How Does Depression feel?

I want to write this blog, because I know there are so many people out there suffering from depression.
I’ve always found that knowing about the problems that other people have to deal with helps me cope with mine. I’ve valued people’s willingness to share their feelings and experiences dispite the possible discomfort that sharing them can bring. And I know how much comfort I felt whenever someone really understood how it felt and sympathized. Depression doesn’t feel the same for everyone, but maybe part of this will strike a cord with someone. Ideally, people who have never experienced serious depression will be able to empathize better after reading just one person’s explanation of how it can feel.

I am not currently suffering from depression. Either welbutrin is working, or I am happily taking advantage of a placebo effect. If I am depressed I am unable to write anything for public consumption. I feel too worthless to consider that anything I would ever write would be of interest to even one person on the planet. I also experience brain fogs that seriously impair my ability to communicate clearly. I hope I can remember my feelings well enough and express them clearly enough to make readers understand.

Depression can be like loneliness– A great emptiness that can not be filled. Being with people may at times make it worse, and at other times make it a little better. Often it makes me feel worse when I am with people, but can’t feel any connection to them. Something is broken, and I feel like an alien observing humans of my acquaintance through a barrier that lets sensation, sound, and light through, but even though I can communicate to some extent, I am not amerced in their world.
At other times I do feel present in my life and other individuals’ reality, but I’m feeling so terribly unhappy, that I am not good company. When I feel like I am making others feel worse due to my presence, I want to just dissolve in to thin air, or melt into a puddle on the floor. I start feeling so guilty for existing and thereby inconveniencing or depressing other people that my mood worsens and the spiral down and down continues.
Sometimes another person can break the cycle by staying with me threw it all, and by reassuring me that they will not hate me or abandon me no matter how bad it gets. They remind me that it is the depression that is the problem not me. Remember there is a lost good person somewhere inside that awful mess you’re dealing with. The depressed person isn’t necessarily a negative person who is trying to bring everyone else down to their level. In order to get someone out of a literal hole it is necessary to first acknowledge that there is a hole, and that someone is trapped in it. Telling the person that they wouldn’t be in a hole if they didn’t want to be in there is of zero use. You need to lower yourself enough to see what is in the hole, and then be willing to reach out a hand to help pull them out. You might get a little dirty, but the hole is all most for sure only big enough for one person, the current occupant. You can’t take the depression—the hole—away, so the person might fall back in, but you can help them out, or at least talk to them while they’re inside it.
Sometimes I just needed other people to remind me that I really did exist. Remind me that I’m a person as good as any other—imperfect, but real, and capable of being interested and interesting. At times I just couldn’t communicate well enough to explain how I felt, or what I thought. Sometimes I couldn’t even explain my simple needs or wishes. A depressed person who is not communicating may not be refusing to do so. They might be temporarily incapable of expressing themselves. Sometimes I didn’t express myself because I wanted to spare others from my misery, anger, or rambling nonsense, but usually I just didn’t know what to say, or I simply could not get any coherent words out.

Sometimes I wanted to be alone so the burden of acting like a good human would be taken off of me. At other times I wanted to forget that I existed by sleeping or by reading something that would transplant me from my life to some other person’s. At times just spending a couple hours in a book would be enough, and when I came out the worst of the depressive episode would have passed.

I think that depression can at times mimic mourning. The feelings must be processed and understood. Usually I need to be alone to mourn. I don’t know if I am actually mourning something, possibly myself, my unlived lives, or just sorting things out inside my head.
Depression can cause actual pain. I have felt so terrible that my chest really hurt, ached, felt tight. The feelings could take my breath away. Sometimes I would cry, but sometimes the feelings were nothing like something that would cause tears.

In order to feel alive I would sometimes try to eat things I knew I liked. I would eat too much, because food didn’t satisfy, or fill that emptiness, but I couldn’t find anything else to do. Sometimes there just isn’t anything that can interest a depressed person.

