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Strange Bedfellows

double-bed-1215004_1280Depression and relationships make for very strange and difficult bed fellows. Many of us are in intimate relationships with someone who is depressed. Many of us have sons and daughters, mothers and fathers who are depressed. And in many instances we don’t want depression to destroy the relationship we had before this wicked illness came into our lives. How do we live with depression and still help our relationships to grow?

First and foremost on the list is to be sure that communication is the highest priority for you. It might be that the depressed person instead of reacting and screaming or whatever, simply says, “I’m depressed.” Those few words can make whoever you are with realize that what is happening is a result of the depression, not anything else. Talking about depression and the feelings it brings helps both individuals understand what is happening and it makes it a bit easier to deal with.

Sometimes it is difficult for someone to simply state that they are depressed. Perhaps in those times you might inquire after someone’s well being in a creative way. Is depression in the next county for you or is it just outside the room, or did you sleep with it last night? All these are ways to communicate where and how depression is affecting the one you love.

Don’t be afraid to ask direct questions. Don’t let your partner get away with “I don’t feel good.” Ask questions like “physically or emotionally?” or “because of what just happened or because of the darkness?” Conversation increases and that is always helpful. And above all, don’t spend time trying to change your loved one. That’s his or her job and the therapist or the psychiatrist.. You are there to love the person and not change or cure him or her. Just being there with them is enough, listening, holding hands or talking through feelings together. All of these have the capacity to empower the depressed person and that’s what is most important.

Don’t forget too those little niceties that make us all feel better – a back rub, a good meal, good music. This will help your loved one feel better if only for a short time. Do whatever you can to let your loved one know that you still love him or her. You just hate the illness of depression. .

Relationships are never easy even in the healthiest of people. Depression in one of you makes it more difficult but remember that you are both still able to be a support to one another and you have the added gift of helping each other understand depression and come out from its tight grip.

– Bernadette

A Poster Person for Depression

the-sun-470317_1280I watched mesmerized as my husband answered the doctor about what the depression he described as the worst he ever had felt like.

“It’s like a cloud of darkness is coming down on me and it is going to suffocate me. It is so thick that I think I can just reach out and touch it.  But I can’t push it away no matter what I do. And slowly it is suffocating me, draining me of everything.”

We were in the psychiatrist’s office, meeting with him because the depression my husband has been dealing with for many, many years had come with a force which he found unbearable.

We talked in the doctor’s office – he describing his symptoms and his concerns, me answering questions asked by the doctor. I was there because my husband asked me to be.

And that is the number one reason I see him as a model for others:

He is not afraid to talk about his depression and HE IS NOT AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.

He is not afraid to have the family members and friends he trusts know what is going on. He treats his depression as the illness it is – something he didn’t ask for, something he is getting treatment for, and something he needs support for.

He’s not less of a man for doing this. He is more of a man because he is willing to meet this terrible foe head on.

More than 6 million men are suffering from depression and more than half of them do not seek treatment because:

a) they don’t recognize the symptoms;

b) they see depression as a sign of weakness;

c) they try to self medicate rather than seek professional help; and

d) they fear for the stigma that might arise in work and family situations.

All these barriers can be dealt with and I am not dismissing the fact that lots of times it will be difficult but it can be done.  We can trust others who describe our symptoms to us.  We can seek professional help instead of reaching for that drink.  We can continue to show that depression is an illness, not a weakness and we can continue to fight the stigma in every situation we encounter.  It’s not easy but nothing changes if nothing changes.

My hope is that more men will “man” up and take a cue from my husband and be open and honest with the people you trust and not be afraid to seek treatment for this very crippling illness.

My hat’s off to my husband and all the brave men out there who are not afraid to seek help for depression.

– Bernadette

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

Connect with Nature

nature walk

Recently the Washington Post gave a report of a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences which found that the brain most positively reacts to walks done in natural environments than those done in cities and suburbs.

The study took 38 individuals who lived in cities and had no history of mental illness and had half of the group walk 90 minutes through a natural area and the other half through a downtown area.  The participants were asked before and after the walk to respond to a questionnaire designed to measure the “tendency toward rumination, a pattern of often negative, inward-directed thinking and questioning that has been tied to an increased risk of depression” according to many in the mental health field.

