It’s been a hard time.

There are many reasons we could say this – the hurricane in the northeast, the season and time change, living with chronic illness, the ups and downs of the economy, relationship woes – the list can go on.

But I am seeing more clients than usual who are coping with and suffering from some depression.  All of the reasons listed above can contribute to depressive symptoms – and chronic illness, especially of the autoimmune kind – tops the list of reasons why depression can creep up and take hold.

Today I want to remind all of us that depression is an illness – like the flu or diabetes. It is not character weakness. It is not lack of discipline, or not being cheerful enough. Depression comes from a bio-chemical imbalance in your nervous system. It is essential to diagnose and treat it, because, like any untreated illness in your body, it gets worse when you ignore it.

Depression and autoimmune illness seem to go together – like depression and chronic pain – not because you have the illness or the pain and you get depressed, but because something in your system goes haywire and many of your finely tuned chemical supports begin to malfunction.

Here are a few obvious systems:

-sleeping too much or trouble sleeping at all

-weight gain or weight loss

-ongoing fatigue

-loss of interest in things you once got easy pleasure from

-feelings of hopelessness, why bother, nothing matters, I don’t matter

-difficulty getting out of bed in the morning

-isolating from people

-sense that there is no meaning to your life or any life

-feeling like you are looking at life through a heavy pane of glass

-numbness or sense that you are emotionally frozen

-difficulty with memory or numbers or thinking through a problem

Here are some obvious treatments:

-find someone safe and caring to talk to – openly and honestly about how you are feeling

-talk, talk, talk to that person (not just once, regularly) Studies indicate that talking with an empathetic trained professional is one of the best medicines for depression. Yes, I know it’s hard to do. Yes, I know it’s hard to find the right person. It is worth the effort. There are clergy, immans, rabbis, there are training programs for therapists that offer low cost therapy with well supervised care, there are support groups, there are free clinics – the options are all around you. Do it.

-walk, tai chi, yoga, any exercise your body can handle will help you deal with the symptoms . Again, this is the #1 thing that studies show help with depression – exercise. It is difficult for those with chronic pain – but not impossible.

-follow soothing rituals ( see last CJ article)

-music, friends, pets, nature, sunlight – all of these can support you feeling better

-eat well ( green foods are full of good healing energy)

-medication. I know, I know – you take enough pills, you don’t want to medicate yourself any more blah blah… This can be a good way to jumpstart feeling better. It is worth feeling better so you have more energy to do the things that will help you sustain good healthy habits. Talk with your rheumy or your primary – they can be very helpful.

These remedies work best in tandem – not just one, but as many as are easy for you to do. They can begin a great synergy that will help you feel a little better every day.

Don’t go on suffering thinking it will go away. It doesn’t.

OK, off my soapbox and back to work. I trust you will take the actions you need.

Feel better – life doesn’t have to be so very hard… I’m rooting for you.