Health is often a significant factor in depression. It is possible to have a feeling of mental well-being while ill, but it is much more difficult. This does not mean that you should immediately attempt to diagnose a depressed person’s “real problem.” Empathy is far more important than a diagnoses and cure. Most of the time there will be no cure. If there is one, it will take a considerable amount of time to find and implement. In the meantime the depressed person really does not benefit from people making them feel like they have done something wrong and allowed depression to happen because they didn’t do certain things to remain healthy. Making an already depressed person feel guilty is cruel and counterproductive.
After providing support and understanding, you can then attempt to help the depressed person figure out what might help them feel better.

We are imperfect people living in a world full of other imperfect people dealing with far from ideal circumstances. Depression indicates that something is wrong, but doesn’t tell you what it is. It can be physical, emotional, environmental, or something else I can’t currently think of. Our brains are just too complex for our total comprehension.

Here are some things that have helped me. I’m not going to claim that these things will help everyone else.

A doctor-proscribed anti-depressant medication is necessary for me to feel some improvement. I would have preferred a more natural solution, but although they work for some people, the ones I tried didn’t work for me.
It is also essential for me to take the proper dosage of my thyroid medication. I have hypothyroidism, which is a well-known cause of depression.

Vitamin D seems to have a huge effect on my mental health. A daily dose of bright sunlight can make the difference between me feeling alive or half dead. Unfortunately sunlight is not always available, and winter sunlight is often not strong enough. I take the highest recommended dose of vitamin D every day that I don’t get outside in sufficient sunlight. Actually, I only take my vitamin pills when I remember them.

Having a purpose in life or just for the day can really help. Having something good, or at least interesting/different, to look forward to is one of the best ways to make it through a period of depression. The event does not have to be big and important. If necessary create the thing to look forward to yourself. Even if it is just the next episode of your favorite TV show it can help. Planning and preparing for something, or learning something new tends to be the best thing for me. What doesn’t help is having someone say that they are not depressed because they keep themselves so busy that they don’t have time for it.

A good balance of alone time and time with others keeps me closer to sane. I really believe that both are extremely important. Unfortunately neither is considered a human right. There have been many periods of time in my life when I did not have any control over my exposure to other human beings, and I suffered because of it.

Everyone’s heard of the studies proving that a sense of having some control in one’s life is just about the most important factor in a person’s health.

Exercise helps if it doesn’t hurt. I long ago decided that exercising because I should, or to burn a certain number of calories is just frustrating and unhelpful. I actually like exercising when it’s purely to make myself feel good. Find something enjoyable to do that’s exercise and benefit from those endorphins. I won’t exercise without either music or company. I remember that a lot of the house work that I must get done is exercise, and it also goes much better with music, company, or a good audio-book.

The Blog that Leaves a Lot to be Desired

This WordPress theme is modern, which I like, but it is so boring. I sincerely apologize for it’s boringness and lack of functionality. You’d never guess it is the blog of a person who knows HTML and loves bright colors. Someday I’ll actually get around to fixing it, I hope. I think more useful or interesting content is a higher priority, though. I guess I don’t write as much as I intended to when I started using WordPress.
If you actually want to know what I’m doing and thinking it would be better to follow me, @CuriousEntity, on twitter.

I want a long white sports cane.

I have just searched the Internet with Google and called the NFB, but the product I want doesn’t seem to exist. I’m hoping I’m wrong about this, but I am right depressingly often.

I want a long white cane for a blind person like me who likes traveling, hiking, swimming, boating, and climbing or scrambling over rocks. I don’t actually like biking that much, but I have a double bike and want to use it sometimes. The problem is that my usual NFB type 2 long ridged fiberglass cane can not be packed away conveniently when it is not in use. I have a hard time holding on to it while climbing or crawling, and it obviously doesn’t fit on a bike with me. I want one I can throw in a backpack when I don’t need it, or as a spare in case my cane breaks while I’m a long way from home.