Not surprising was that those individuals who were on the nature walked showed a decrease in rumination and actually answered questions differently from before the walk and after.  Other tests done confirmed the findings.

The lead author of the study, Gregory Bratman, said, “This provides robust results for us that nature experience, even of a short duration, can decrease this pattern of thinking that is associated with the onset, in some cases, of mental illnesses like depression.”

We knew that walking and getting exercise was helpful in dealing with depression and in keeping an even keel when you are taking care of someone with depression.  But now we can look to those nature walks as doubly important in keeping the brain on a most positive track.

So, find a scenic nature walk near you and get out and moving on it at least once a week – more often if you can.  Your body, your brain and your family will benefit.

– Bernadette

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

Care in Unusual Places

Support for caregivers dealing with depression can come from many different places and sometimes those places can be quite unusual.

We are often have family asking how things are. We respond to friends who inquire after our mental health. We thank those who help with afternoons of respite or a meal that we don’t have to prepare. And sometimes we receive help and support when we least expect it.

The other day I was out to lunch with my daughter who was in town for a short visit. We went to an Ethiopian restaurant as both of us like that cuisine and both of us know that I don’t get to enjoy it often as my husband is someone who doesn’t venture out beyond the tried and true.

The two of us talked of many things and eventually we had to talk about the depression and challenges that my husband was experiencing as all the symptoms had escalated as of late. As I tried to explain some of the things that were taking place, tears welled up in my eyes. We still talked and soon the tears were more plentiful and she had joined me in the “let it out but this is not the venue to do it in” dance.

The owner of the restaurant, a delightful woman who does all the cooking and who has never failed to have a smile on her face was talking with another group of people at another table. She kept looking our way and then very suddenly, she came over and said, “Whatever is making you unhappy, whatever it is, you will be able to handle it.” And then she gave me a warm, deep hug. When she finished hugging me, she looked at both of us and said simply and matter-of-factly, “Tea. I will make both of you some tea. That will be good.”

She went off, worked behind the counter, and finally came back with two tea cups and warm, soothing tea for both of us. “It has ginger in it. And ginger is good.” She then smiled and went off to the kitchen, leaving two very cared for women in her wake.

Care for the caregiver comes in some very unusual forms. Be aware of taking whatever support you can get whenever you can get it and be thankful for people like Elsa who reach out not because they know you well but rather because you are a fellow human being and you deserve to be cared for.

– Bernadette

Depression and the extended family – part two

The question of how to talk about depression with extended family is a big one. Earlier this week I wrote about the beginnings of my family’s journey in part one. Today’s post is the next step of my personal story.

My husband and I come from pretty different backgrounds. His parents were in their late 30’s when he and his brother were born. They were from small, rural towns, and their views of life pretty well echoed their age and their life experiences. My parents, on the other hand, were just out of college when I was born, fully caught up in the civil rights movement, and fairly “enlightened.” So communicating with the two sides of our family as depression dragged on and on was pretty much two different stories. Today I’ll focus on what we experienced with my in-laws.

We tried very hard to do some updating and educating with my husband’s parents. Explaining that depression is a true illness. Trying to erase the stigma. Working to overcome outdated and hurtful mindsets. I don’t think we ever got very far. They continued to be supportive over all the difficult years, but they never did (and still don’t) understand. For them, when a person (especially a husband and father) feels “down,” it’s his job to “get over it,” “pull himself up by his own bootstraps,” “get a job,” etc. They expressed concern, but very often these types of comments and always this attitude were evident. It got to the point where we realized we were beating our heads against a brick wall and we just gave up. When my husband didn’t get better and didn’t get better, we basically just glossed over it and stopped talking about the subject, though it was the elephant in the room.

Strangely enough, my in-laws both had personal experiences with depression. They just refused to see their own experiences in those terms. Trying to commit suicide as a teen? No depression there, just a difficult home situation. Two years out of work and miserable after a mid-life heart attack? Just a rough patch. Obviously we were fighting a losing battle in trying to get them to change their attitude toward brain illnesses.

Thankfully, my husband’s brother and his wife were a different story. There we found real support, concern, and understanding of the nature of depression. That’s where we turned when we needed a shoulder to cry on. And, down the line, that support was reciprocated when my brother-in-law was hit with severe depression. Hmmmm….notice a family pattern there? I still shake my head when people refuse to believe that depression has genetic roots.

