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Monday, March 20, 2006

somber, part 2

**WARNING: another theraputic write for me - as in, parts probably barely make sense. I just need to get it out (part of a way to get rid of the writer's block?), and here it is.**

I want to thank all of you who commented on my previous post. My aim was to begin a mini-discussion about depression, its effects, and how we - perhaps especially women - can help others - perhaps especially women - deal with this, and let people who are suffering/have suffered/will suffer from depression know that they are not alone.

I wrote about M., who passed away last week. A few things of note have happened regarding this situation that I need to...vent, get out, whatever.

First, some reactions I've witnessed: 1. Do I know exactly how it happened? No, and I really do not have a desire to know. AT ALL. 2., and perhaps the most disturbing to me: That was just so selfish. I wish I could explain clearly enough that I truly think that M. sincerely believed, with all that she was at that moment, that her family was better off without her than with her. 3. How will she be judged for this? I, personally, want to believe that she was not in her right frame of mind and therfore cannot be held accountable. I don't want to think of judging. I can't.

Second, a conversation about what we can do, as sisters in the ward, to help the situation. Preventative measures, and such. Anonymously, depression runs rampant. How to support those with depression without excluding those who don't have it? (This was not my idea - RSPres. was going over some ideas.) She (RSP) suggested a club similar to one she used to belong to when she lived wherever-it-was, where sisters get together on a weekly/monthly basis and go over Jesus The Christ, one chapter at a time. I tried to explain that when the depression is that bad, you cannot get out of bed to attend the group. You're stresssed because you're late (and shall be judged for it, whether aloud, "jokingly", or silently by others). Once you get there, the nagging in your head doesn't stop: not good enough, for whatever reason: you don't understand a chapter, no one reacted (validated) your own thoughts, on and on and on.

Personal side note: would I like to be a part of that book club? You bet! I can see how it would be extremely enlightening. But I've been where some women are, emotionally, and I don't believe this kind of activity would be effective until they can get to a place, emotionally, where they can function and be, in general, okay with themselves. I feel like I can accurately guesstimate what people who are in a depressed state are feeling because I've been there, but I'm not now - so I have the presence of mind to put it into words.

Another idea: a craft club, because we feel more worth when we are creating with our hands. And my reaction, again: It just won't do. Not until they can crawl out. It needs to be simpler.

I love what some of you suggested, a girls night (or day - just girl time) on a regular basis. And some points that Lorien made are key: validating others' thoughts, ideas, even their being, and even if you disagree, it's okay. A safe place. Women need that. It's the reaching out and pulling others in that helps, I think.

One more thing that really did not sit well with me while talking with RSP (who I love and sustain, by the way - please don't think me blasphemous). When I saw her I had just finished my semi-annual visiting teaching interview ("Do you get along with your companion? What, if anything, would you like to change?"), and so visiting teaching was brought into the mix. "I just hope the sisters in M.'s ward were doing their visiting teaching, otherwise, they may have some serious guilt issues to work through over this."

I couldn't stop thinking about this statement all weekend, and about 20 minutes ago, the reason why occurred to me: Does that mean that if you're doing your visiting teaching then your guilt is lessened? Is that what I'm to gather from that? Because guess what - M. used to be my visiting teacher, and she came over every month.

Which gets me on another rant, about visiting teaching, which I won't start.


Anonymous said...

This blog entry got me thinking about a lot of issues I am not sure I wanted to visit. (too much anger over the naivety of some) There are people who have never suffered from depression that have TOTALLY unrealistic expectations of how to "fix" it for people. A freakin book club is not the answer. I too love and support our pres, but this is a bigger topic than many are ready to handle.
You can see someone everyday and still not know they are suffering with this. Faking it becomes the norm. The real question here is how can we really help those who need it when we don't know who they are? That is my prayer right now. Then, if you do know someone that is suffering, how do you help them with more than just a band aid approach? I don't want the "is there anything I can do for you' question when what I really feel like doing is running away. (by the way, I am speaking generally right now)
I love the idea of a girls time together. I always feel renewed when I get together with others and can talk openly about issues in a trusting environment. Jen, I think we have a charge here to get something set up in our neighborhood. I would love to get to know more of the girls in our ward, and I think I can lend a sympathetic ear on several issues. My life has never been a white picket fence (mostly by choice).
OK, I have officially babbled enough, I just can't get this off my mind.

~j. said...

