Treating Depression: Don't Go it Alone

Deborah Gray Health Guide
  • I think I've come up with a great way to save money on medical bills. Let's face it, they can be ridiculously high, and not everything is covered by insurance. Even though I have good medical insurance from UC Berkeley, we still get billed $50 for emergency room visits, $35 higher than the copay at the doctor's office.


    I can only assume the higher copay for the emergency room is to discourage you from going there. Because, you know, it's such a blast. If Lawrence's pediatrician had been willing to meet us at his office on Saturday a month ago when he dislocated his toe, do you think I would have said, "Naw, we'd prefer to wait in the emergency room for a few hours instead, trying to keep a bored and hurting child amused. Thanks anyway, Doc." Actually, believe it or not, our insurance company wanted us to to get permission from the doctor before going to the emergency room. As you might guess, I said, "Screw that," and called the doctor while we already on our way there. I mean, for crying out loud, part of my son's toe was sticking out at a right angle.

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    By the way, by the time I took this picture Lawrence was no longer in pain (until the doctor popped the toe back into joint) and he had been making a real nuisance of himself while we were waiting, despite the books and entertainments I grabbed (along with Babar, which he had, between sobs, begged that we stop at the house for) on the way to the emergency room. So this is actually the pitiful face he put on for the photo. Afterwards he went back to trying to dis-assemble all the equipment in the exam room.

    Anyway, to get back on track, here's my idea. When you're sick, why not just treat yourself? So much quicker, easier and cheaper. Granted, you can't get prescriptions, even for things like the strep throat I had recently or, you know, crucial prescriptions like insulin or heart medication. But hey - free! And think of all the time you'll save not waiting to see a doctor.


    You can forget high bills for surgery. Just suck it up and do it yourself! You've probably got a hacksaw somewhere in your garage. And honestly, why did I bother to take Lawrence to the emergency room when I could have just snapped his toe back in place myself?


    Does this sound like the dumbest idea ever? Geez, I hope so. There is a reason why most of us decide to pay doctors - they spent untold thousands of dollars and several years of their lives to acquire knowledge and experience that the rest of us don't have.


    So why is it that so many people who would never dream of treating their physical ills themselves decide they're going to treat their mental ills themselves? These same people, who would never think of drafting their own will or getting under the hood of their car to give it a tuneup, often think that they can treat their own depression. They try a new diet, a nutritional supplement, aromatherapy, positive thinking, copper bracelets and every thing else under the sun except for going to a doctor.


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    (Please note that I am talking about clinical depression here, not being down because your life is in a rut or because you lost your job. If you're not sure what I mean by clinical depression, please read this and then come back.)


    What could be causing this resistance that so many people have to seeing a doctor when they're depressed, or feel that they may be? I think there are a couple of possibilities:


    1) If you see a doctor instead of just taking a nutritional supplement or thinking positive, that means you actually may have clinical depression, which is a disease. It makes it more real. Mental illness is still stigmatized. Don't listen to anyone who tells you that it isn't. Yes, we've made strides in the last decade or so toward abolishing that stigma, but we're not there yet.


    2) A lot of people assume that depression treatment automatically means antidepressants. This is definitely not the case. Depression treatment sometimes consists of talk therapy alone.


    Here's another reason you shouldn't try to treat your depression on your own. Depression can be caused by underlying medical conditions such as thyroid disease, so it is essential that you see a doctor to rule out a potentially life-threatening condition that you're not aware of.


    And let's get serious for a minute. Don't forget that depression itself is a potentially fatal disease. If you want to try to treat your allergies or eczema on your own, well, that's fine. But you're not going to die from health problems like that. Well, probably. I'm assuming you would get medical help if your allergies resulted in asthma.


    Anyway, don't try to go it alone. Don't assume that you know what you're doing, and can effectively treat depression. If you are trying to, ask yourself why, and what is holding you back from seeking help.

Published On: April 24, 2008