Category Archives: Mental Illness Awareness Week

Thank you, Bono and Simba

Music and movies can be mood changers for me.

This was a tough week. Anxiety and depression got the best of me for the most part during Mental Illness Awareness Week, which ends today. Thank goodness. I am quite clearly aware of my mental illness.

But Friday was different, and I have Bono to thank. Bono, Bruce Springsteen and The Lion King in 3D.

Those of us who suffer from mental illness need something to help elevate our mood when we fall into the rut of depression. One trick I learned in a partial hospitalization program this summer was the power of music to change mood.

So I signed up for satellite radio in my car and on my computer at work. With the click of a mouse at work, I can listen to Beethoven or the The Beatles, The Counting Crows or Tchaikovsky. I can climb into The Loft and mellow out with some contemporary eclectic tunes or slide into the Coffee House and soak up a groovy acoustic tune.

I can listen to music to change my mood.

After a four-day losing streak, I won the battle on Friday. My day started with Bono belting out “Beautiful Day” on the way to work. I was almost surprised to find myself strumming along with The Edge on my steering wheel. Was that pure joy just now? Wonders never cease.

As this informative article points out, the connection between music and mood isn’t new. Ancient philosophers knew that music could change their mood, even kings in ancient times used music to relieve stress. We see music used all the time to elevate mood or relax us. My favorite college football team uses rousing music blaring over video highlights to whip the crowd into a frenzy before every home game. And it works every time.

My Friday ended with an uplifting trip to the movies for “Lion King” in 3D with one of my children. Such is the Circle of Life for those of us with depression. The circle will take me to a low again at some point, I know. Not today, though.

Music and movies can change my mood, but I have to be careful.

If I’m feeling depressed, “Terms of Endearment” may not be a great choice for a Friday night flick. When I want to feel better, I change the channel when sad ballads come on my radio. I turn it up when upbeat tunes come on.

So thank you, Bono and Simba. Friday actually felt like Friday should feel.

Why doesn’t mental illness have a color?

When I strolled down the driveway this morning to pick up mynewspaper, I was surprised. Surprised because it (my newspaper, not the driveway) was pink.

It didn’t take long for me to realize the state’s largestnewspaper was pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a goodthing. The paper was chock full of stories about cancer survivors, cancerresearch, cancer prevention and more.

But it got me to thinking. How many people have a clue thatOct. 3-8 is also Mental Illness Awareness Week? How many blue newspapers were published today in honor of the week? Probably not many.

While cancer gets the headlines, mental illness is every bitas much of a public health crisis. Only it’s a silent killer. The stigma aroundsuicide, depression and other mental illnesses is so great that I’m too much ofa chicken to publish this blog under my real name.

That’s sad.

So in honor of Mental Illness Awareness Week, I thought I’ddo my part. Hereis a brochure from the National Alliance on Mental Illness on depression that might help you.

Major Depressive Disorder has been a hard fact of life forme for six or seven years. That’s since I was diagnosed. My issues actuallydate back to college and even, I realize now, back to my adolescence.

Like way too many boys and men, I suffered in silence forfar too long. I didn’t get help because I wasn’t sure I needed it. I was too scared or too ignorant to ask for help.

I am far from an expert, but now I know the symptoms, evenif I still fail to realize I’ve slipped into the deep, dark pit of depression until I’vehit rock bottom. I hit rock bottom this summer, and it was pure misery.

If you think you might be depressed, help is available. Here is some more great information from NAMI on what depression is exactly.

If you’re having a bad day, you may not be depressed. But ifyou can’t remember the last time you had a good month, I’d recommend talking toa professional. Folks who know a lot more about it than I do say psychotherapy— ascary sounding but basic term that means talk therapy—is a good place to start.You may or may not need medicine.

Since starting this blog, I’ve noticed there can be fiercedebate about whether drug-free treatment of depression really works. I wouldsay it depends on your circumstances, your family history and, probably, yourbrain chemistry.

The specific type of talk therapy that I havefound helpful is cognitive therapy. It’s basically learning to change the way wethink. There all kinds of techniques that a therapist or psychiatrist can teachyou.

One of the techniques I use when my mind starts racing isthe Stop Sign Technique. To stop the negative thought patters that sometimesresult in near full-blown panic attacks, I close my eyes andenvision a literal STOP sign in exquisite detail. Its color. Its shape. Theletters S-T-O-P and what they look like. It helps. Sometimes, anyway.

For many of us, talk therapy alone isn’t enough. It isdifficult if not impossible for me to imagine life without medicine at thispoint. Maybe that day will come, it just won’t come anytime soon.

A good place to start is to get educated. Talk to yourprimary doctor if you might be depressed. Ask—demand if you have to—a referralto a therapist or a psychiatrist, or maybe both. It may be the best phone callyou ever make.

If you are like me, your family will thank you for it.

I plan to blog a couple of times this week in recognition ofMental Illness Awareness Week.

My hope is it helps someone, even if it’s just ONE.