Tag Archive | mental health

Laughing to Cope

Image Credit: dailymail.co.uk Huu Hung Truong: 2013 Sony World Photography Awards


A-HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

…ahhh

LMAO!


I connected with a wonderfully bubbly woman when I was at one of my lowest lows.  We met quite by chance and immediately clicked like we were life-long friends.  We were in the same boat, she and I, both at extreme low points in our lives, both under the influence of uncontrollable tears, fears and the urge to hurt ourselves and end our lives.

But we laughed.  I didn’t understand it, and I really didn’t care, but oh boy, we laughed.

We laughed at everything, funny things, stupid things, serious things and of course, we laughed at ourselves.

Of everything that I have experienced, laughing with this woman was the most healing during a very dark and difficult time.

Laughing kept me from crying.

Laughing kept me from thinking.

Laughing shook my body and kept me present because I was feeling and experiencing.

Laughing made it easier to cope when I felt that I had nothing left in me for another day.

Laughing relieved some my pain inside, releasing it through positive emotions rather than through tears.

Thankfully, my brain functions normally in releasing feel good endorphins when stimulated by laughter.  I felt good even though I felt like dying.

People looked at us and shook their heads.  They couldn’t understand how we could still laugh, knowing the condition of our mental state.

Did we disturb others with our ruckus?

We probably did, but it helped us to cope, and it helped us to get through.

Laughing Buddha

This holiday season give yourself the gift of laughter.

Wouldn’t it be great to go see a comedy show?  Is there a comedy club near you?

Maybe go see a comedy play or movie.

Have no one to go with?  Don’t let that stop you.  Go anyway.  It might do you good!

It’s always better to get out, but if you can’t, than treat yourself with a movie rental, make some popcorn and enjoy it at home.

Pursue that good hard belly laugh!

Go ahead!  It’ll be good!

Or do it if only to prove me wrong and be sure to let me know about it!

Cheers!

She Is So Worthy Of Saving

Mary sobbed uncontrollably as she looped the flimsy rope over the ceiling beam in her bedroom.  She was a small girl and the rope should be strong enough to hold her, she thought.  Her heart clenched tight with anguish.  Crushing pain racked her little body.   She just had to push away the chair she was standing on, and hopefully the pain will stop.  The pain will stop, it had to!

She just wanted the pain to stop.

She couldn’t handle it anymore, she hurt so much.

She didn’t want to hurt anymore.

She didn’t want to feel alone anymore.

She didn’t want to feel like a failure anymore.   She didn’t want to feel her father’s disappointment in her anymore.   The pressures of being 12 years old were so overwhelming.  She could never live up to what everybody wanted of her.

She just wanted to die.

Good bye Daddy.  Good bye Mommy.  Good bye little brother Jay.  She cried even harder thinking about her family.  They wouldn’t miss her anyway.

“Mary! Dinner!”  Mary heard her mom calling her for dinner.  She collapsed into a bawling heap on the ceramic floor.  Oh my God!  Oh my God!  Please help me!

Mary’s next attempt at suicide was when she was 16 years old.  She left school in the middle of the day, took the bus home and overdosed on a bottle of pills she had been saving, waiting for the right time.  She was hospitalized and discharged after a few weeks.

At 19 years old, Mary went away to University.  She had been so happy the summer before her university days were to begin, and so ready to set out on her own.  Her life as an adult was upon her, she was ecstatic and so very optimistic about her future.  She had a wonderful man in her life who adored her.  Her grades were among the honors, and she was attending one of the top universities in the country.  She was young, and beautiful, bubbling with life and vitality.  Her parents were supporting her through university.  Everything was good and right in her life.

Except it wasn’t.

She had hoped that she had outgrown the angst and pain of her teenage years.  She had thought those days were behind her.

She was wrong.

The pressures of being alone in a foreign city without her loved ones intensified her feelings of being alone.  There were high expectations of her to perform and achieve beyond her successful parents’ accomplishments.  The deep abyss of pain began to gnaw at her insides until she could not hold it in any longer.  She began to cut her arms to relieve some of the pain inside.  Before long, she was suicidal and had to be returned to her parents’ home and then hospitalized.

