Shhhhh! Don’t Talk About It!

shieldWhen a relationship has been dealing with depression for a long time, you have to do a lot of changing and a lot of salvaging. You remember the persons both of you were before depression set in. You remember what today is missing. And you try to forge a new normal.
And that is difficult.

Sleep is often disrupted by a loved one waking you in the middle of the night because some unseen force is causing blows or shivers or talking to take over the sound asleep body. For the caregiver that spells exhaustion when it happens night after night. And there is the endless talking or crying or sleeping during the day which has to be dealt with by the caregiver so as to arrive at some type of peace.

We as caregivers of our loved ones in the throes of depression often find ourselves dealing with stuff we never thought we would – mood swings, twitches, drug dullness or drug hyper-ness, and sheer fatigue. The intimacy of intercourse is gone and the couple has to work out other ways to deal with pleasuring one another. And that issue is often overwhelming for the couple already dealing with so much.

Sadly, the medical system often doesn’t address these issues. Few doctors or therapists say anything about the changes that might occur. And we know that if that sharing were to take place, that would mean seeing both people. Psychiatry keeps its cards close to the chest and often doesn’t include significant others or family members. Right at a time when people need the healing of touch, the couple find themselves pulling away and suffering from the lack of intimacy that previously had filled an important place in their lives and nobody tells them that such a scenario might take place.

It is strange that we see so many sexual images on television, on the web, in magazines and yet seldom do we address the issue when it affects people with cancer treatment or people with depression or people with other illnesses.

Caregivers dealing with depression lose sleep, lose sexual pleasure, and often a significant part of their relationship identity. And no one wants to talk about it. No wonder depression swallows up so many caregivers.


Alive and Kicking

It began with a simple remark. It went something like this:

You just have to stay away from her. She is on depression medication and she tried to kill herself once. You never know when she will get violent.

And it was followed later in the day by:

They should just lock up those crazies and everything would be okay.

In the afternoon I heard kids in the playground. One said:

Janie’s weird. She’s got some loose screws in her head.

My day was capped off with:

Violence, violence, violence. If we could just get rid of the lunatics we could live happily ever after.

And then I read in a magazine:

Some people do have a tendency to be depressed. It is a matter of recognizing that you have sinned and once you ask God’s forgiveness, everything will be all right.

As I fell asleep I thought:

The stigma is alive and functioning and being passed onto other generations. How sad is that?

- Bernadette

Mothering and Mental Health

Many of the people I care about most are genetically predisposed toward depression. That includes our three children.

As they got into their teen years, it was a subject we brought up repeatedly. Now that they’re all in college we check in with them regularly, knowing that a shocking percentage of college students experience depression and anxiety.

In the last few months, my mothering and mental health skills have been called into action for all three kids. Several months ago our oldest recognized in herself symptoms of depression and anxiety, and took appropriate medical action. Thankfully she kept us informed all the way, and we provided as much long-distance support as possible. Just over a week ago I discovered, however, that she hadn’t been coached in the importance of NOT running out of depression and anxiety meds. I used all the electronic media at my disposal to keep in touch with her, encouraging and reminding her to get her prescriptions refilled ASAP. And did my best to channel my anger toward the on-campus mental health clinic in an appropriate direction.

Also about a week ago our son broke the news that he was struggling in one of his classes. He loves the class, is highly motivated, and was proactive about taking care of the problem. But alarm bells went off in this mom’s head. It was while in college that his brilliant father, with every opportunity in the world open to him, fell off the deep end into a lifetime of depression. So we had intentional conversations with our son last week, praising him for being open with us and looking for the help he needed, reminding him that he can always come to us and that we’ll always be on his side.

Now our middle daughter has hit a low point in what has been an extremely difficult year for her. She’s at the top of all her classes, is self-motivated, and truly loves learning. Unfortunately, poor health that led to surgery a couple of weeks ago has brought her down. She’s exhausted, over-stressed, and beating herself up because just now she can’t work up to her own (too-high) standards. We had a long mental health pep talk this afternoon. I’m hoping she came away with some understanding of her need to accept where she’s at, give herself a break, and simply do the best she can under very difficult circumstances. Being all too familiar with the symptoms of depression, I’ll be watching her closely as she regains her physical health, to monitor whether her emotional health improves, as well.

Being a mother is a lifetime job. Being a mother of children who are at risk for depression raises the stakes.


Doctors, Nurses and Depression



Recently my husband was hospitalized for a drug interaction. A simple prescription for flexerol for a back ailment combined with his depression and diabetic medication caused episodes mimicking stroke and seizure. During the time of resolution during which numerous tests were performed, I had a lot of time to observe and talk with the medical personnel.

One of the observations that took place was the job was often a thankless one, filled with cranky patients and heavy requests. What an opening for depression! And shortly after we ended the hospital stay, I came to find out that doctors and nurses have higher instances of depression and suicide than other professions. And it boils down to some situations that are difficult to escape in their jobs.

First of all they are asked (nurses especially) to do an awful lot. Not only do they deal with many patients but they have to make sure that everyone else is doing the job they are supposed to do.

On top of that, nurses especially see the patients when not even a loving spouse or friend would like to be around the ailing one. The patient is cranky and angry and often assumes the nurse is incompetent and complains that this type of treatment would never happen elsewhere.

And then you have the undeniable fact that a portion of the people they care for die, often under their care. The second guessing and the blame shouldered by the doctor or nurse can sometimes become unbearable and difficult to see as not being their responsibility.

