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What the Books Don’t Tell You….


For all  of you out there who either have a loved one who is being taken off their medication in order to start a new one, or those of you who have someone who just decided on their own to stop their medication, here are a few possibilities of things that might happen. This is not researched and I do not know if science has looked at this phenomenon but I’ve just spent the last two weeks living through it so you might say I’m  an on-the-scene reporter.

My husband has been on medication of some sort for depression for over twenty years. Pills have been added or subtracted, dosages increased or decreased, all in an effort to find the right combination that would deal with his anxiety and depression.

Last week he had had enough and told his psychiatrist that he was willing to try something drastically different, something that would stop the deep pain he was suffering on a daily basis. The psychiatrist agreed it was more than time to try something different.  He wrote out a schedule for going off the meds – five in all – and then starting the new medication – only one pill that would be increased if it showed indications that he was improving.

And so the journey began. The first couple of days were full of sleeping and depression and not talking hardly at all.  He was out of it and went to bed at an early hour.  The second day was about the same with a little less sleep.  The four days that followed were repeats with variations.

This is probably one of the biggest things I observed. The amount of sleep increased and the feeling of being totally and utterly exhausted was a frequent complaint.

Then the new medication began. He awoke the first day very angry and depressed.  No one on the earth could do anything to please him.  He got worse as the day went only complicating it with the conversation that he wanted to die – not necessarily commit suicide but he stated he would be content if he just went to sleep and never woke up.  Picture a talk like that fill with the “f” word and you have an inkling of how that day went.

By this time you can imagine that I was about ready to either sock him silly or bang my own head against the wall. I didn’t.  Instead I channeled Mary Bailey from It’s a Wonderful Life.  I put out an e-mail to family and friends and said simply, “Okay, I need some help.  A phone call or visit or email to him would really help and it would take a bit of pressure off me. Whatever you can do, will do and don’t talk about depression except to inquire how he is doing.”    

It helped more than I could have imagined. It was good for both him and me.

The next day he awoke feeling depressed but not as bad. But some of the stuff that was surfacing was interesting. He didn’t have filters over what he said to people and suddenly after so many years of not dreaming, he was dreaming and wanted to talk about the  dreams.

And the day after that he felt even less depressed.  He even started to compliment me.  He joined in conversations.  He did some work around the house.  We are hopeful that this is the beginning of a good stretch for both us.

I think when medication is removed or added, it affects the brain in ways we have only begun to understand. So I share this for those of you who care for a hurting other to help in the understanding of this difficult time, an understanding that books or doctors don’t usually tell us about.  Everyone’s experience will be different but threads will be the same.

The important parts:

  1. I tried to stay calm during all of this. It wasn’t easy at some times, but in the long run it helped immensely. I also tried not to react even when he talked about wanting die.  Both of us just talked about it as something that had surfaced and needed to be brought into the light.
  2. I made sure to take time each day only for myself. If I needed to get out, I did. If I needed to just read a book, I did.  I made sure that I was okay during this time.
  3. I willingly asked for help when I realized I could not do what everyone together could. And I wasn’t ashamed to ask. And it was absolutely wonderful that  everyone responded.  I think that people need a concrete way in which they can help.  Visiting, emailing, calling.  All of those are good.  But what’s even better is for the caregiver to tell them exactly what is needed.

So that’s what I’ve been up to. The report is in and the past days have been very positive and hope is strong.

– Bernadette

Let the Sun Shine In

Yesterday I went into the bathroom to find a spot on the wall. It was white and looked like it was perhaps some toothpaste or a spray of soapy water.  I took a cloth and started rubbing it and it wouldn’t come out.  And to my horror, more spots showed up.  I paused, looked again, and then realized that I was trying to erase spots of sunlight that were filtering through the blinds.

This incident – which caused a great deal of laughter on my part – carried a huge lesson for me.   Recently we have been struggling with the effects of depression in our household.  And when depression strikes, I take my trusty cloth and try to rub it away.  But in taking that trusty cloth, I find that too often I overlook what is good about what is happening or I overlook the good in the person with depression.   I try to rub away any sign of hope, of sunshine in the situation.

