I received an email this week from one of Hearing Elmo’s readers. With her permission, I wanted to use one of the questions she asked for this post.
“Love your blog, but sometimes it makes me depressed. You are always so upbeat, and it seems as if you have it all together. Don’t you ever have a bad day?”
I had to smile when I received this email, and I’ve had this question before in various venues. I have actually shared “the good, the BAD and the UGLY” before on Hearing Elmo, but I do try to keep it positive. In doing so, I also strive to keep it REAL.
Having said that, I have bad days. Believe me! As a matter of fact the summer months are often my worst. I don’t work as much – or like this summer, not at all. Too much time on my hands is not a good thing. I try to stay busy and I made sure I signed up for some classes. I’m busy applying to grad schools (again). I’m cleaning more (grin), and have some extra time for Fidos For Freedom, Inc. However, I get depressed. I have days I just feel BEAT.
Did you know that it is perfectly normal for people with chronic illness or invisible (or visible) disability to get depressed? Everyone struggles with periods of depression. Life is hard. I use to wonder if people with physical challenges had a higher probability to be depressed compared to the population without those challenges. In my interactions with various populations, I couldn’t help but wonder if we are more prone to depression? Then I developed a passion for psychology, so I thought one day, “What do the experts say?”
After writing a number of papers on the topic and being forced to look up scholarly, peer-reviewed research, I found that people with disabilities CAN be more prone to depression. So if you have days you just want to surrender? Give up? Wave that white flag? You are NOT alone.
Bryan Kemp (2005) said, “Depression is one of the most common, if not the most common, secondary conditions associated with disability. When it is left untreated, depression can cause inordinate personal suffering, increased disability, additional health problems, and stress in others” (p. 234). I thought it was very interesting that although depression is not an uncommon diagnosis, in folks with disability it can actual make your disability WORSE. I have friends and fellow-bloggers whose disability actually IS depression. We cannot continue to pretend that a diagnosis of mental illness is not debilitating. It is a SERIOUS illness. However, depression can be and is often a comorbid diagnosis to people who live with chronic illness or invisible disabilities.
In one study, 71% of people with Meniere’s disease were also depressed (Coker, Coker, Jenkins, and Vincent (1989). For people who have hearing loss, “Several studies have shown that uncorrected hearing loss gives rise to poorer quality of life, related to isolation, reduced social activity, and a feeling of being excluded, leading to an increased prevalence of symptoms of depression” (Arlinger, 2003, p. 17). These stats are only for the two “major players” in my own life. People with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, vision loss, anxiety, and many OTHER conditions are often struggling with comorbid depression.
So are you having a tough time coping with your own physical or emotional challenges? Do you struggle with symptoms of depression in addition to your day-to-day challenges? You are not alone.
So please know that although I don’t often write about feeling depressed or anxious, although I do not post about what a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” I am having, I do indeed have these kinds of days! I’ve struggled to get out of bed (despite my red-headed, well-trained alarm clock). I’ve cried myself to sleep. I have pushed people away in anger – embracing self-imposed isolation. I’ve yelled at God at how unfair it is. But in the end, I do strive to be upbeat. It isn’t always easy. There are times I feel like a big, Fat, LIAR. Yet, I work hard at having a positive attitude. I’ve learned that if I change the direction of my “thinker”, I will change the attitude of my “feeler”. It is really cognitive behavioral therapy in a nutshell! Laura King (2011) said, “… the emphasis is on reducing self-defeating thoughts, with its emphasis on changing behavior. An important aspect of cognitive-behavior therapy is self-efficacy” (p. 538).
Something that really helps me is working hard to reach out to others. I have a number of support groups that I meet with in person, others through venues like FaceBook, and still others in online forums. Knowing I’m not alone is very important to me. Being able to commiserate with others who truly understand is of great value. I encourage you to reach out to others. Even if you are unable to locate “in person” support groups, there are a number of ways to find this support online. We need each other.
© 2013 Personal Hearing Loss Journal
Arlinger, S. (2003). Negative consequences of uncorrected hearing loss: A review. International Journal of Audiology 42(2), 17
Coker, N., Coker, R., Jenkins, H., Vicnent, K. (1989). Psychological profile of patients with Meniere’s disease. Archives Otolaryngoloy Head and Neck Surgery 115(11), 1355-1357. doi:10.1001/archotol.1989.01860350089021.
Kemp, B. (2005). Workshop on disability in America: A new look. Washington D.C.: The National Academies Press.
King, L. (2011). The Science of Psychology. (2nd ed). New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing.