by Dr. C. Nicole Swiner “DocSwiner”
My Mother’s birthday is May 20th. Mother’s Day was May 14th. May is National Mental Health Month.
Why are all of these things interesting?—Because my Mother, who is resting in Heaven, suffered and eventually succumbed to the effects of mental health issues, including depression and alcoholism. This year, the month of May is a little heavier than usual.
I am very happy, in general. I am actively happy. I am happy, on purpose. As as I turned 39 this year, in April, I think I realized why I’ve always been that way. I had a wonderful childhood and upbringing. Our home and life was filled with laughter, fun times and memorable summer vacations. I’ve always been happy-go-lucky, but I think, as an adult, I continue to preach a ministry of joy as a direct result of what my Mom went through. I never want to experience the darkness and loneliness that she must have felt at times, even while being surrounded by what appeared to be such a loving family and home.
Thankfully, I’ve never suffered from clinical depression or other mental illness, but I do get down at times. I pay closer attention to myself when these moments or episodes happen. When I’m going through these tough times or when talking to patients about depression, I review the “SIGE-CAPS” screening tool in my head. This is one of the most common tools used as a screen for depression, and if five of 9 major positive answers are present everyday for 2 weeks, one has major depression. These symptoms include:
Interest decreasing in social activities
Guilt and self-worthlessness
Energy decrease or fatigue
Appetite or weight changes (up or down) increased appetiteàweight gain
Psychomotor slowing (moving more slowly, decreased motivation)
1 out of 10 all Americans admit to some form of mental illness-depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc. each year. Women suffer from depression 2 times more than men, if not more. Why is there a difference? Studies say a definitive answer is unknown. However, with research, I found similar theories, including the following: higher incidence of physical or sexual abuse in women, use of birth control and having hormones in general, and persistent psychosocial stressors (such as loss of job) affecting women more. I keep this in mind as I live each day. I make this a consistent part of my history taking when I talk to patients, as well. I purposely do things to make myself feel well daily.
Because I preach this “ministry of joy,” I also am aware of how national and worldly events, on the news and social media, affect my mood. It doesn’t matter what side of the fence you are on politically, religiously or morally, we are all dealing with mental stress and depression that has stemmed from recent violence, disagreements and polarizing events. The questions is “How can we all move forward?”
It affects us all emotionally hearing negative thing after negative thing. I want to encourage you, and it is ok to feel the way you feel. You have the right to feel that way. Find some level of peace with connecting with things for which one is grateful. Be thankful, daily, for what you still have. Count your blessings….daily. Pray for others and help others. Seek out support from other like-minded people. Reach out to your Pastor and other religious leaders that you trust.
Sometimes, we all need to unplug from social media, tv, and radio. Sometimes it’s nice to just be quiet. Rest is important and seeking professional help is important. If you think things in your life are becoming worse or more dark, or you’ve had no appetite and don’t want to get out of bed–seek help. Meditation is incredibly helpful, as well. They have apps for that to remind you when to take that time.
Considering all of these issues, I live my life, joyfully, in honor of my Mom. I do the things she loved to do with my family. I remain passionate about my work, and when I’m no longer passionate, I make changes. I plan frequent enjoyable moments with my husband alone, and with our children as a family to keep love alive around us. I honor her and pray that I can live a full life of happiness, without the burden of depression or anxiety. And if I ever feel down for a prolonged period, I pray that I’ll be strong and aware enough to ask for help.