She was finally diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder with Borderline Personality Disorder.  She was treated and discharged with a plan to continue treatment and community support.   She cheerfully wished everyone a hearty farewell, and happily skipped out of the hospital with nary a backward glance.

At 2 in the morning, four days after her discharge from the hospital, Mary called a friend she had recently bonded with from the hospital, sobbing that she couldn’t handle it anymore.  She abruptly hung up and her friend could not get a hold of her after.  After repeated attempts of calling her cellphone, with no response, the friend knew she had to find a way to reach her.  In a panic, the friend called the local directory, and guessed the names of her parents which her home phone number could be listed under.  Luckily, the friend was able to reach Mary’s father and asked him to check on Mary.  They found Mary overdosed and unconscious, but thankfully still alive. 

Mary’s parents, though educated and loved her very much, floundered in their effort to understand and support her in her illness.  They couldn’t understand her depression, because her life was full and advantageous compared to so many others who were less fortunate.  She had everything anyone could want.  Their attempts to raise her spirits and motivate her, only added to her frustration and feelings of loneliness and being misunderstood.

I see so much of my younger self in Mary; Her feelings, her experiences, her attempts, and her struggle to live and die. 

I wish I could tell her that it will get better. 

I wish I could tell her that those awful feelings of despair and wanting to die will go away and never come back.  

I wish I could tell her that there is a magic little pill that makes everything right and happy again.

But the truth is, I can’t say with any kind of conviction that things will get better, not when I am struggling everyday with those same feelings of hopelessness.

I can only tell her that she will learn to cope better with the illness, learn to cope better with the feelings, with the pain, and with the intruding thoughts that make her feel so small and want to die.

I can tell her that there will be extreme lows in her mood, and they may not be preventable every time, but she can learn to recover quicker from those lows, so that this miserable burden becomes easier to bear.

I can her that there will not only be lows, but highs as well, because life can still be enjoyed when she has good days, weeks, months, or even years without any hint of darkness or despair.  It can happen.

Depression is treatable. 

Mary is now only 19 years old, still so young.  There is still so much she can do, still so much of life yet to experience.  Even with this mental illness, and the dismal outlook that inherently comes with it, she can still have a full and complete life.  Yes, there will be dark days, but there is help and support to brace and carry her through those difficult days.  There are people who love her, and care for her, even though she feels unworthy.

I want to tell Mary that it is okay to ask for help, and accept that help when she can no longer cope with the illness.  In fact, it is preferable that she reach out for help, rather than succumb to the darkness in isolation.  I want Mary to hear me tell her that she is so worthy of saving, because she has so much light and love to offer the world.

Stay strong Mary.

You will laugh and enjoy the light again soon.  And there are still many hours of twerking yet to be done!

Post script:

Mary is a real person and her story is true.  I have changed her name and called her “Mary” to give her anonymity and respect her privacy.

“You’d Also Be An Anchor To Her”

My Response to A Reader Comment

I would like to take this opportunity to respond to a reader, by the name of “James”, who made a comment on the previous blog article, A Mom Soldiers On,  October 19, 2014;

“You’d also be an anchor for her if you can’t provide for her.” ~James

I felt that this comment warranted a comprehensive response, and deserving of a dedicated post.

This comment would be true enough if you are referring to financial provisions.  I can say with confidence and gratitude that we are blessed to be financially stable.  She has everything she needs for food, education, shelter, and material goods.  Her physical and financial welfare will never be in jeopardy.

The point of A Mom Soldiers On is about the challenge of motherhood while living with the daily struggles of chronic depression.  It is about the psychological and emotional impact that this condition has on me and my children.

This blog Managing Depression is dedicated to the entire experience of chronic depression.  I express clearly, that this mental health condition is most definitely an anchor, in fact, it is a ginormous burden to my family, day in and day out.

Yes, I would be anchor for her, if all I did was wallow in self-pity. Yes, I would be an anchor to her if she had to take care of me, instead of me taking care of her.

