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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

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. 

Speaking Out About Teenage Depression


Not too long ago at a high school journalism event, two young high school women had the courage to share their depression with one another.  This sharing between the two of them gave them support from one another they hadn’t expected.  In addition, these two women wanted to help their community in the high school by publishing a school newspaper issue dealing with depression.  It would contain the honest stories of those who were dealing with the illness.  The school stopped publication.

Read the opinion piece in the New York Time (link above) and  consider what you think about this issue.  Studies are finding that when depression asserts itself in the early teens, one can expect the illness  to only worsen and be a life long struggle for the individual, particularly if a support system is not in place for the individual.

Amy and I have always talked about the importance of truth in dealing with this demon.  These young women have been truthful.  We need to let their voices be heard.  Maybe then, we will make very needed changes in how we view and deal with depression.

– Bernadette

Yes to Baby. No to Depression

baby-102472_640Today I received a call from a friend who had recently given birth to her first child. The voice I heard was tense, terrified, upset, and scared. I immediately got in the car and drove to her home only to find her in an agitated state. The baby was sleeping peacefully in the crib but the mother was anything but. I was witnessing the descent into depression for this young mother.

We talked and talked and I listened as she stated her fears, her concerns, her agitation, her feelings of being overwhelmed, her inability to sleep. It was a difficult three hours as we waited for her ride to the doctor’s office.

Post partum depression is not fun. Right when you want to enjoy your infant, you are struck down with being unable to laugh at the baby’s antics, to actively take part in the day to day schedule or feeling that you are not part of the action unfolding around you every day.

Luck was with this young mother. First, hospitals have begun screening for post partum depression and she had her test and it was quite clear that she was a candidate for the illness. Right away she made an appointment with her psychiatrist. She knew she couldn’t fool around with what was happening. Having struggled with depression in the past, she knew that if she didn’t act soon, things would spiral out of control.

Her depression is not solved. There will be bumps on the road but I have to give my friend enormous kudos for being proactive, for being strong enough to say that something was not right, that something needed to be addressed. She will be faced with hard decisions – breast feed or bottle feed so medication can be taken – dealing with the guilt she will feel for not breast feeding and for not, in her eyes, being the good mom who breast feeds for the good of the baby – being comfortable with decisions that will impact both the baby and her and making those decisions for health and not from pressure from family and friends about how a mom is supposed to be.

These are just some of the bumps she will face but she will do okay because she is not afraid to ask for help, not afraid to make the decisions that will spell health for her own family, and not afraid to say no to all the others who say she should be doing things differently.

Post partum depression strikes when the happiness quotient is supposed to be high. How we respond to that first hit will go a long way in determining how we ride out that depression.
– Bernadette

Doctors, Nurses and Depression



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

Here I Am. Really?

Yesterday at church I cried. I didn’t cry because I felt the deep presence of God. I didn’t cry because I was especially touched by the words of the presider. I cried because of a song.

Here I Am Lord, by Dan Schutte is a song that has been around for many years. I know the words by heart. I have sung it numerous times. But yesterday I could not sing. I tried. I wanted to. I just couldn’t.

Why? Because I was powerfully and achingly aware of a God who didn’t seem to care, who seemed to be shutting doors, who wasn’t hearing our cries. I was aware of the people who were supposed to ease the pain and were choosing not to. And those thoughts were very strong because my husband standing beside me could no longer feel happiness, could not leave the darkness that he was dwelling in, could not feel the love of God or people.

Depression does that. It robs the person and the people who care for that person of the presence of hope. There comes a time where you feel no hope that the medicine will kick in, that the cloud will lift, that this will become something of the past.

All who dwell in darkness now, my hand will save…..really?… when this darkness has gone on for such a very long time?

Who will bear my light to them? Whom shall I send?….yes, who? No one thinks of meals or breaks or any kindness when the disease is depression. What light will shine through a darkness so heavy that the pressure is physically felt?

Yes, yesterday was a rough day but today is new and we begin again. I only ask that for the millions of people who suffer from depression out in the world and for the millions more who care for them that somewhere at sometime they will feel the healing touch of their Higher Power, however they see that Power, and that they will feel the physical care of that Power through a fellow human being. I hope for hope for them.

– Bernadette

The Pain of Happiness

I can’t begin to explain the pain of happiness when it comes to depression. For someone (and their caregivers) who has been depressed for a long time, for the heaviness to lift, for the depression to leave and for the chance to be normal surfaces, this is the happiness and this is the pain.

