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Depression in the Household: How it Affects Children

One of the things Bern and I talk about and write about is how to talk to kids about depression in a family member.  When one person in a household struggles with depression, the ripples from this illness touch everyone else – including children. And if children don’t get any explanation about what’s going on, a lot of hurt and misunderstanding can result.

There are plenty of reasons why parents might not talk about depression with the kids.  They may think children are to young to “get it.”  Parents may feel too uncomfortable to talk about the situation at all.  They might think the kids won’t notice anything’s wrong, anyway.

But there are ways to discuss depression with children, and it’s important that we do it.  Of course, we have to take age and level of development into account.  With very young children, we might say, “Mommy has an illness that makes her feel sad sometimes, and grumpy sometimes, and tired.  It’s not quite like a cold, but she is sick and her doctor will try to help her get better.”  With older kids we can be more “scientific,” defining depression, discussing the idea of mental illness, and describing the kinds of things that might be tried on the path to healing.

When we don’t keep our kids informed, they’ll make up their own explanations:  “Mommy must be angry because I did something wrong” or “Daddy sleeps all the time because he doesn’t want to play with me.” Read more about what it’s like to be kept in the dark in this heart-felt post by Brittany Moso:

http://brittanymoso.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/mental-illness-impacts-the-family-system-too/#comment-59

Thanks, Brittany, for having the courage to write about your experience growing up with depressed parents.  Talking about it is a wonderful way to help others.

-Amy

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Exposing the Stigma of Living With Depression

imageWe never thought the name of our author’s booth – Living With Depression – at the conference for the Missouri Association of School Librarians would bring home the stigma of depression in an unusual way. We set up our booth with our books and information about the work we do – presentations, workshops, and support groups – to help those who live with and care for depressed people. We were ready for a day which we thought would bring discussion on depression and conversation about what it means to live with someone with mental illness.  We were wrong.

It began subtly with people glancing in the direction of our booth and hurrying past.  Then there were those who answered our question, “Can we tell you about what we do?” with the answer, “No, I don’t need that.”  And maybe they really didn’t, but it made us wonder. The most interesting thing we witnessed was connected to the drawing to be held at the end of the day.  Attendees put their contact information on cards and left their cards at the booths to win prizes from particular vendors. We saw more than one person, when they thought no one was looking, surreptitiously placing their card in the basket on our table. Stigma was at work once again.

On the flip side, people actually came to our presentation titled “Helping Students Who Deal With Depression.” Some people tentatively shared a little of their own experiences.  Others nodded in recognition as we spoke.  And there was one person whose expressions and body language showed us that what was being said hit home.

Even better was what happened after the presentation. Several people stopped by our booth and shared their stories, hopefully as a result of hearing us chip away at the stigma of mental illness in our presentation. Moms with mentally ill children. A woman dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. Another woman with four aging and ailing parents. One with a husband who was just started to try antidepressant medication.

People are hurting.  They’re looking for a chance to talk about how mental illness is affecting their lives.  Too often the stigma prevents them from discovering that others are living in similar situations. Loneliness, isolation, abandonment abound.  One simple act of sharing can change all that.

Can you remember the first time when someone talked with you about their personal struggle with mental illness? Do you remember that realization that you were not alone? Some of us have been fortunate to have received this gift. What if those of us who have had this experience could be the hope for other hurting people? We’re glad we could be that hope for those at the conference this weekend.

-Bernadette and Amy (wow, our first co-written post!)

The Far Reaches of Dating Violence

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504083_162-57578875-504083/rehteah-parsons-canada-teen-kills-herself-after-rape-and-bullying-mother-says/

http://abcnews.go.com/International/rehteah-parsons-suicide-justice-minister-revisting-alleged-rape/story?id=18924592

http://thechronicalherald.ca/metro/1122650-rehtaeh/parsons/was-my/daughter#.UWX3XV3sVSM.facebook

Rehtaeh Parsons. You can look at the three links provided, search further on the inbternet, and draw your own conclusions. For me the story brings home the following:

-Dating violence is often overlooked and people know little or nothing about it.

-Rape has far-reaching effects long after the act is completed.

-A good number of the victims are high school or college age.

-Understanding rape and dating violence is a sadly neglected support area.

-Support following rape or dating violence is often non-existent or the victim is looked upon as “asking for it” or a “slut who deserved it.”

-Rape often leads to depression and suicide, with even more victims as result.

-None of this should occur in a caring, supportive society.

Rehtaeh Parsons. Rest in peace.