What that little bit of sunlight taught me is that in every situation there is a shred of light, a tiny bit of goodness if we only look. Whether it was a good word spoken by the depressed one to you or whether it was the fact that medications had been taken on time for a week or that there was the sound of laughter if only for a couple of minutes.  Whatever the nip of sunlight, it is to be recognized and celebrated and cherished.  They may be few and far between but by recognizing them, we don’t lose sight of the person who is there, the one suffering from this terrible illness, the person who deserves hope and happiness, the one that we love.

Don’t be like me and try to rub away the sunlight. Jump all the way in and relish those droplets of sunshine wherever they occur.  It’s one of the best actions a caregiver can do to stay well.


Looking for a Scapegoat

semi automaticAnother day and more gun violence and more people ready to blame those with mental illness. Talk about a sure fire way for people who are already reluctant because of stigma to seek help with mental illness, this will keep many from even thinking about going for help. And never do we pause to consider that maybe, just maybe, people shouldn’t be allowed to have automatic and semi-automatic guns to “protect” themselves.  If you want to deter a crime, such power is not necessary.  In many cases only muscles will do as witnessed when unarmed men disarmed a threatened shooter on a European train.

Mental illness has enough stigma keeping people from seeking help. Let’s not add people around them thinking, “They are mentally ill! They’re dangerous. Do they have guns?” Soon people will rail against mentally ill people having jobs of importance or taking care of our children. Families will be separated “to keep them safe.” We will in effect begin a movement of serious prejudice against the mentally ill. And who’s to define who and what is safe and who and what is not? Will knives and ropes and cars be out of the realm of use by the mentally ill because they might go on a rampage and kill someone?

And all the while we will sit in our homes, protected by our guns, our semi-automatics, thinking how very well we are, how we are not like “them” and how we are now safe because we have taken care of “those people.” And we will choose not to remember that we looked the other way when children were murdered at Sand Hook Elementary or when we thought the story of the movie house shootings was more exciting than the movie. We will be safe with our guns, because our right to bear arms will be all that matters.   The mentally ill be damned.

And Jesus will weep once again.

– Bernadette

For another interesting take on things:


On-Line Kick Depression Party! Come, Celebrate!

love heartIt takes a village to kick depression.

Come to the Party!

On-Line Kick Depression Party

suggested by our readers.

Open to anyone who has or has lived with someone with depression.

Let’s celebrate by sharing with one another the good stuff that has happened to us.

Let’s celebrate the times we have kicked depression,

even if it is just a tiny glimpse of the good life.

When: August 15th

Where: Depression’s Collateral Damage Blog at https://depressionscollateraldamage.wordpress.com/

What’s taking place:   A sharing of all the positive times that depression has disappeared, whether for a moment or for a length of time.

Write a comment on what happened or any thoughts you have about kicking depression.

Send it to depressedlovedone@gmail.com before August 10th

We will post them on August 15th.

And please, between now and then,

pass this onto your friends

on facebook, tumblr, twitter,or those in your address book or any other place.

We want this party to reach people

so they will all know that depression can be overcome in some way, shape or form.

And together we can kick depression.

Let’s get that support going and growing.

Let’s beat the stigma.

Come, kick depression with us.

people on world

Alive and Kicking

It began with a simple remark. It went something like this:

You just have to stay away from her. She is on depression medication and she tried to kill herself once. You never know when she will get violent.

And it was followed later in the day by:

They should just lock up those crazies and everything would be okay.

In the afternoon I heard kids in the playground. One said:

Janie’s weird. She’s got some loose screws in her head.

My day was capped off with:

Violence, violence, violence. If we could just get rid of the lunatics we could live happily ever after.

And then I read in a magazine:

Some people do have a tendency to be depressed. It is a matter of recognizing that you have sinned and once you ask God’s forgiveness, everything will be all right.

As I fell asleep I thought:

The stigma is alive and functioning and being passed onto other generations. How sad is that?

– Bernadette

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.


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

Decking the Halls with Depression


The holidays are upon us.  For many people that means a chance to meet with family and friends, to relish the carols and the different traditions, to rejoice in the fact that we are together to celebrate.  For many others, it is a time of dread.  If you are a depressed individual or live or work with someone with depression, you know exactly what I mean.

Holidays can be times of great anguish, anger, and acting out. They can be times that you wish would pass quickly with very little or any notice.  Holidays can be times of extreme stress in the  best of conditions; for those with depression in their lives, holidays bring only the promise of terror on the horizon.

