Dr. Deborah Serani studies her opponent with as much tenacity as an FBI profiler, a prosecuting attorney, or a defensive coordinator in football. Her opponent is depression. Depression is a liar and robber. She knows that you can’t just snap your fingers and it will go away. But one need not worry because she knows its triggers and how to survive its attacks. In her book Living with Depression Why Biology and Biography Matter Along the Path to Hope and Healing, her passion for learning all she can about depression in order to learn how to overcome -- it is infectious. The book is a detailed overview of therapies, medications, and alternative treatments that have had positive results in treating unipolar and bipolar depression. She is very open-minded in her approach and is excited for the future research. She writes, “When I think about the future of mental-illness treatment, I brim with excitement.”
I have been following Dr. Deb’s blog since around 2005, so I was pleased to learn that she had a book published in 2011. I have gained a great deal of respect for her as a blogger who posts about important awareness days for mental health. When she tackles a subject a difficult subject such as cutting, sexual abuse, bullying or suicide; she does so with professionalism and compassion. Educating people in a way to help eliminate stigmas is common in both her blog and her book.
As much as I wanted to learn more about her insights on depression I was also curious to hear her story, which was seldom told and often only between the lines in her posts over several years until a few recent posts that were more revealing.
I think I first saw Dr. Deb in the comments of an online friend who blogs about her struggle with bipolar. Dr. Deb has frequently commented on her blog over the last six years during good times and bad times. Another online friend who suffered from depression also received steady comments from her until he stopped blogging some years back. I wondered why she was so thoughtful. After reading her blog for an extended time, I did receive hints that she had her own battle as she spoke of defying the odds in both her professional and personal life. In the book, she describes a time prior to technology that allows people to touch base easily when she felt isolated and desperate.
Dr. Deb’s story is woven in meaningful ways into this thorough book on depression. She shows how biology and her stressful life events made her at risk for major depressive disorder, which is a clinical mood disorder characterized by prolonged sadness and fatigue. I don’t want to give away all of her story as it really impacted me to read it as the story develops. I will say that she is one of the fortunate ones who was able to find a good therapist when her symptoms were at their most severe. Later, she had symptoms return and by that time Prozac was on the market. She shares what she discovered through taking this medication and makes a good case for responsible use of this medication for short term and long term use despite some side effects.
Dr. Deb believes that Talk Therapy can be an important part of the treatment plan for those with unipolar or bipolar depression. According to her if you don’t learn about your biology and biography that you are helpless in not knowing “who you are and what you need.” She believes awareness empowers you. A theme in the book is that depression while experienced universally it is very individual needing individualized treatment. She contends that you should not compare yourself to another person and how they are coming in their recovery. In addition, clients who have treatment resistant depression (TRD) can find alternative treatments that can help, and she has had success with these clients finding relief. Specializing in trauma, Dr. Deb knows what role trauma can play in depression, and also understands how important it is to treat trauma that is interfering with healthy living. According to evidence based research cited in the book, all traditional types of Talk Therapy can help reduce mild to moderate symptoms of depression. With Dr. Deb’s training as a psychologist, she has had a chance to explore different schools of theory and thought and received personal gains from each. Her personal practice comes from the field of psychotherapy integration, which uses curative features from other fields including behavior and cognitive therapy. Before using long explorative methods such as psychoanalysis, she recommends first having the depression stabilized.
A chapter of the book is dedicated to preventing suicide. The book states that a majority of suicides are from those with mental illness with many of them suffering from mood disorders including depression. There are over one million deaths worldwide each year resulting from suicide. The chapter outlines both suicide risk factors and also suicide protective factors to help inoculate against suicide.
As people have shared their thought processes with me when suicidal, it is evident to me that they can have distorted thinking when suicidal. Rather than seeing the pain and suffering of those left behind, they may be deluded into thinking that loved ones will be better off without them. When they are lucid again, they recognize how distorted their thinking was. There is no shame in having suicidal or depressive thoughts. I think of suicidal thoughts in many cases as a symptom. It may be a symptom of depression or it may be a reaction to a medication that was prescribed by a doctor. Dr. Deb shows in a compassionate way how to choose life and have a life plan. In the event of an emergency, I would urge a person to seek medial help immediately. No matter how alone you feel, there are people who care and can help.
Advocate is the one word that I think best describes Dr. Deb. She fights for her patients to get services medication, and treatment. She also broadcasts the gaps in the Mental Health coverage in the U.S. and advocates for mental health to receive the same amount of coverage as physical health coverage. For some depression is a chronic condition such as diabetes and cannot be treated like an acute condition such as the common cold. According to research cited in the book, adults and children are less likely to have a relapse if they continue treatment until they reach a full remission. In addition, she calls for pharmaceutical companies to spend less money creating “me too drugs” that copy drugs already on the market and more money researching drugs that would help those unresponsive to the existing drugs on the market. She encourages patients to be equally informed on treatments and medications and to be their own advocate.
Dr. Deb knows the signs of depression. She also knows firsthand that you can transform into a positive person and live a successful life with depression. I can visualize Dr. Deb Reaching out her hand as she seeks to help readers learn how to beat depression. When you are in recovery from depression, one can honestly say, “Life is worth living!”
-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2011 population-we, LLC
If you enjoyed this post, then make sure to leave a comment or 'Like' it.