Thursday, June 4, 2009


I had never heard the word "dysthymia" until two weeks ago when the psychiatrist I've been seeing for an hour each week for the past two and a half years used it to describe what I've been experiencing.

Dysthymia is a milder yet more enduring type of depression [than major depression].... The diagnosis is given when a person has had continuous depressed mood for at least two years.... Dysthymia is a condition that tends to develop early in a person's life.... At any point in time, 3% of the population may be affected by dysthymia. Within a lifetime it appears to affect approximately 6%.... Having dysthymic disorder increases the risk of developing major depressive disorder. Of those with dysthymia approximately 10% will go on to develop major depression. The presence of both conditions is sometimes known as "double depression."

Interestingly, my doctor told me that the death of a parent before the age of twelve is the leading cause of depression and no other cause comes close. My dad killed himself when I was nine, so it's not surprising that I struggle with this. I've had major depressive disorder as well, so life hasn't been easy. I haven't been sad or unhappy much, lately, but there has been an over-powering tiredness and exhaustion from the smallest things; I find it hard to concentrate; there are things I enjoy that I haven't done for a long time; I find myself withdrawing from others more and more and though I know in my head that I am of great value in God's eyes, there is an underlying sense that I'm not "good enough."

There are those who believe depression is a spiritual problem only, and who eschew any medical or therapeutic assistance. I disagree. That isn't to say there is no spiritual aspect to depression because our lives are intrinsically spiritual in every way, it's something we can't get away from, but God uses doctors to administer his healing power in a variety of ways. It's as foolish to avoid psychiatry as it is to avoid blood transfusions. It's also as foolish to ignore one's spiritual life as it is to ignore the symptoms of heart attack or stroke.

Historically, we in North America have tended to hide mental health disorders. It's certainly easier to admit having diabetes than it is to say, "I'm depressed," or "I'm mentally ill," yet both depression and diabetes have serious and even lethal consequences if ignored. I can't change society's views on this topic, but perhaps my admission of having depression will give others the courage to do the same. The more of us who do, the less stigma will be attached.

I seem to be going through a particularly difficult time with depression lately, which is why I haven't been posting here as often. There are things I want to share but I have to gather my head together a bit more before I can. Thank you for your understanding and patience.


Samantha said...

I'm sorry things are difficult for you right now. I hope you're able to write again soon, and that your burden is lightened.

Debbie Haughland Chan said...

Thanks, Sam. My doctor has given me something that will hopefully increase my energy and ability to concentrate. It takes eight weeks to gauge its success and only one week has passed. If it does help, that will be wonderful!

I haven't been reading anyone's blogs these days, including yours. I haven't even been reading those of my sons'. But I will! The time will come when I can do that. I do appreciate your faithfulness in coming in here. Thank you.