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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.


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.

To med or not to med…

Recently someone I care about a great deal asked for advice for a female friend of his who was struggling with depression. Just last evening he reported back to me that she did finally find some help; her GP prescribed medication and they were hoping for the best.

All well and good.

But then came the kicker: “But she really hates the thought of being dependent on medications for the rest of her life.”


I managed to temper my reaction. My exact words were, “Sometimes people are able to go off medication after a while, in consultation with their doctor and therapist. And she can think of it this way: Isn’t it better to feel good with a pill than to be miserable every day of your life without a pill?”

Here’s what really I wanted to say: “Would you really hate the thought of taking insulin every day to save your life if you had diabetes? Would you really hate the thought of taking blood pressure medication every day to avoid a stroke if you had high blood pressure?”

I am aware of and I support many of the caveats regarding antidepressants. No, they don’t work for everyone. No, scientists aren’t 100% sure how antidpresssants work. Yes, they often have side effects that require management. Yes, they work best in conjunction with behavioral therapy.

But it does not make sense to despise a medication merely because it treats mood and behavior, when we fully accept other medications that treat obvious physical problems. In reality, the root causes of the negative moods and behavior are physical, too. They just have negative mystique because we can’t “see” them.

We each must make our own decisions about medication when depression and other mood disorders are part of our lives. But we must make these decisions based on reality, rather than on the stigma that sourrounds issues of brain illnesses and their treatments. 

Depression Awareness Week from Those Who Have Been There

News reporter Mike Wallace said once when talking about his own depression, “There is nothing – repeat – nothing to be ashamed of when you are going through a depression.  If you can get help, the chances of your licking it are really good.  But, you have to get yourself onto a safe path.” 

And that right path includes learning about what depression really is, becoming aware of the signs, and learning what to say and not say to someone who is depressed, all in an effort to help healing come about.  

This is National Depression Awareness Week and those who have been there in the depths of depression say the things we should take to heart this week.  

Jane Pauley, also a news reporter and anchor, has said, “When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder the year I turned 50, it was certainly a shock.  But as a journalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of things, I didn’t suffer the misconception that depression was all in my head or a mark of poor character.  I knew it was a disease, and, like all diseases, was treatable.”  

It can’t be said often enough.  Depression is a illness, a treatable illness and it does not mean that the person with depression is lacking character.  A person in the depths of depression CANNOT pull themselves up by their bootstraps and be all better.   Don’t tell them if they only try hard enough they can get better.  As Barbara Kingsolver in The Bean Tree wrote, “There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes.  Depression is like cancer”

This week, whether you are a depressed individual or love someone who is dealing with depression, make a pledge to learn something about this illness  and to share that with another person.  Bit by bit we can help people see that depression is an illness, that it devastates the individual and the family but it can get better if we are honest with one another.  We need to put aside the pride and the self consciousness and realize that it is an illness, an illness that breaks the heart.  

“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain but it is more common and also more hard to bear,” wrote C.S. Lewis in The Problem os Pain.  “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden.  It is easier to say, ‘My tooth is aching’ than to say ‘My heart is broken.'”


Vitamin “Z”– Musings From a Mom On An Antidepressant 

We haven’t posted on Depression’s Collateral Damage for quite a while, but this piece from Momasteblog gave us just the kick in the pants we needed. Look for more support for people dealing with depression in their household in this space, soon!


My doctor recently raised the dosage of my Zoloft.

There, I said it.

Hi.  I’m an anxious and depressed mom, and I’m on Zoloft.

I’m also a “professional” in the mental health field, charged with counseling others with anxiety and depression.  Put that in your pipe, and so forth…

In light of my recent near death experience, I’ve been struggling with more anxiety than usual.  My body and mind are having a hard time feeling safe, and being able to distinguish between everyday stress and actual threats to my well being.

As my compassionate doctor couched it, “I think you miiighhht have a teensy bit of PTSD.”  Ummm.  K.  I can’t really disagree.  I have confidence I will ramble through it, but in the mean time, the symptoms miiigghhht suck just a teensy bit.

Taking an antidepressant doesn’t make my world perfect.  It is not a magic cure-all…

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