Katy, a single woman in her 40s, is an Art Teacher at Peachtree Elementary. She’s always had a creative streak since she was little, and decided to follow it up into adulthood. She loves working with kids, and seeing how their small creative minds work.
Lately though, over the past month, Katy hasn’t been enjoying her job as much. Waking up has become a tedious task since her insomnia started, and every little thing her students do seems to irritate her. Now she just looks forward to going home in the evening, and sitting on the couch with a cocktail and Netflix. She finds that television blocks out the voices in her head; the voices that remind her that she should be married by now, with kids of her own. The ones that remind her that she should be more successful at this age, owning a house and car with savings for a family, instead of being in deep financial debt.
Her phone rings; it’s her mom. Katy silences it and goes into the kitchen to fix another drink. Her mom is always nagging her, asking if she has met anyone new in the dating world, and reminding her that she needs to hurry up because her ovaries are running out of time.
Returning from the kitchen and slumping down on the couch, Katy finds a text message on her phone from her friend Laura. “Hey, there’s an art festival in town on Saturday. Wanna go?” She stares at the text for a minute then responds, “Sorry, got plans!”. Katy hates that she has to lie to her close friend. She just doesn’t want to go out or hang out with other people any more. She doesn’t enjoy it as much as she used to.
Katy logs onto Facebook and starts scrolling down her feed. A tear rolls down her face as she sees all the smiling faces of her friends, most of who are side by side with their husbands or wives, and adorable children. “It’s not fair!” she says. It seems like everyone is having babies nowadays and is so happy; except for her.
Katy worries that she may never be able to have a child if she doesn’t meet someone soon! She’s always wanted to be a mother, and initially thought she’d be married and have two kids by the age of 30. But since she got out of her abusive long-term relationship, it’s been hard for her to trust anyone. Before she realizes it, she’s finished her second drink. Back to the kitchen for a third. She’s decided to skip dinner because as usual, she’s not hungry. This has become her daily ritual.
As she’s fixing another cocktail her head starts to hurt, so she reaches into the cupboard for some painkillers. She looks at the bottle for a minute and wonders how many pills it would take to kill herself. She’s had this thought before. Life seems meaningless nowadays; this is not where she was meant to be at the age of 42! It makes her question her future and wonder what is the point of living. No one would miss her anyway.
She’s back on the couch with drink number three and although it’s late, Katy puts on another show. She hates lying in bed tossing and turning, so she prefers to watch t.v. until she passes out. Her phone buzzes and she picks it up just in time to see a text message from her big sister Carol. “Hey sis, it’s been a while. I miss you! How’re you doing?”. Her eyes start to tear again and she responds “I dunno sis.” Right then her phone rings, and Katy lets it ring four more times before picking it up. “Katy?” says Carol sounding very worried. Katy breaks down immediately, and Carol says “Oh no, I’ll be right over”.
They stay up talking all night, and Katy spends most of the time crying. She didn’t realize how much she was hurting. Carol spends the night and promises to take Katy to her doctor the following day. That night, Katy is able to sleep for the first time in a month.
What is Depression?
Katy is exhibiting signs of depression. This means that she has a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities for more than two weeks. She must also have 5 or more of the 9 symptoms listed below, at least nearly every day.
- Depressed mood most of the day.
- Diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day.
- Significant weight loss (when not dieting) or weight gain, or a decrease or increase in appetite.
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (unable to sleep, or sleeping too much).
- Restlessness, or slowing of movement and speech.
- Fatigue or loss of energy (feeling tired most of the time, even with no activity).
- Feelings of worthlessness (you don’t matter), or excessive or inappropriate guilt.
- Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness (unable to make decisions).
- Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation (thoughts of killing yourself) without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.
** The symptoms cause distress or impairment in areas of functioning (work, school, friendships, relationships, etc.).
** The depression is not caused by the effects of a substance or a medical condition (you’re not sad because you took a drug, or have a diagnosed medical disease).
Katie is exhibiting 6 of the 9 symptoms and would be recommended to see a Psychologist, Counselor or Psychiatrist. Psychologists and Counselors are mental health professionals that mainly focus on talk therapy, whereas Psychiatrists have gone to medical school and thus, have the ability to prescribe medication.
There are several ways that Katie can go about seeking help for her depression.
- This is a form of treating depression by talking about your issues with a mental health professional. There are many different types of approaches such as, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Psychodynamic, Humanistic, Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and Integrative therapy among others. To learn more about each, click http://www.apa.org/topics/therapy/psychotherapy-approaches.aspx
- There are many kinds of medications used to treat depression, these include antidepressants, mood stabilizers, anti-anxiety medications or antipsychotics (depending on your symptoms). You must see a Psychiatrist regularly to prescribe and monitor your adjustment to these medications, as some of them have been known to have serious side effects. DO NOT take medication that has not been prescribed for you.
- A combination of both Medication and therapy
- Some people feel that a combination of both talk therapy and medication has been most effective for them. Then as you start to feel better, you can slowly wean off the medication (with the help of a Psychiatrist).
- Change of lifestyle
- Most people who are depressed have reached a point where they do not take care of themselves. It’s important to keep an active lifestyle to keep yourself healthy. Eating well combined with regular exercise, as well as reducing alcohol intake, has been shown to have an improvement in mood in most people struggling with depression. For those who don’t or can’t exercise, there is yoga or meditation, which are much less intense on your body, but just as effective on your mind.
- Avoid Social Media
- It’s important to note that when you’re feeling low, being on social media can intensify your emotions. Facebook and Instagram among others, portray the highlight of people’s lives. So, when you start to compare the lows of your life, to the highlights of someone else’s life, you are bound to feel sad. Take some time to unplug. Put on some nice music and journal your thoughts, or draw and paint, for those who are creative. Do whatever it is you enjoy that can keep your mind off your phone and negative thoughts.
- Reaching out to family and friends
- Most people with depression tend to isolate themselves because they do not want to be a burden to their friends and family. But the most important thing you can do at this point is to REACH OUT. No one can help you if they don’t know that you’re struggling. You’ll be surprised how understanding people can be once they realize what you’re going through. So, don’t be scared or ashamed, pick up your phone and send that text or make that call. You’ll be glad that you did.
If you or anyone you know is exhibiting symptoms of depression, please seek a professional for help. ***If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others, please go to the nearest Emergency Room of your local hospital, or call the suicide hotline immediately.***
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-8255
National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264, https://www.nami.org
Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 1-240-485-1001, http://www.adaa.org
National Institute of Mental Health: 1-866-615-6464, http://www.nimh.nih.gov
Befrienders – Crisis helpline: +254 722178177, https://www.befrienderskenya.org/
Amani Counseling Center: http://www.amanicentre.org/counselling.php
Tumaini Counseling Center: 254-733-687050, http://tumainicounselling.net/Nairobi/
American Psychological Association (APA) http://www.apa.org/topics/therapy/psychotherapy-approaches.aspx
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V) of mental health disorders.