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Echoes from the past.

I had a painful flashback this morning. A reminder of an extremely difficult moment from the many years during which my husband was in the depths of depression, unemployed and unemployable, when we had three small children in the house, and I felt as if I were on my own and was, quite frankly, terrified.

I won’t describe the trigger or the memory. I just don’t want to go there.

Here I am, twenty years later, a full-fledged grown-up with a good life, a solid career, and new opportunities on the horizon. But that moment this morning served as a reminder that I’m still haunted by that extremely dark time.

Honestly, sometimes I wonder how I survived those years. How our marriage survived those years. How we managed to raise three truly amazing and well-adjusted children.

I suppose that survival depended a whole lot upon my dedication to taking care of myself. I learned to ask for and accept help. I learned to protect my time and my emotional boundaries. I learned to say “no” to extended-family commitments that were simply too stressful. I learned that I can only deal with a limited amount of baggage, and it’s okay to be selective about which piece of that baggage I deal with at any one time.

Today’s flashback gave me another reminder. I can’t stop taking care of myself just because today the worst of that depression in my husband is at bay. There are still plenty of issues we have to struggle through. Day-to-day life with someone who has underlying depression (and multiple other diagnoses) will never be a walk in the park.

At times I feel like the lengths I go to in order to protect myself and my emotional state are overkill or selfishness.

But today, I recognize that I have to be good to myself.

I hope you’re being good to yourself, too.

-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

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?

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

What Can I Do For You?

Amy and I have five pages of type of things people should not say to someone who is experiencing depression. All of us have said some of them and all of us have caught others saying them to someone. We sorely need to erase those phrases from our speech.

The flip side is often we don’t know how to respond. What does one say in such a situation? Do you ask how is the depression today or do you suggest activities for involvement or do you just keep quiet?

Perhaps one of the best things to say, and to say it with sincerity is “What can I do for you?” For people who mean what they say, that opens the door for some real possibilities of help. And that means that the depressed individual or the caregiver must be ready to respond.

So I asked some people with depression and I asked their loved ones what could be done to help. Here’s some of the replies:

I could just use some space at time. I need to be alone. I want to be alone. I’m not going to hurt myself but being alone is a way I try to get myself together.  

and

I need people around me. I could go to the local coffee shop but sometimes it is just nice if someone drops over or calls and asks to come over. Not only does it give me people, it gives me the feeling that there are people who care enough about me that they want to spend some time with me.  

and

Bringing over dinner at times. I know that my overstressed and overtired family and I would appreciate that very much. Seems like people do that all the time for funerals or for people who are sick in the hospital. But depression isn’t a “seeable” illness so people don’t think we need the love and care that others in the hospital or at home with a physically-visible illness does.

and from a family member whose brother has depression:

Sometimes I just want someone to hug me. They don’t have to even say anything. I just need to know that I am still noticed, that my struggle in noticed, and that someone out there is willing to be there for me.hugging-571076_1280

As a depressed individual or as someone who loves a person who is depressed, what are you looking for from others?   The more all of us know, the more all of us can help stop the devastation being done by this illness.

– Bernadette .

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

Loss, Grief and Depression

angel-of-grief1

 

 

 

Yesterday a 17-year-old boy was killed in an auto accident.  He was a well liked, active member of the local high school and a very loved son and brother of a local family.  Today the community who knew him is full of grief.  

Grief is a necessary aspect of life.  Whether it is mourning the loss of a person after a lengthy terminal illness or grieving the sudden loss of a child, there is no timeline for grief.   And there is no one way to grieve. Culture and circumstances contribute to how that grief is expressed and how the survivors cope.  

But how, then, do you tell when too much grieving is opening the door to depression?  How do you know when the magic line is crossed?  With so many variables – the personality of each individual, the circumstances, the strength of the relationship with the deceased, the opportunity or lack of to say goodbye and tie loose ends – it can be difficult to draw the line between grieving and depression.  

A principal factor that can send up red flags is if the outpouring of support from family, friends, and community are turned down and the people grieving isolate themselves, feeling disconnected from others.  Turning down any offers of help can be a risk factor in bridging over into depression.  Also, if you or others grieving have struggled with depression in the past, one significant death can be the trigger to letting depression loose.  

Bereavement follows no form, no schedule.  It ebbs and flows, emerging at different times, triggered by a date or a smell or a random thought. If you are in the midst of grieving, there are some things to remember.  

First of all, expect to feel depressed.  Loss of appetite, trouble sleeping and sadness are all part of the normal grieving process.  Also, expect this to ebb and flow, feeling good one day and plunged into deep grief the next.   Most important, build and use a support network.  Let others take care of you from time to time, whether that is a lunch out or helping to clean the house or just sitting and talking. 

Most of all, remember that if you have thoughts of suicide or experience serious weight loss or are unable to perform daily functions such as getting out of bed or going to work,  consider getting additional professional help to make sure that you have not crossed into clinical depression.   We all need extra help at times and it is the wise person who seeks it when needed.  

Saying goodbye to a loved one no matter the part they played in our lives is difficult. Taking care of ourselves during the grieving process is an important step in the healing process.  

– Bernadette