Women & Depression: Special Report

Note: Since depression is a difficult illness with darkness lurking everywhere, I thought I would post flowers to bring a bring light to the article.

Depression is no stranger to my family.  My father’s youngest sister committed suicide when she was 29 and unmarried. (Sixty years ago that made her an old maid and I believe that state of mind triggered her depression!) My mother’s aunt drowned herself because of her fear of her daughter’s fragile health. (P.S. This daughter outlived her siblings.) Three of my four siblings have experienced serious depression. I went through a deep depression after my older daughter was born and again while going through divorce and menopause simultaneously. Fortunately, I received the help I needed, but not until some trial and error.

When I suffered from postpartum depression in 1965, the climate at that time was that depression was a lack of will.  The advice was to snap out of it!  or say, It’s all in your head. Now research has shown that for some of us, depression is part of our genetic makeup, that some kind of chemical imbalance is inherited. (Environmental factors and physical ailments that trigger depression are also factors.)  With depression on both sides of my family, the genetic predisposition makes sense.

There are many options in modern medical and non-medical circles, since depression is not a small problem. According to an article I saved in Rosie, the magazine that Rosie O’Donnell published several years ago, depression haunts as many as 12 million American women.(In this back issue, Rosie writes about her own years of depression.)  I Googled for statistics and found these additional cited statistics from Facts Sheets and Depression on the website www.mentalhealthamerica.net)

1.  Approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression each year. (Same stat as Rosie cited in 2001.)

2. About one in every eight women can expect to develop clinical depression during their lifetime.

3. Depression occurs most frequently in women aged 25 to 44.

4. Contributing Factors – Many factors in women may contribute to depression, such as developmental, reproductive, hormonal, genetic and other biological differences (e.g. premenstrual syndrome, childbirth, infertility and menopause).

5. Social factors may also lead to higher rates of clinical depression among women, including stress from work, family responsibilities, the roles and expectations of women and increased rates of sexual abuse and poverty.

6. Gender Differences -Women experience depression at roughly twice the rate of men. (Girls 14-18 years of age have consistently higher rates of depression than boys in this age group.)

In my case, postpartum depression was, I believe, triggered by a hormonal balance when I stopped nursing my daughter at six months, because my son, who is 18 months older, was such an active child, I felt I could not continue to nurse. Many years later I learned that when you stop nursing, there is a hormonal shift. My second big “meltdown,” as Susan Sarandon once called depression, came while I was going through divorce and menopause, both of which are stressful, with menopause listed under hormonal issues. The doctor never even asked about my physical condition. If I had been going to a holistic practitioner at the time, I think the link between the physical and mental would have been acknowledged and treated with alternative and traditional health measures.

Because women seem to be more prone to depression than men, which is also true in my family, I have collected several books on the topic.  In my next posting later this week, I plan to post the list. (I still have one more book to read.) In the meantime, if you have any books on the topic you’d like to suggest, please email the information for me to share with other readers.

Depression is a devastating illness. Family members suffer as well as a result of a loved one’s illness. In that sense, it is “contagious,” that is, the one who is always depressed can bring others down along with him or her. So please get help, so that life once again becomes hopeful and enjoyable.

In the 1970s, after I had experienced severe postpartum depression, I penned this rhyme based on Sylvia Plath’s autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar. (I Googled the title and came up with this piece of information.)

“Sylvia Plath was an excellent poet but is known to many for this largely autobiographical novel which was first published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The Bell Jar has become a classic of American literature.  I will add this to the bibliography in the next posting.

To Sylvia’s Bell Jar

Written in the mid-late 1970s by ellensue

When the bell jar descends, I feel my life’s ending.
For without Hope, there’s no way I can cope.

Everyone has a bell jar, which can smother her life’s breath.
Be it her job, mother, spouse or herself; no one is without one.

The trick is to break it—so it can never cause you pain.
For if it closes around you tightly,
You’ll spend your days fighting for air, and slowly losing….
For the pain is in the dying.

I’m always ready for my bell jar to descend, so I keep a constant vigil.
It closed about me once, and dying once is enough—isn’t it?

Note: Because May is National Mental Health Month and my blog, Divorce Dayz is also for women, I decided to post this both on menupause and divorce-dayz. If you are reading this on menupause and are also divorced, I added this excerpt from www.womansdivorce.com that you may want to read and also go to the site for more information.

Experiencing grief and depression from divorce is common when a person’s marriage ends.  The sense of loss can be comparable to the pain of losing a loved one. In essence, it is the death of your marriage.  It can be a very sad time in your life as you lay to rest all the dashed hopes and dreams.

Your pain is real, and as you begin your divorce recovery you may experience some or all of the following symptoms of depression from divorce to some extent:

1. inability to sleep or sleeping more than usual

2. over eating or a total lack of appetite

3. fatigue

4. unusual aches and pains

5. excessive alcohol or drug use

6. difficulty concentrating

7. persistent negative thoughts

8. irritability or anger anxiousness or restlessness

9. sense of guilt or worthlessness

10. pessimism or indifference

11. loss of interest in formerly pleasurable activities

12. recurrent thoughts of death

13. thoughts of suicide – *Get Help Immediately*

While it is normal to feel these things off and on, consult your doctor if you are experiencing at least four of these symptoms on a daily basis for a prolonged period.  Your symptoms may be caused by lingering depression.  When you are facing these on a continual basis, there is no shame in asking for help. When there is a death in the family, people offer their support. When a divorce occurs, this help is often lacking, so you may need to seek out your own support.  Just remember that you probably won’t feel this way forever.

For the time being, though, depression from divorce can seem to color everything in your life. Start to forgive yourself for mistakes you may have made.  Maybe you weren’t perfect, but you are basically a good person. You can’t go back and change the past, so let it go, and allow yourself to find contentment in the here and now.”

Again, for more information, go to this site.

4 Responses to “Women & Depression: Special Report”

  1. ellen sue spicer Says:

    Thanx! I think I am still a bit crazy!! Are you near your computer now if I want to reach you?

  2. ellen sue spicer Says:

    Thanks so much. How are you? Where are you?

  3. ellen sue spicer Says:

    Glad you like the photos. Will have to check out Sarton’s journal.
    P.S. Will be in State College this w-e for Max’s graduation> Are you around?

  4. ellen sue spicer Says:

    thanx! es

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