Every dentist who experiences a disabling accident or illness will face depression. The ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu wrote  “KNOW YOUR ENEMY AS WELL AS YOURSELF “. Depression is the enemy. By understanding its inevitable occurrence you will be able to prepare to combat its many forms and challenging presence.  Make no mistake, it will be a battle. You will win because you have the right weapons to fight back. Knowledge is key. Knowing that you will face this second demon after Denial, gives you a chance.

We have recently discussed the first emotional challenge of denial in our postings. Depression will ultimately follow or occur simultaneously. Dentists are prone to depression when faced with a disability for a number of reasons. As dentists, we devote a significant portion of our lives to reach our positions of trust and responsibility.  When disability strikes, the sense of hopelessness and anxiety can be overwhelming.  We have developed a strong sense of responsibility to our patients, staff, and practice. This leads to a level of frustration that almost guarantees that depression will be present.

For anyone experiencing depression it is important to remember it is very common. It is an integral component to the illness or accident that gave you your disability to begin with. The first step is to recognize and survive the self-critical attacks that occur. By refusing to accept this negative view of your situation, you have begun your journey to survival. When you notice negative thoughts, it is essential to identify them and use self-compassion to begin seen who you clearly are. You need to be your own best friend and acknowledge your feelings.

It is a physiologic fact that activity fights depression. Be active and get outside or to the gym. Exercise increases the neuro-plasticity of your brain and releases neuro-chemicals called endorphins, which help to elevate your mood. Even just getting out for a walk or playing a game with your kids is a medically proven method of improving  the way you feel. Getting your heart rate up, and it has been scientifically proven you will feel better emotionally.

Friends and family, especially those who care about you, will appreciate knowing what’s going on. Don’t isolate yourself. When you feel bad, even if you feel embarrassed , confiding in a friend or voicing your struggles can lighten your burden and begin a process of ending your unhappiness.  Even the simple act of putting yourself in a social atmosphere can lift your spirits. Go to a museum, park, or mall; where you can enjoy being amongst people. Never allow yourself to think you are alone or that you are different from everyone else. Everyone struggles, and you will survive.

Dentists will survive this aspect of disability because they can focus on a problem and eventually come to a logical solution. As dentists, we are faced with daily challenges of clinical practice. We work in confined spaces performing intricate procedures that require the utmost in our technical skill. The expectations of our patients are extremely high and we strive daily for perfection.  We succeed because we develop treatment plans to complement our clinical skills. Dwight Eisenhower wrote”PLANNING  IS EVERYTHING”. Develop your own treatment plan that addresses your disability and the depression accompanies it.  You can do it. Sit down and treat the problem like the thousands of other cases you have encountered in your dental career. Focus on your family and your health.

Anything that makes you laugh or smile can actually help you fight back. Play your favorite game or watch a funny movie. Don’t think of this as an exercise or distraction, it is an effective tool to remind yourself that you can feel good again. Do things that you like to do. Your hobbies are a life jacket in the storm. Your attitude effects success and use these simple but highly effective ideas to start your journey out of darkness.

You have spent years as a dentist in an academic environment. Use your skills in this arena. Research at length your disability and depression.  Request second and third options on your condition. Study your enemy. Get to know depression from a medical standpoint. You may develop into quite the psychoanalyst, but don’t hesitate to ask for professional help. You are smart. You will know if you need help.

Take depression seriously. Remember it is very common and highly treatable. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help or take medication. Brief courses of both are the norm.  It is just a matter of recognizing your feeling bad and finding  the treatment that works for you. You may have to live with your disability, but you don’t have to live with depression. Fight back and win. THE CHOICE IS SIMPLE, GET BUSY LIVING, OR GET BUSY DYING.

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