By E’Louise Ondash, RN
Millions of people in this country suffer from chronic and debilitating diseases. It’s easy to spot them if they use a wheelchair, are missing a limb or carry an oxygen tank. But millions have “invisible” disabilities and chronic problems, like those with depression and anxiety disorders. And even though nurses are health professionals, sometimes we either dismiss these maladies as not really counting, or are unaware of them in our family, friends and patients because they look just fine.
That’s the point of “But You LOOK Just Fine: Unmasking Depression, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Seasonal Affective Disorder,” written by Sahar Abdulaziz, MS, and Carol Sveilich, MA. The book is meant to be a resource for those dealing with mood disorders (“a support group in a book”) and those who love them. It also serves as a valuable tool for any nurse involved in patient care.
Why a book about feeling one way and looking another?
According to Sveilich, formerly a university student counselor, value judgments are based mostly on what we see. When someone appears to be healthy but is coping with depression or various forms of anxiety, others – including health professionals – often too quickly dismiss reluctance-to-participate as laziness, selfishness, or a lack of interest or caring.
Sveilich knows what she is talking about. Once a professional who could multi-task with little effort, she began experiencing fatigue and pain that escalated to a degree that they interfered with daily activities. She continued to deny there was a problem until she was diagnosed with several serious chronic illnesses. That was more than two decades ago.
“My life was turned upside down,” she writes. “I was no longer capable of functioning at warp speed. My old self…had departed. A new self was taking over. I had to embrace a new normal.”
Sveilich and Abdulaziz, who has Crohn’s disease, want those who don’t struggle with chronic, invisible mental illnesses to understand the profound challenges of people who do. They also want to introduce those with depression and anxiety disorders to others who struggle likewise.
The book is “a safe place where they can find familiar stories, discover new visions for…the future and meet new comrades in their ongoing struggle,” the authors write.
The first part of the book serves as an excellent primer on depression and various anxiety disorders – their definitions, myths, manifestations, treatments, coping mechanisms, and practical advice. The chapters explore, among other topics, the impact that mental disorders have on family, employment and career, social life, and dating and intimacy. They also present treatment options and the connection between chronic depression and pain.
In the second half of the book, readers meet 38 people who must live with the challenge of depression, chronic anxiety, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, seasonal affective disorder, and combinations of two of these or more. These individuals are featured in the book with their first names and photos and generously tell their stories in the first person. Common themes are isolation, lack of energy and self-confidence, and feelings of worthlessness and alienation.
“When we started, we didn’t know if people would be comfortable in sharing their experiences and emotions in a candid manner,” much less their photos, Sveilich explained, but because they did, “they may help countless others.”
Their personal stories also should help nurses recognize and care for those with depression and anxiety disorders, or perhaps even to cope with their own.
This “Just Fine” book is the second on this topic by Sveilich. It is available on Amazon and other online retail sites, or via the book’s Facebook page, which includes a wealth of additional information on coping with mood disorders.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
By E’Louise Ondash, RN