Always throughout our journey, our goal was to be open with our family. For one thing, it was pointless to try an hide depression’s effects from the people who were closest to us. But we also felt the need to speak the truth, trying to bring something once considered “shameful” out into the light – mainly for our own benefit. Hiding would have just made it all worse.

Next time, how we discussed depression with my side of the family.


Depression and Kids

An issue Bern and I have discussed and written about fairly often is the affects of parental depression on children in the family.

We approach this issue from experience, having both been in the situation of needing to help our kids through their fathers’ long-term illness. Discussing depression with kids must always be tailored to their age and intellectual development – obviously you don’t talk about chemical imbalance, medication, therapy, and genetic predisposition with a five-year-old. Yet arming that five-year old with a framework for understanding what’s happening in the family is absolutely necessary.

In our family, we kind of fell short on that information sharing until our kids were quite a bit older – so my advice and insight are more along the lines of “how I wish we’d done it.” But at least now the topic is out there for discussion at any time, and we check in with our kids regularly about how they’re doing (knowing that a shocking percentage of college students experience depression and anxiety.)

All of this was brought back to me this morning due to a comment from our middle child. She’s living at home while in college, and she’s been the closest witness of our three kids to the incredible turnaround recently in her father’s emotional health. As he went out the door this morning the two of them shared a joke and a laugh. Once he left, she said to me, “I really like having happy Papa now.”

Her  words were a testament to how significantly the moods of a depressed person affect everyone else in the household. I’m just thankful our kids feel comfortable talking about it, and that we’re currently in a good place.


Return to Real (and new) Life

So the Big Leave is over. We’ve completed both moves (youngest to his freshman year three hours away and oldest to grad school, 16 hours away). Tear report: I was able to choke them back at the actual moments of leaving, but scattered tear storms have been reported throughout the viewing area.

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

Papa builds furniture item #7 for oldest, for her new house

The emotional gash (“wound” doesn’t seem strong enough) I’m currently dealing with doesn’t bode well for the coming SAD season – and believe me, I’m noticing every minute of sunlight we’re losing each day as the calendar marches on. Nor does the pain of the goodbyes and the removal of half the family (okay, not quite half, but since there are five of us half would be gross) bode well for my husband’s round-the-year depression. He’s had teary moments in the last week, too, and that’s always scary for me – who knows where those moments might lead?

It’s early days yet, but I’m thinking hard about what I – we – can do to keep from sinking into what could be serious depression around here. My short list:
-volunteering at one of the schools our kids attended
-digging into a book Bern and I have been toying with for a couple of years
-supporting husband to the hilt as he explores possibilities for a much-needed career change
-getting our younger kids’ new concert schedules burned onto our calendar so I can look forward to those special events
-throwing myself into a second blog, at http://www.momgoeson.wordpress.com . I’ve been looking forward to that for several months now, and had a blast putting up my first real post today.

Hope our friends in the blogosphere will be along for the ride…


P.S. – Many thanks to Bernadette, who kept Depression’s Collateral Damage running at full speed while I was out of commission this week. 🙂

Keep on the sunny side.

It’s the day before The Big Leave, Part I. A day of frenzied packing, loading, and looking for Youngest’s essential dorm items that have been misplaced. At least I hope that’s how the day pans out; after already having one weepy moment this morning, I know it would help to be busy. And then comes the reprise on Sunday, as we head into The Big Leave, Part II for Oldest.

As I mentioned earlier this week, the husband has stepped up to the plate in order to take some of the burden off my shoulders. He’s maintaining his healthy place, and it couldn’t come at a better time. As close as my emotions are to the surface just now, I’m in no shape to handle his depression personna. I seriously hope that guy is out of the picture for the near future. I caught a disturbing glimpse last night of Mr. Depression’s hypersensitive, hypercritical, argumentative self, but thank goodness it was brief. A couple of hours later we were laughing together around a board game, and all was well.



That “Dr. Jekyl/Mr. Hyde” thing that has long been characteristic of his depression. And I really need the lightheareted, kind, and supportive guy to be present right now. Keeping my fingers crossed.