We Don’t Have All The Answers

I often write about my experiences with depression on this blog.  Whether you are talking about depression or diabetes, anxiety or arthritis, you can surely find someone who has ALL of the answers about your condition.  Bonus points if it comes with a “natural cure”.  Negative points if you have succumbed to BIG PHARMA and Western Medicine.

I think the last time I wrote about depression I was angry.  Angry because I can find plenty of people out there who could tell me where I am going wrong.  It could be that I don’t pray enough, or maybe I need to eat more broccoli.  Or maybe I just need a “natural” supplement with the same price tag as my “unnatural”  antidepressant.  Because don’t you know every cell in my body claps with glee when that natural supplement enters my bloodstream.   Oh wait that doesn’t happen because I am not taking a natural supplement for my depression.

I was angry because there are others that think they had all the answers when it comes to mental health struggles.  For a dollar you can buy their ebook.  Or maybe they will get a kickback for whatever natural product they are promoting.

People with mental health struggles need compassion.  Everyone needs just a little kindness in their lives.  You just never know who is struggling or why they are struggling.

I would hope that with the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain people would say to themselves “We don’t know all the answers” and “We need to find out more”.

I didn’t know either of these individuals.  I don’t know what kind of pain drove them to suicide.  I do hope the individuals who try to simplify mental health struggles into a sort of checklist of easy changes you make in your life will now think twice.

This turned into a bit of a rant.  I did want to clarify that I am not against herbal or natural remedies, I am against those who would say “natural” remedies are the only answer.

Dad

My dad has been gone for almost one third of my life.  I think of him often at this time of year.  In my mind he is a tall quiet guy, waiting for something….what that might be , I am not sure. After my dad passed away it struck me how similar my dad and I were…I wished I would have realized this when he was still alive.

I came across some old census records from when my dad was a child.  It is hard to picture him as a child.  He was the youngest in his family.  His family had lived comfortably before the Depression came along. When my dad was born though they were struggling. From what I gather my paternal grandfather never bounced back after this, either economically or psychologically.

I sense my dad knew from a young age he would have to make his own way through life. He started working at a young age. Later he would join the military and finish college. After that he would meet my mom.  I admire that he took time to serve in the military. He’d always taught us to be respectful of veterans.  He’ d always wanted to make sure that we were aware of dates such as the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, in which US military personnel had lost their lives.

My father always struck me as an old soul. Perhaps it was because I sense he didn’t have many years of a childhood that were carefree.   He had very old fashioned beliefs especially in terms of religion.  He was extremely intelligent in certain respects, but in navigating relationships with people,  there was always some awkwardness.

Beyond the quiet intelligent man that the public saw, he had another side. His other side was controlled by alcohol.  While it was not entirely the alcohol that made my dad sometimes difficult to get along with, the alcohol sure didn’t help.  Why did he drink..who knows, I can only guess.  I’ d always  thought there was an element of depression and anger that he was trying to manage.  Along with that I also thought there seemed to be a ghost of sadness that haunted my dad’s side of the family.  This ghost was only hinted at though, people just weren’t  open about the it struggles with mental health.

Despite my dad’s inner struggles, I always admired his work ethic. He didn’t want to stop working.  He had already become sick, and his death would only be a few months away when he finally quit his job.

While I never talked about it with him, I always suspected my dad and I both had a strong need for quiet.  Sometimes our shyness made it difficult to communicate with others.  Our words sometimes tumbled out in a way that seemed awkward to others.  I’ve really tried to work on this especially in the past years.

If I could go back in time I wish I would have tried to get to know my dad better.  I wish I would have been able to figure out how to let down some of my own walls and get my dad to do the same.

I originally posted this 2 years ago.  Since then, through researching my family tree, I found an old class picture from when he was in the eighth grade.  He is the tallest in his class but somehow gives the impression he wants to be invisible.  Or else he just didn’t want his picture taken.  I was happy to find the picture as there were few childhood pictures of dad.

As I have mentioned elsewhere in my blog, my sister is an alcoholic as well.  I don’t know if my dad and sister had a genetic vulnerability to alcoholism, but it sure is a tough disease.

I apologize if you have already seen this posted.  I am confused about trying to repost an old post and I am not sure if  it had went through on the other tries.

 

Now I Know What My Problem Is..

I am in a good place with my depression right now.  I still take antidepressants and don’t foresee that changing any time soon.  Sometimes I come across statements that are so incredibly ignorant about depression I become incredibly angry though.  This one comes from a so called holistic pharmacy student.  She writes:

“Accept Sadness: I wouldn’t suggest that clinical depression is the same thing as a bad mood. However, the availability of treatment for mental disorders supports our refusal to work through emotions. Emotions are part of the human experience: both good and bad ones. “

Golly gee, if I had simply accepted my sadness and not refused to work through my emotions I would be in such a great place.

