Depression or a Bad Case of the Blues! by Rita A.Schulte

Guest Bloggers on Amelia Curzon's blog

It is with great pleasure I welcome my Guest Blogger for the week, Rita A. Schulte, MA, LPC.  Rita, a licensed professional counsellor from Northern Virginia, guides us through the various signs to look for when we feel as though we are having an ‘off ‘day. Here she shows us how can we tell if we’re just experiencing a bad case of low spirits, or if we’re clinically depressed? A most interesting subject which affects many more people than most of us realise!

Keri came into my office because she had noticed some changes in her mood. When I asked her what was going on she told me she’d been crying a lot lately, couldn’t sleep well, wasn’t eating much, and she couldn’t concentrate.  I asked her if she could identify any recent triggers to what she had been experiencing. She said that she noticed feeling anxious right before Easter. Her mood had gotten progressively worse after the holiday was over.Rita A. Schulte-Guest Blogger on Amelia Curzon's Blog-"Curzon"

I asked Keri about her family history. She explained that she had a difficult relationship with her mother, who had always been critical and cold. I asked if she spent the Easter holiday with her family, she said yes.

Lots of people get the blues during or after a holiday. The holidays are supposed to be a time of connecting, sharing with family and friends, and having fun. But for people like Keri, they can trigger anxiety, loneliness, and depression, especially if family relationships aren’t what we had hoped for or expected.

For most of the year, we can choose to avoid thinking about the disappointments family and the holidays engender, but what happens if those feelings don’t go away? What if we find ourselves down in the dumps long after the holiday is over? How can we tell if we’re just experiencing a bad case of the blues, or if we’re clinically depressed?

While most of us have experienced “down” days for no apparent reason, clinical depression is something altogether different. Making our way through it can feel very much like wandering through a desert wilderness—alone. That’s why it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on inside, and get help if necessary.

Noticing the Signs

Keri was wise to come in for help. There were lots of things rumbling underneath the conscious surface in her life. Most of them were connected to her beliefs about herself, and her mom. Keri had never made the connection, but as we talked that day in my office, a crystallizing moment occurred for her. Keri realized that she had never stopped to take inventory of her heart and how all the years of burying her emotional pain over her distant relationship with her mom had affected her. When she would go home, old familiar patterns of relating would be triggered and she would experience being even more depressed in the days and weeks to come.

But why had these symptoms gotten so much worse for Keri at her Easter visit; because she discovered her mother had cancer. Keri admitted that anytime she went home for a visit, she felt anxious and stressed, but this time, after learning of her mother’s illness, it brought all her “stuff” to the surface.

The first thing I did with Keri was to help her to notice what had been going on for her physically, emotionally and spiritually. Her presenting symptoms indicated she had moved from experiencing “the blues” to clinical depression.

How does clinical depression differ from the weekly blues, and what can we do about it? First, we need to understand the symptoms. The American Psychiatric Association outlines the criteria for major depressive disorder in the DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders) by the following:

  • Persistent blue sad mood for most of the day
  • Diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities most of the day
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Increase or decrease in appetite
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Diminished ability to think, concentrate, or be decisive
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation with or without a specific plan. A suicide attempt or plan for committing suicide

Keri and I began to work on identifying the losses in her life; especially those connected with her mother. In time, she got better and her relationship with her mother greatly improved.

As for the occasional bout with the blues, here are some tips I gave to help her:

  • Manage what life stressors you can and learn to let go of the rest. Stress compounds anxiety and feelings of depression
  • Don’t overcommit –learn to say no
  • Practice good self-care skills by identifying what you need and doing it
  • Practice deep breathing and muscle relaxation when tense
  • Plan things to look forward to
  • Don’t allow past hurts and offenses to weigh you down
  • Allow yourself to grieve if you’re sad. When you bury your feelings, you only bury them alive
  • Surrender your rights to have things be the way you want them to, and be willing to face challenges

Clinical depression is treatable. If you or someone you love is experiencing 5 or more of the depressive symptoms listed, consistently, for a two-week period or longer, professional help may be necessary. You don’t just get over it.

So take the time today to notice what’s going on for you in body, soul and spirit. Don’t wait till the blues becomes something more than you can handle. Remember it’s your heart— keep it alive by checking the emotional pulse.

