As well as Breast Cancer Awareness month, October is Anxiety and Depression Awareness (ADA) month.
In amongst all the pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month, I have taken this day, October 10th, to send kristarella.blog blue(ish) for Blue Day (World Mental Health Day).
Now That You Are Back
This week I read Now That You Are Back by Richard Beeston, about his and his wife’s (Alison’s) journey through depression.
I thought, having read Now That You Are Back and trying to become more aware of depression as a disease, that it would be great to hear from Alison on this Blue Day.
Some words from Alison
I’m pretty new to this whole blog thing but Kristen has asked me to answer a few questions to give more of a personal face to blue day and depression in general.
How did you feel about a book being released containing personal details about you?
When Richard first came up with the idea of writing a book about our journey through depression I was keen, but nervous. I put a number of restrictions on the information he was allowed to share in the book, but as the book progressed I felt more and more like I needed to tell our whole story if it was going to have an impact.
One of the big issues surrounding mental illness is the stigma attached and the unwillingness of people to talk about the illness. If we want to increase understanding, we need to give people the full picture of depression and how it impacts people on every level. So far all the reactions to the book have been really positive and people seem to appreciate how open we have been.
Who should read Now That You Are Back?
I remember years ago reading “April Fools Day” by Bryce Courtney. This is the Courtney family’s story of their son suffering from haemophilia and later HIV/AIDS. Their story really gave an insight into the illness, along with the difficulties faced by those caring for someone with HIV/AIDS. I’m not aware of ever having met anyone with HIV/AIDS but I think reading “April Fools Day” made me feel better equipped to know how to relate to someone who does have this devastating condition.
I think Now That You Are Back is like this. It’s helpful for anyone who has been through, or is currently suffering from depression or anxiety disorder. It’s also helpful for anyone who is supporting or wanting to support someone who has depression or anxiety disorder but it’s also helpful for anyone who just wants to be better educated on how they can help their “fellow man”
One of the best things about Now That You Are Back is that it’s a story of hope. Not only did Richard and I survive the depression but we blossomed through it. The depression has made Richard and I stronger and wiser and certainly more content to live each day as it comes. It has taught us a lot about who we are and what is important. It has helped us to embrace family and God more and worldly values less. Both carers and sufferers alike have said that they identify with the feelings of hopelessness expressed in Now That You Are Back, but also express how great it is to read a story that ends full of hope and positivity.
What is the best thing that we can do for someone we know who is suffering from anxiety or depression?
Ask them what you can do – do they need a meal cooked? Do they need someone to take them out for coffee, to watch stupid movies with, to sit with them quietly? Do they need someone to pray with them or for them, someone to drive them to the doctors or just someone to talk to? They may not know what they want or need but just offering can help them to feel someone cares.
The other big thing is to put it in writing that you care. When you’re depressed it’s easy to believe that no one cares, that no one would miss you if you were dead. But if it’s in writing (and if you can organise a number of people to put it in writing) it becomes hard evidence and it becomes harder to believe that no one cares.
Above all, don’t be scared and don’t pretend like there’s nothing wrong. Admit you don’t know what to do or how to help but that you want to help. One in five people will suffer major depression in their life at some point. It could be you next time so treat the person the way you would want to be treated. With love, gentleness and compassion not condescendingly but thoughtfully.
I think it’s easiest for most of us, when we don’t know what to do, to do nothing. Sometimes that works; if you are operating heavy machinery, but don’t know how, doing nothing would be a good ploy… But we’re people, not machines, and we need each other.
Now That You Are Back is a great book; simply written (quick to read and slow to forget), honest, funny at times and very sad at others. Thankfully it has a happy and realistic ending (but as we all know, every ending is just a new beginning!). Richard and Alison’s story encourages those with depression that there is hope for recovery. It also encourages those that don’t have depression to support those who do, by learning about it and by just being there.
I realised while reading this book that I really don’t know that much about depression. I know some of the symptoms (tiredness, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, stopping activities that you used to enjoy), I know that Alison had to sleep a lot, I know that there is a dangerous negative thought pattern that is very hard to get out of (one that I have experienced quite a lot, to a far lesser degree, but hard to get out of all the same). However, I really didn’t realise the extent of the symptoms (for example, your capacity for thinking and remembering things can be reduced) and I’ve never really thought about whether there’s anything I can do to prevent myself from becoming depressed or what I can do to help others who have depression.
The Now That You Are Back website has a depression resources page with a lot of really good links to reading material.
Now That You Are Back book giveaway
In support of Rich’s book release, of Blue Day, and hopefully encouraging people to support each other in this common and awful disease, I’m giving away two copies of Now That You Are Back.
To enter, simply leave a comment on this post. Please share with us any experience you’ve had with depression (yours or someone else’s), tell us something you’ve learnt (from life, from this article or from something else), point us to a resource that you think would help us become more aware and equipped to deal with mental health issues.
The winners will be drawn randomly and announced in a couple of days.
Thanks for reading!
Update 12 October 2008: Thanks for all your comments everyone! I have drawn the winners with the assistance of Random.org. They are Mat Packer and Warwick.
Further comments will be warmly appreciated, but will not go into the draw for the books.