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Advice from the President

abraham-lincoln-1432905_1920.jpgThe election this year reminded all of us how vulnerable we are to depression, how much outside and inside events can influence how we think and feel.  Without being attentive we can find ourselves on the slippery slope to the blackness of depression. 


The election also reminded us of leaders of the past who let with integrity and purpose despite dealing with depression.  Lincoln battled depression – his law partner often said that “his melancholy dripped from him as he walked.” – but he also gave us wisdom, faith and hope, and forgiveness.


Depression today seems to engulf us.  Much of that is due to the instant information we can get via news or Facebook or Twitter and other media outlets.  Mayo Clinic defines depression as a medical illness that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.  For some of us it is temporary and for others it is a constant companion.

Depression  can be debilitating and, in its most severe form, can even lead to suicide. For most of us it is temporary and seldom. For some, it is a lifelong and constant companion that bears down on us, saps our energy and destroys our dreams.
One of the greatest steps to fight depression came from Lincoln who learned this discipline and suggested others follow it.  “Remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again,” he said.  And to a friend he wrote, “You can not now realize that you will ever feel better.  Is not this so?  And yet it is a mistake.  You are sure to be happy again.  To know this, which is certainly true, will make you some less miserable now.  I have had experience enough to know what I say.”


You may be under a doctor’s care for your depression.  That is well and good as often the depression fight involves medication for the ill brain.  However, there are things to do in addition to that.  Get up and get out to exercise in some way, shape, or form.  And get around people while you are doing it.  We all know how depression plays on loneliness.


And depression plays on our allowing the thoughts depression offers to grow and take over.  One of the most powerful things we can do when we are able is to strike down those negative thoughts with positive ones, no matter how small and no matter how often we do it.  Any positive things we can think of is one thing that dims the depression.  It might not be a cure it but it does help.


And if you haven’t sought help for your depression and you feel you need help, remember that in the words of Lincoln, “Melancholy is a misfortune.  It is not a fault.”  Seeking help gives you even more ways to attack the demon of depression with a positive train of thought and activities.



Depression! It’s Everywhere!


There’s no escaping it.  Depression is linked to so many things that it is difficult to find somewhere to hide from it.  The tragedy we mark today has carried its share of depression.  Depression is connected to major illnesses like heart disease, diabetes, lupus.  You name the disease and nine chances out of ten, depression is part of it.  Recently my daughter directed me to a presentation that was going to take place late September on depression and AIDS.

If you are too stressed whether from work or school or happenings in your life, you open yourself up to depression.  If you are having a child or adopting, you open yourself up to depression.  If a close friend or spouse dies, you find yourself facing depression.  And if you celebrate another birthday, you can meet depression head on.

I’m not being pessimistic here but the reality is that depression is pervasive in our society.  So what, as caregivers, are we to do to deal with this challenge head on?

One approach is to check out your attitude.  How do you view your depressed loved one?  Do you see him/her as separate from the disease or do you let them blend together so that you can’t tell them apart?  Do you wake up every morning thinking, “Oh, God!  I wonder what dark story I will hear today?”  Do you feel like you have colored glasses on that show only the negative side of any occurrence?

Once I heard a story about a woman who in the morning was doing her hair.  She looked in the mirror and said, “How shall I fix my hair?  I know.  I will curl it.”  She did and had a good day.   The next day she found she had hair missing and decided to put her hair in pigtails and she had a good day.   The next day she found she had only a few hairs left on her head so she decided to have a pony tail and she had a good day.  The next day she went to the mirror and all her hair was gone and she said, “Oh wonderful!  I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

How many of us look at those we care for with depression as being a true blessing to us?  On the days where we have many hours of great times with our loved ones, do we notice and appreciate it?  On the days where there are only a few strands do we find the few bits where we can smile and even laugh out loud?  And on the days there there is no hair, do we still see that we can make it be a plus for us and everyone else we meet that day?

Depression is pervasive but joy can be too.  It’s hard work but it is worth it.

– Bernadette