My loved one felt today what it was to be happy, to be like “normal” people. The change was real and palpable and full of laughter and purpose and happiness. Then toward evening, the cloud descended. The depression was back. The tears, the begging for the happiness to stay.

Just like that it was gone. Just like that we were back to square one. Just like that all of us were plunged once again into what has become for us “the new normal.” Or should I say “the new happiness lacking normal?”

People who fight depression have got to be the strongest people in the world because they know what it is to be happy and they know what it is to have the happiness taken away. And they are wiser because they cherish those moments of happiness unlike too many of us “normal” people who often don’t even realize happiness is happening.

– Bernadette

Blending Brain and Body


I have a great deal of respect and awe for the brain. I have seen it at its very best and I have seen it at its very worst. One thing that amazes me, though, is how few doctors look at the brain as an organ that not only keeps our bodies in running order but also is capable of going awry in so many ways.

Since I am dealing with a husband who has been depressed for over 50 years, who just over a year ago suffered a concussion and who is now exhibiting some interesting behavior, I am having trouble understanding why all his symptoms are not being looked at as a whole. Instead the psychiatrist treats the depression, the neurologist treats and concussion, the behavior therapist treats the unusual behavior and very rarely do they look at the situation as a whole.

Too often we overlook the brain. We don’t check for connections. We don’t look for the entire picture. And doctors are the guiltiest of all. The family members might be seeing the whole picture and might be making the connections but once again the doctor will only see one part unless family members are taken seriously and doctors look beyond their specialties to see the total picture.

Concussions have been shown to open the door to depression but do we consider what happens to the brain that has already been dealing with depression and is given a concussion? Do we consider the effects of medication that worked during the depression faze and how that might change with a concussion added to the mix? Was compulsion always in the mix or did that series of lithium medication cause it?

Amy and I have always pointed out to the people in our gatherings that we know so very little about the brain when we know so much about the rest of the body. It is high time that we start giving this amazing and frustrating brain its due. And we can only do that if we look at the body as a whole, all the organs – most especially the brain – working or suffering together. As long as we continue to isolate the brain, we will continue to not really know our bodies.

– Bernadette

The Pain from Violence Continues

The anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School is here. Once again we recall the fright, the disbelief, and the anger at such an act. What we often don’t remember at such a time is the toll it has taken on the people who were the first responders, the people who were spared, the families who lost children. We forget. We think of time healing all wounds and in our rushed society we think it is done at quick speed.

Instead there is still pain and nightmares and asking why. There is the depression and the post traumatic stress. And there is living in a world that can’t quite comprehend what it is like to experience something like this.


I forced myself to read the official transcript of the investigation. It was a difficult thing to do, picturing the intensity of the feelings and the deep sorrow surrounding the story. But it was good that I did. I won’t be able to say again to anyone, “just do something and get over it” or “it’s time to move on” or “we all have our cross to bear” and worst of all, telling someone that “our thoughts and prayers are with you.”

If we feel badly about the shootings one year later, we need to do something. We have to lobby for more funds for mental health. We have to educate people about the signs to look for and what not to do because we want to feel better. Adam Lanza’s mother complained and expressed concern about her son’s behavior to several people but still wrote a check to him for Christmas for a new gun, perhaps out of guilt.  And we have to learn how to express our sorrow to people who we know have experienced great pain. We need to know how to support them through the depression and the post traumatic stress that follows such incidents.

And I use the plural – incidents. Sandy Hook isn’t the only incident of gun violence. There have been – and if nothing is done there will be many more – numerous instances similar whether in a crowded movie theater or cafeteria or Navy yard or post office. Each of these instances have left hurt and deeply wounded people, people who are struggling now to come to terms with all that has happened to them. And some, with brain illness a real possibility, might take their own lives or the lives of others, seeing that as the only way to deal with the pain.

Care for one another carefully

Care for one another carefully

Resolve this Christmas to do something about the violence in our country, whether that is in how you treat each other during this upcoming holiday season or whether it is to actively get involved in changing the path of violence in this country. And this is the only time I will say, “it’s time to move on” because our country is full of  wounded mentally, emotionally or physically hurting people and it is time to move on to a more violence free society where we care for one another very carefully indeed.

– Bernadette