Did you know that depression is the number one cause of disability in the world? Over 300 million people suffer from the disease. Yet, it still seems to be a taboo topic to talk about.
I know there are tons of articles going around right now about rural America and depression. It seems we all know someone who knows someone who may have decided that suicide was the only option. This week alone, every single day I have seen at least one post in my social media accounts where an ag producer thought that ending their life was a better way out.
I feel we have all suffered at some point in our lives from depression or anxiety. It may have been a situation caused by a death, chemical imbalance, a loss, a bad financial year, pain or sickness or even a tragedy. I went through a couple years of a panic disorder and depression when I first came home from college. I had massive trauma to my jaw to the point my jaw joints had almost completely disintegrated, and the pain was so intense with no relief that I could hardly function. It took three years at one of the top jaw specialists in the U.S. and multiple surgeries to finally become an integral part of society. During that time, I also lost my house from toxicity to mold, and my marriage crumbled. That was the low point in my life, and there are days I don’t know how I made it through, but I did.
For the last decade I have had a family member suffering from depression and anxiety. It’s been quite a roller coaster ride, with multiple therapists, psychiatrists and treatments — both outpatient and inpatient. They returned home this evening from the Mayo Clinic, where a month of therapy had literally erased her memory. I walked into their house to an individual to whom I had to introduce the four legged holy terror.
For those of you who are suffering, first off you are not alone, second, it’s not your fault, and third, you sometimes just can’t get over it. I’ve become quite an expert on mental health, especially over the last two years. I have read everything I can get my hands on. I’ve researched facilities and topics until I’ve fallen asleep over my computer, and I’ve helped take care of an individual where somedays I was just grateful we made it through. This is just a little of what I learned.
- There’s a reason why you got to this point, and it may not be what you think. Feeling depressed suddenly? Anxiety out of control? Absolutely there are situations that can cause it, whether there’s a bank loan due, or maybe a death or divorce. Surprisingly, most of anxiety and depression does not start in your head. It starts in your gut. A paleo-type diet, along with probiotics, supplements, and cutting back on vices like sugar, coffee and alcohol, can help your microbiome keep balanced and healthy.
- Pills may not be the answer. I’ve been offered prescription after prescription over the years to help with pain and anxiety. Every single one I have tried has made me worse. I’ve seen this with the family member whose depression kept getting worse, and instead of finding alternative methods, their doctors kept increasing the dosages and pills until all we got was a walking zombie that could not function. I have personally never seen any meds as ineffective as head drugs, and some doctors are so prescription happy they will write script after script not understanding the long-term implications.
- Maybe it’s not anxiety or depression, maybe it’s a side effect of something else. I was really struggling this last year. My body pain was so bad I literally crawled out of bed most mornings. I was trying to function the best I could at work, but it was a struggle. In turn, my head was also struggling. I went to Mayo and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. I refused to accept the diagnosis because it didn’t seem to fit with what I was feeling and I felt that I was put in a box labeled “we don’t know.” I found a functional medicine clinic in Fort Collins, Colorado, and when I went through untraditional testing, I found out a couple of interesting things. I was eating a couple of foods that I was extremely sensitive to. My hormone levels were all over the place, and my body had extremely high levels of toxic metals. For the last six months, I’ve been working on all of the above, and I feel the best I have in a very long time. The point being - do your own research. You know your body better than anyone and maybe realize the answer may not be the “traditional” route.
- Mental health care in rural Nebraska sucks. It’s not only few and far between, but the resources are lacking. Unless one is suicidal, it takes months to get into a mental health professional. Don’t be afraid to try other outlets. Look into TMS, look into ECT, and if necessary, look out of state. If counseling may help, there are numerous online sites that can help. I used one for a while this last year. It wasn’t for my “issues” — it was that I needed some help in dealing with someone who was suffering from anxiety and depression.
- Don’t forget the family members. It’s tough for anyone to suffer from anxiety and depression. It’s almost as tough, if not tougher, to be the support system of that individual. There are very few places of assistance, or even books to tell you what to say or what to do. With so many having such a lack of understanding, I can tell you that telling someone to “just fix it” won’t work.
- Get help sooner rather than later. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. I’ve seen what happens when the resources fail, and the treatments may fail, and there are many times I wake up during the middle of the night wondering if I should have done something more.
Just realize you are not alone, and if I can help in any way at all, please reach out. I may not have any of the answers, but I’m learning I do have pretty broad shoulders and can possibly offer some direction and insight — whether it’s you that’s having a difficult time or a family member. I would hate to see those social media posts continue to come in without making at least an effort to help someone in need.
Jaclyn Wilson is more than a rancher, raising Red Angus cattle at Wilson Ranch near Lakeside, Neb. She’s an artist with a welder’s torch. She holds leadership positions with several agriculture organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org