Even more so in the age of the internet.
In the past couple of years post-divorce, I have been seeing a counselor regarding coping with the loss and adjusting to my new life as a single middle-aged gay man, as well as my regular physician for a number of different ailments; physicals, age-related issues, and fatigue, lethargy, lack of interest in social activities and in all this time no one has suggested that I may be suffering from depression.
I think I am.
I turned to the internet when I began to suspect I was suffering from depression, and specifically, WebMD.com, every doctor's worst friend and best enemy, because many patients are diagnosing themselves without medical school background and training. Or so I hear.
According to WebMD, these are the symptoms of major depression:
- Depressed mood, sadness, or an “empty” feeling, or appearing sad or tearful to others
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities you once enjoyed
- Significant weight loss when not dieting, or significant weight gain (for example, more than 5% of body weight in a month)
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleeping
- Restlessness or irritation (irritable mood may be a symptom in children or adolescents too), or feelings of “dragging”
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating, or indecisiveness
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or specific plan for committing suicide
- what it would do to my family, and
- I was afraid I'd miss something better in my life ahead. (I guess I knew it would get better.)
As for the other symptoms, I believe I exhibit a number of them. I feel sad or empty most of the time, like I'm not accomplishing anything. There are days I feel like crying but am not able to bring myself to. I have a fear of new situations, which I didn't used to have, though in many cases I just go ahead and go through the new situation and survive. [Note to self: Take note! You survived!] My weight is back up a bit, and I'm not eating as healthfully as I had been. I'm sleeping eight hours a night but do not feel refreshed the next morning. I feel very lethargic and dragging all the time, and feel extremely fatigued, particularly in the afternoon. At times, I do feel worthless but mostly around work and those students I don't seem to be able to reach and who are making my teaching extremely challenging right now. I have days where I don't want to leave the safety of my home, yet don't want to remain trapped in my house.
As for the cause(s) of my self-diagnosed depression, there's a lot to consider;
- my recent divorce;
- my finances;
- my career;
- my health;
- my orientation;
- my life path.
I have been teaching thirty years in the same school. The staff is wonderful, a rarity in my district. We have become a family of sorts. We may have our differences, but we care about each other. I have heard of schools where each teacher is an island unto him/herself, and doesn't work well with others. And yet, thirty years in one place is a bit depressing. Yes, each class and grade is different, but all in all, it's the same routine but with different students. The current political situation surrounding public education is also frustrating. I am aware that the economy is to blame for a lot of the difficulties, but the attitude toward public school teachers is becoming very demeaning. Politicians keep trying to fix the system by trying new remedies without giving us enough time to adequately try them before trying something new. Many outsiders, i.e., politicians and businesses, are trying to influence school boards by instilling business solutions to a non-business organization, like fitting a square peg in a round hole. Public schools are not a profit making machine, and worse, many of these so-called helpers have NO education background. When teachers' unions try to point out our concerns regarding these proposed solutions, we become demonized. It's all very depressing to be continually bullied like this.
My health is fine, though with age, there will be things to watch for. I recently had a scare with hypertension, but that is now back under control. My on and off bouts with vertigo will keep me on guard and limit me somewhat, but I mustn't let that control me, though I cannot control when I may have an episode. Aging is not for the weak of heart or mind.
Many health professionals believe that stress and depression take an extra toll on minorities as we have those extra burdens of fighting for equality/civil rights and dealing with the negative attitudes of others. And while we may tell ourselves we are okay, strong, and powerful; sometimes, when we dig down deep enough through the residue of our pasts, we may find we don't feel all that okay, strong and powerful; we may have buried all those negative feelings in a chest under a large pile of other emotional residue, maybe one day to be uncovered and opened up again. But, maybe not.
So, with all this going on, it's no wonder I feel I may be suffering from depression.
Yet, I may not be, after all this is a self-diagnosis which, admittedly, is dangerous thing to do; doesn't a doctor who diagnoses and then treats him/herself have a fool for a patient? But, I am tired of feeling this way. I don't want to feel this way, which I believe is a good sign for me. And the first step to recovery.
Please understand, I am not suggesting, in any way that people who are depressed WANT to feel this way, it is a miserable feeling. It hurts; emotionally, mentally and physically. It affects others. I believe I began feeling depressed shortly after my ex and I bought our house, when everything fell upon me to do. I stayed on top of the repairs, the bills, the animals, etc. No wonder there were times I went out for groceries and didn't want to return. I don't want to suggest my ex didn't do his part, he helped when he could, and when I asked him to. I tried to give him some responsibilities so we could work together, and be more of a team, but often I ended up having to finish them. So, I feel I did way more than my share of the work.
I read somewhere that depression is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. We have just convinced ourselves we could do anything, (or we had to do everything) and we took it all on without asking for help. And now it has caught up to us. For some, depression may be a wake up call to realize we can't do it all, that we have reached our limit and asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
We are not Superman or Superwoman.
I like to think of it that way for me, at least.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, I am a school teacher. Any comments/opinions expressed here in the body of this blog are mine alone and not intended for medical advice, or diagnosis. I am writing here for my personal situation. If you feel you may be suffering from depression, please seek help.