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Doctors, Nurses and Depression

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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

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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

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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…

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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.

-Amy