Depression is common with anyone with TBI, as I’ve learned from personal experience, it is standard issue like it or not. Depression has a distinct voice, the sound of hopelessness, overwhelm, an inescapable darkness and struggle. More often than not I can hear it in the voices of others, see it in their actions, but am not so quick to see it or hear it in myself.
When I attended support group in Bremerton, we had a guest speaker, a Clinical Psychologist who, when asked how much depression he’d seen in his TBI patients, said 100%. Wow!
Because I love the quality of PBS stuff, when I recently happened upon a PBS documentary called “Depression: Out of the Shadows” at the library, I checked it out and looked forward to watching it. I watched it over several days and took it slow because some of it hit close to home and was difficult, but also very enlightening and beneficial, to watch.
It was neat to also find it online, here you can go chapter by chapter (and not have to worry about returning a DVD to your local library!):
The documentary takes you through the lives of people affected by depression, people you’d never imagine suffering from depression at all. It takes you through the symptoms, the difficulties one experiences, to the diagnosis, support, transformation, and treatments available.
Because it is real, often raw and powerful, this documentary removes a lot of the stigma associated with Depression (“it’s all in your head,” or my favorite which I’ve heard applied to TBI too, “you’ve got to pull yourselves up by your bootstraps.” As if any of this is an insane conscious choice we’ve decided to try on for ourselves, cannot now free ourselves from, and someone else telling us the elementary things we have already tried will “fix” us!)
I did not pick up this DVD thinking I was depressed at all, but came to realize I am! It helped me give a name to what I’m experiencing and I can’t chalk it all up to Brain Injury. I guess the confusing thing to me now is trying to find out, if it is even possible, what is specifically Brain Injury, Depression, Anxiety, or PTSD! It seems they all sort of flow together in one big sloppy mud puddle!
Since watching the DVD and learning about the great idea of charting emotions for Bi-Polar Depression, I decided to look online for “mood charting for depression.” That led me to this site: http://www.bipolar-lives.com/bipolar-mood-chart.html where I printed out the three chart links they had available.
One site in particular I have already found quite helpful from that search is http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/ (naturally this made me smile because of the irony my late dog Rudy was a black lab.) 🙂
This handout was an eye-opener for me:
It basically showed me all the stuff I’ve been feeling pre-move, during the move, and post-move made for a perfect storm leading me into depression. I had no idea! I just thought I wasn’t adapting well, fitting in, struggling with losses, TBI and such. All of this is indeed true, however, I recall the truth spoken by the previous Social Worker at rehab, basically if I did not get my depression to a manageable place, it would hamper my recovery.
I showed the Mood Chart to Richard and I said I was a bit confused because as a TBIer I basically don’t get to the “10” on the chart. I mean there’s a lot of leeway when it comes to depression, it has such high highs (for some) and such low lows (for me). He suggested not going on a 1 to 10 scale, but maybe only getting to a 6 is as high as us TBIers get.
I appreciated the author, Andrew Solomon, who was one of the featured folks on the PBS Depression DVD. He showed the number of pills he has to take and basically said these are what keep him from insanity.
Andrew’s words gave me huge validation in his use of the word “insanity.” I have said only in confidence to one other person, that on my good days I’m 75% my old self, and on my bad days, I touch the fringes of insanity. What a huge relief and validation to know I am not alone, and, there is help out there when one finds the proper med or meds.
The words used, the insight and experience of those interviewed, the perspectives of the doctors, were all so very helpful to me in this journey with TBI. It is my sincere hope folks from all walks will watch the PBS documentary, there is so much to learn in this life! No more stigma, just a lot more compassion and acceptance, we cause each other such harm in putting up walls and labeling…perpetuating the very things we disdain, which have divided man from the beginning of time.