surprise, considering what the research suggests about drinking and depression.

Here are some eye-opening facts about the deadly duo:

Alcohol abuse and depression frequently go hand in hand.
Stats suggest 30 percent to 50 percent of people with alcohol issues (at any given time) are also suffering from a major depressive disorder. Makes sense, since alcohol is an easy way to self-medicate. Unfortunately, drinking does more harm than good as far as mental health is concerned.

Heavy drinking makes mental health issues worse.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can worsen existing conditions such as depression or induce new problems such as serious memory loss, depression, or anxiety.” Not good.

Alcohol is often associated with suicidal behavior.
Scary, right? According to a study by the NIH, “Alcohol abuse may lead to suicidality through disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment, but it may also be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide.” Basically, alcohol gets rid of those pesky inhibitions that might otherwise stop us from doing something regrettable.

Alcohol issues tend to run in families.
In the book, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas Of Depression, Andrew Solomon writes,
“People with family histories of alcoholism tend to have lower levels of endorphins- the endogenous morphine that is responsible for many of our pleasure responses – than do people genetically disinclined to alcoholism. Alcohol will slightly raise the endorphin level of people without the genetic basis for alcoholism; it will dramatically raise the endorphin level of people with that genetic basis.” Well, that accounts for a lot, now doesn’t it?

Drinking while taking antidepressants is bad news bears.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it can worsen symptoms and side effects, cause drowsiness, impair alertness and even potentially cause a dangerous reaction depending on what kind of meds you’re taking.

I’m not here to tell you whether to give up drinking forever or not. I’m not a clinician or a doctor, I’m just someone with some personal experience in this arena. For some, abstinence is key, while moderation management works for others. Your treatment plan should be as individual as you are.

But this much is clear: drinking and depression aren’t a good combo. So if you’re having trouble with either or both, ask for help. You’re not alone, trust me. These problems are much more prevalent than most people realize.

It doesn’t say I can’t share the article but to be fair here is the link to the original article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/hannah-sentenac/drinking-depression-and-t_b_5787796.html

I, like the author of this article, have used alcohol as a socially accepted way to make me feel better. It is so easy to escape from reality for a little while with a drink or two…. This past year I had to cut back on drinking, one because I couldn’t afford it (I was unemployed and very broke!) and two because my therapist (and my doctor) at the time recommended I not drink. Alcohol was my coping mechanism and it turns out… not a very good one! I completely quit drinking for a while and now only have a drink occasionally. I actually feel much better and rarely feel the temptation to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. I am human though and occasionally falter. My current therapist is okay with me occasionally having a drink in a social setting. I think I need to explore more positive coping mechanisms though and have expressed that with her. I don’t want to go back to using alcohol as my coping mechanism for many of the reasons listed in the article but mostly because I feel better now than I have in a long time and want to keep it that way! 

Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

A Blood Test For Depression Shows The Illness Is Not A Matter Of Will

If you haven’t heard yet… there is a new blood test that could help doctors diagnose patients with clinical depression. Here is an article from the Huffington Post talking about it:DEPRESSION

Screening for depression might soon be as easy as a blood test.

A new test that identifies particular molecules in the blood could help doctors diagnose patients with clinical depression, according to a new study published in the journal Translational Psychiatry. The blood test can also predict which therapies would be most successful for patients, and lays the groundwork for one day identifying people who are especially vulnerable to depression — even before they’ve gone through a depressive episode.

But perhaps just as important, said lead investigator Eva Redei, Ph.D., is the potential the test has for taking some of the stigma out of a depression diagnosis. When depression can be confirmed with a blood test like any other physical ailment, she said, there’s less stigma about having the disease and getting treatment.

The most effective way to treat depression is to treat it early, but past studies show that it takes an average of two to 40 months to diagnose depression — if it gets diagnosed at all. Redei’s depression blood test could lead to faster and more accurate diagnoses, thereby transforming the way depression is treated.

If Redei’s findings are independently replicated and confirmed, then approved by the Food and Drug Administration, laboratories across the U.S. could incorporate the test into their battery of routine exams. This is in contrast to MDDScore, a depression blood test owned by Ridge Diagnostics that was announced in 2012. Because the test is proprietary to Ridge Diagnostics, doctors have to submit samples to the company’s lab in North Carolina, where the company analyzes the blood and sends back results. Redei’s test, however, “can be done by any clinical laboratory anywhere, just like a cholesterol test,” Redei explained. “That is, assuming that we can go through the FDA approval [process] fast.”

“Being aware of people who are more susceptible to recurring depression allows us to monitor them more closely,” said David Mohr, Ph.D., co-lead author of the study in a press release. “They can consider a maintenance dose of antidepressants or continued psychotherapy to diminish the severity of a future episode or prolong the intervals between episodes.”

Zachary Kaminsky, Ph.D., of the Mood Disorders Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine, wasn’t involved with the study but is excited about its potential implications for depression treatment. Kaminsky is a pioneer in blood tests to predict suicide risk, and although he and Redei measure very different things in their tests, he sees that both researchers have similar goals when it comes to creating biological tests for mental illnesses.

“It’s an exciting time — there is potential to find factors that are going to distinguish between various mental illnesses as well as responses to direct clinical treatment,” said Kaminsky to HuffPost. “Any finding that gets us closer to that is very interesting and worth following up.”

But Kaminsky also pointed out that Redei and Mohr’s research still needs to be independently validated by other patient populations to confirm that it works. For instance, Kaminsky pointed out, the study would have been more scientifically rigorous if it had used a different patient group to confirm the blood test, as opposed to using the same participants to both create and then test the predictions.

“I think this is very early stage and this model needs to be investigated in an independent sample,” Kaminsky said. “It will be important to test the predictability of these expression measures in independent cohorts.”

Redei acknowledged that the next step in research would be to run the tests on larger samples in order to validate the models and then submit them for FDA approval.

Major depressive disorder affects an estimated 6.7 percent of the U.S. population and is the leading cause of disability for Americans ages 15 to 44, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Despite the research hurdles she still needs to overcome, Redei is confident that her test can make a positive impact on the millions who struggle with depression — not only by making treatment more precise, but by bringing psychiatry “into the 21st century,” Redei said. “We’ll get to the point where there won’t be any discrimination between physical illness and mental illness.”

Click here to read the full article:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/blood-test-depression_n_5826592.html?utm_hp_ref=stronger-together.