Echoes from the past.

I had a painful flashback this morning. A reminder of an extremely difficult moment from the many years during which my husband was in the depths of depression, unemployed and unemployable, when we had three small children in the house, and I felt as if I were on my own and was, quite frankly, terrified.

I won’t describe the trigger or the memory. I just don’t want to go there.

Here I am, twenty years later, a full-fledged grown-up with a good life, a solid career, and new opportunities on the horizon. But that moment this morning served as a reminder that I’m still haunted by that extremely dark time.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I survived those years. How our marriage survived those years. How we managed to raise three truly amazing and well-adjusted children.

I suppose that survival depended a whole lot upon my dedication to taking care of myself. I learned to ask for and accept help. I learned to protect my time and my emotional boundaries. I learned to say “no” to extended-family commitments that were simply too stressful. I learned that I can only deal with a limited amount of baggage, and it’s okay to be selective about which piece of that baggage I deal with at any one time.

Today’s flashback gave me another reminder. I can’t stop taking care of myself just because today the worst of that depression in my husband is at bay. There are still plenty of issues we have to struggle through. Day-to-day life with someone who has underlying depression (and multiple other diagnoses) will never be a walk in the park.

At times I feel like the lengths I go to in order to protect myself and my emotional state are overkill or selfishness.

But today, I recognize that I have to be good to myself.

I hope you’re being good to yourself, too.

-Amy

My Valentine

When your life partner has multiple mental health diagnoses (in my case, some treated effectively, some not at all) there are times when you can’t help but muse about what might have been.

Yes, I admit it. Occasionally I find myself fantasizing about what it would have been like to be married to someone who’s a fully functioning adult at all times. Someone I could always count on not just to “be there,” but to be a steady rock. Someone I could travel with happily, instead of struggling to survive his panic attacks when faced with unfamiliar situations. Someone who could look at difficulties and face them head on, rather than hiding and hoping they’d go away.

At those times I look back thirty years and wonder…would I have done things differently? I don’t know. There have been plenty of good times mixed in with the copious bad times. We have three absolutely awesome children together, and his influence had a lot to do with that – I sure didn’t raise them alone (though it might have seemed that way during the worst of times).

In the end, he’s still my valentine. But when I found a “make your own conversation heart” website, I couldn’t help but get just a little snarky, in the spirit of the upcoming holiday.

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Gotta keep that sense of humor.

-Amy

I’m NOT waiting for the phone to ring.

I’ve long hated talking on the phone. An unexpected phone call coming in can throw my day completely off-track as I try to recover from having to suddenly be “on” enough to have a spontaneous conversation.

My assumption has been that this phone-phobia stems from my extreme introversion. 

But last week I got a smack of reality upside the head when my iPhone buzzed in my pocket just as I was leaving work. Because this particular call was of a type I’ve received over and over and over again in my adult life. The kind of phone call that makes your heart leap into your throat, sends the “fight or flight” juice coursing through your veins. 

It was a panicky, tearful, nearly incomprehensable call from a loved one. A call that sent me dashing home as quickly as possible, my mind frantically trying to come up with words of wisdom, comfort, and advice. 

I truly cannot count how many times I’ve gotten that kind of call over the last 30 years. Having both a nuclear and an extended family with multiple brain illness diagnoses, I’ve gotten hit from all sides. 

I’m the solid one. Everybody’s sounding board, everyone’s rock. The one who’s turned to for clear thinking, action, and support. 

And so, last week, it finally hit me why I hate phone calls so much. 

Can you blame me? 

-Amy

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

And Baby Keeps Crying…..

Having a child carries much with it.  There is the physical pain of childbirth.  Add to this the physical changes to the woman’s body.  Then there is a new member of the family – a baby who, although cute and cuddly, is often difficult – crying for no reason, sleeping and not sleeping, hungry when you swear you just fed the child.  We often put pressure on ourselves to  know the right thing to do, forgetting that this is new experience and will take some getting used to.  And aside from all this, the change in the relationship with your significant other is different.

So, it is normal to feel a little sad during this period, a little down.  There will be days when you are short because you didn’t get enough sleep, days when you feel you can do nothing right.  It is when these days become a week where there is little or no interest in the baby, in the day to day activities of becoming a family.  This type of prolonged sadness could mean that depression is developing and post partum depression it at the door.

There are some things to do that can help any new mom to lessen the sad and tense times of new motherhood.  Postpartum depression, however, can still occur and it is important to watch for the signs but these few tips on caring for yourself following birth might help whether or not depression strikes.

Watch the type of picture you have about motherhood.  Everything around us pushes the perfect mom; however,  being a perfect mom is impossible.  Recognize the unrealistic expectations of those around you and you yourself have and let them go.  Just work to be a good mom, not a perfect mom.

Life has changed and don’t try to fit a new baby and all the new responsibilities into that old life.  Remember that you can say no, you can set new boundaries, and you can be okay with doing what you think is best for yourself and your child.

