Depression and its Effects on the Family

SLLawson's image for:
"Depression and its Effects on the Family"
Image by: 

After the birth of my 2nd child I was diagnosed with clinical depression. Knowing the history I came from, I did some intense research about what that meant. I wanted to break the cycle of depression and attempted suicide which existed on both my maternal and paternal parents sides.

I started remembering my mom, her inability to have a deep conversation, her need for prescription drugs, the sadness in her eyes, her negativity, the times my brother and I, 10 and 7 years old respectively, found her unconscious on the floor after school and had to call the police, and the time she went away and we didn't see her for months. We later found out it was because she had had a complete nervous breakdown. As an adult I'd always been aware that she suffered from depression, but I've never understood the depth of her illness and hope never to find out. She passed away about 5 years ago and I'm happy she's been released from the mental prison she seemed to have lived in.

Until recently I'd never considered the huge impact her depression had on me, and subsequently my children. When I was growing up, open and honest communication was not common. If a conversation had the potential to create conflict or promote tears, it got suppressed. To a great degree that was also how I raised my own kids. Fortunately they were a new generation who asked a lot of questions, and weren't afraid to question authority. And they also had some other more enlightened people around to help guide them.

For a huge part of my life the lack of interest in anything other than the bare necessities, just validated my feelings of inadequacy, which occasionally would cause me to emotionally spiral out of control. After all, I had so much to be thankful for and happy about. But my activity of choice whenever I had spare time was the blissful escape of sleep. My excessive tiredness was my reason for going to the doctor where I got my diagnosis of depression - I thought that something was physically wrong with me. The idea that depression would make me tired had never crossed my mind.

Below is a list of symptoms to look for if you think you or someone you know is suffering from depression. These were the same questions my doctor asked me about 23 years ago. I took this list from, which has a lot of valuable information.

Trouble sleeping or excessive sleeping
A dramatic change in appetite, often with weight gain or loss
Fatigue and lack of energy
Feelings of worthlessness, self-hate, and inappropriate guilt
Extreme difficulty concentrating
Agitation, restlessness, and irritability
Inactivity and withdrawal from usual activities
Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
Recurring thoughts of death or suicide

The effects of depression on a family can be so far-reaching that it may cross many generational lines. The impact is not often recognized until we look back decades later. Out of necessity I've spent a lot of time contemplating the reasons behind the destructive behavior of my parents, hoping that I could stop the curse and not make the same mistakes with my children. In some cases I succeeded, in others I didn't. The most apparent reasons I've come up with for my parents destructive habits seemed to be tied to the depression they experienced, brought on, in my opinion, by not being able to openly talk about their feelings to anyone they felt they could trust. That belief became part of my belief system as well. Thank goodness I'm learning to open up and be a little more trusting, it's a very liberating feeling.

Around the time of my diagnosis the new wonder drugs, like Prozak, Paxil, and Zoloft had hit the market and to some, including me, were a godsend, the answer to prayers, the miracle pills that brought balance to otherwise mental and emotional extremes, without being addictive or a narcotic. For the first time in my life that I could remember, I actually enjoyed getting out of bed in the morning.

We have come a long way in trying to deal with depression in a more natural and holistic way. The drugs mentioned above were a step in the right direction in that they are non-narcotic having less of the negative side affects of the older habit forming drugs. But we still have far to go to get to the root of the problems rather than just treating the symptoms.

It's important not place blame on ourselves for feeling bad. There's a big difference between taking responsibility for our lives by learning from our mistakes and suffering from negative stories that we can't get out of our heads because they've been with us since childhood. Being depressed can be a byproduct of the behavior of our ancestors passed down for generations, or simply something unsettling in our current environment, or even a chemical imbalance caused by hormones. The important thing to remember is that there is help out there. You can contact your insurance company for their mental health department or your state for the state mental health program. You are never alone.

More about this author: SLLawson

From Around the Web