by Larry Drain
There are 23 million people in the United States suffering from either depression or bi-polar
disorder. The Depression and Bi-Polar Support Alliance (DBSA) is one of the leading patient
directed organizations in the country helping to deal with these major mental health
issues. There are over 1,000 support groups throughout the country providing support and
education both to those who suffer from one of these conditions and to their loved ones and
family members who often have no idea how to help. On January 8, 2008
"Hopeworks", the Blount County chapter of the DBSA, held its first meeting at
Blount Christian Church.
Mood disorders are treatable medical illnesses involving changes in energy, behavior, thought,
and mood. They are not character flaws or personal weaknesses. A person with bi-polar
disorder has alternating high and low periods. A person with depression has recurring low
periods. With help it is possible to live a normal life.
Symptoms of depression include:
- Sad, empty, irritable or tearful mood most of the time.
- No interest in or pleasure from activities once enjoyed.
- Major changes in appetite or body weight.
- Insomnia or sleeping too much.
- Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down.
- Fatigue, exhaustion, or lack of energy.
- Feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt
- Inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Symptoms of mania include:
- Feeling overly energetic, high, better than good, or unusually irritable for at
least one week.
- Very high self esteem feeling like you can do anything.
- Decreased need for sleep without feeling tired.
- Talking more than usual, feeling pressure to keep talking.
- Racing thoughts, many ideas coming all at once.
- Distracted easily, jumping topic to topic.
- Excessive pursuit of pleasure without thought of consequences, reckless behavior.
"Hopeworks" is not a substitute for the professional treatment so vitally needed
by those who suffer from these disorders. Support groups can however play a vital and
absolutely essential role in the lives of many people.
Education - A vital part about living with these disorders is to become educated about
what they are, how they work, and what you can do about them. In addition to support
groups, DBSA offers a wide array of educational materials to help in this goal.
Support - Sometimes the cruelest and most incapacitating thing is to be isolated and feel
like there is no place to turn in your suffering. You get the feeling that no one knows
where you are coming from. To know that someone else has walked or is walking the same path
you are on and has survived or even prospered is a gift of the greatest treasure.
Service - It is important to know that you have the capacity to help others. People
with these disorders easily fall prey to the belief that there is nothing they can give others
that really matter. The belief that you have nothing to give that really matters leaves
people feeling flawed and ashamed.
Undiagnosed and untreated these disorders ravage and destroy the lives of people affected as well
as those who live with them and love them. We know from personal experience. For too
many years hope seemed like a cruel delusion that was always being dashed for reasons that were
never clearly understood, but yet seemingly always present. Something was always in the
way. Sometimes life seemed like life was little more than waiting for something bad to
happen. It was like there was an "elephant in the room." We could never see
it clearly and never really knew what it was. At times we knew it only by the path of
destruction it left.
Read Linda Drain's story,
July 11, 2007, by Larry Drain.