Yes, everyone knows there are folding canes out there. They are metal, have a plastic blob for a tip, and fold in to 4 parts. I used to use one, but can’t imagine doing so again. I am way too used to a light-weight cane. If I tried to hike with a metal one now my wrist would certainly become sore. I also remember having irritated skin from the rubber of the handles on those canes. I definitely wouldn’t want one with white tape wrapped around it to make it the correct color, because my habit of putting my cane in water would not allow it to last very long. Having only 4 sections and being metal would also make it harder to pack then I’d really like.

I have tried the telescoping carbon fiber canes. They are fantastically light-weight, very sensitive, and easy to pack. Unfortunately mine has a terrible habit of telescoping suddenly without warning when the tip hits something with slightly more force than usual. Even though I am not leaning my weight on the cane, it tends to throw me off balance a little. That isn’t so bad under normal circumstances, but is not something I want to risk when a little shift in balance could throw me over a cliff. I found that the one I have is extremely fragile as well.

I have gone inside many sporting goods stores to see what cool things exist that I couldn’t justify buying either because the stuff was extremely expensive, or because I’m not quite that into hiking, camping, boating, or whatever. I’ve seen really neat trekking poles. They were made of carbon fiber, were very light-weight and strong, collapsed in to a convenient carrying size, and had a mechanism to prevent collapsing when in use. The problem with these poles was their tips. They were usually a pretty sharp point that would dig in to the ground. That’s a useful property for a climber’s pole, but quite bad for a blind person’s cane. I need my cane tip to glide over the ground easily to find obstacles and texture, not to stick somewhere and jab me in the gut or chest. I also carry a white cane so that other people know I am blind. A hiking pole of some kind would not work for that purpose.

Now you know what I don’t want. Let me explain what I do want, and what I believe would be the perfect “sports” cane for many blind people.

I want a cane that like a climber’s pole is strong enough to take most of my weight without breaking or collapsing. It should be light-weight and packable. It must have a gliding tip, and be white for identification as a cane for a blind person. It should also be unharmed by dunks in water. It has often been a very good thing that my current fiberglass cane floats. I would prefer a plastic handle with a string of some kind to hang it up by, or occasionally to loop around my wrist for safety. And the tip should be changeable when it wares out, or to suit different people’s preferences and differing terrain. I usually like the round metal tip on my cane because it glides nicely where I usually walk, but I discovered it is not really the best tip for use in Europe where there are so many little grooves between cobblestones and outdoor tiles for it to get stuck in. I don’t know what kind of tip would be best for hiking. am sure canes could be made that would fulfill all my qualifications. I already have a cane that folds in half that fulfills all of them except being able to put it in a bakpack.

Fiber glass and carbon fiber work well for light but strong poles, but there may be materials I am unaware of that would work well. A stretchy string inside the cane could keep the pieces together when collapsed, but I believe it should not be the method by which the cane is held together when in use. The cord must be quite heavy to accomplish that, which would add weight. The cords also tend to wear out. It takes a little extra time to have segments that screw together, but this could ensure they stay assembled and the parts of the pieces that overlap could ensure that the cane would not come apart at the seams. If the pieces fit together very tightly with lots of overlap it might be sufficient to prevent it from coming apart suddenly while in use. I suspect a telescoping design could work if there were pegs to hold the cane extended when in use–a little like an umbrella’s handle. I just don’t know if that works with any material besides metal.

If you have read this far and either have a feature that should be added, or know where I could purchase a cane similar to the one I have described, please send me a tweet, a skype chat line, or send an E-mail to the username mail at this domain.

My Thoughts on Braille Literacy

Listen to this post.

I have just finished reading an article on how the perceived importance of Braille literacy is waning. You can find the article at the following address:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/03/magazine/03Braille-t.html

My initial gut reaction to the beginning of this article was irritation that anyone could be justified in saying that Braille is basically useless and arcane. If Braille is arcane and useless, then I don’t want to hear about anyone using such primitive things as pens and notepads. It just seems wrong to say that reading and writing is unimportant. The issue is whether blind people who do not read Braille, but do effectively communicate and take in information can really be called illiterate. Technology is definitely making that a hard call to make. After all, blind people certainly would be considered illiterate if the ability to read printed material without assistance was the definition of literacy. Why should reading Braille count as literacy, but listening to recorded material, or using a computer with text to speech software to acquire the same information not be considered literacy?

