Sometimes signs are all around us and yet seeing them is difficult. The holidays can be a time of mixed emotion for anyone. For those of us who serve, those feelings can be compounded. Sadness can hide in the glow of holiday lights and loneliness most certainly lurks in places far from home. So, how do you tell the difference between a Blue Christmas and depression?
If you’ve been around here much you will likely know that I’m a Navy veteran. You may even know that I have a son currently serving in the Marine Corps. What you likely don’t know is that I suffered from my first bout of depression while I was on active duty.
Because I have the unique perspective of someone who served during a time of war, having been a military spouse, and now being a Marine mom, Med-IQ reached out to me for help in spreading the word about how to recognize the symptoms of depression – or major depressive disorder. Through this sponsored post I hope to shine some light on the signs of depression and dispel some myths along the way.
Looking back I wish that I’d understood that what I was going through wasn’t just homesickness. I wouldn’t have put so much blame for my sadness on being half a globe away from home. Maybe I’d have recognized that it wasn’t all Bing Crosby’s fault even though every damn time I visited the chow hall that December, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” seemed to be in an endless loop – that is just cruel! The truth was I’d been spiraling downward far before that holiday season began.
With the benefit of hindsight and talking with Dr. Leslie Citrome, a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at New York Medical College, I now understand that I’d been experiencing some of the signs of depression for months. I now know that things like changes in sleep patterns, pervasive sadness, loss of interest in things once enjoyed, difficulty concentrating and feelings of hopelessness are all signs of depression and not just the blues – Christmas or otherwise.
I served in the early nineties, a time when seeking help for mental illness meant an almost sure smudge on your record. Even if I’d known that I was going through was depression, I would never have sought help in that environment. The good news is that these days the military has gotten a bit better at allowing active duty members to seek mental health care. A bit.
There is still a long way to go. While post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is getting more attention, the fact is that those with PTSD tend to also suffer from depression. The two are not one in the same. Those with PTSD have higher rates of anxiety, are more irritable and have more difficulty sleeping, which can also mean that the signs of major depressive disorder go undiagnosed. PTSD and depression often travel together.
Knowing the signs to look for can help us distinguish the difference between just having a Blue Christmas – which let’s face it, the holidays aren’t the same when you serve – and suffering from depression. Recognizing a bout of homesickness from the beginnings of an illness is only one part of the mission. We all need to do a better job of dispelling myths that create a stigma around those who suffer from mental illnesses because ignorance can be costly.
Though rates of suicide in the military have decreased since an all-time high in 2012, the rate at which members of the military take their own lives still far outpaces that of the general public. In my own military family, we’ve experienced two suicides attempts in the last year. One successful and two too many.
The truth is that if you have major depressive disorder, you are sick in the same way that someone who has cancer, diabetes or heart disease is sick. There is nothing defective about you. Whether it is genetics or environment that caused your illness, you didn’t bring this on yourself.
Those of us who serve have had each other’s backs time and again to complete the mission. I’m asking that we do the same in this mission of spreading awareness. Knowing the enemy is the first step. Med-IQ, in conjunction with Dr. Citrome, has developed a quick and confidential survey to learn how much we as a military community, as caregivers and even as civilians understand about depression.
This survey does not collect your personal information; it is completely confidential and secure. It is a quick (10 minutes tops) and easy way to help us help each other. You could also win one of 10 $100 VISA gift cards for your participation. To keep your response confidential and still participate in the drawing, simply email firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know you’ve completed the survey and would like your shot at winning. START YOUR SURVEY
If you or someone you know is suffering from depression, don’t think you are alone. There is help out there. Veterans and their families can reach out to ptsd.va.gov . If you believe you are suffering from holiday-related depression, visit the Mayo Clinic for resources. Also, avoid Bing Crosby at all costs, haha.
I was compensated by Med-IQ through a grant from Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc. and Lundbeck to write about depression awareness. All my opinions are my own.
*These links are being provided as a convenience and for informational purposes only; they are not intended and should not be construed as legal or medical advice, nor are they endorsements of any healthcare provider or practice. Med-IQ bears no responsibility for the accuracy, legality, or content of the external site or for that of subsequent links. Contact the external site for answers to questions regarding its content.