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Seeking Strength

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And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it…..Roald Dahl

And when I wake in the morning, from my lips come the grateful prayer of thanks for I have been gifted with another day.  I see the morning sun beginning to lighten the sky.  I hear the birds singing and the morning bark from our neighbor dog.  I plod into the bathroom and look in the mirror.  Instead of the puffy eyes and messed hair, I see someone who indeed looks beautiful and well rested and ready for anything.  The magic has begun.

Out of clutter, find simplicity…..Albert Einstein

Yesterday was a difficult day for my loved one, so dishes sit and wait to be washed, dust bunnies scatter on the floor as I walk past.  A stack of library books teeter on the edge of the piano, threatening to fall at anytime.  My loved one walks in, takes in the mess, finds his glass from yesterday, rinses it in the sink and fills it with orange juice.  The simple act encourages me to do the same. The juice is cold and tart and just what both of us need.

I feel my heart new opened……John Fletcher

And with those little happenings, with my loved one’s silly act, I find my heart being assured that once again we can deal with the day, with the depression, with all the baggage that comes along with it.  I will be able to keep the love of holy laughing in me because I see someone smile after the orange juice is finished, I hear the birds singing louder, and I feel my hand reach out and rub the shoulder of my loved one, and I taste the hope of a new day.  A day, when taken one step at a time can be the best day ever no matter what happens because in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson……

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.  

Strength for the day when dealing with depression makes all the difference in the world.

– Bernadette

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Suicide on What You Thought Was a Sunny Day

imageSuicide. If you are living with or caring for someone with depression, suicide can be part of the equation. Some individuals live with suicidal thoughts day in and day out. Some never have them. And then there are those who have suicidal thoughts when you least expect.

The day might have been going well. In fact, you as caregiver and loving support, might have even had the thought that things had turned a corner, that perhaps depression was on its way out of the picture. Then, out of the blue, your loved one says to an innocent question about how things were going, that he/she is considering suicide. Then come tumbling out the words that everything would be so much better if he/she were not in the picture, that it would be so much easier to just end all these crazy thoughts and feelings, that suicide seemed the way to go.

After you pick yourself up off the floor, you look at your loved one. You remember the good feelings you had earlier that day about how you might have turned a corner, leaving depression behind. Now your heart is in your throat and you can barely get the words out to counteract the craziness.

Anyone who claims they have the answer to depression or those who list step by step instructions for overcoming depression have probably never experienced it in a loved one. Depression is unpredictable, making you think everything is good one minute and falling apart the next. Depression can rob a person of any type of feeling and when feelings do arise in the depressed one, depression turns those feelings around so that the only way of dealing with them are thoughts of suicide.

And so my loved one and I talk and we contact the doctor. We face the thoughts of suicide head on. And paraphrasing the words of writer Og Mandino, we guard our fragile life carefully. Only God can shape a flower but depression can pull it to pieces.

-Bernadette

The Decision

Depression sucks. I hate the feeling of powerlessness that I have when my loved one sits across from me and says, “I feel so alone.” I hate to see him removed from the festivities around him. I get angry when I know every medicine he is taking and nothing seems to be working. I hate that depression is not only ruining his life but it is doing a number on mine.

As much as I try, sometimes depression just gets the upper hand, making me want to run away and do something that is totally frivolous and takes nobody else into account. I want to go off to ride rides in an amusement park or lay in a hammock and just read. What was that saying in the 70s? Stop the world I want to get off!

But the reality is waking another day to figure out another way of helping him and of making myself continue on the road of health. It is another day of being positive and trying new things, of laughing and figuring out a different way that something can be done to alleviate, at least for a time, the cloud of depression on my loved one. It’s another day to make the decision to love myself and my loved one. I am thankful for that.

– Bernadette

Psychiatric Treatment: This is the best we can do?

Biggs Forensic Center image credit to missourinet.com

Biggs Forensic Center
image credit to missourinet.com

The Kansas City Star ran a piece on Saturday about the Biggs Forensic Center at Fulton State Hospital, which houses patients with mental illnesses from throughout Missouri. With portions of the building dating to the 19th century, the archaic facility is a travesty.

A few details about Biggs/Fulton:
-no air conditioning
-exposed asbestos
-kitchen equipment repurposed from a Korean War-era Navy battleship
-low ceilings that offer places for contraband to be stashed, and which provide metal strips that can be used as weapons
-construction materials that often lead to a deafening sound level. “One of the tragedies about people with serious mental illnesses,” says Keith Schafer, director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health, “is that noise is one of the things that’s very hard for them to deal with. So it’s really a terrible treatment location.”
-a nursing department that is 40% understaffed
-employee worker’s compensations claims worth $4.3 million in 2013. “If an employee sticks around Fulton long enough,” says Schafer, “serious injury is almost assured.”

This is the state to which we relegate people who, due to chemical imbalance, trauma, or neurological dysfunction, suffer from serious brain illnesses. Missouri legislators “continue to debate replacing Fulton hospital.” There’s nothing to debate.

But lawmakers are too busy trying to find ways around the Affordable Care Act, which is the law of the land, passed by the process created by the glorious founding fathers they’re so fond of harking back to. These same lawmakers are too busy trying to legislate health care decisions for women. They have no time for people who need intensive, long-term treatment for brain illness.