I do think that illiteracy is more of a stigma than a real issue. On the other hand, I don’t think that abandoning braille literacy is a wise move. There are uses for Braille. Auditory methods of reading and writing will not work for all purposes. Reading and writing in total silence is just one of them. I often wish to, or even have to, read while using my ears for some other purpose, and it is not always acceptable to speak aloud what must be recorded for later personal use, or for use by another person. I don’t believe it matters whether you write in braille or type, however.
My brain isn’t good enough at remembering things to go completely without writing things down, but it seems some blind people are far better at memorization than I am. I could not do math or learn another language without the use of Braille, but again, there are blind people who can.

Brain scans have shown that reading Braille activates the visual cortex. This lead some people to believe that reading Braille is the only way to regain the use of that brain area. That doesn’t make much sense, though. Research has shown time and again that the human brain can change itself as necessary. 20 percent of your brain is not going to go unused just because you don’t do the things that most people do.

The second opinion expressed in the article was that organized thought is not possible for a blind person without the ability to read and write Braille. And that anything spoken can not have lasting meaning. This annoyed me just as much or more than the first opinion expressed. Darrell Shandrow may need written symbols to organize his mind, but many people simply do not. I certainly hope that what I say aloud is not meaningless. Did Jesus’ sermon on the Mount mean nothing until it was written down?

Some writing samples from non-braille readers seemed to indicate that organized and logical writing is not possible for them, but I find it hard to believe that simply not reading should make a persons thoughts disorganized. I can’t disprove the facts presented in the article, because I do not know how exactly subjects for these writing tests were chosen and tested. I tend to think that maybe the system for capturing these children’s thoughts was somehow to blame, rather than their lack of Braille literacy. I also wondered if these children were normal in the way they spoke their thoughts aloud. And were they regularly exposed to the writing of other people in the form of books read aloud to them? I would think that auditory reading would be equivalent to Braille reading, but maybe I’m wrong about that.

I know that my writing becomes somewhat disorganized when I am forced to dictate what I wish to be written. When it is read back to me I often wonder if I was that inept in expressing my thoughts in an orderly manner, or if some of the fault lay in the listening or writing skill of the person who took down my dictation.
Is there a chance that what these children really lack is actually writing ability instead of reading ability? Writing seems to clarify my thoughts, but writing with a computer is as good as writing in Braille for me.

It seems totally unacceptable to me that people should judge others as illiterate and ignorant, just because they can not read from paper. Does a knowledge of spelling and formatting bring enlightenment? I sure wouldn’t know. I’m a braille reader who can’t pass a spelling test. :)
I don’t think that Fredric Schroeder is either stupid or unable to understand language just because he didn’t realize that “dissent” and “descent” are spelled differently. I’m sure he did not think that dissenters were people who lowered themselves over cliffs.

I do know that many visual and tactile readers miss pronounce words that audio readers can say without any problem. There is also a great deal of variation in reading comprehension, no matter what the means of reading might be.
My reading comprehension was tested and found to be just fine with either audio or Braille material, but I think I do comprehend just a little bit better with audio material. I get the big picture better that way. If I need minute detail, then I need braille. I simply will not absorb large numbers if I only hear them.

Punctuation and formatting are somewhat more useful, in my experience, but correct stress and pausing when information is read aloud can represent the punctuation pretty well. Now modern technology can even make formatting and document structure known to an audio-only reader.

In conclusion, I believe that Braille is an extremely useful tool for the blind, and should not be considered unnecessary. Yet, to conclude that anyone who is unable to read Braille must be unread, inarticulate, or ignorant is ridiculous. The ability to effectively use technology is probably a more valuable skill in today’s world than the ability to read Braille, but Braille can help a blind person immensely.