Contributed by Kelle Watson, M.A. LPC, Director of Mental Health Counseling
You never really hear anyone say, “I really love January”! “I really love all the dead trees”! “I really love that the sun hasn’t come out in days!” Many feel let down in January after the holidays are over, the lights are taken down, the bills start rolling in, and the gloomy weather which was pre holiday charming is now post holiday depressing. It is quite normal to feel the blues. It is even quite normal to feel so affected by the dreary days and lack of sunshine that it results in a lack of motivation to not do much of anything. Ironically, it seems like a strange month to set forth resolutions to change and start something new and productive when all you feel like doing is sitting inside on the couch eating something warm and fattening.
How do you know when you have the normal blues or when it is something more? How do you know when you should make an appointment to see a professional counselor? True clinical depression and the normal blues can be confusing to sort out. It is helpful to listen to those around you who are able to observe you on a regular basis. They know what is normal for you and what is not. If you are feeling blue it is helpful to talk about your feelings with a friend or loved one. Many times this can be helpful in processing the situation. If after talking it out with a friend or loved one, you are feeling like yourself again, it is probably just the blues. If you do not feel better and the depressed mood persists for over two weeks, you may want to consider making an appointment to speak with a professional counselor trained in dealing with clinical depression.
It can be very difficult to admit that help is needed. We hear this often in first sessions. It takes a lot of courage to make that first appointment and reach out for help. It takes a lot of courage to physically show up to the first appointment and to trust someone you are meeting for the first time with your deepest and most vulnerable thoughts.
To know if you need professional help the following is a list of symptoms taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In order for a true diagnosis of clinical depression five or more of the following would be occurring for you: You may have a loss of interest or depressed mood for a continuous two week period and you may feel depressed for most of the day for every day of the two weeks. This mood would represent a change in behavior for you. You may feel sad, empty, or hopeless. You may feel tearful. In children depression may manifest in an irritable mood. You may have an increase or decrease in appetite and subsequent weight loss or weight gain. You may have insomnia every day in the two week period. You may feel restless or you may feel lethargic. You may have a loss of energy and you may feel fatigued. You may feel worthless. You may have excessive feelings of guilt. You may have a decreased ability to concentrate. You may have suicidal ideation or even a plan to harm yourself. It is always important to seek help if you feel you may want to harm yourself.
Many of the above symptoms can be rooted in and comorbid with a myriad of other issues which a good counselor can help you process and work through. There is nothing wrong with seeking help to get you back to feeling like yourself again. Sometimes there may be a primary care visit recommended to assist with medication. Sometimes there may be behavioral interventions that will help. Sometimes there may need to be both medication and behavioral interventions working together to alleviate the depression. A good counselor can help develop a treatment plan that works best for you.
What is a good counselor? A good counselor is someone who has had professional training from an accredited school. A good counselor is also ethical, intelligent, genuine, supportive, caring, empathic, and non judgmental. A good counselor will work collaboratively with you offering behavioral interventions that you can apply to your daily life and use in between counseling sessions. Interventions are personally tailored to you and your needs in order to help you get back to feeling like yourself again. A good counselor will also assess your overall needs and make appropriate referrals and recommendations.
Offering professional counseling at a low cost for individuals who could afford it no other way is one of the great things we do here at Catholic Charities. Gone are the days when counseling was just for the rich and elite who were able to pay the high fees of psychoanalysis. Our services are affordable to a large mass of the population who could not afford to go anywhere else.
If January is making you blue, talk to a friend. If it is something more, give us a call. We are here to help, listen, support, and get you back to a happier, healthier state of mind.