by Kassandra Lamb
Depression is considered to be the “common cold” of mental disorders because it is, well, so common. All of us get at least a little depressed at times.
If you’re thinking, Not me; I never get depressed, then you may have some misconceptions about depression. You don’t have to be extremely sad or down to be considered depressed.
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders–the bible of mental health professionals–the mandatory symptom required for a diagnosis of depression is a “depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day” OR “markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities.”
In other words, not wanting to do the things you normally want to do is depression.
During the summer of 2002, I spent most of almost every day on my back deck reading mysteries. I had cut my psychotherapy practice back to just a few clients, in anticipation of retiring the following year, and I was only teaching one summer class.
We owned a horse farm at the time, and there were ALWAYS projects that needed doing. Normally I loved projects! And I loved riding horses.
But that summer I only did the projects that were absolutely necessary, and I had to push myself to do those. I rode maybe once every two weeks, and again, had to push myself to do so. My main trail horse ended up foundering, a disease that can be caused, in part, by inadequate exercise!
In September, I went to my doctor–who’d known me for years–for my yearly check-up. I told him how I’d spent the summer. He gave me a worried look. “Kass, you’re depressed.”
I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open at that point. And yet I knew he was right. How could I have lounged around all summer on my deck without realizing that I was depressed?
Because I hadn’t felt down or sad. I just didn’t want to do anything–which was totally not me. Usually I was full of energy and couldn’t wait to dive into projects.
Another misconception about depression is that it means there is something seriously wrong with you. Nope, normal human beings get depressed on a regular basis. (“Common cold,” remember.)
Depression can be caused by biological and/or psychological factors. People who chronically struggle with depression often have some biological factors operating against them. They may have inherited a tendency toward depression or bipolar disorder or may suffer from hormonal imbalances that affect mood.
The psychological factors can come from a variety of losses, from changes in one’s routine to the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. They can also be related to things from our past that we haven’t yet resolved.
My depression that summer was a combination of biological events. I have a mild case of bipolar disorder (inherited from my father), and I was entering peri-menopause, the period before true menopause when the hormones are all over the place. Often when the depression is more a matter of loss of interest in normal activities rather than a blatantly down mood, it’s biological in nature.
A psychiatrist friend of mine once commented that depression is a disease of fatigue. That is so true!
As I’ve aged, I’ve really seen this. Anything that makes me tired puts me at risk of becoming depressed–allergies, a slowed metabolism from a flaky thyroid gland, side effects of medications. You name it–if it slows me down, it depresses me.
So what can we do about this common cold of mental disorders? If it’s related to a loss, we may need to acknowledge the loss and let ourselves grieve (not as easy as it sounds; more on how to do this in our 11/17 post next month). If it’s more biologically caused, we may need medication to combat this.
But keeping the fatigue factor in mind, there are other things we can do. Getting enough sleep eating right, for example. I find that regular exercise also helps to combat the depression. Anything that is a natural stimulant to our system can help.
I’ve had depression on the mind lately because of the book I’ve been writing and editing–Suicidal Suspicions. I worried that it was too dark and, well, depressing. My early readers have reassured me that it isn’t. They tell me that the mystery, subplots, and moments of humor in the story keep it from becoming too heavy.
I hope you agree. Today is its official launch day! And it’s the last day that you can get it for $1.99 (tomorrow it goes up to $3.99).
SUICIDAL SUSPICIONS, A Kate Huntington Mystery, Book 8
Psychotherapist Kate Huntington is rocked to the core when one of her clients commits suicide. How can this be? The woman, who suffered from bipolar disorder, had been swinging toward a manic state. The client’s family is threatening to sue for malpractice, and Kate can’t fault them since she blames herself. How could she have missed the signs?
Searching for answers for herself and the grieving parents, Kate discovers some details that don’t quite fit. Is it possible the client didn’t take her own life, or is that just wishful thinking? Questioning her professional judgement, and at times her own sanity, she feels compelled to investigate. What she finds stirs up her old ambivalence about the Catholic Church. Is her client’s death somehow related to her childhood parish?
When she senses that someone is following her, she wonders if she is truly losing it. Or is she getting dangerously close to someone’s secrets?
AVAILABLE NOW on Amazon US Amazon UK Amazon Canada Amazon Australia NOOK KOBO APPLE
ALSO PLEASE STOP BACK SATURDAY FOR OUR HALLOWEEN POST (AND THE LAUNCH OF KIRSTEN WEISS’S NEW BOOK)!!
(Psst! It’s available for PREORDER NOW at AMAZON and KOBO ~ coming soon to B&N)
The Hermetic Detective, A Riga Hayworth Paranormal Mystery
A Monstrous Assassin. A Metaphysical Detective.
Housebound with five-month-old twins, Riga Hayworth just wants to get back in the metaphysical detecting game. But when she’s called to help an elderly woman, haunted and alone, a deadly threat follows Riga home. Can Riga prevent a tragedy and protect her family?
The Hermetic Detective is the seventh and final book in the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mystery novels. Buy this book to finish the epic series today.
Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series and has started a new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries (coming soon).
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K.B. OwenOctober 27, 2015 at 7:54 am
Interesting post, Kass! So glad you came out the other side of your depression. When I was diagnosed, I had gone to the doctor because I was worried I had a brain tumor or something. I could not concentrate, and I felt tired all the time (and I didn’t feel like doing any of the stuff I usually enjoyed doing, but that didn’t bring me to the doc’s. It was one of the screening questions, though, which surprised me). I didn’t feel sad or weepy, either. I was writing my dissertation at the time, and had a 6-month-old. It was so frustrating to be tired – even after getting enough sleep – and not able to string any thoughts together! The depression diagnosis was actually a relief, vs. what I was imagining. Thanks for helping to get the word out.
Kassandra LambOctober 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm
I forgot to mention that high levels of stress can also be a contributing factor. And stressors don’t come any bigger than dissertations and newborns. So sorry you had to go through that, Kathy, but I’m glad it wasn’t the alternative you had imagined!
shannon espositoOctober 27, 2015 at 8:31 am
I think the same thing that puts us writers at a higher risk for depression is the same thing that makes us good writers… we feel things deeply and we over-analyze things to death. I’ve battled clinical depression for twenty-five years and finally feel like I have the tools to keep it at bay, but it was a long journey. I”m glad depression is finally losing its stigma and we can talk about it so people will actually reach out for help. There is help and hope. 🙂 And congrats on your new release, Kass…I think this book has an important message besides being an entertaining mystery,
Kassandra LambOctober 27, 2015 at 1:39 pm
Thank you, Shannon. I agree that we writers are at higher risk for depression. At least our intense emotions do help us to write better stories. I’m so glad you have found those tools to combat the depression. They are out there now, but finding the right combination of meds, lifestyle changes and attitude adjustments that works for each individual, that’s still a challenge.
Vinnie HansenOctober 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm
Thanks for another great post, Kass. I look forward to next week’s. My mother’s death has depressed me. Even though she had a long, remarkable life, that just gave the people who knew her more of her to miss.
Kassandra LambOctober 27, 2015 at 1:43 pm
My condolences again, Vinnie. The death of a parent, especially a much beloved one, is so hard! Give yourself time and permission to grief. Trying to ignore it or stuffing it down just makes it last longer. (Which is the topic of my post in a couple of weeks.)
I’m really looking forward to the re-release of your Death with Dessert. It is a powerful story!