Yes, I would be an anchor if I was never able to get out of my own head and be emotionally available and present when she comes home crying from teenage high school drama.

Yes, I would be an anchor if I did not get up or do anything that a mom does, like buy groceries, make nutritious meals, oversee homework, maintain the house, pay the bills, and the never-ever ending loads of laundry.

Yes I would be an anchor.

But that is what the article A Mom Soldiers on is about.

It is about NOT allowing the depression to be an anchor, despite having to drag along the enormous weight of chronic depression.

It’s about finding the strength and will to get up and do what a mother has to do, and be present as mother should be for her child.

My first reaction to James’ comment was hurt, and then I feared that it might be true, that I would be an anchor.  But after a few minutes of reflection, my valuable contributions as a mother came to mind, vivid and clear.

I have not allowed my chronic condition of Depression to anchor me.  Despite it, I have reared strong-willed, intelligent, conscientious, well adjusted, young ladies who are full of love and compassion for the world around them.  I am proud of the job I have done as a mother, and foresee myself continuing on the same road.

I have come a long way in recovery, in understanding the nuances of my emotional fluctuations, and the best methods of how to manage them.  Yes, my children have seen me down and they have seen me fall, but they have also seen me fight against it.  They have seen me get up, they have seen me show up, and they have seen me rise despite the darkness I tow.

Thank you James, for making this an opportunity for me to candidly remind us moms who cope daily with depression, that we are still able to make significant positive impacts, despite our demons.

We do what we do as mothers because we draw our strength from that special well deep inside us, fed by the eternal spring of divine love, a mother’s love.

my-little-love-wallpaper

Image courtesy: youwall.com

Depression In The Workplace

DSC_1065The most difficult thing with having depression as an adult is that you are still expected to behave as an adult, with all the duties, responsibilities and obligations of being an adult.

There are people depending on you, your boss, your kids, your spouse, and your pets. Even in your darkness, with uncontrollable tears ready to spill over at the smallest bump in the road, work still needs to be completed, deadlines still have to be met, bills still need to be paid, and the bacon still needs to be brought home.

No matter how much you just want to hide away in some dark corner, curl up within yourself and bawl your heart out, you still have a job to do.

Your attendance and productivity are non-negotiable expectations of you at work.

You need the money? You need your job?

Hell, yeah!

Rare it is for those of us who don’t need these essentials of modern living.

Your boss has their responsibilities too. The company does not owe you anything more than your paycheck, and you do not owe them more than what they pay you for. Your job is a financial transaction, between you and the company.

You, the employee, are paid monies in exchange for your time, and what you produce for your employer.

Keep this in mind and do not make the mistake of thinking that they care about your mental health, because they really do not care other than how it would affect their bottom line.

Even the best managers, or even if your manager is your best friend, they still have a business to run, clients to service, revenue to generate, deadlines to meet, and a boss that they themselves must report to as well.

Everyone has a boss that they have to ultimately report to.

At the end of the day, your boss gets to go home, to their families and their own life. They may be as empathetic as can be, but they must do what is best for their own livelihood, for their own job security, and that is to look out for the company’s interest. This may seem cold and cynical, but it is the truth. There is no room in an organization for an employee who does not produce, does not fit in, or is a drain on company resources.

A wonderful colleague at work once told me, referring to our manager;

“Betty does what’s best for Betty, you, Sandy have to do what is best for Sandy”.

You must do what is in the best interest of you, because you are your best and biggest advocate.

Stay professional. Maintain your professional reputation, and take the time you need to regroup. The last thing you need at this point is to have a meltdown at work. Your mental health is paramount to everything else.

You work to live, not the other way around.

If you do not resolve your situation first, then the situation may be resolved for you (by you being relieved of your position), and that will bring you down even further.

Here are some tips that may help you to regroup.

1. Get help

If you are feeling so overwhelmed that you cannot cope by yourself, it’s time to ask for help from a professional source. Speak with your doctor or medical professional for a diagnosis, and explore your treatment options. There could be answers to address your physical symptoms as well as your emotional and psychological well-being. You may need therapy, counselling, prescriptions or a combination of approaches to help you heal.

