Abandon Hope, All You Who Enter!

Today’s depression feed pushed me over the edge..  “Depression May be Linked to a 5-Fold Death Increase.” This was on the heels of the past weeks entries which included, “Sleep Apnea Linked to Depression” and “Depression Ups Risks of Parkinson’s Disease” and “Depression Tied to Stroke Even if Symptoms Ease.”  The list could go on.  The  articles make you think there is no hope to escape depression or its effects on the body.

When I see things like this, I think about the time and money spent on these studies.   I am sure there must be a place for them but right now, when we need more time and money put into curing depression, we are spending time and money on things that could increase the risk of people despairing that they can ever hope to be a healthy human just because they have depression, something I must remind you, that is out of the control of the individuals who face this illness.  Articles and studies like these have the potential of heaping more guilt onto individuals who already have more than their share because of how society looks on depression.

So let’s get serious and start spending this time and money on studying the brain. because understanding it is our only hope of climbing out of the depression chasm.

– Bernadette

Seven Hundred Dollars

pillSeven hundred dollars every 30 days.

That’s how much – with health insurance – one medication costs for my husband.

And that number does not include the other three that he takes.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days to have someone begin to feel the depression lift.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days taken off of the budget for food and other essentials.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days which is over 1/3 of his social security check.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days that takes the edge off the happiness because he knows the money is taken away from other needs and wants.

Seven hundred dollars every 30 days for the chance to feel better.

“All magic comes with a price”…..Rumplestilskin in Once Upon a Time

– Bernadette

Acting? Or Celebration?

eggs-390213_1280It’s the season of graduations and weddings and opportunities for celebrating.  I was at a graduation party just last Friday and everyone was in fine fettle – laughing, sharing stories, and just celebrating life.  There were present at least two individuals who have for the longest time been dealing with depression.  In fact, both of them were in one of their darkest times.  And yet, there were jokes and shared stories and the two were the life of the party.

That is perhaps the hardest part of depression for people who love someone who is depressed.  They have to understand and accept that the people they live with are very adept at putting on a good face for the public –  being the life of the party.  And oftentimes that is difficult to reconcile with the morose, sleeping-most-of the-day-away individual that inhabits the house.

And of course this happy behavior leads to all the individuals who point out that your loved one is so much better and dismiss that anything could be wrong.  “Depressed?  Are you kidding?”

When this happens to me – with a husband who has been depressed for a good long time – I’ve taken to just enjoying the moment, to taking pleasure in seeing these depressed individuals having a good time in their own way and to  letting the words of those who don’t see behind the scenes roll off my back.   In AA I was often told that it was important in recovery to “act as If” so that one could get used to a new way of behavior.  Who knows, maybe depressed individuals do this acting subconsciously so that they can practice what it is like to feel good.

Whatever the reason, the behavior of being okay for others but not those closest to you  is frustrating and welcoming at the same time.  Just another crazy aspect of this hardly understood illness.

– Bernadette

Judge Not

Sebastian and dadRecently a friend called me.  She is a new mother and often feels that she isn’t doing the job right.   Most of my time with her is listening and then reassuring her that she is a good mom and that as long as she loves her child and does what she thinks is best for her, everything will work out.  We talk some about how important it is to have others as a sounding board – to get ideas, to compare notes, but mostly just to know that there are others out there who understand.

After the phone call, I got to thinking.  It is so important that you do have a sounding board when you are a parent – yes, to get ideas, to compare notes, but most of all to know you are not alone in the big job called parenting.  Lots of parents seem to do this naturally and those who don’t, usually have someone they can go to for answers to questions and support, however large or small that might be.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case with parents who have children who are mentally ill.  They are often the ones who bear the brunt of misunderstanding.  I’ve talked with many different women about how they feel about raising a child with mental health challenges and invariably the conversation centers on how often they feel little if no support in their parenting.

They are often confronted with people who think or say that they, as parent, are not doing their job.  If they only did it right, set some rules, demanded obedience, things would be different.  They say things like, “If that were my child, I would put him out the door and a few months of fending for himself would do the trick,” or “It’s your fault that such behavior is going on.  You need to set rules and make sure they follow them” or something equally inane because raising a child who is mentally ill means that the parents do not have rules to follow.   

When you are faced with a child who is bipolar or depressed or attention deficit or autistic or obsessive compulsive, there are no rules.  There are guidelines that you can try, ideas that have worked for others but generally speaking, each case is different and difficult.  You gather support from the doctor and the therapist (hopefully) and you try your level best to deal with the situation, feeling deep love, deep sorrow, and deep anxiety.  Will my child overcome this?  Am I safe with them?  Are they safe with me?  Why did my child have to deal with this?

Unfortunately, unlike my friend who can gather support in many different venues, mothers with mentally ill children often cannot.  There are very few support groups out there for people in this situation.  The shame still associated with having a “defective” child is still rampant.  And the ever present question in the back of the parents’ minds, “What have we done to cause this?”  Even when someone is versed in the medical knowledge in such diseases, there is no immunity.  You want what is best for your child and when that can’t be, you rail against it, feeling deep, real pain.