Rita A. Schulte, MA, LPC is a licensed professional counsellor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She is the host of Heartline Podcast and Consider This. Her shows can be heard on 90.9FM in Lynchburg, Va. and 90.5 FM in NC, and on BlogTalk Radio. Her devotional spot, Consider This, will be airing on Community Radio Network. Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. Her articles have appeared in magazines like Counseling Today and Thriving Family Magazine. Her book, Sifted As Wheat: Finding Hope and Healing Through the Losses of Life is currently with Hartline Literary Agency awaiting publication.

Rita’s links:

Website:  www.siftedaswheat.com

Facebook:  Rita A. Schulte

Twitter: @heartlinepod

Blog: Life Talk Today

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Feel the Stress? Get a Pet! by M.C.V. Egan

This week I am really excited and delighted to welcome my first Guest Blogger, the inimitable  Catalina Egan

Here in South Florida there seems to be a lot of stressful energy abounding, not in the small nucleus that is my life; after all my predominant existence these days is in the world of the characters’ whose lives I get to manipulate,Guest Blogger Catalina Egan on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon"create and destroy.
The stress of which I speak can be seen in places that are meant to feel peaceful and relaxed and there are many such places in this haven for tourists escaping their own realities. It could be this global economy that doesn’t seem to lift or the pending presidential election that seems to promote more anger and rude behavior than other elections have in the past.
I know it isn’t my personal perception. I love (as any writer, I would imagine) to eavesdrop. A few days ago it was not through eavesdropping as my pharmacist stated his views in a very loud voice for all in the rather long line to hear.
“Yeah right a pet helps release stress.” The remark was accompanied by a sardonic laugh.
I waited, just long enough to see if anyone else would voice an opinion. There were obvious looks of agreement and a few of those lost in their own cyber-Bluetooth-twenty-first-century-world of I may look like I am standing right next to you but I am actually very far away.
So I spoke, “Pets are absolutely great to help release stress!”
Raised eyebrow said it all from my pharmacist.
“They don’t talk back like a teenage son or act grumpy like a husband.” I continued.
Smile, sword out and coup de grace.
“Or nag like a wife.”
Quick, think, make comeback remark
“Exactly, pets help relieve stress from everyone’s perspective.”
I picked up my prescriptions (and no, notProzac or any other stress reducer), although my cholesterol could be due to stress and not my ability to eat an enormous meal and lack of proper exercise.
Prescriptions in hand I boarded my car and remembered when our pet Taco entered our lives in 2004, another presidential election year full of nervous Floridians.
Taco is a 5 pound 3 ounces Chihuahua, unlike mine, his weight never changes. He belonged to a family that had not realizedChihuahuas need a lot of attention and don’t do well alone. Theirs was not a home life. As a writer I may well give the word homebody an entirely new dimension.
So we adopted Taco when he was two years old and in an instant he magically influenced our lives and relieved stress.  To begin with he woke up happy every day ready to look for any and all adventure, a bit like Winnie the Pooh. This Taco the Chihuahua on Amelia Curzon's Blog - "Curzon"made me get out of bed with a smile and take him for a walk. I discovered how many beautiful birds visited us every morning and got to laugh as Taco’s bark made the Blue Heron spread its majestic wings to get away. I saw how flowers are so different during every one of our walks, how they open to the day and close up to relax at night.
This in turn made the hectic get-ready-for-morning-routine or I-don’t-want-to-do-my-homework afternoons so much more fun. There was always Taco to share it with. On one fortuitous occasion my son’s homework was on the floor and Taco decided to pee on it hence providing the perfect excuse for lack of completion.
We got Taco a few months before as a family we lost some loved members and as if by magic Taco always knew who needed him the most. To this day one can notice that this is not just with the three of us but anyone Taco comes in contact with.
We pick up Austin every afternoon and as sure as any teenager he says good afternoon to the dog before he says good afternoon to his mother. Taco has made our little family complete and happier.
Taco will be 10 this September, he still bounces and runs like a young dog and when I am too focused on writing I often find a pile of toys by my feet, the moment I see them Taco’s tail wags and he is ready to play catch. He does not always get to play, but I can certainly feel loved and sought after.

If you would like to read more from Catalina go to  http://thebridgeofdeaths.tumblr.com/

Here are a few of Catalina’s other links which may interest you:

Website:  http://www.thebridgeofdeaths.com

AMAZON UK:  http://amzn.to/I2DRFa
BARNES AND NOBLE:  http://bit.ly/I3Mz9r