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The Elusive Illness of Depression

thermometer-833085_1280Depression is an illness that continues to amaze me. My husband has been struggling with it for almost forty years and still we can’t identify a pattern or a cause or what works best. There was a time early on where it seemed like overcoming depression was a piece of cake – he took the one pill and soon he was doing so well, feeling so good, that he thought he didn’t need the medicine any longer.

Surprise! That only opened the door for a deeper, more difficult depression. So the different medications began their parade and then the mixing of the medications to arrive at that elusive cocktail. And there were the therapist sessions and the tries at different possibilities – yoga, meditation, exercise. Even the magic light used primarily by those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder was used in the hopes that it would make a difference.

And always, when I thought we finally had it conquered, something changed, something went wrong, something happened whether that was the medicine suddenly stopped working or a fall that resulted in a concussion that caused all hell to break loose as far as the depression went.

Right now, we are still in search of that elusive cocktail and there are more moves to delve into understanding himself and the trying of new ways of dealing with the depression. And there continue to be surprises. My husband the other day announced that he had never really comprehended that depression was an illness. He had always felt guilty, that he felt he could have more control over it. Somehow, realizing that depression was an illness enabled him to say, “Today is a good day. I think I can do this and this and this…” and he would proceed to be engaged in life. The next day might mean hours spent in bed and he accepted that as a not-so-good-day of the illness. None of this behavior was new but what was new was the realization on his part and mine that depression was indeed an illness (before we only gave homage to the words) and as such, operated as most illnesses we know.

Someone with cancer has their good days and bad days. They go for chemo and they try to exercise and eat right but sometimes they just have to sit back and be, sometimes even feeling sorry for themselves. Someone with arthritis has good days and bad days. Sometimes the pain is so bad, the most they can do is sit and read; other days are so good, they play for hours with their grandkids. So too with depression which can give us energy and happiness on one day only to strip it away from us on the next.

Depression indeed is the illness that keeps surprising us day in and day out.

– Bernadette

Caregiver fatigue, anyone?

This is hard for me to admit, but…maybe it will hit a chord with someone else out there. Or maybe not. Either way, I’m going to toss it out there and see what happens.

I discovered recently that I’ve pretty much hit the wall with my capacity for caring much about the depression and other issues my husband struggles with. Been there, done that. For the last 25 + years. And have the PTSD symptoms to prove it.

A few weeks ago, I found out that anxiety and adult ADHD issues had gotten the best of my husband yet again. So much so that he lost his job as a result. And – here’s the difficult bit – I couldn’t have cared less what he was going through. I was so absolutely worn out with a lifetime dealing with his problems that all I had the energy to care about was the near-breakdown the situation created for me.

Selfish? Probably. Understandable? I hope so.

I think he understood where I was coming from at the moment when the crisis hit. In the aftermath, though, he seems truly puzzled by the fact that I’m a whole lot more concerned with myself this time around than I am about his feelings. I’ve had to say to him a couple of times, in various ways, “Your health issues just about drove me into a place I couldn’t get out of this time. Just now I don’t want to hear your side of the story.”

It’s what they call caregiver fatigue, folks. It’s not a pretty place to be in.

But I’d be willing to bet some of you have been in that place, at least to some extent.

I’ve got an arsenal I can use to help myself survive caring for a depressed (and otherwise diagnosed) person. Not sure what strategies I’m going to need if I ever want to get back to a place where I care about the feelings of the person I’m meant to be caring for. For now I’m managing by being busier at work than I’ve ever been before.

Distraction is a good tool in the short term.


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


Loved one takes trip to meet a therapist.

Therapist says during the course of the discussion:

* You don’t look depressed.

* Your thoughts control your depression.

* Do you have a happy pill for that?

Why is this therapist still practicing and dealing with depression?

– Bernadette

Things I Miss Since Depression Struck Our Household

imageAs I lay on my side last evening, inviting sleep to come, the thought crossed my mind of how many things are different since depression came full force into our household. These are just a few. Some are mundane but missed and others are important and are mourned.

– Going food shopping together with one of us checking the coupons and ads and the other the shopping list.
– Back rubs or gentle lines drawn on the back with one’s finger
– Talking in bed together either in the early morning or late at night
– Doing the gardening together whether it is mowing the grass while one weeds or some other combination.
– Talking about something other than depression
– Having belly laughs together over some inane thing
– Talking during meals
– Little surprises that say the other was thinking of you
– Days where you both go to bed thinking, “It was a very good day indeed.”

There are more but you get the picture. When depression takes over and your loved one is centered on him or herself and it is difficult for the relationship to flourish, for the people involved to both feel love and care.

The flip side – because there is always a flip side – is that you are simply bowled over when something returns and suddenly your loved one is not centered on themselves – he or she is thinking of you. That does your heart good, taking your breath away and bringing a smile to your lips. It’s then that you realize everything you are doing is worth it because this is someone you love and this is that someone breaking through to show you the real person behind the depression. I’m good with that.


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. 

Early Thanksgiving

The actual holiday is almost two weeks distant, but we’re already celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. Actually, we have been for a few weeks now.

My husband just finished his fourth out of five weeks of schooling for a career change he’s wanted to make for many years. He’s already received two very good job offers, and all of this change has done wonders in lifting his depression.

I know very well that simply making changes in your life is no miracle cure for depression. Depression is a physical illness that is extremely complicated and not well understood. Each person’s path to healing is unique, and no one course of treatment or set of decisions or actions can be considered “The Way” to recover from depression – no matter what you might hear on talk shows or in prescription drug ads.

But for the first time in many, many years my husband is beating his illness and is a joy to live with. The changes he’s made in his life are working for him. And we’re giving thanks.


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?


Every journey is different.

Passing judgement. Offering advice. Speaking out of turn. Adults with no kids of their own (but who are certain they’d be perfect parents if they actually had kids) make lofty pronouncements about parenting. People with little experience or knowledge of brain illnesses make judgements about other peoples’ treatment choices.

It all needs to stop.

I found a great post this morning about a mom and her journey through ADHD with her son. Check out Look, It’s Something Shiny. Everything she had to say resonated with me, as the wife of a depressed and severely ADHD man and the mother of a moderately ADHD son.

Every human being is unique. Every illness is unique, including the many types of brain illnesses. Every path to healing and wholeness must therefore be unique. What works for one may not work for another. There is no one person who has every right answer.

So how about instead of judging or offering unsolicited advice we all just support each other? How about we consider how difficult each person’s journey is and honor their challenges, their pain and their decisions?

How about we just appreciate every individual for the unique creations they are?


A new SAD season



I don’t like to admit it, but it’s time to start thinking about dealing with Seasonal Affective Disorder again. Sunlight comes later every morning. Darkness comes earlier every evening. As much as I love the season of autumn, I don’t love the accompanying dive in mood and energy. I’m especially concerned this year, with our new empty-ish nest life. There’s a lot less noise and activity in our home; a lot less laughter to dispel the gloom.

I’ll start taking a daily antidepressant in a week or so. My doctor suggested I double the dose if I need to. And she disapproved of my decision last year to dump the “happy light” I found at Costco. (The directions stated that the light can cause negative side effects in users who are taking antidepressants. Seriously? Is there anyone using one of these who’s NOT on antidepressants?) So “happy light” is back on the shopping list.

It’s time to get serious about this SAD thing. It’s no joke, especially when it’s experienced in close quarters with another family member with chronic depression. Is anyone else out there preparing for the SAD battle? I’d like to hear how you fight it.