I realize people are trying to (sometimes) be helpful with their commentary, but please please stop assuming you know what a person has been through or what they have tried.

As a person who lives and works in a community with a major teaching hospital/university and comes across health care students of every stripe,  I have never heard such an ignorant statement.  And this student claims that she is holistic.

As a young adult I used to do a lot of walking, because I had no car.  I used to get plenty of Vitamin D and exercise.  I sometimes would walk over a bridge over a river with a swift current and think about jumping in. More than once.  Especially when I walked over the river when it was dark.  It was as if the river was inviting me in. The experience of walking over the bridge has never quite left me as one of the darkest points in my life. I wasn’t taking antidepressants.  I almost never never admit to having those feelings.

You can have your own opinions about antidepressants, but please please don’t think you know what a depressed person has tried or make assumptions that they refuse to work through emotions.  Just don’t.

And because I have to be snarky, I would think because my family probably ate plenty of sauerkraut back in the day, according to the author I would be practically immune from depression.  I ain’t never going to try any kombucha though, so I guess I am not trying hard enough.

Straight Arrow Hits Bottom

This post is spinoff of  Nostalgia.  I mention a straight arrow guy who now is in the marijuana business in Colorado, where pot is legal.

I called him Juan, not his real name.  When I first met him, I felt as if he was a male version of myself.  We were both a bit socially awkward and shy.  Of course back then in my college student days I would never labeled myself as socially awkward.  Our parents expected us to travel a narrow path.  No room for errors.  Juan had much to compete against.

Juan was the youngest of five.  There was maybe 15 years between Juan and his older siblings. They’d graduated college. One was a dentist, another a doctor.  So starting college, he knew he’d better aim high.  In addition to getting a degree, he was in ROTC while in college, and after graduating became an officer in the military.

People can hit bottom at any time in their lives.  Just like many of my friends, Juan successfully transitioned from college life to adult life.  While my friends seemed to be having the time of their lives I was spinning my wheels, struggling to stay afloat.  I’d dropped out of college, was officially diagnosed with depression.  My parents would disown me for this or that.  It seems surreal now to think about it.  I would crawl myself out of the black hole and rebuild my life.

As I saw my friends, Juan, and my sister successfully navigate their lives, it didn’t occur to me that they would have their own versions of hitting bottom later.  I knew I wasn’t the only person to hit a speedbump in their young adult lives.

Hitting bottom….people often think of alcoholism when they hear that term.  My sister and other people I knew would blow up their lives in that way in their thirties and forties.

I never would have expected Juan to hit bottom.  He would have been the last person on the list of one thousand to mess up his life. Juan and I went on a few dates.  There was a spark there but it was never there at the same time.  Plus we were socially awkward and new in the world of dating.  Except for the fact that he was Presbyterian and not Catholic, he was as close to the perfect boy to my parents as I could possibly get.

Juan married a beautiful, smart woman.  I didn’t think much about him until years later.  I’d heard that he blew up his life, gotten kicked out of the military and was divorced.  Later I heard he was in the marijuana industry and remarried.  I saw some pics of him with his wife online.  He looks happy and appears to have rebuilt his life again.  It is a different path from where he started, I’m sure.

He’d be the last person I’d expect to be involved with marijuana, who knew.  Marijuana is not for me, in that regard I am a nerdy straight arrow.  If it works for him though, great.

As I’ve written about before, my sister has battled alcoholism for a long time.  What makes some people struggle at the bottom, and others rebuild their lives .  I wish I knew the answer.pexels-photo-726478.jpeg

Burden

In my internet travels I came across a couple women sharing just how incredibly burdensome it was to take care of their husbands with depression.

I just know what I read but something seemed off about their words.  They painted their husbands as a standalone source of dysfunction in the house.  But if you poked a little bit further you could see there were other problems.  One of the women was a recovered alcoholic.  Both put too much of the family’s dirty laundry out there.

I’ve been down that journey with my parents and even my sister in my younger years.  This was before my sister started drinking and was still the oh so perfect child.  But as I deduced later I just represented one portion of our family’s dysfunction which manifested itself in depression in my early twenties. During that period I was the one who needed to fix herself, not anyone else.  My family didn’t like me fixed though because I began to speak up and assert myself more often.

I wondered if I am burdensome to my family.  I try to be the best parent I can be, but I’ve had failures. This month was terrible workwise, but I generally miss very few days of work.  I shower, do the laundry, make home cooked meals try to attend to all that is needed of a wife and mother.  I cracked wide open this month, but then went back to trudging through everyday life, with the new challenge of attempting to help my aging mother.

