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Depression and Mildew

photosOur thanks to a mother who has and is weathering depression in her son and graciously let us post this.  Those who support those with depression have to grapple with many things others don’t see.  

It all started with cleaning out the room that had become the junk room in the basement.  Just as we began we discovered mildew, ugh!  At first it was only on a few old coats so those went in the trash.  Then suddenly it was on the covers of scrapbooks, yearbooks…precious memories.  Memories I had not thought about that much since depression entered our lives.

As the clean-up continued, I began to realize that depression has become the mildew in my life.  Silently creeping along and filling me with its grey haze.  Since then I just feel lost.   I look at those old photos and I don’t remember who I was before depression.  And I know that I cannot go back there anyway because depression has changed me.   While we were able to wipe away most of the mildew, the impact of depression cannot be wiped away.

Now the room is empty and the contents chaotically cover other rooms.  But I cannot bring myself to continue sifting through items.  What to keep, what to discard, what to donate?  It should be an easy process but it is agonizing, like I’m discarding parts of myself.  Yet, are those parts still real?  And I cannot bring myself to put anything back into that room.  As if the  mildew may be gone from that room, but depression still fills our house.

All this is happening as my son seems to be improving and learning to live with and within his depression.  Am I afraid that if he gets better then I might not have a purpose and that I might actually have to figure out who I am now.  And as I wipe away the mildew of depression and look at what is left of myself, what if I don’t like what I find?

Live in the now!

imageAs so often happens, my good friend and awesome co-author, Bernadette, summed up exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately. In her post yesterday, “Hope in the present moment” she described what each of us has been living with – a treacherous roller coaster of ups and downs with our depressed husbands.

Lately I don’t know from one day to the next (sometimes even from one hour to the next) whether my husband will be optimistic, energetic, and capable or morose and defeated. At times the good spells last long enough that when a low point comes out of left field I’m stymied, and react badly. Other times, when things are looking up, I walk on eggshells, waiting for the other shoe to drop…knowing that a heavy thud could fall at any moment.

And so Bernadette’s reminder to appreciate each of the good moments and celebrate the hope of the here and now, comes at a good time. Today, in this moment, I’ll savor the top point of the roller coaster and let tomorrow (or a few hours from now) take care of itself.


Happy List

image credit to catholicdadsonline.org

image credit to catholicdadsonline.org

There are a lot of people who espouse a mistaken and hurtful belief that positive thinking and intentionality can overcome depression. If you’ve ever experienced depression yourself, or if you’ve ever lived in close quarters with a depressed person, you know how ridiculous this notion is.

On the other hand, those of us who are not struggling with the brain illness called depression (which attacks thoughts, moods, and bodies just as thoroughly as cancer, diabetes, or other “approved” illnesses) can take steps to live more joyful and positive lives. If we are living with someone who is depressed, these steps can help us fight off what can be a very contagious illness.

Zefrank1, who creates hilarious and thoughtful videos on his Youtube channel, has one that really resonates with me, titled “What’s on your HappyList?” Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=syR_NinJ2B0 He’s referring to small moments, small actions, that bring great joy. His list includes digging his fingernail into the skin of a navel orange and getting the last little bit out of a bag of chips.

A few items included on my list would be:
-crunching acorns under my feet while taking walks in my neighborhood
-the smell created by the first moments of rain, which has the amazing name of petrichor. I love it all the more because it has a name.
-when the load of towels I’m folding contains the exactly correct matching washcloths (hmmm…is this an indication of a small life?)
-getting into a bed just made with fresh, clean sheets

I think there’s power in recognizing that even the most mundane of happenings can bring deep satisfaction. Here’s to all of us finding and appreciating those moments in the coming week.

Live in the Now!

Yesterday I had the chance to visit the aquarium in Monterey, California. It’s a fantastically beautiful place with unbelievable aquatic displays. I could watch the ocean display for hours.

One unusual thing this visit did was to bring home a fact about depression and caregiving:  we have some control over depression and too often we refuse to use it: The simple fact of staying in the present moment and basking in it.

At every display in the museum, there were a hundred people busy taking pictures of the fish, of each other and looking at the instant picture, commenting on the quality.  A certain number of people made phone calls, texted, or checked e mail.  Very few were drinking in the moment before them, moments like when the sea turtle chased the hammerhead shark away or the zebra eels stroked each other in what appeared to be a very loving way.  They were too caught up in saving the moment instead of relishing the moment.

How often do we do that in daily life? How often do we miss what is in front of us because we are busy thinking of tomorrow or yesterday or what we would like to do instead? With depression, how much time do we spend thinking about how depressed we are or, as caregivers,  how we could be some place else other than with this depressed person?

Maybe that’s a contributing factor to depression or to the caregiver’s dilemma: we forget or are too preoccupied with the past and the future to see what is happening in the now.  We miss little steps of progress or a quick smile or the fact that a friend called us.  The now is full of surprises if we only look and are willing to ride out the moment for both good and bad.

Pictures are good but with today’s cameras we tend to overdo, missing the present moment.  Maybe a lot of society’s ills would be better if we stayed in the moment.  I’m convinced depression, caregiving and museum going would all benefit.

Here’s to the present moment with all its frustrations and learning….and surprises!