t Some people suffer from depression because they feel they aren't in charge of their own lives. They may be dealing with a controlling or emotionally distant spouse or parent, a troublesome child, a demanding relative, an impossible neighbor, or a family member with a dysfunctional personality. Everybody runs into situations like this at some time in their lives, but depression sets in when it seems there is no escape. "HELPLESS" and "HOPELESS" are key words in recognizing depression.
When I was young, I knew a girl who was a late-in-life child. She had five siblings who were at least ten years older than she. She was born on the first of April and told me that her parents often referred to her as "their April Fool's joke." She wasn't allowed to have other children over to play because "They make too much noise." When she was five or six years old, a car struck a dog in front of her house and drove away. The little girl rushed into the road and tried to help the dog, and it, being wounded and frightened, bit her in the face. Her parents took her to a doctor to have her face stitched up. The doctor told them she would have a large, ugly scar, but plastic surgery could minimize it. They replied that they "didn't have money for such stuff." Can you imagine what life seemed like for this girl? I lost contact with her when she was in her teens, but I wasn't surprised to hear that she married young. I could only hope that her marriage treated her better than her childhood.
But what if there seems to be no escape, ever? A young mother with small children may feel trapped in a marriage to an abusive spouse. A man may feel impossibly burdened by the debt his spendthrift wife keeps piling up. A teenager may feel he has no friends. A sole caregiver may experience no relief. A child who is being abused feels there is no safe place.
A child has no choice, but adults do. Even if you can't entirely escape what seems like a hopeless situation, there are ways to ameliorate stress and make life better. What can you do?
1. GET INFORMATION. Don't assume there is no help available. Sometimes when I suggest therapy, people reply, "That won't help," (How do you know if you haven't tried it? And remember there are some therapists who are better than others. Don't give up after one try!) "I don't believe in it," (Belief is not a requirement. Try it!) or "I can't afford it." (There are therapists who will offer help on a sliding scale, depending on your ability to pay. Also, many priests, ministers and rabbis are trained in psychotherapy and charge little or nothing for their services. They can also refer you to social workers who deal with various seemingly hopeless situations. Realize that simply downloading your feelings to a sympathetic ear can bring a lot of relief.
2. SEEK OUT OTHERS WHO DEALING WITH THE SAME KIND OF PROBLEM. There are all sorts of support groups for people who are dealing with your situation, no matter what it is. Sometimes when I suggest a support group, the person will say, "I don't want anyone else to know my private stuff." In most cases, this is a non-issue. Groups dealing with alcohol, drug addiction, eating disorders and other situations where shame or guilt may play a role demand confidentiality from all their members. After all, they're all in the same boat!
Another objection might be, "Why should I have to listen to other people's problems? I've got enough of my own!" Support groups are not pity parties. You can learn how others are dealing with your problem.
3. FIND WAYS TO GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK, NO MATTER HOW SMALL. A ten-minute walk in fresh air, a short nap, a phone call to a friend, a warm shower, a good night's sleep--all these things can recharge you when you're at your lowest.
4. REMEMBER: HOPE IS ALWAYS THERE, BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO GO OUT AND LOOK FOR IT!
Stephanie Kay Bendel is the author of EXIT THE LABYRINTH: A Memoir of Early Childhood Depression – Its Onset and Aftermath, MAKING CRIME PAY: A Practical Guide to Mystery Writing, and A SCREAM AWAY, a romantic thriller published under the house name, Andrea Harris. She has also written numerous short stories and articles on writing.