Thanks, Sue. I agree that it's time to do something and not wait for a sign-up sheet for some crochet club. And I don't think that we're the only ones who feel that it's time to step up. Just tonight, I got a visitor, gal from our ward (her son was making noises behind us yesterday in how-to-be-married class, tee-hee) and she brought me a homemade cheesecake. When I called her to thank her, she just said, "Well, I didn't want you to think I was crazy. I just had a dream about you the other night, and then when I saw you at church, I just thought I should bring you something." 'Atta girl!! To know that you are being looked out for and that people really care - that's huge. (Yeah, no more, "Is there anything I can for do?")

Lorien, Compulsive, anyone else who meets regularly...what do you do? Go out? Take turns hosting? I want this to be sincere without it turning into a scheduled, assignment-feeling that possible??

dalene said...

We meet once a month at someone's home and then go together to Applebees (because we needed someplace that didn't close up before we got started). Slugs like me usually show up at whatever point we can steal away, but that's the point--you can do whatever works for you and its OK. Some people order food; some people just order a bottomless soda. We do talk about everything and they usually have to send us a clue it's time to go by starting to vacuum under our feet.

We do have an eclectic group, but it is very validating and it works. I think things like that can help when someone is in a slump or needs a group of supportive friends, but it won't address the physical aspect of clinical depression.

I go back to the diabetes analogy. Not one of us would ever want to think that we didn't do enough for someone who is struggling with depression, but implying a good book club or a good visiting teacher would have made the difference is still assuming that the problem is on the outside. A good (which is so relative anyway) visiting teacher doesn't make anyone's insulin more manageable, nor is it the cure for depression.

This past year I went to back-to-back funerals. The first was of a dear friend who died after a most courageous battle against the ravages of cancer. She was still too young, but we mourned the loss of a life well lived.

The very next day was the funeral of a young man my husband had taught in third grade, who had struggled with depression and feeling he had to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders for many years. He chose to end his life not yet lived in a very tragic manner. He was the second in his class to end his life by suicide and it was heartbreaking to watch my husband speak at yet another of his kids' funerals; the mother of the first boy attend yet another tragic funeral and see her son's best friend buried right next to her son's grave; a set of friends bury yet another of their buddies too soon; and the little brother of this boy come apart at the graveside. It was one of a handful of moments in my life that were almost too terrible to bear.

I certainly don't have any answers except that it is better to love than to judge and that anything we do to encourage dialogue and increase understanding certainly can't hurt.

Sorry to go on about this, but as you can tell, this subject is way too close to home for me. I have seen depression from both sides of the glass and I have way too much pent up inside myself over it. Thanks again for giving me a venue in which to express myself.

~j. said...

Thank you, compulsive, for sharing that. I mourn with family members who have had to endure the pains of a loved one's suicide.

I agree that the main issue, the medical aspects of depression, won't be solved by 'going out', but I think it's key because of the validation it provides. I remember picking up a friend to go out to get ice cream for the first time - the first of many, many outings together - she sat shotgun, while I was in the back, my sister-in-law driving. As Friend was getting settled, she was rearranging a few things in her purse and accidentally let show her sample pack of Zoloft that she had just started, and gave a kind of apologetic statement about just trying it out. I said, "Oh, I've been on anti-depressants for a few years now, and it's been great for me. Be honest with your doctor, though, the first thing you try may not work. For me, it was the second medication...", and so the conversation went. I think that for her, just that validation was extremely liberating. And that could work on all sorts of levels. It could be someone who feels completely down about herself and reluctantly goes along with a group of women who she thinks have it all COMPLETELY together, and when realities come to surface, she may realize that she's not alone. That it's okay to take medication (like me) or get counseling (like someone else), or atleast begin to explore options.

I know you know all of this, I just wanted to make myself more clear. I also know (again, to be clear) that medication is not the answer for everyone. It takes tremendous courage to ask a doctor for help, and support to do so can be found, I think, in validation from others.

dalene said...

I agree. I don't know why we tend to isolate ourselves so much--maybe it's because we are so hard on ourselves and sometimes hard on each other. But it really does a body good to get out and see that other people struggle with the same things we do and to feel accepted just as we are. And that does promote honesty, discussion and support (from the right people).

One more thing. Sometimes people look to counseling and medication and still live with depression. Treatment can bring them up to a level where they can basically function, but there still is no joy in their lives. I think we might be surprised to know how many people around us are just barely surviving. It's really very sad.

wendysue said...

