There are a number of reasons to be depressed. For stroke survivors it is usually the loss of their previous life. Of course many, unavoidable, stressors are inextricably linked to this.
But how do you find out whether you are depressed or not? The symptoms are as varied as the effects of a stroke. It’s not only feeling a bit blue, but it can be quite debilitating. Even though many of those symptoms can go either way, or differ in severity, I’d like to list a few here:
Generally there can be the absence of everything positive.
Feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, and possibly thinking everyone hates you.
Change in sleeping patterns (too much or too not enough sleep, insomnia).
Change in eating habits (over eating, comfort eating, not enough/regular eating). Loss of appetite.
Feeling worthless, helpless, irritable, or guilty. No hope to ever get out off this.
No energy. Feeling tired all the time.
Isolating yourself, rather than being with others and pursuing a social life. At the same time possibly feeling lonely.
In more serious cases self-harm or even suicide.
All these symptoms seem quite obvious when you see them written down. In reality, however, they might be difficult to spot. This might be because of the following reasons.
Firstly, your perception. It might actually be far from reality. Remember it is subjective.
Secondly, if you are indeed depressed, it’s likely that ‘Depression’ gives you a justification for just about anything.
It is very difficult for a depressed person to be objective.
Thirdly, some of the symptoms, like fatigue for example, occur in the aftermath of a stroke anyway and might therefore be mistaken for ‘normal’ after effects accompanying a stroke.
Also, the onset of depression can be so subtle that it is, in deed, difficult to notice. There is a lot of frustration around. Frustration that sometimes can be controlled, or easily slip into darkness.
Ask a good friend, or family member. But be careful who you talk to. Remember, you need objective feedback not blame. At least they can give you constructive feedback.
Many stroke survivors, unfortunately, don’t make the transition to a new life without going through a depressive episode. The bitterness of a life lost is not that simple to replace with the eagerness that usually accompanies a fresh start.
Yes, it is an uphill struggle, but here are a few steps that may help you to keep your life uncomplicated, and stop the dark clouds from gathering above you.
Most importantly, look after yourself! Other survivors said that self care is vital in the management of depression.
Put purpose in your life!
This might mean finding a hobby or some kind of work, even if it’s voluntary..
Years ago a friend, who recently had returned from living in another city, took on a job in a warehouse. I knew him as a very intelligent guy, and consequently I asked him why he was doing this job, because I thought he could do much better. He said he needed this. What I did not know was that he had been on drugs for years, and had quit only recently. He told me that this job was important to him because it helped him a lot. He had a reason to get out off bed in the morning, it gave him ‘Me-time’, people trusted him with responsibility, and that in turn, made his confidence grow, most importantly he re-gained control of his life.
Make an effort to get out off bed, and make the bed as soon as you get up. Take a shower.
Getting into a routine helps you to start the day.
Don’t feel guilty about your condition. Not the stroke, nor the depression.
Ask for help. People like to help. You are not a burden on anyone.
Eat healthier and regularly. Make it a routine. Don’t over-eat. No snacks.
Keep a journal, make a list of your plans/goals, and keep track of your success.
Sleep if you’re tired, and get up if you can’t. Do not lie in bed awake at 4.00 am in the morning and worry. Maybe you can do some exercise.
All this is only part of what you can do to fend off depression and gain control of you life. If, however, the Black Dog takes over your life, you should talk to a heath professional.
Some people need drugs to get better. Others talk therapy. Others again a combination of both. In serious cases your doctor might even consider Electro Convulsive Therapy (ETC), and I’m told today it’s not as bad as portrayed by Jack Nicolson in ‘One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
At least you have survived the stroke – that’s a good thing, isn’t it?
In mental health circles around the world ‘Walking the Black Dog’ is known as a synonym for depression.