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Depression: We need to talk about it.

Yesterday on my other blog I wrote about an encounter I’d had while getting my hair cut (one of my least favorite things to do), which included talking about depression (not exactly my most favorite thing to do, but it’s important).

It may seem odd that five minutes after meeting someone at the corner Great Clips you’d find out about their husband’s suicide and their own subsequent depression. But after living with, writing about, and presenting about depression for so many years I don’t find it odd any more. Depression is out there. All the time. Everywhere. You don’t have to look far to find it.

What’s harder to find, though, is people who are willing to talk about it. That’s why Bern and I make a point of bringing the subject up casually in everyday conversation. We figure the more people talk, the less stigmatized people will feel, and the more chance people have to get better. 

The hair stylist yesterday shared about her husband’s suicide. She told me about her feelings afterward, and how her family tries to cope now. What she didn’t say was that her husband had been depressed. So I said it for her:

“Depression is a terrible, cruel illness,” I said. 

She stopped working and looked at me for a moment in the mirror. I could see the relief on her face.

“Yes,” she said. “Depression is terrible.” 

We’d named it. And then she kept sharing. 

We need to talk about it.

-Amy

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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.

-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

The Bogey Man Waiting to Pounce

Yesterday I realized that I had to get out of the house. Usually I have no problem being in and around the house.  There is plenty to do – a yard that needs regular care, projects galore in my office and the rest of the house, and good places to relax and reinvent.

But yesterday I realized that the depression that has overtaken my husband was threatening to overtake me. Gloomy days with the threat of rain usually give me a feeling of coziness, of wanting to nest and just be, reading when I want, working when I want.  But this gloomy day was affecting my mood from the time I opened my eyes.  I couldn’t do my regular gym workout.  Something was holding me back.  I ate more than I usually do at breakfast, and I was unable to get into any of my projects, opting instead to play solitaire and binge watch a program on Netflix.

Dishes sat in the sink, the bed was unmade, and I announced that dinner would be whatever anyone could find – a practice I don’t usually engage in. And just before lunch I found, horror of horrors, that I was sitting in the living room chair, just as my husband does each day with his eyes closed, contemplating his worries or swimming in the darkness.

I jumped up and announced that I was going out. I grabbed the car keys and went, no destination in mind.  I drove for a bit, stopped, messaged a good friend asking to get together sometime soon,  and then went to a park, got out and walked, taking in the smells and watching the birds in their spring frenzy.  I don’t know how long I was gone but I do know that when I returned, the house was my haven again.  I didn’t see the darkness hovering.  I could see my husband in a calm, caring light.  And I felt myself buoyed up by my interactions with people and nature.

Whenever we feel depression threatening to overtake us, we have to act with haste. We need to do something for ourselves, do something that will renew us, will give us strength, will make us laugh.  Whether it is talking to a good friend, running, treating ourselves to lunch.  Whatever it is, we, as caregivers, need to help ourselves and sometimes that comes in a flash when we realize that those things that gave us life are slipping from us.

When you recognize this happening to you, don’t hesitate. Your life and the lives of those you take care of depend on it.

– Bernadette

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

Welcome to the Kick Depression Party!

Welcome to the Kick Depression Party!  At this party, we hope that those who join us can help those not here to realize that there are big and little times of hope and change and wellness when it comes to depression and mental illness. 

And the sharing is lively and honest:  

My mother suffered terribly from depression until her death.  In her worst times she wouldn’t get out of bed, would not eat, and withdrew from the world.  I’m lucky because observing her gave me the determination to deal with my symptoms.

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Anyone dealing with a mental illness knows that it is a daily battle.  Sometimes it is you that has to fight or you have to help someone fight it.  Nevertheless the feelings are overwhelming.  It has been difficult to reach out to others and truly express how I feel but I have done it and will continue to do so. 

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I want you to know that there is hope for you and your loved one suffering from depression.  My husband and I have endured a lot.  He is better.  We’ve survived and through this long process I realized how resilient we have been.  

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For a time I was on medication to keep me stable enough not to jump off a bridge.  The pain and anxiety were pretty bad.  But I’m here today.  

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I realized that there are times when it is okay to be down because life is difficult.  I have to fight daily to latch onto the things that matter the most to me.

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I started researching other alternative treatments which my husband thankfully agreed to try.  Since then we have learned a lot about the brain, intestinal health, nutrition, trauma and how it can affect a person’s emotional health.  We are happy to report that since last November, life is so much better.  My husband has his sense of humor back, is self motivated and is enjoying life again.  

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I learned breathing techniques, mind games, to keep me in the present moment, and I learned to be grateful.  Through therapy I learned to accept that I am a depressed person and that each episode does not have to take me out.  

hope-hands1

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I am at this party hoping that it will help someone out there feel connected.  Perhaps, it will help me feel connected to others again because I know there are many going through similar struggles.  

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We’ve learned that Zinc is very important for proper brain functioning.  He’s also had to make changes to his diet, eating high protein, low carbohydrate, gluten and dairy free.  He takes many supplements to improve his gut health.  Did you know that it’s estimated that 90% of the body’s serotonin is made in the digestive tract?  

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Some days I just let the depression come.  I submit but not without setting a time limit on how long I intend the depression to take over.  When the time limit is reached most times I can get back into the game with conscious determination.

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At different times during my loved one’s depressive episodes I’ve seen a therapist and was always told how important it is to take care of myself.  This is a challenge, but I’ve tried to do it.  I’m glad I could go to work every day and get a break.

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I still wake up a lot of mornings in fear, not liking myself, guilty for whatever reason, overwhelmed with hopelessness, but I realize it is not a permanent state.  It would be easy to give in and give up, but I also have experienced peace, joy, comfort, love and those things are worth fighting for.  

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I’m grateful for all the things that can  help in some way – breathing, meditation and yoga and brain games.  They all help.

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I think that success is having available a multitude of tricks in a bag, not just one.  If one doesn’t work, I try another.  Recognizing and believing that life is fluid with ups and down is also helpful.  

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It’s been stressful being a caregiver these past years.  I often questioned what was happening to our marriage because depression  is also a very selfish illness.  The depressed person is always wrapped up in themselves.  I often had to tell him that I’m not his therapist, but I was willing to be his advocate.  

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I can understand others’ reactions better now.  Close friends knew about our situation but sometimes they didn’t know what to say or do.  My therapist help me understand that many people feel inadequate in how to respond.  And then they do nothing which can seem so cold and uncaring.  We need to learn to me more empathetic and I’m am thankful for those who have responded with empathy to us.  

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hope4We have both counted our blessings and we are thankful that we have survived.  We’ve learned some tools to keep our brains healthy.  You and your loved ones can survive too.  By all means take care of yourself.  I wish you peace of mind.

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It’s an amazing adventure we are on – this thing we call life.  I’d rather play and participate than sit out whatever days I have left.  That’s my feeling as I struggle with depression.  I’m pretty positive that tomorrow may or may not be the best but I want it anyway. 

Thanks to all of you who came to the party to share your insights.  We are grateful for our readers and for all those who are working together to kick depression for themselves, their families and their communities. 

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