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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

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Boundaries

Boundaries and burnout involving mentally ill family members…we’ve discussed this topic before on Depression’s Collateral Damage. But events in my life over the past week have made me return to the issue and I’ve come away with some new (to me) insights.

I have a fairly close family member who struggles with borderline personality disorder. It’s obvious that life is hell for her, and I’m truly sad for what she has to deal with. I’ve had to pull away from her, however, simply out of self-defense. The sobbing, weeping phone calls, the manipulation, the accusations and verbal nastiness, the constant crises and emergencies…it’s too much for me. Yet I felt a huge burden of guilt over my disengagement. After all, I have a good, stable life. A job I love, wonderful kids, a loving husband, friends, hobbies, etc. So many things she would love to have – but which her illness prevents her from having. So I should be generous. Reach out, spend time with her, help her find a healthy place. I’m tough and strong, right? I should be paying it forward.

Twice last weekend she ended up coming to our house. I tried very hard to enjoy her company. She behaved, to the untrained eye, pretty normally. But in the wake of those visits, I was more than drained. I was depressed, anxious, angry, and confused.

It took several days of soul-searching, but in the end I had an epiphany.

**Warning** I am about to use a word that I would never use to describe anyone else’s experiences with mental illness. But I feel it’s the word I want to use in the context of my own experiences and the way I feel about them. Please forgive me if you find the use of this word offensive.

I have had to live with crazy for my whole life. My mother, my father, my grandparents, my husband – all have contributed significant amounts of different kinds of crazy. I’m not just talking about the typical “family stress” pretty much everyone deals with. I mean seriously, diagnosably ill. In forms that have affected my life in extremely real and painful ways.

So back to my epiphany…the only way I’ve managed to live a joyful, peaceful life is to create large bubbles of safety between me and the crazy of my family members. That bubble is pretty small for my husband – I’m invested in his recovery and his quality of life and I want our life together to be good. But with everyone else, the safety bubbles have to be significant. Again, I’ve long felt a ton of guilt for keeping my distance from so many family members, but no more. I know it’s a matter of survival. And In the case of my close family member with BPD, the safety bubble has to provide complete isolation. I’ve reached my lifetime limit of crazy. I simply can’t go there and still have peace.

I spelled all this out for my husband earlier this week – he’s in such a good place now that I was able to say it all to him. And he understands and supports my need for those safety bubbles 100%, including facilitating my complete isolation, as needed.

It’s an incredible relief to allow myself permission to do what I need to do and be who I need to be. Not to mention to have the support of my husband in this effort. And just in time for the holidays…

-Amy

Brain Illnesses Cast A Very Wide Net

Over most of the years of my marriage I’ve felt like there’s been an awful lot on my plate in terms of having to deal with depression, anxiety, panic, and ADHD under my roof. Thankfully, on the whole we’ve learned ways to deal with all of these challenges,though there’s always the possibility of an unwelcome surprise around the corner.

For the last ten years or so, there’s been another illness hovering in the background of my life. An extended family member has had a great many odd symptoms pretty much all her life. We were close when she was young, but increasing demands on my time and energy from my own nuclear family naturally changed that. As her symptoms worsened over the years I felt some small effects, mainly in the form of concern for her parents, who bore the brunt of the brain illness that controls her behavior 90% of the time. Once or twice I got caught in the crossfire of a nasty, symptom-induced scene, but I was able to recover emotionally in short order and move on.

Recently, though, there’s been a shift. It began when I was asked to be the trustee for this relative’s inheritance whenever the time should come that her parents are no longer able to manage finances. This was a difficult decision to have to make. On the one hand my position both family-wise and geographically makes it a no-brainer. On the other hand, I am fully aware that I’m letting myself in for an incredible amount of stress and emotional duress. Yuck. End result, I agreed to be the trustee.

Fast forward about a year. In that time my husband has been called on to provide “emergency rescue” several times. He and I both have been on the receiving end of a number of long, irrational, weepy, unproductive, and slightly abusive phone calls. After one such experience a couple of weeks ago, I came to the decision, for the sake of my own emotional health, to cut off contact for the time being. (Here’s the post I wrote at the time: https://depressionscollateraldamage.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/self-preservation-or-just-being-a-jerk/) To no one’s surprise, my decision to suspend communication was not clean and neat; it led to my relative initiating transparently manipulative conversations with others in obvious attempts at triangulation. The whole situation sapped my energy at a time when I really didn’t have any to spare.