And if you want to do something to help young people learn healthy dating practices, check out

https://www.breakthecycle.org/?gclid=CKKJs5y2xbYCFRR8nAod6ywAVQ

…Squirrel!!!…And other aspects of adult ADHD in a marriage

image credit to the ADHD Guy

image credit to the ADHD Guy

Because we’re feeling very optimistic about the success of my husband’s new CPAP and cautiously optimistic about the success of his increase in antidepressant dosage, we’re now looking at how to whip his raging ADHD into shape.  In case you’re not familiar with what it’s like to live with an adult who has attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder, here’s a little slice of our life:

 Scene 1 (when there’s something – anything – I need to communicate)

            Me: Honey, are you able to listen right now?…I’m going to say something to you. (wait until he’s actually looking at me) Are you listening? (proceed with communication, stopping frequently to check for understanding). 

Scene 2

            Him: I’m going to tighten up the screws in the bed frame so it doesn’t come crashing down in the middle of the night.

            Me: Good idea.

(half an hour passes)

           Him: I found a whole basket of different kinds of tape in the garage while I was looking for the right screwdriver.  I got it all sorted out and cleaned up.  By the way, while I was refilling the wiper fluid in the car just now I noticed somebody had spilled some popcorn in the back seat, so I cleaned it up.

           Me: Thanks, that’s great.  Did you find the screwdriver so you can fix the bed frame?

           Him:  Screwdriver?  Ummm…no.  I forgot to look for it.

Scene 3

           (Incredibly loud, goofy, and rhythmic mouth fart sounds coming from upstairs as he walks around trying to find the notes he made about the latest screwed up TMobile bill)

Me: Would you PLEASE stop making that noise?

(rhythmic noises continue for 15 seconds)

           Him: What did you say?

           Me: I said would you please stop making that noise?  You’re driving me nuts!

           Him: What noise?

(shortly afterward, the mouth farts resume) 

Scene 4

          Me: Just want to give you plenty of warning: Supper will be ready in 45 minutes.

           Him: Okay.

          (Ten minutes later)

           Me: Hey, supper in 35 minutes.

           Him: (clicking away on the computer) Right.

           (Fifteen minutes later)

            Me: Supper will be ready in 20 minutes.

           Him: Huh? Okay. (computer still clicking away)

(Fifteen minutes later)

            Me: Five minutes to supper.  Could you please wash up and come to the table?

           Him: What???  I can’t stop what I’m doing right now, in the middle of this!  You said supper in 45 minutes!

           Me: That was 45 minutes ago.

(Ten minutes later, the rest of us have started on our meal.  He comes upstairs to wash his hands, upset about feeling rushed.  EVERY DAY.) 

Each of these scenes, on its own, is kind of amusing.  Add a dozen other extremely difficult behavioral symptoms, repeat them a hundred times a day for years on end, and that’s what it’s like to live with adult ADHD in the house.

And then there’s how he describes what life is like for him.  He can’t think if there is any noise or motion anywhere near him.  He has intense difficulty putting his thoughts into words.  It takes him several tries to read a page of text, and if there is even the slightest  bit of noise in the room, has has to move or give up.  Any activity that involves sitting still and listening for more than five minutes makes his eyes dart around the room for escape. His legs start to twitch, and he either has to be up and moving around or he zones out and nearly falls asleep.

On the upside, my husband is:

•playful

•fun-loving

•child-like (in a good way)

•funny

•patient with children

•generous

•fantastically calm and competent in an emergency, and with three kids we’ve had plenty of those

•incredibly intelligent, well-informed, and interesting

As I noted, we’re working on tackling his ADHD, for both our sakes.  He sees his psychiatrist next week and will discuss the possibility of a new type of non-stimulant medication that we’re hoping won’t lead to panic attacks for him.  We’re reviewing behavioral coping strategies – things that worked in the past but have fallen by the wayside, as well as new ideas we’re reading about.

In the meantime, I’d like to know what strategies have been helpful for other adults out there with ADHD.  In other words, HELP!  🙂

-Amy

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words may hurt even worse.

sticks and stonesYou can minimize it by calling it semantics, or dismissively put it down to being “politically correct,” but the wanton misuse of certain words can truly be damaging.

I’ve seen a number of postings on social media about the hurtful and ignorant use of the word “retarded” to denote stupidity or lack of social grace.  It’s an archaic word, once used as a catch-all for those with developmental disabilities, and I think it’s always had a negative connotation. Its casual use may not have hurtful intentions, but it can definitely have hurtful consequences.

Another word misuse that absolutely makes me explode is the use of the word “gay” to describe something considered stupid, uncool, or out of the realm of normality.  This usage clearly implies that being a gay person is stupid, uncool, and out of the realm of normality.  I have been known to interrupt the conversation of strangers and rant furiously when I’ve overheard this usage in public.  (My family members, though they totally agree with me, have learned to slink away and pretend they don’t know me).

Another maddening word use has hit me a few times recently.  It’s the use of the word “depressed” to describe just feeling down or having a bad day. I know I’m a little too close to this particular subject, but I think this particular word misuse is about to become my new soapbox rant.  These are the things I might say:

You are not depressed because you overslept, were late to the gym, and ran out of your favorite shade of lipstick. 

