We know that depression is a mental illness, and it can be debilitating to sufferers. My first significant encounter with symptoms of depression was in August 12, 2001, when my family was involved in a rollover accident that would take the life of my 13-year old daughter Jasmine.
The days after Jasmine’s passing, I recall having so much trouble falling asleep. I didn’t experience so much restlessness; it was more the agony and pain of knowing I could not bring my Jasmine back. The days when I was most depressed, I had no interest in bathing or getting out of bed. I isolated myself for several months after the accident as much as possible from friends and family, only listening to their telephone messages days later. When I allowed the depression to take over my mind, my body would suffer, and my head would begin to hurt. My joints, bones, and body would be in pain. It debilitated my entire body, and it would make me feel so exhausted. I had some days that I had energy, and there were those days when I had no energy at all. I would begin to think of all the reasons our family should have stayed home that summer and not gone on vacation. The guilt was overwhelming.
After going to my primary physician for a follow up on the injuries my body had suffered at the time of the accident, he determined that I needed help with coping with the loss of a child. He recommended medication at the time. When I began to take the medication, it caused too many side affects. I suffered from painful stomach aches, which kept me even more awake at night. So I only took the medication for a week. With the support of family and friends, I was able to find comfort in my spiritual faith and relied more in prayer every day.
I believe that there is a great problem when patients put all their trust on medication, and rely on it for their treatment of depression. They leave out so many other aspects of their daily lives that they need to nurture and care for. When visiting their primary physicians, there needs to be a care plan that a patient is required to maintain, including spiritual support and attending a support group, observing a nutritional guide, and having a physical care plan. As Latinos, when we think of mental illness, we say we are going crazy or think someone is “loco.” We don’t want to be considered a basket case or having a mental problem. We don’t want to be labeled.
In an article by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 1 in 10 U.S adults report having a form of depression. Depression can affect at different levels. Based on a response to the Patient Health Questionnaire 8 from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, there are eight criteria to diagnose major depression disorders. Participants were considered to have major depression if five of the eight criteria are met:
- Little interest or pleasure in doing things
- Feeling down, depressed or hopeless
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep or sleeping too much
- Feeling tired or having little energy
- Poor appetite or overeating
- Feeling bad about yourself or that you were a failure or let yourself or your family down
- Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading a the newspaper or watching television
- Moving or speaking so slowly that other people could have noticed. Or the opposite: being so fidgety or restless that you are moving around a lot more than usual.
It was obvious that during the first two years of Jasmines passing, I met several of the eight criteria, if not all. Depression can be caused by death of a loved one, illness, weight gain, financial problems, marriage problems, peer pressure, and the list goes on. My depression was caused by a very terrible trauma: the death of my daughter before my very eyes. We had rolled over about five times before our SUV would land right side up. As I looked for my Jasmine, she was about 30 feet from the SUV on the ground. People had gathered to shield the sun from her by covering her with a quilt we had in the car. As I looked through my window, I saw my Jasmine lying on the ground and I couldn’t get out to help my baby girl. Jasmine was in a coma for 12 days, and she was pronounced brain dead on August 24, 2001.
I considered myself very blessed to overcome this debilitating disease. I had made up my mind to fight it with all my soul. My healing was not overnight; it was over several years. Every year I feel as if I am getting stronger. I was grateful for the support of my family and friends that were there for me. The love of my son was my reason for living. There are adversities in life that are very painful, and we must use these circumstances and disappointments to grow.
For those reading this article, I share part of my story to encourage those suffering from mild to severe depression symptoms to seek help. Go and asked to be evaluated. Seek professional help, but also have a plan to prepare yourself to heal and overcome the disease. Latinos are reluctant to seek professional help due to our cultural discrepancies. Some people are unable to filter out their perception of mental illness. Be proactive with your health, as early intervention is the key. Many Latinos fail to recognize the symptoms of depression. Find support, allow a professional to evaluate you, and get treatment.
Thirteen years later after my Jasmine left one step ahead of me from this Earth, I can finally say I have found peace. My nights are no longer restless; I wake up every morning with a passion for life. I do believe that there is no tragedy the human spirit cannot overcome!
Norma Garcia is a Staff Writer at Latino Giant. Norma was born and raised in San Antonio, TX, where she has served as a real estate agent for over 14 years. She has an impressive record of volunteering and giving back to her community, beginning at the age of 18 years old when she would go to Laredo, MX to help do missionary work at a small Christian church. She is the author of “My Dear Jasmine: From Tragedy to Triumph” published in 2008.