Requiem for a Millionaire

Wolfgang - ClinicaImagine sitting in your house staring at a dark grey wall, feeling empty with this sensation that your first-ever love has just left you; similar to a dull toothache, but drifting through your whole body. And each minute the wall gets bigger and you are getting smaller and the ache more intense without any hope of release. The wall, the emptiness, the ache are choking you so that you feel like a deep sea volcano unable to spew out the toxic cargo because of the suffocating cloak of the dark water masses.
Imagine that a good meal means the same to you as a piece of bread; a lovely glass of wine being nothing more than a temporary loosening of the grip around your throat and the new Ferrari not more than the rusty bicycle in your garden shed.
If you manage to do so, you get a pretty good idea how the German goalkeeper, Robert Enke, must have felt like the last six years of his life and not only after the birth of his sick daughter. Despite that, he managed to have a successful career, acting normally in public as his survival instincts told him. In private, his emotions deflated as rapidly as the air from a punctured tyre – because depression is not about ‘pulling yourself together,’ otherwise he also would have enjoyed a happy family life. Did he not have everything going for him?
There is a difference between grief, feeling depressed and suffering from depression and there is a taboo. Of course, you are not feeling on top of the world when you have lost a loved one or struggling with your finances. Those are normal human emotions that you have to work through and it is likely that you will – even without antidepressants!
Fortunately, few cases end this tragically: your lifetime risk of suffering an episode of depression is a staggering 20%! Classical symptoms include loss of interest, feeling hopeless, worthless or down, crying for ‘no reason,’ sleeping problems, fatigue, weight changes, difficulties making decisions or concentrating, irritability and restlessness or physical & emotional withdrawal and loss of interest in sex. But a workaholic may be the result of depression, as well as people with unexplained physical symptoms. People experience depression in different ways, thus symptoms can vary greatly and the society that they live in may not allow certain symptoms to surface.
The reasons for depression are poorly understood. Genetics do play a role, as well as environment and chemical factors. The latter one is a key point in the treatment of depression: when a beautiful flower delights us, it’s not the flower but hormones (so called neurotransmitters) in our brain. They get released from one brain cell to communicate with the surrounding cells and then taken up by the cell again. A lack of certain hormones plays a major role in depression, effectively hindering the communication amongst the brain cells. This is modified by antidepressants.
Interestingly, many patients, particularly men, who are less likely to seek help for depression, decline antidepressants: partly because they think they don’t need them (after all depression is not macho), and partly because they are afraid that it changes their personality. Fact is that depression already has changed their personality, the antidepressant does nothing more than delay the re-uptake of the hormones into the nerve cells, thus letting the little that is coming out of the cell communicate with it’s surrounding a bit longer, thus re-enforcing the information. After all; life should be worth living!

  1 comment for “Requiem for a Millionaire

  1. Peter & Jackie Seely
    December 22, 2009 at 2:35 am

    Love to read your column doc, always feel a lot calmer, thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *