Depression and Cerebral Palsy

Do you experience any symptoms of depression?

I looked at the nurse staring back at me.  I wanted to put both hands on her shoulders, stare her square in the eyes, and in some kind of monstrous rage scream out Of course I do! I have an incurable condition!  How are you not depressed?!  Being around people with cerebral palsy every day?

But, my mom was in the room, and I didn’t want to frighten anyone, so I just sat up straight in my chair, crossed my legs, and politely answered, “Yes.”

I really have Seasonal Affective Disorder, my mood seems to be worse in the winter and lighten up when spring rolls around.  I take mega doses of Vitamin D, I try to eat right, but sometimes I find myself sad and lonely.  Sometimes this happens in the middle of July.

All of this has got me thinking: Is there a connection between cerebral palsy and depression?  One Website I visited noted that the word “Depression” is Latin for “Crush.”  That sounds about right.  Being depressed is like being down in a cave…you can’t seem to climb out, even if the rope is dangling right in front of you.

The thing that gets me down the most is when I experience overwhelming fatigue.  I might have simple plans on a Saturday like doing laundry or cleaning the kitchen, but I sometimes wake up exhausted and find myself on the coach for most of the afternoon.  My mind goes to dark places in those moments.  I mourn for all the activity I’m not doing and am disappointed by my lethargy.  This isn’t what young adults are supposed to be doing! 

My mind plays games on me and I wonder if I won’t recover from my fatigue.  How will I be able to cope with the demands of life?  Thankfully, after a day, or occasionally two days of rest, I rebound and continue living my life.

From what I read on the Internet, this type of experience is common.  I also read that there is a relationship between depression and cerebral palsy.  The National Institutes of Healthreport a study that was conducted comparing 56 adults with CP against their healthy peers.   It was found that 75% of adults in the study with CP had chronic pain as compared to 39% in the control group.  Fatigue rated at an average of 4.4 as compared to 2.9 and depression had an occurrence rate of 25% instead of 12%.

So what’s a person to do?

I’m no doctor, but I am a librarian, and I do believe in the idea of bibliotherapy.  Sometimes words have the power to heal, or at least bring hope.

You might feel a little brighter after reading this blog entry entitled In Bloom.  It’s written by a 23-year-old named Amy who has depression and cerebral palsy.  I found it insightful and affirming.

You might also want to visit the blog of Ilana Stankler, a twin who was 46 years old before given the correct diagnosis of cerebral palsy.  She suggests cultivating supportive relationships to help deal with depression.  I think it’s a brave and courageous thing to be honest with those we love about the true weather condition of our hearts.

Finally, check out Erin Breedlove’s guest post where she talks about encountering depression in college.  You might find you can relate.