There may also be help and resources readily available through your human resources department. The main thing is to ask for help. If you don’t get help the first time, keep asking.  Help is available.

DSC_2404

2. Take care of yourself. 

Taking care of yourself is more than indulging in a soothing bath or spoiling yourself with a mani-pedi (I am not saying those aren’t awesome, love them myself). Taking care of yourself is giving yourself everything that your mind, body and spirit needs and deserves in order to be well and to thrive.

If you need to see the doctor (or medical professional), then take the time to see your doctor, therapist or counsellor.

If you need to take a period of time away from work, then ask for that time.  Recent studies published by the University of Melbourne found that employees who continued to work even as they experienced depression symptoms, realized positive health benefits towards their recovery.  That being said, your doctor can help you determine if you need time away from work.

Your well-being is paramount to all else in your life. Your work will always be there. That urgent matter on your desk is not a life or death situation (unless it literally is because you are a life-saving surgeon or some such, even then, there is an on-call to take it on). Money can always be made, another job can always be found, but your health is your life. Your mental-health is the internal world in which you exist. It must stand head and shoulders above all else. Otherwise you could begin to feel that your world is not worth the effort, and that feeling can lead to the ultimate darkness, suicide.

3. Act

Once you have established a plan of action with your medical professional, stay the course. It may be difficult to remember or keep your medical appointments, therapy sessions, take your medications and adhere to your treatment plan, but you must. Treatment will get you better.

4. Make a list checklist  checklist

Focus and concentration will be a challenge. This is a common symptom of depression. Making lists of your to do’s are essential in keeping you on the move. Having a check mark to show for completed tasks, no matter how small the task, will help you to keep move forward. Making lists also helps to break down all your tasks, and show you what you need to do. It can help you to feel less overwhelmed by all that you need to do. It gives you a place to start and prevent you from feeling paralyzed. Even if everything on the list doesn’t get done, you will have still made progress.

5. Take breaks

Take your breaks, to stretch your legs and increase your circulation, to nourish your body and eat your lunch, to walk away from your work station and just allow yourself to rest. This will help in preventing your mind from fatigue at this point in your healing. Give your brain a quick break. Studies have shown that taking breaks can decrease stress hormones, and raise dopamine levels. This will help you to be more productive and manage your stress.

photo (19)

6. Find support

Find support, if you are not comfortable speaking with a colleague about your situation, make sure you have support in friends or family. The feelings that you are experiencing have to go somewhere, it is best that they have a safe place to be released. If you are unable to find a safe place to release your pain, there are crisis hotlines set up exactly for this purpose. Find out the nearest hotline available in your location, and keep it readily accessible. You never know when you will need it. Suffering in silence will not help you get better.

There are no quick fixes for depression. Medications take at least two weeks to take effect. Counselling and therapies may take months or years for you to feel the effects of healing.

Be patient. Be kind to yourself and never give up. You are worthy.

May the light always shine for you.

Namaste.

DSC_0806

Photo credits: Sandi Yee

Part II ~ “What does she have to be depressed about?”


“What does she have to be depressed about?”DSCF3092

This comment always gets under my skin!

Yes, I get this comment a lot.

The first time someone is told of my depression, this comment is usually their first reaction.

People don’t make ignorant comments like this to those with other health conditions, such as oh…cancer. That would be highly callous and crude.  Cancer survivors get kudos and sympathy, encouragement and toasts to their intestinal fortitude, for coming face to face with death and beating it back to its gate, and live to tell about it.

But for people like me, who look at death every day as a possibility, who plan out each and every detail of how, when and where to commit suicide, we get told to get over it, to think about something else, change our perspective, keep busy so that we don’t give ourselves the time to be depressed.

The worst of all is the outright invalidation. We are told straight to our face by well-meaning friends and family;

“You don’t have depression; there’s nothing for you to be depressed about.
You have a good life!”