So next time you see a child who is doing things you judge as “poor parenting”, stop and think about the fact that you don’t know the whole story.  You don’t know what that parent has had to deal with day in and day out.  You don’t know the pain.

And if you do and if you know someone who is dealing with that pain also, contact them and just offer coffee and a time to talk.  It will make a big difference.  We all need support as parents and people.

– Bernadette

Deflated.

All right, I’m giving in to a little moan.

Having experienced seasonal depression for several years AND having lived with my husband’s depression for most of our marriage, I’m recognizing some ugly signals in myself today. Exhaustion, lack of interest in things I care about, extreme irritability, generally a “meh” attitude.

I’m pretty clear on where this crap is coming from. An emotionally challenging, wringer of a week last week. Some disturbing news regarding my husband and the new career he loves so much – something that’s been dealt with for now but could create disaster at any point in time. A huge bombshell when I got to work this morning, which will lead to an unimaginable change from here on out (not tragic, but still – change is hard).

A Mother’s Day that mainly served to underscore the fact that my family is moving on. Which they should, of course. They’re turning into mature, healthy adults. But I’m painfully aware of the seismic shift in my role.

And, not least of all by any means, an unintended Mother’s Day surprise yesterday that completely knocked the wind out of me – a crying jag by my husband, the likes of which I haven’t seen for a few years. I walked into our bedroom yesterday afternoon to find him sobbing. Expecting to hear that something devastating had just occurred, I went into crisis mode. The real story: He’d come across a cache of notes and artwork created by our children when they were very small. And, as has happened many, many times over the years of his depression, he was instantly filled with regret and remorse for the many years of deep depression that – in his mind only – kept him from being a present and engaged father.

I’m working hard to process all this stuff without freaking out. I’ll do some deliberate damage control by getting some exercise and much-needed sunshine this afternoon. I’ll work to get a handle on some big projects looming at work.

But still, I’m a bit shell-shocked. Depression casts some long and heavy shadows.

-Amy

The Whole Picture

birthday-party-652266_1280Today at a meeting that had nothing to do with depression, depression came up.  The remarks are interesting and good for all of us to hear.

One woman said she had been in a bookstore and was going through all the books on depression because she had a relative who was fighting the disease and she was amazed to find that there were books either that talked about depression but in highly clinical terms or dealt with situations that were not down to earth.  The other end of the spectrum, she said, were books on fly by night ideas and books that made no sense at all in the reality of depression – recommending no medication and that their way was a sure fire cure for depression.  There were no books she felt she could use.

Another pointed out that the big thing  was that there  were very few books that were  1) down to earth and 2) written by people who had been there as caregivers and who could understand the whole spectrum of what depression can do.  He pointed out that there were people who could talk about their depression, who could talk about what could be done for depression, but there were very few voices that could look at the total picture and help the individuals in that picture.

That’s what Amy and I have been trying to do.  We have been trying to give people a real understanding of what depression is like for the individual but not forgetting what depression does to those on the sidelines – the caregivers, the family members, the friends.  We don’t want people to forget the effects depression can have on those bystanders – especially the children who often don’t get any explanation of what is happening in the household if depression is present.

Unfortunately, we have been met by a medical establishment that feels it knows best  how to deal with depression – and many feel that including the family or other significant individuals  is just not helpful, needed or profitable.

We will continue to be the voice crying in the wilderness about how important it is to treat the entire picture when depression strikes someone.  That’s the only way we can ever hope for a healthy and happy society.

– Bernadette

Shock waves from “Call the Midwife.”

Today’s definition of irony: When a character on a television show you love suffers a bout of PTSD and it triggers your own PTSD experience.

I don’t think I”m exaggerating. In last night’s episode of “Call the Midwife,” the doctor character dealt with an experience that triggered a return of depression. The actor portrayed such a breakdown beautifully. So well, in fact, that I could barely stand to watch.

As his wife supported him, tucked him into bed, and cried out her fears on a friend’s shoulder, I relived the long, desolate years of my own husband’s deep depression. Almost literally, the wind was knocked out of me as I watched. All that emotion was suddenly right there again, front and center.

Of course that’s a resounding endorsement of the power of this particular program and of the actor. But it also says a lot about how very deeply depression affects not only the depressed person, but also those who are closest to him or her, even years after recovery.

I still feel just a bit shaky today, but I’ll get over it. Things are much, much better now.

But I doubt I’ll ever fully forget that pain.

-Amy

If you’re not familiar with “Call the Midwife,” which is in its fourth season, I hope you’ll seek it out. It’s currently running on PBS on Sunday evenings at 7:00 p.m. Central, with earlier season four episodes on http://www.pbs.org. Seasons 1-3 are available on Netflix.

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