Spring Has Sprung, Is This Good News for Everyone?

Cherry blossom
Wednesday, April 15, 2015

According to the farmer’s almanac, spring has sprung. This is welcome news as North America is still reeling from a difficult winter with record breaking snowfall. April promises showers throughout many parts of the country, encouraging new growth and new life with sunny days ahead.

Who could not find this news welcome, hopeful, and exciting? People who love the outdoors are emerging in mass, filling the parks with laughter, picnics, and social gatherings. You might ask at this point, why the weather report? This is a good thing, right? If you look up words related to spring you will find long lists of words. These are adjectives that can be described as positive words, happy words. So what is the problem?

People struggling with depression, chronic illness such as epilepsy, or loss (particularly those bereaved by sudden unexpected death in epilepsy or SUDEP) are painfully aware of the stark contrast between their feelings and the feelings of those around them. The celebration of spring and the renewal of life can on occasion drive those already struggling emotionally into deeper despair.

Awareness is Key

For some people with epilepsy, there is a connection between epilepsy and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. A review of depression in epilepsy suggests between 30 and 55 percent of people with epilepsy also have depression.

Many factors can affect mood. Injury to the brain could affect the area of the brain responsible for mood. Living with a chronic medical illness and limitations of daily life can be difficult emotionally. Side effects of medication can affect mood. For some, the loss of a loved one and subsequent grief can lead to long term problems with mood. This does not affect everyone and your health care practitioner can help you sort this out.

What to Do

Just as we think about spring cleaning our home, it may be time to take stock of your own life or someone near to you. An honest personal inventory may yield the need to improve self-care. If anything I have said resonates with you, it may be time to talk with your health care provider to evaluate your feelings, medications, and treatment.

  • Do not assume your feelings will change on their own.
  • Do not withdraw from any medications without advice and supervision from your health care provider.
  • Take care of yourself – follow a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and learn new ways to manage stress. All these strategies will affect mood and coping.
  • Consider complementary therapies for your mood and health – for example, massage, acupuncture, meditation, and spirituality.
  • If you are emotionally suffering, reach out for help. Do not suffer in silence.

If you have epilepsy or are breaved by SUDEP and feel you are struggling with depression, take steps to seek the help you need to live life to the fullest. You are worth it!

SUDEP Institute Bereavement Support Facilitator Linda Coughlin Brooks RN, BSN, CT, contributes regular articles as part of our bereavement support services. Contact her at sudep@efa.org. Learn more about our support for the bereaved.

Authored by: Linda Coughlin Brooks RN, BSN, CT on 4/2015

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