Don’t say you’re depressed because the flowers in your garden bed aren’t doing well. 

Don’t tell me you’re depressed because your favorite radio station just changed formats. 

Because if you do, I might just hurl all over your perky and pristine little running shoes and your adorable yoga pants with “PINK” plastered on the butt.

Being depressed is a state of mental illness. It is not caused by a simple inconvenience, an unfortunate event on one given day, or a “total bummer.”  It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain and/or a long-term series of extremely challenging life events, and/or severe trauma.

Being depressed is not being “down” for a bit.  It is not feeling sad on one given day.  Depression is a dark, heavy cloud pushing down on you and keeping you from experiencing life in a healthy and satisfying way.  It is crying uncontrollably for no reason in places and at times that create embarrassment.  It is inability to sleep, or the desire to stay in bed forever. It is any number of very real and painful symptoms.  It can last a very long time – literally years and years.  Getting over being depressed almost always requires medical intervention and therapy, and sometimes requires hospitalization.  It affects every aspect of your life, and it seriously affects the people who are closest to you. And when someone wantonly uses the word “depressed” about trivial happenings, they diminish the pain and suffering of those who unfortunately know what depression is all about.

In short, if you don’t want a 48-year-old, nosy, and seriously pissed off woman interrupting you and telling you off, DO NOT use the phrase  “I’m depressed” unless you know exactly what you’re saying.  Oh, and don’t toss around the words “retarded” and “gay,” either.

Thank you, and good day.

-Amy

There’s SAD, and then there’s sad.

image credit to Scott Macaulay

image credit to Scott Macaulay

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about my intense relief at the daylight savings time and the resulting increase in evening sunlight.  I was thrilled by how quickly my energy returned and my mood improved.  Apparently I spoke too soon,.

There was the surprise Palm Sunday snow storm.  Then there were a couple of weeks of mostly cold, cloudy weather.  No good for going out for extra Vitamin D in the sunlight, or getting outside to walk in the fresh air.

And soon I realized that I was just as down as I had been all winter.  I was as irritable as my chronically depressed husband (about whose grouchiness I often complain…ouch.) I felt negative, had little interest in my work, and wasn’t sleeping well.  Seasonal affective disorder hadn’t magically disappeared after all.

Then, after several days of bad hews, stressful events, and downright gloom, I realized there was more going on than “just” my winter SAD. I had to sit down and admit to myself that there’s a whole lot going on in my life that was just plain getting me down.  Even without SAD, situational depression was a distinct possibility.

As a person who writes about and works in the area of depression and caring for depressed people  it’s a topic I”m immersed in a lot – occasionally more than I would like.  Then, too, I’m a dyed-in-the-wool navel gazer.  You know that Myers-Briggs personality thing?  I’m off the charts on introspection.  Pretty obnoxious, really.

But it all led me to this train got thought: how do you know whether your annual bout of SAD is over?  How does a long postponement of spring affect other people with the disorder?  When other issues come into play, how do you move on?  At what point is it time to dig further, consider medication adjustments, consult a therapist?

They’re all good questions, and I’d invite any readers who deal with SAD to share their thoughts.  Thankfully for me, spring did finally arrive in the last few days.  That’s helped a lot. At the same itme, I went out of my way to do some self-indulgence and self-care, and to increase my exercise   As a result of these efforts, I’m noting a distinct difference in my mood and outlook.  But what if things hadn’t happened that way?

-Amy

When depression and caregiving turn into anger…

Yesterday in a drug store, I was waiting in line to pay when a woman jumped in line in front of me. My reaction was to let out a gasp of surprise.  She turned to me and started lashing out:  “I was before you and it’s my turn…What manners you have!  You are a moron…”  And on the comments went, all with a tone of unbridled anger.  I was in shock, and to be honest, a little afraid of what her tirade might escalate to. And then I noticed.

She was buying an item for pain control and that gave me pause.  She was probably either in pain or someone she loved was in pain.  Or maybe she had just reached a limit in caregiving and she was pissed with the world.

That is something we forget is so much a part of depression and caregiving of a depressed loved one: anger. We are angry we have this disease; we are angry because it is not fair that our loved one is suffering; we are angry because we can’t magically change our situation.

Anger eats away at us until it seeks an outlet.  Sadly that outlet is often lashing out at those nearest and dearest.  And worse it can lead to crazy behavior sexually or even worse through guns used on others.  Often anger ends in suicide, spawning even more anger in those left behind, creating a vicious circle.

With the woman in the store, the incident led me to consider how I handle anger, how I respond to this illness we call depression.  It taught me that I need to give others more of a benefit of the doubt:  maybe it is particularly bad day for this person; maybe a loved one is in the throes of depression; maybe no one has said a kind word to them in ages.

Next time I find myself in a situation like yesterday, I will pause and ask for strength for them and for me, that we can turn anger into a force of understanding.  How about you?

-Bernadette