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Posts Tagged ‘Depression’


I had missed my 3-week vacation to France. I sorely needed a good, healing change of scenery. I decided Puerto Rico would be a vacation unlike most of our typical active vacations. Warm climate during our miserable winter, quick plane ride, US protectorate, possible beach visits (I am NOT a beach person, rather an explorer, but it sounded like the right location for recuperating). We booked a weeklong trip for the end of February. I was feeling good.

Unable to lie around, we explored the old city where we stayed in a small boutique hotel. The area is small and walkable when I am in my usual state, but the hills are steep and the temperature was high, thus challenging for this weakling. Still, I enjoyed the sights, food and time away with my husband.

We arrived on a Saturday and roamed the area for the next few days. Then – you guessed it – I was sidelined again on Wednesday, spending the rest of the week a limited distance from my hotel room. I was having extreme pain in my pelvis. We got home on Sunday and I returned to the hospital to look for a cause for and management of the pain, as well as intermittent fevers. In the coming months, I spent three separate weeks in the hospital and many visits to various specialists to test for bladder issues, intestinal issues, infections, etc.

I was discharged the last time, on heavy narcotic medications, with no more information on the cause of pain. Feeling desperate and too sick to seek out new opinions in faraway places, I confined myself to bed most of the day. My appetite had waned and I lost another 5 lbs.

My resolve had thawed. The hopelessness returned. More astonishing was the fact I had held up for so long under the circumstances, for so long before.

To be continued . . . . . .

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BRAVADO: Real or pretend?

It hit me today, like a ton of bricks. What was it going to take to get me to feel fear? Real fear.

I left the doctor’s office today, aware of the long wait ahead. News about the test he had performed and the ultimate decision it would require. On top of the news I am waiting for about a genetic test that could also change my life, as well as that of my children.

Sure, I tell everyone, “I don’t worry until I know there is a good reason to worry.” And I largely convince myself of it, until today. I am driving home when something akin to panic sets in. I cannot cry, so it is more like a grip on my gut.

I realize I have fooled and pleased the doctor with my bravado performance, and I get complimented for it. It hits me – my pattern. In order not to deal with pain, worry, anxiety, I pretend to be strong. I am strong, for sure, but is it right to always be strong when unsure of your future? I have always sought to please people. A habit I intellectually disdain and think I have overcome, but I suddenly realize it is in the very fabric of my being, and is still very much my modus operandi.

I question why I need to be so independent and strong all the time. It’s not even natural. I know that we are all driven to be liked, and who likes a needy person anyway? But my emotions are on a roller coaster today.

I struggle to even share my feelings with my husband, who has given me no reason to doubt his loyalty. I go to the doctor alone, when all three people I interact with ask me if someone has accompanied me. I find this to be a strange question. I always go to the doctor alone. Oh, I realize now. This is a cancer center. Most people come anticipating potentially bad news, instructions, things they need another set of ears to hear. Me? I’ve been through so much already, I can handle it. I can ask the questions, take notes and put things in my phone calendar by myself. Besides, I think the exam is over precautionary – my doctor is so conservative. But this new doctor says he never has an inappropriate referral from my doctor.

So each piece comes together to paint a picture that tells me maybe I should worry – at least a little. Perhaps this is another false alarm – this is what I have been telling myself. And I will be truly grateful if that is the case. But for now, I think I should allow the feelings that sometimes overwhelm me, rendering me incapable of thinking straight, their proper place.

That would make me more normal, wouldn’t it?

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The internet is abuzz with the tragic news of Robin Williams’ death. We struggle to understand how someone with so much talent and apparent good fortune could take his life. Depression knows no socioeconomic boundaries. Everyone is equally vulnerable. But those who share his struggle DO understand.
Depression and mental illness in general, is finally coming out of the closet. Those in it’s grip live with unimaginable demons. They are forced to hide them to be socially acceptable, so often struggle alone.
Being famous or heavily relied upon only make the isolation worse. It is difficult, though he did share his struggle, to disappoint the fans. The world’s response to Mr. Williams’ death confirms this. We are mourning the loss of a future without the enormous contributions he would have made – the potential enjoyment of his considerable talent. People say, “What a waste,” or “I can’t understand how he could throw everything away.”
As someone who has struggled with depression, I understand how driven to despair one can be at times. It has been debilitating, a cause of shame, something to hide, something to get through or get over. And it was totally out of my control as were the events that often preceded those times.
But I have never reached the depth of despair Mr. Williams must have felt, that would cause me to take my life.
Let us be grateful to him for the hours of happiness he gave us, in spite of the tremendous toll it took on him. Let us thank his family for sacrificing him for our pleasure. Let us hope he has found peace after all his suffering. And may he somehow know that his life meant so much to so many of us.

RIP

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I know from experience (my own included) that if you were to judge someone’s state of happiness by their FB posts, you would often get a very distorted sense of reality.

We are told to “put our best foot forward,” “soldier on,” “keep a stiff upper lip,” “practice gratitude,” etc., etc. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but it doesn’t allow us the true freedom to share our challenges, sadness, anxiety, etc. In spite of all the public discourse on depression, we are still not good as a society, in recognizing or treating it. Not everyone presents with the same symptoms – in fact, many cover it with a mask of cheeriness. Drugs are widely available to treat it – it’s fast and cheap – as opposed to talking about and resolving issues that need to be processed.  But sometimes things need to be faced head on, not temporarily blunted.

As is evidenced by all the shootings and general chaos, especially among our young and veterans, we are not, as a society, attending to mental health care needs. Unattended, things get worse. More turmoil creates more societal anxiety and a downward spiral of the individual.

Some have suggested that global meditation and/or yoga practice would reduce stress, creating a calm over the earth. It’s an interesting idea. It would cost less than other modes of treatment and have fewer side effects than medication. It would address the shortage of skilled mental health practitioners as it could treat groups, not just individuals. It could ultimate lower healthcare costs and reduce violence.

But I digress. The point of this article is to ask that  you remain vigilant to the signs of stress that may cause those you love to break. If they are behaving differently than usual, there is probably a reason. Offer a hand – even if it is just to lead them to get the help they need.

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It’s hard enough to identify depression unless is it entirely debilitating. We are all adept at hiding our problems, whether for appearances, fear of job loss, or at the opposite end of the spectrum, because we are in denial.

Women are better at seeking help. Whether it is simply talking to a friend, their clergy person or consulting a professional, in general, women reach out more readily. They have been conditioned to establish a supportive community. Men, on the other hand, have been conditioned to “be strong,” “deal with your problems yourself,” and other macho postures. This makes it so much more difficult for them to seek help.

In these times, with unemployment rampant, when men are out of work, they may feel emasculated and reluctant to address issues arising from it. Perhaps they lean on their spouses, but sometimes they too are too close to the problems to be helpful. While things are changing for younger people, who generally are more equitable in the support department, boomers are still stuck in traditional roles. Middle age itself brings all kinds of questions about the road not taken. When coupled with perceived failure, even when events were not their fault, it is a recipe for disaster. Marriages and finances are stressed and action is needed. Melancholic rumination will only sink the ship faster.

If you know a man who is struggling, try and urge him to seek help. The sooner he does, the sooner he will be able to return to his productive self, which in turn will end the downward spiral of self doubt.

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