Can you imagine saying those things to someone diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, who is looking at death`s door only a few feet away;

“You don’t have cancer, you’re just losing weight.

Think about something else, that will make the pain go away.
Stay busy, don’t give your mind or body the time to have cancer.”

WTF!

This is why so many people hide their depression; the stigma, the invalidation, the lack of understanding, the ignorance with which people view this illness.

I did NOT ask for this illness, my body created it all on its own, without my consent, without my consult.

Depression is not caused by personal weakness.  It is a serious illness, medically acknowledged, and medically treated.  I cannot will it away.  I cannot wish it away.  I cannot meditate it away. Nor can I simply change my perspective; shift my paradigm, and POOF! I am healed.

who symbol

Image courtesy: World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) published in 2012, that globally, more than 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression.

My doctor once told me that depression has a fatality rate of 1%. For every 100 people who have depression, 10 of those will attempt suicide, and of the 10 people who attempt suicide, 1 will succeed. Based on this fatality rate and the WHO publication of 350 million people who suffer from depression, then 1% of successful suicides would work out to more than 3.5 million people.  That is four times the number of people as published by the WHO earlier this year, quoting a little over 800,000 people, who die from suicide every year.

I don’t know where Dr. W. got his statistics from, but it was enough to stop me on my tracks and make me pull back on my ideas and plans for killing myself.  Holy *%*&! Those are real numbers, with real people behind them. This illness is real, with real consequences.

I am not depressed.  I have Depression.

What Does She Have To Be Depressed About?

20140916_163330[1]

I am not depressed. I have Depression. Photo Courtesy: Sandi Yee

“What does she have to be depressed about?”
“I am not depressed.  I have Depression.”


I have a good life.

I live in a free country, where I have no fears for my physical safety, where I am free from threats of political or terrorist violence.

I have a good home, a good family, clean healthy food and water every day to feed my body, spiritual connection to feed my spirit, and pharmaceuticals help to stabilize my mental health.

Indeed, what do I have to be depressed about?

I am not depressed.

I have depression.

I have a mental health illness due to a possible deficiency in the levels of serotonin produced and/or absorbed by my body.

No one knows for certain where depression comes from, how or why.  There is only hypothesis, an educated guess based on what can be observed and measured.

Serotonin is a chemical produced in our bodies that acts as a neurotransmitter, helping to send signals from and to different areas of the brain. As a neurotransmitter, serotonin influences a large majority of brain cells, including brain cells that affect mood.

My doctor officially diagnosed me with Chronic Clinical Depression.  He prescribed antidepressant, Citalopram (the generic prescription substitution for Celexa), for my condition, and later added another prescription to help boost the effects of this one.  He explained to me that this medication was going to help my brain grow receptors for serotonin, to help my body absorb more of the chemical (serotonin) into my system.  Hopefully, this should help lift my depressive state of emotion.  He said that it was going to take time for the receptors to grow, and to begin absorbing more serotonin, about two weeks or so.

Sure enough, after a few weeks, I began to feel emotionally lighter, less of an urge to curl into myself and cry.

My thought patterns changed. Where previously I had daily thoughts, ideas and plans of killing myself, after taking the prescription for a few weeks, those thoughts no longer lingered in my mind.

I felt lighter in mood, body and spirit.  The awful weight that had stooped my shoulders, dragged at my feet and darkened my path, one day suddenly dissolved itself.

20140711_124930[1]

Photo Courtesy: Sandi Yee

I could finally breathe a full, deep breath.

The medication worked!  It really worked!  Finally, a happy pill!

“Nope, not a happy pill,” said Dr. W.

Dr. W. said that this drug will NOT make me happy. It is a drug that will help bring me back to my normal self, that I otherwise would be if my biochemical levels were normal.

As it happens, it would seem that I am normally a giggling, dancing, laughing, singing, type of person.

Cheers to that!    😀

I am and always will be, a work in progress.  It has taken years of counselling and therapy, trials on different medications and prescription cocktails, many painful hours of introspection, and a network of strong support to see me still standing.

I am still standing.