All this opens the door to depression. It might start subtly like that extra drink or two after work or taking a sleeping aid. And then it escalates with mood swings and calls to cancel a shift assignment. A lot of people might see that as the person not being a team player or someone who “can’t hold their alcohol” or just a plain bitch. Few people think that it might be depression that is rearing its ugly head.

Doctors and nurses are at higher risk of suicide and many car accidents, drug or alcohol overdoses are written off as “accidents” and not seen as what they often are – suicide because the depression got to be too much to handle alone.

So if you observe these symptoms in a fellow worker or even in your own family doctor, don’t hesitate to say something.   Keeping each other healthy is the best thing we can do for one another.

- Bernadette

Learning from Breasts and Depression

This morning as I was dressing I recognized once again the changes in my breasts following treatment for cancer. The breasts are not identical. One is significantly smaller than the other and finding a bra is a pain. As soon as I think I have found the perfect bra, something changes and it doesn’t fit right. As I looked in the mirror, I also remembered a picture I saw about five years ago of a group of women who were nude from the waist up. Each breast was different, some were missing, scars adorned some and others were perky and young. And then the thought came to me of the importance of a picture of depression.

Imagine if you will, a group of people gathered in one room, around their necks they wear an explanation of their condition. One reads “circumstantial depression with several panic attacks”; another reads “lifelong depression with growing anxiety”; still another proclaims, “dark depression with daily thoughts of suicide.” Each sign is different. Some have tattered signs from many years of wear; others carry simply the word “depressed”. Some signs although somewhat new show signs of struggle as if someone was trying to remove the sign and didn’t succeed.

There are very young and very old people in this picture. The three-year-old, the teenager, the smart business man, the new mother, the seventy-five year old, the famous actress, the homeless man. The room is filled with every person with no regard to race or religion.

Everyone should have a picture like this to remind them that depression affects many people and we encounter these people day after day with no way to tell, the visible signs of depression no longer around their necks. And they have to deal with finding the right medication, the right therapy, the right support system and often that changes, just as my bra size does.

Next time you see someone, look at them through new eyes. The person you are seeing is carrying some wound, whether physical or mental. Be kind to them and remember we are all in this together.

- Bernadette

I have depression. You get over it.


I always enjoy Jeannine’s posts on Mobyjoe Cafe, but today’s really hit home for me, as I struggle with depression in both my husband and myself . Please read! -Amy

Originally posted on mobyjoe cafe:

This time of year is always difficult for me. The monotony of winter takes its toll and I become a hermit, not leaving the house. I don’t see the point. I write funny essays and drop quips on Twitter, while pretending that everything is okay. The internet is a great cover. No one knows that I’ve been wearing the same sweats for a week while eating a diet comprised solely of baked goods and cappuccino.

I’ve been through this cycle for many years now. Eventually I remember that to be a badass I have to engage with the universe, get dressed in clothing with zippers and buttons and move forward.

Andrew Solomon’s TED talk spurred a much needed discussion about how to talk about mental illness, but even more importantly, emphasized the importance of talking about it, period.

Every time there’s a shooting, or a suicide, or some other tragedy…

View original 460 more words

Depression and Faith: Wailing, gnashing of teeth, and renting of garments

There’s been a fair amount of that kind of “biblical” activity in this household in the last few days. Wailing, gnashing of teeth, and renting of garments, I mean. Metaphorically, mostly.

Strong faith can be a real lifeline when depression hangs around. Strong faith can also be pretty darned elusive, when depression keeps hanging on, and hanging on, and hanging on.

My husband’s depression started in earnest about 20 years ago. First there were years of the darkest depths of despair. Then some improvement. Then lots of ups and downs, keeping me guessing and on edge at all times. Then several years of a good place of recovery. Then a few years of a downward slide ending in the pits. Most recently, we’ve experienced the most complete recovery in our 20-year journey. Enormous relief and great joy, but the scars are still there…wondering how long it will last.

Circumstances have not been in our favor. An injury put his recovery – and, quite honestly, my faith – to the test recently. For eight weeks he was unable to participate in the new career that brought about such improvement. The cosmic unfairness of it all made me rail against God. I know God can handle my anger. I’ve lived with my faith long enough not to worry about that. But when that enforced eight weeks off led to the all-too-familiar and all-too-ugly depression symptoms, one of the things that upset me the most was my lack of tolerance for them. Apparently I’ve pretty much reached the saturation point. My stores of patience, support, and kindness are scraping the bottom of the barrel.

And then good news came along, and he was back to work. Joy! Relief! Then another unfortunate turn of events, and it’s off again for a time. Hence the wailing, gnashing of teeth, and renting of garments. My main thought just now is “What the #^#$*@#! is God thinking?!?”

What I think I believe most of the time is that the whole “when bad things happen to good people” thing is absolutely a mystery but that God is right there beside us, crying along with us in those terrible times. Isn’t that lovely? Well, it’s all out the window just now. I’m just mad.

My husband has worked his butt off to recover and build a new life. The crap we’re dealing with is just plain wrong.

I’ve been strong and loving and supportive until I resemble a wrung-out sponge. Nothing left.

I’m thankful that when I put all this to my husband, his first concern was for my state rather than his own. That is a glimmer of sunshine. It means that, at last for now, the depression is at bay and he’s able to see beyond himself. Most certainly his resilience has improved.

But still, depression sucks. And just now, I’m blaming God.

And I guess I’m writing this to let other caregivers know that they’re not alone. It’s pretty normal for faith to take a beating when your life has taken a beating. My point, I suppose, is don’t despair when you get to that place. Because deep down I know – and God knows I know – that there is peace and comfort waiting for us when we’re able to see it.



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