Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Red is Blue
"Everything is changing. You're looking for the cure.
And you feel like you're the loneliest girl in the world.
Trouble in your head now, don't know what to do.
Seems like up is down and red is blue"

(Red is Blue ~ Ben Folds)

What is the deal with health care workers and depression?

Shrinkette quotes a Washington Post article that states "One in 10 American women takes an antidepressant drug."

Well here in Canada far more than 1/10th of my health care colleagues take medications for depression, and a significant number of my patients (especially women of childbearing age and the elderly) are taking mood stabilizers and antidepressants.

I was vaguely aware of this trend, and then as I read more in the blogosphere I've noticed lots of posts about my on-line colleagues (nurses, doctors and paramedics) and their ongoing struggles with depression. Most upsetting to me was Dr Dork who completely disappeared from the blogosphere after admitting that he was dealing with a depression crisis. As I read the comments to his post Dr Dork: Lazarus, arise ! I was struck by how many bloggers echoed his sentiments, including and Kim, whose writings I read every day, and whose writing never gives away the fact that she, too, sometimes needs help.

Why do so many of find ourselves frequently deep in the doldrums? Is it what we do? Are we so sad because we deal with heartbreak and sorrow on a daily basis? Or is it who we are - we are sad so we join others who feel the same well. Hell, misery loves company, right? Or is it that those of us who experience depression are more likely to end up in helping fields, allowing us some small feeling of making things better for someone else, since we can't do the same for ourselves. Is it a chicken and egg story with each of the parts chasing the other?

And why does it matter to me?

Because I think, after years and years of self diagnosed dysthymia, I'm finally ready to ask for help. I am finding it harder and harder to just press on, to put on a good face. At home it is easier and easier to retreat away from my real life into the computer, or instead of being home, to pick up even more shifts and work at a pace that prevents me from thinking about anything other than the patients in my care.

The asking for help is hard. Really hard.

Despite my knowledge that mental illness is just that, an illness, I continue in my reluctance to admit that I am sick. I want to believe that I'm stronger than that. I don't want to think that this could be hereditary. I've worked my butt off for years to prove that I'm not like my other family members whose life challenges have been a frequent and ongoing source of stress and concern. I'm afraid that if it is hereditary, I've passed it on to my kids, like some malignant gene that makes life miserable. I am mortified to have to ask my doctor for meds. My doctor is wonderful, caring, and a friend. Our children used to play together. I don't want her to know that I can't do it. There is no adult emerg doc that I work with who I trust enough to keep my need confidential. My pedi doc friends cannot prescribe an adult drug to an adult without opening them selves up to concerns about improper prescribing practices. It would be easier to ask a stranger, but there is no walk-in clinic doc that will prescribe, since they cannot do follow up. I can't go to a new family doctor as none in my area are accepting new patients. I can't think of any single person I could talk to without feeling embarrased at my weakness. I don't even want my husband to know, although he'd have to be blind not to recognize the problems after all these years. I also have difficulty accepting that I have these feelings despite having such an excellent husband, amazing kids, wonderful family, an terrific group of close friends and fabulous coworkers. There is nothing wrong in my life, so why am I so down?

Update. That was June, this is October. What a difference a couple months can make.

I did it. I worked up the courage (truly one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life!) and asked my Doctor to put me on an antidepressant. She was kind, supportive and prescriptive.

Swallowing the first pill was a real challenge - I wasted six before I managed to choke one down, but now they go down easily and they are working. I feel normal for the first time in more than five years, and probably closer to ten years.

Now my challenge is not to run though the streets with a placard proclaiming the benefits of my new medication. Truly though, this feeling is wonderful and I wish more people could feel it.

"I think I can make it now, the pain is gone. All of the bad feelings have disappeared. Here is the rainbow I've been prayin' for. It's gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright) sun shiny day."

(I Can See Clearly Now ~ Johnny Nash)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're a brave brave woman. And I"m glad to know you found the strength to get the help you need :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

and interestingly enough James Taylor was singing "You've got a friend" while I read that.
Winter, Spring, Summer or Fall, all you've got to do is call!

Blogger Cherry Ames said...

Thank you friend. Your support has always been noted & appreciated. :)

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear: As helpers, we always feel that we must be stronger, braver, tougher...but sometimes the strongest, bravest and toughest thing to do is admit we need help. Ain't it great that those nasty little chemical imbalances can be balanced?? Glad you are feeling better!

Blogger Dr Dork said...

Howdy Cherry

Thanks for the kind words. Depression is very common, and those of us in the caring professions are, in my opinion, at higher risk. The stats support this pretty well, I think.

I'm so glad things have turned around for you. I'm also one of those for whom meds make a huge difference. There's clearly something going on neurobiologically, but in modern medicine we really don't understand exactly what, in all honesty.

So much stigma prevents many from seeking the treatment they need. Thanks for your honest post.

Kind regards

Blogger girlvet said...

I agree with DR Dork, the people who are attracted to nursing are caretakers, supposed to be always strong, take care of everybody else, never themselves. Hard to admit you need help. I think we were separated at birth because I went the same route with medication but I eventually did it too and it has made a difference.

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