Daphne Cooper ditches depression by speaking out--and seeking divine inspiration
a woman’s blues I was a victim of incest and physical and mental abuse from birth until 18. That drove me to the streets. I worked in dance halls and went on every kind of drug. It took me to a suicidal place. I found myself at a recovery center—somebody had put me on a bus and said, “You’re killing yourself; you need some help.” My self-esteem was so low. Now I counsel women who are HIV positive. I talk about how I got delivered from a life of prostitution, and I’m truthful with my status.
behind every good woman My doctor, Robert Rocco in Hoboken, New Jersey, is the greatest doctor in the world. He listened. I gave him all my junk. He wasn’t judgmental and never rushed me out of the office. Then he gave me some positive affirmations. When I first walked out of his office, I knew I finally had someone I could work with. We worked until I became undetectable. (And he’s gorgeous. Hey, I love making appointments.)
decking depression Dr. Rocco started me on Paxil in 2003. Paxil does well for me, but I think it has caused me to put on some weight. But staying active, talking about HIV and writing about it help me. Acupuncture, massage and a support system are great too.
inspiration is my anti-depressant Now I say, “Hi, I’m Daphne. I’m positive,” and I tell people about my ministry, Apple of His Eye Outreach. I give gift baskets and dress women free of charge. I’ve been on the radio. I write articles. And I pray and meditate. I’m not religious, I’m spiritual. There’s a man upstairs keeping me alive. He works with the doctors and the meds, but I’ve got to work too. Now I tell myself that I’m beautiful and I’m powerful. I’ve soared to a level I never thought I would reach.
Take a depression screening test online at www.med.nyu.edu/psych/screens/depres.html and tell doc.
Check for interactions between your HIV meds, antidepressants and anything else you might be taking at www.aidsmeds.com (click on Cool Tools).
Docs: Ask about factors which can disrupt treatment, like depression, drug use, domestic violence and overwork or unemployment.
THE ROAD TO HAPPY
What to do about depression
how do I know I’m depressed?
Everyone gets “the blues,” temporary feelings of unhappiness and frustration. Much more serious is depression—long-lasting symptoms of intense sadness, low self-esteem, loss of pleasure and, in some cases, difficulty functioning. Left unchecked, depression may result in neglect of personal and work- related responsibilities, poor HIV-treatment adherence and increased and excessive use of alcohol or other drugs.
what causes it?
Depression is a psychological illness with biological causes. It can be the result of an imbalance of neurotransmitters, chemicals that carry signals in your brain and nerves. It can also be tied to low levels of hormones, like testosterone, as well as anemia (decreased red blood cell counts).
how to bring it up with doc
If you think you may be depressed, begin by talking with your primary-care or HIV doctor, who may be able to figure out the underlying cause. For example, if anemia or low testosterone is found in your lab tests, steps can be taken immediately to remedy the problem. Your doctor may also refer you to a specialist, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist or psychotherapist, who can diagnose you and start you on a course of weekly “talk therapy” or antidepressants.
Strategies for dealing with depression will depend on the cause. For example, anemia may be reversed by switching HIV meds; testosterone gels or shots may help boost low levels of the hormone. There are also antidepressant medications, generally considered to be the quickest way to relieve severe depression—but your doctor, nurse-practitioner and pharmacist should be on the lookout for interactions with HIV meds. Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is also helpful. Combining meds and talk therapy may work best.