I have no doubt that having a depressed spouse can be challenging.  Describing your depressed spouse as a burden helps no one though

Tears

I’ve been overwhelmed by life in general, but particularly how to care for my aging mom.  I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I seem to be failing, and it is just all out there for the world to see.  I cracked wide open today and could not hide it.  Tears.  Weariness. Failure.  Someone told me, we don’t see you as you see yourself.  Were they being honest?  The suspicious side of me says that they just said it so we could all move past the awkwardness of a woman falling apart complete with her red, puffy tearstained face. Maybe I needed to crack.  It takes a whole lot of energy to keep it all in.  Maybe hitting bottom leaves me at a place where I can rebuild what is broken. My younger self tells my older self that I should be past falling apart.  If these words were on paper they would be tearstained with an irregularity to my handwriting that would suggest a sort of desperation.  Life is spinning around me at a pace too fast for me to keep up with.  I could use a nap of several days or even a week but I don’t have the time to hide under the covers and escape the cruel world.

Never Ending Dysfunction

My sister has been staying at my mom’s house for a visit.  These visits are tremendously stressful for her because she will harbor the ideas of guilt of what she should be doing for her mom, but her ideas of what she could be doing rarely turn into action because she becomes quickly overwhelmed.  My sister and my mom can’t get along but they have this relationship where they can’t leave each other alone and I often play odd man out.

I went to visit, a bit of a drive from where I live.  I thought we would have some lunch and that would be it.  As soon as I get there, I can see my mother is struggling to keep up with being able to live alone.  I don’t know that she takes her meds appropriately.  Any suggestions of what could be done to make her life easier are instantly shot down.

At this point my mother is angry that we have confronted some of the issues that she struggles with.  She takes her anger out on my sister who has been drinking during her stay with my mom.  Now I more than anyone understand the anger and frustration with my sister’s drinking.   The things my mom says though are unspeakably cruel.  She calls her a slut multiple times, she says she wants nothing to do with her and that she(my sister) is not her daughter any more.

At this time my sister’s normal reaction is to bolt.  She usually ends up in a bar somewhere.  This time she tells me she can’t take her life anymore, she is depressed and wants to get help.

So we go to the emergency room and work our way through the system to see what can be done.  Her blood alcohol level is sky high.  The staff asks her lots of questions and her answers sometimes vary.  A physician asks her about the quantity she drinks each day.  On this occasion she says her drink of choice is wine(she drinks anything).  Once she tells him she drinks two glasses of wine.  Another time she tells him she drinks a box of wine a day.  “A box?” he says, puzzled, but then moves on.  I’m not sure the physician knew boxed wine was an actual thing.

My sister is directed to a treatment center eventually where she currently withdrawing from alcohol.  I hope it works.  Earlier in the week she had attended an AA meeting where she met a man who gave her more alcohol and tried to assault her.

I’m not sure what the answers are.  I pray that this time she can gain peace and sobriety.

Energy

I’ve been thinking lately about what kind of energy I give off and whether or not it is influenced by my episodes of depression.  I think in some way I’ve always been aware of this but it has lately bubbled up to the surface in a more concrete way.

Often I think about the outward face of my depression as a battle between doing something and not doing something.  It is pretty much on autopilot to shower, go to work, make supper, the basics of life.  Other times there might be a lot of self talk in my head before I go out for a walk in the sunshine.  This is a much bigger struggle for me in the winter when it gets cold and snowy than it is in the summer.

Often, to elevate myself I have to think of things I can do to feed my soul..finding a really good book, going to an art museum or listening to live music are good choices.  Being out in the garden is another good choice. I feel at one, inside and outside.

People don’t see the gears turning(or not) in my head. My husband might have an inkling of my thought processes, and there is some frustration I think when I am in a half empty instead of a half full sort of mode.

But besides doing or not doing, I wonder about the energy I am giving off to the world, and try to think about it more consciously.  Of course long ago I made the decision not to vomit out every possible bit of my misery to the outside world, as my mother likes to do.  I don’t know if she ever realizes how soul sucking that is.

I know I have given the impression of being cross or angry at work when I haven’t intended to.  Perhaps I need to cultivate more awareness of what is spinning through my head and how I might be projecting it to the world.  If I am projecting negative energy out into the world and it comes back to me, am I aware of what I have created?

Snap

Tears for no reason, or as an overreaction to something.  Lack of control over my emotions.  Felt deeply disrespected at work.  Tears in my eyes at work, had to bite my tongue for half the day to keep the desire to cry away.  If I don’t bite my tongue I’ll dig my nails into my palms to distract myself.

Have no idea what is going on.  The husband doesn’t quite know what to do when these episodes happen.  In the past we would start to fight when these moods would start to creep in.  He doesn’t get the emotions.  I don’t get that he doesn’t get the emotions.

Now I usually keep these emotions under control, and can do some self talk to get through a difficult time.

For the most part antidepressants have helped me immensely with this aspect of my depression.  Not this week though.  Maybe my antidepressants aren’t as effective any more.  Maybe it is the winter blues.  Maybe I am having a breakdown in advance at the thought of spending time over the holidays with dysfunctional family members.

Tears sometimes bring sense of catharsis for me.  Now I just feel hollow.

One more speed bump on the road of depression.