In the back-and-forth of coming to this decision, I did a lot of research on the condition this person is dealing with: borderline personality disorder. (If you’re not familiar with it, you can read more here: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/borderline-personality-disorder/DS00442 .) As I read, I felt a range of emotions: validation because I haven’t been overreacting to the incredibly unpleasant behaviors and situations I’ve been observing, relief that I’m not alone in my feelings of wounded-ness after encounters with her, hopelessness due to the futility of any attempts to help and support, anger that I’m all too likely to be dragged back in over and over again.

What this narrative is leading up to is this: The brain illnesses of other people have serious, direct consequences in the lives of innocent bystanders who simply want to care and support. For many years I have thought of myself as someone who deals with depression in a spouse. It’s a difficult role, and though we’ve learned ways to handle it, a role that can be pretty exhausting. Now I also have to think of myself with someone who has to deal with a severe brain illness in another family member, no matter how ugly it gets. I’m really not sure I’m up to this one.
-Amy

Trust: Fragile, Handle With Care

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Trust is a fundamental building block of any relationship.

Trust is based on past and ongoing observations of behavior and words. It is knocked down every time one person lets another down or does something that stresses the boundaries of the relationship. Sadly, trust is an extremely fragile thing in regard to relationships with people who have brain illnesses. Those suffering from depression, anxiety, or even more serious diagnoses too often have limitations that can lead to loss of trust.

When trust has been eroded, those of us who care about someone struggling with a brain illness have decisions to make. We might ask ourselves a few questions to help us make those decisions:

To what extent are issues of trust affecting our relationship? Is it something that affects me much of the time, or is it an occasional thought?

Am I overly sensitive due to the emotional roller coaster created by brain illness in one member of the relationship? Or is my concern at a reasonable level, considering where we’re at right now?

Would it be helpful to step up my monitoring of my loved one’s behavior? Would that relieve stress by increasing accountability, or would it increase my stress and harm my loved one’s self-esteem?

Is there anyone else in my life, someone I know I can trust, who can help me maintain perspective in this situation?

We may even reach a point where we begin to ask ourselves whether trust has been broken to such an extent that major changes – perhaps even estrangement – need to be made to the relationship, in order to preserve our own mental health and sense of security and well-being.

In the end, we all need to be able to trust those near us in order to feel comfortable and secure. And, in the end, we need to be able to trust ourselves to make decisions about how we interact with those near us. Otherwise, every step we take will be a tiptoe over the sharp and painful shards of a shattered relationship.
-Amy

Self Preservation? Or Just Being a Jerk?

I had a close encounter with mental illness today.

Last night, an extended family member asked me to contact another family member who is in the middle of a full-blown meltdown. These meltdowns are a fairly regular occurrence, and I’m sometimes tangentially involved. But this time she was specifically asking to talk to me, and I agreed to give her a call today. I do care about this person, and I would like to see her reach a point of healing and wholeness.

But I wasn’t surprised to find that this phone call was a big mistake. It was a hysterical, circular conversation on her part, unproductive for her and certainly unpleasant for me. I couldn’t be of any help. To be honest, at this point I don’t think anyone can help. Sometimes people reach a point where there’s nothing anyone else can do to make things better. That’s where this relative has been for a very long time. Encouragement, positive suggestions, expressions of concern, physical and emotional support…all meaningless. The naked truth – that the only way out of the place she’s in is to get professional help and follow a course of treatment – falls on deaf ears. Conversations inevitably become abusive and irrational.

It’s all so hopeless, so ugly, I’ve deliberately distanced myself from her over the years, with only occasional contact. After this phone conversation today, I’m coming to the decision that this is the end of communication for the foreseeable future. My plate is very full at this point in my life, both from a very mundane schedule perspective and from an emotional overload perspective. I simply have no more to give.

So now I’m left reflecting on myself and my actions. If it were someone else, I would say that they were erecting healthy boundaries and doing what they needed to do to in a very difficult situation. I would say that no one can “save” another person who doesn’t want to be saved – and usually not even someone who does want to be saved.

But because it’s me, I question my own motives. Is self-preservation a legitimate excuse for estrangement? Or am I just a selfish jerk? My inner critic and my inner nurturer are playing a nasty game of tug-of-war. And the game could go either way.
-Amy