It’s a shameful state of affairs. Human beings, by the mere fact of their existence, deserve up-to-date, safe health care, whatever their diagnosis.

-Amy

Return to Real (and new) Life

So the Big Leave is over. We’ve completed both moves (youngest to his freshman year three hours away and oldest to grad school, 16 hours away). Tear report: I was able to choke them back at the actual moments of leaving, but scattered tear storms have been reported throughout the viewing area.

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

The emotional gash (“wound” doesn’t seem strong enough) I’m currently dealing with doesn’t bode well for the coming SAD season – and believe me, I’m noticing every minute of sunlight we’re losing each day as the calendar marches on. Nor does the pain of the goodbyes and the removal of half the family (okay, not quite half, but since there are five of us half would be gross) bode well for my husband’s round-the-year depression. He’s had teary moments in the last week, too, and that’s always scary for me – who knows where those moments might lead?

It’s early days yet, but I’m thinking hard about what I – we – can do to keep from sinking into what could be serious depression around here. My short list:
-volunteering at one of the schools our kids attended
-digging into a book Bern and I have been toying with for a couple of years
-supporting husband to the hilt as he explores possibilities for a much-needed career change
-getting our younger kids’ new concert schedules burned onto our calendar so I can look forward to those special events
-throwing myself into a second blog, at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com . I’ve been looking forward to that for several months now, and had a blast putting up my first real post today.

Hope our friends in the blogosphere will be along for the ride…

-Amy

P.S. – Many thanks to Bernadette, who kept Depression’s Collateral Damage running at full speed while I was out of commission this week. 🙂

Don’t Let Caregiving Eat You Alive!

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If you are a caregiver of someone who is dealing with depression or another mental illness, know that it is time to take a break or even seek help for yourself when different things start occurring in your life.

Do you find yourself in the kitchen too often eating this and that and trying desperately to fill the hunger you’re feeling?

Or do you find that you just don’t enjoy that favorite dish of yours anymore and that you, in fact, don’t have much interest in food and often find that you’ve forgotten to eat once again?

And if you find that when someone invites you to the movies, you just don’t want to go because you are too tired or you are not interested, pause and think why not. Are you interested in things you used to be interested in? Or is nothing of interest to you anymore except the job of caregiving you are doing?

A big neon signal might be flashing if you find yourself thinking or saying, “It’s never enough what I do,” or “No one ever appreciates everything I do.” If you think what you do doesn’t count or doesn’t make a difference or is not good enough, pay attention to that neon signal.

And if you find yourself sleeping too much or too little or you are telling people how worn out or tired you feel, you need to remember that this is a sign you need a break. And going hand in hand with the sleep issue is the touchiness that might surface. Do you find yourself reacting and itching for a fight over little issues?

Or do you find a growing list of physical ailments appearing for you? Is your stomach a bit irritable or are you finding aches and pains where there were none? And does nothing seem to help?

Caregivers in so many instances are the lifelines for people dealing with serious brain illness. Often caregivers are the ones who keep the ill individual on the road to health. But when the caregiver is in need of help, of renewal, often we don’t see the signs.

If there is a caregiver in your life or if you are the caregiver, ask yourself these questions and if the answers point to the fact that you need a break, be strong enough to take it. Things will get done, people will come to help if asked, and you will be a much more effective caregiver when you come back on the scene and take up the gauntlet once again.

-Bernadette

PTSD, Depression and Courage

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, I learned as much as I could about the disease and its treatment.  I thought I was prepared.  However, I was not prepared for the emotional ride that took place.  No one talked about it.  No one acknowledged that it was part of the situation.  Instead, I learned about it after the fact and I got it confirmed on a recent post from PTSD Perspectives, an excellent blog dealing with the subject.  Check it out at http://ptsdperspectives.org/category/ptsd-blog/

I was not prepared for the emotional ride that had me crying when I least expected to.  It had me feeling like I was in another person’s body, observing what was going on.  It caused me to be in a place that I neither knew nor trusted.  I was the proverbial stranger in a strange land.

What was going on was post traumatic stress.

I encountered PTSD again at a meeting Amy and I were giving for caregivers.  One of the participants was the sister of a soldier returned from Iraq.  She had observed the changes in her brother, had seen the mood swings, had noted the strangeness at times of his behavior, dealt with his depression.

What she wanted was not just for him to feel better.  She wanted, as she put it, her brother back.  She went on to talk about how they would have talked about anything and everything, how they could laugh and cry together and have a good time.  That was no more.  Another person had taken over.  She missed her brother, and not only was he dealing with PTSD, she was also.

There are different levels of PTSD that affect individuals but whatever level a person may have, it does not make it any less difficult.  PTSD also affects those who love and care for those with full blown PTSD.  These caregivers need to learn how to deal with a “new” person, one who has been shaken to the core by a very difficult situation, to stay centered despite the surrounding depression.  The caregivers have to deal with a new person, grieve the loss of the old one, and at the same time help their loved ones through the terrors that haunt them.

I am reminded of the words of Solomae, a spiritual teacher, who wrote, “Opening the heart is an act of courage.  Keeping it open is an act of love.”  That’s what people with PTSD and depression and those who love and care for them have to face each and every day.  They are courageous people.

-Bernadette