MY TRIP TO EMERGENCY LEFT ME THINKING…
If you were in a car accident and whisked by ambulance to the Emergency Ward, you would be assessed by doctors. If your injuries were considered relatively minor, then you would be given some treatment by the nurse and then sent home. Your future care would be done either through your family doctor, or as an outpatient at the hospital, or through other specialized services such as visits to a physiotherapist. However, if the doctor says that your injuries are more serious (a ruptured organ, a collapsed lung…) then you may be admitted for surgery or monitoring. As a general rule, people go along with this. They don’t doubt the doctor and argue that their lung is not collapsed, the bone not broken, or the organ not ruptured. This is because the doctor usually has some tangible evidence – an X-ray, ultrasound, or some other scan. Feeling pain in your leg, seeing it swollen, viewing the X-ray and listening to someone that studied medicine for eight years tell you that your leg is broken, is all pretty compelling evidence. Your brain puts these large puzzle pieces together to form the big picture and concludes that staying in hospital for treatment… probably a good idea.
With depression, the evidence is much less tangible. If they could test your serotonin levels and tell you that they are way below normal, then maybe this would help. Or if they could attach some scientific doo-dah to your finger and then 30 seconds later bold writing would flash up on a computer screen stating “DEPRESSED” or “NOT DEPRESSED”, then maybe we would find it easier to accept the diagnosis.
“Unfortunately, your local Emergency Ward or Doctor’s office does not have a litmus test for depression.”
Unfortunately, your local Emergency Ward or Doctor’s office does not have a litmus test for depression. Instead they will question you about your feelings, and maybe things you have done in recent days. They will rely on your honesty and the accuracy of your observations, along with what they see before them. Personally, I don’t think that depressed people are all that honest. We don’t like to admit that things are as bad as they are. We feel that it makes us look ‘weak’. We may not want to tell someone else the thoughts we have been having, or the things we have been doing. Stigma stands in the way of honesty. As for the accuracy of our observations? My brain was a pickled mess when I was depressed. My observations of everything were horrendously skewed and not to be trusted.
“My brain was a pickled mess when I was depressed.”
So my advice? Bring a friend. My wife came with me to as many appointments as she could. Where I was vague and unsure, she jumped in with accurate comments and certainty. If I tried to play things down, she would relay the truth with compassionate understanding. If I could not find the words, then she would find them for me. In these moments, I loved her more than ever. It felt like she was saving my life. Someone cared, understood, and wanted to help. I’m not sure that I would have made it through without her. I was lucky to have her with me and it made me realize that there are people out there who are depressed and don’t have someone to help. We must reach out and find these people. They are living through an unnecessary hell and there’s a good chance that they won’t want to do this for much longer.
If this is you. If you feel depressed and are alone, or feel alone, know that there are people out there that care and want to help. They just need help finding you. Your local community will have a help line that you can call to talk things through and get guidance on seeking further help. Or go to your doctor, or hospital. Your brain is playing tricks on you right now. You deserve to be happy and you need help getting back to being yourself. There are other people going through what you are going through. Find the strength and reach out for help.
If you are reading this and know someone that is depressed or want to do something to help people that are depressed, know that they need your utmost support and understanding. They may, at times, test your patience. They may, at times, seem impossible to reason with, but they are sick right now and need you. Just like an elderly neighbour who has fallen down the stairs and broken their hip, or a family member that has been diagnosed with cancer. You need to help them establish what is wrong, seek the necessary treatment, and recover from their ordeal. Find the strength and reach out to help.
Coming next: Chapter 4: Part IV: Unhelpful Things That I Told Myself When I Was Depressed.