A number of you will say that I paint a harsh picture, so, imagine if you will, the regular office party.  Everyone is there, smiling, laughing and having a good time.  You, however, stand on the sidelines, trying to smile, trying to have a good time.  You try to deal with people coming up and saying, “Hey, come on and party down.  Why such a long face?”  They don’t realize that you have been struggling with depression for years, or that you have lost a loved one to a terrible disease or that you feel as if you have no friends, no one to turn to for help.  What are you going to say?  We know from the Saturday Night Live sketch that Debbie Downer is welcomed in very few places.

Let’s replay that scenario.  You are the one walking up to the person on the perimeter of the party.  After “hi,, did you get anything to eat,” you say, “How are the holidays for you?” or ‘My ________(you fill in the blank) had a hard time around holidays.  Her depression always seemed to sideswipe her.”  Nothing more might transpire, but at least the person knows that someone else knows that holidays can be difficult and sometimes that is all that is needed – someone to understand that these holidays are not all laughter and love but can also be filled with darkness and anger and depression.

This holiday season be a little more on the alert.  Recognize that happiness is not a universal feeling at holiday time.  And should your path cross that of someone who seems less than happy with the ensuing holidays, open the door for conversation. Give the gift of recognition, the gift of understanding, the gift of a listening ear.  And if you do that, you have truly entered into the season of peace, joy and love and maybe opened a door to healing for someone who struggles with depression.

– Bernadette

Be careful what you say.

Earlier this week I was at a conference for church educators, in the company of about 100 very kind, caring people. I had the opportunity to attend five different workshops, led by different presenters, and to have lunch with people I’ve never met before but with whom I may be working in the future. I’m quite certain that none of the people there would knowingly do or say anything hurtful.

And yet there were three separate comments, made by three different people over the two days, that made me cringe:

“My husband is a rabid Tarheels fan. I mean, seriously – he needs therapy.” Ouch.

A narrative read by one presenter included the words, “It was a rough bus trip. Before I got where I was going I was desperate for an antidepressant.” Ouch.

Another presenter, jokingly describing a co-worker: “He’s a little OCD, so we had to do everything just perfectly.” Ouch.

These types of off-hand comments, meant to be funny, are out there everywhere. They’re so pervasive in our culture that even people whose life work includes caring for and ministering to others drop them in conversation regularly.

I’m aware that I’m probably over-sensitve due to over-exposure to issues relating to mental health.

But wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if everyone, everywhere could just guard their tongues?


Power to Me!

If being centered on oneself is one of the hallmarks of depression, I would have to say that our country is depressed because of the following.

We want to undo the Health Care Act, keeping many people from affordable health care because we are either misinformed, have listened to scare tactics from the far right, or feel that “if I pay for my health care, certainly other people can do the same.”   By doing so we also are able to keep people with brain illnesses from getting the help that they need.

We complain about the shootings that have become a part of our daily lives, but we refuse to fund something that would help those with brain illness or other challenges from receiving help. We want instead to “protect” ourselves with guns because we have the “right” to bear arms.  We don’t want to “protect” our fellow citizens from the dread of depression and the dark night of the soul.

Our Middle Schoolers in Congress play the games that will get them the adulation of their constituents but not the admiration of the people who are in need of good health care, food to feed their families, and information that would keep so many corporations from getting away with murder in a slow, methodical process of playing the political game for gain. “Shut the government down.  We congress people won’t suffer.  Our constituents will but that’s okay.  We can’t let the “other” side win.”  Too many elected officials exhibit the same self centeredness of the people they work for.

When did we get to be such a Me Centered Nation?  Did we slip into this depression slowly or did we not see the millions of people who are suffering from and living with someone who struggles with mental illness?   As the Medieval poet, Marie de France said, “The rich are never threatened by the poor….they never notice them.”

If we don’t face depression and are comfortably secure, we don’t notice the depressed that we work with day in and day out. We look the other way when we suspect that something is amiss with a family member.  We choose not to see the mentally ill in our society because it will cause us to be uncomfortable and it will call us to have to do something.  And God knows, we don’t want to do anything that would disturb our comfort.

I say more power to the Me-Centered people.  I only hope that when we die, we are not judged by the axiom, “love your neighbor as yourself.”