Remember to take time for yourself.  Perhaps a bath with a chance to just sit and be with yourself, or a date with your spouse while a helpful friend or family member takes care of the new baby.  You need quiet times like these to adjust to being a mom and to the change in your couple life. Across the board, whether you are a new mom or a senior citizen or anyone in between, self-care is important for keeping you happy and healthy.

And lastly, ask for and accept help.  All of us need some help.  That might be in babysitting  meals, housework, whatever.  And it means also asking for help if that sad feeling persists for more than a few days.  Set an appointment  with someone who can help you through this post partum depression.  It’s the very best thing you can do for yourself, your baby and your family.

And if you are a mom a few times over or a friend or family member of that mom, remember these tips and remember that post partum depression can strike on your first, fifth or tenth child.  Depression is an equal opportunity destroyer and it doesn’t care what number child it is but together, we can defeat it.

What Can I Do For You?

Amy and I have five pages of type of things people should not say to someone who is experiencing depression. All of us have said some of them and all of us have caught others saying them to someone. We sorely need to erase those phrases from our speech.

The flip side is often we don’t know how to respond. What does one say in such a situation? Do you ask how is the depression today or do you suggest activities for involvement or do you just keep quiet?

Perhaps one of the best things to say, and to say it with sincerity is “What can I do for you?” For people who mean what they say, that opens the door for some real possibilities of help. And that means that the depressed individual or the caregiver must be ready to respond.

So I asked some people with depression and I asked their loved ones what could be done to help. Here’s some of the replies:

I could just use some space at time. I need to be alone. I want to be alone. I’m not going to hurt myself but being alone is a way I try to get myself together.  

and

I need people around me. I could go to the local coffee shop but sometimes it is just nice if someone drops over or calls and asks to come over. Not only does it give me people, it gives me the feeling that there are people who care enough about me that they want to spend some time with me.  

and

Bringing over dinner at times. I know that my overstressed and overtired family and I would appreciate that very much. Seems like people do that all the time for funerals or for people who are sick in the hospital. But depression isn’t a “seeable” illness so people don’t think we need the love and care that others in the hospital or at home with a physically-visible illness does.

and from a family member whose brother has depression:

Sometimes I just want someone to hug me. They don’t have to even say anything. I just need to know that I am still noticed, that my struggle in noticed, and that someone out there is willing to be there for me.hugging-571076_1280

As a depressed individual or as someone who loves a person who is depressed, what are you looking for from others?   The more all of us know, the more all of us can help stop the devastation being done by this illness.

– Bernadette .

Judge Not

Sebastian and dadRecently a friend called me.  She is a new mother and often feels that she isn’t doing the job right.   Most of my time with her is listening and then reassuring her that she is a good mom and that as long as she loves her child and does what she thinks is best for her, everything will work out.  We talk some about how important it is to have others as a sounding board – to get ideas, to compare notes, but mostly just to know that there are others out there who understand.

After the phone call, I got to thinking.  It is so important that you do have a sounding board when you are a parent – yes, to get ideas, to compare notes, but most of all to know you are not alone in the big job called parenting.  Lots of parents seem to do this naturally and those who don’t, usually have someone they can go to for answers to questions and support, however large or small that might be.

Unfortunately, that is not always the case with parents who have children who are mentally ill.  They are often the ones who bear the brunt of misunderstanding.  I’ve talked with many different women about how they feel about raising a child with mental health challenges and invariably the conversation centers on how often they feel little if no support in their parenting.

They are often confronted with people who think or say that they, as parent, are not doing their job.  If they only did it right, set some rules, demanded obedience, things would be different.  They say things like, “If that were my child, I would put him out the door and a few months of fending for himself would do the trick,” or “It’s your fault that such behavior is going on.  You need to set rules and make sure they follow them” or something equally inane because raising a child who is mentally ill means that the parents do not have rules to follow.   

When you are faced with a child who is bipolar or depressed or attention deficit or autistic or obsessive compulsive, there are no rules.  There are guidelines that you can try, ideas that have worked for others but generally speaking, each case is different and difficult.  You gather support from the doctor and the therapist (hopefully) and you try your level best to deal with the situation, feeling deep love, deep sorrow, and deep anxiety.  Will my child overcome this?  Am I safe with them?  Are they safe with me?  Why did my child have to deal with this?

Unfortunately, unlike my friend who can gather support in many different venues, mothers with mentally ill children often cannot.  There are very few support groups out there for people in this situation.  The shame still associated with having a “defective” child is still rampant.  And the ever present question in the back of the parents’ minds, “What have we done to cause this?”  Even when someone is versed in the medical knowledge in such diseases, there is no immunity.  You want what is best for your child and when that can’t be, you rail against it, feeling deep, real pain.

So next time you see a child who is doing things you judge as “poor parenting”, stop and think about the fact that you don’t know the whole story.  You don’t know what that parent has had to deal with day in and day out.  You don’t know the pain.

And if you do and if you know someone who is dealing with that pain also, contact them and just offer coffee and a time to talk.  It will make a big difference.  We all need support as parents and people.

– Bernadette