J, with our group, it started by us meeting up at one gals house (she's a young, divorced, single mom of 2. . .and needed some girls time, so we would meet up at her place after her kids were asleep.) Usually we would each bring a snacky thing, or sometimes it started by saying, we're getting together to watch this movie. . .and most everyone stuck around after the movie to chat. I know it was very therapeutic for us. Sometimes our conversations were about serious issues, sometimes just silly but all of it was very needed.

I think the other thing that is crucial is true friendships. (Not the feeling that you are someone's project, or that they are just there because of their calling). It's only when that true friendship and concern exists that you can get to the root of some problems. I have friends that can call and say "How are you doing?" and I say "fine." they know to say "no, seriously, what's going on?" Too many people are used to leaving it at "fine." When someone is in the throws of a depression they need someone that just shows up at the house (not that calls to invite them to something that they'll make up an excuse to not go to.) They need someone to call them out on it, and not let them get away with painting a pretty facade. I learned a few years ago that it doesn't do anyone any good for me to fake how I'm feeling. It ends up hurting me and maybe the other person feels the same way and just needs to know someone else has struggles too.

Thanks for the great post.

Carina said...

I remember once saying to my friend Melanee that I thought I needed to go talk to a therapist. She laughed and said "That's what friends are for!" I took her literally and have been all the better for it. Let down the front, expose your soft underbelly, there will be someone there to catch you (don't we love mixed metaphors.)

I seem to recall a Monday night several weeks gone when a certain someone called up ~J and cried on the phone about her worries. Just a few minutes on the phone removed the anxiety and fear.

If it's pent up and you can't breathe, let it out to someone. There's nothing like taking a deep breath.

p.s. you're awesome.

QueenScarlett said...

This is why it's so important to make that effort to be inclusive. I find that when I do reach out to a lady I wouldn't normally... I find out how full of life and color she is... and often why at first she seemed so prickly.

I've been truly frustrated with VT for some time. That's why I am so grateful to build real relationships with girlfriends. Where I am not a tick a checklist and they aren't either. I haven't depended on VTers because I always seem to get stuck with the ones that are... not well-matched or just don't give a dang... or fake it. It's a source of endless frustration.

I think we all prefer to do things of our own accord and when anything is an assignment it just becomes such.

Here's a question - we have been talking of how to help - what about the person that isn't sure if they are going through depression... how do they know? What should they do? Signs? does that make sense? Sometimes I think I'm ill with something but am not fully sure... just a thought.

Thanks for keeping this conversation open.

QueenScarlett said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Carina said...

On a related note this article was posted today on CNN.
Esentially, if you treat moms' depression you can prevent children from becoming depressed.

If you can't get help for yourself, maybe you can find the strength to reach out if it will prevent your child from ever feeling the same way.

~j. said...

Queen - excellent question. It's like my friend Shannon said in the previous post's comments, she knew that at times something just wasn't right, and when she asked her doctor, he suggested that she might have depression, to which she replied, "Oh, I didn't think so, but if you're asking me I suppose it could be a possibility." In this and ALL instances, I think it's key to have a doctor that really hears you out and understands what you're telling them about how you feel. Having sincere conversations with other women might bring these things up and open up possibilities. Also, sometimes others have a perfect way of describing something (empty feelings, etc.) that perhaps you haven't thought of that could help in telling a doctor exactly what you've been going through.

Ooohh...thanks, Carina. It's been interesting to me that I took anti-depressants while pregnant with and/or nursing my youngest two, but not my oldest, and the differences in their attitudes, temperaments, how quick they 'come apart' could easily reflect that. I know that their personalities were established before, but I do wonder how much of an influence my medication had. I like that article, and the message of how important it is for mothers to care for themselves.

Tori :) said...

Jenny- great post. A little too deep for my mood right now, but you made excellent points! I just wanted to say hello and tell you to check out my blog. Tara sent me your link. See ya!
Tori Gordon

~j. said...

Tori - welcome! So nice to hear from you - and congratulations on your newest addition! I'll check out your blog. As far as this post being too deep...yeah, you've caught me in a week. I do have more light-hearted posts, I promise. Check out the archives, if you want. :)

Anonymous said...

I think the dream was supposed to be about me and she just got us confused. Hand over the cheesecake.

La Yen said...

That friend with the Zoloft was ...Duh Duh Duh...Me! And can I tell you that that conversation completely changed my life? I have thought about it a lot over the years, and I know that that conversation is up in the top ten reasons why you are my friend. I honestly thought that I was the only person in the whole world who needed it, and I was very embarrassed. But because I talked to you, I kept taking it, and the day that it kicked in, I woke up thinking "So this is how other people feel! How wonderful!" I just knew that it was missing in my life, once I knew what happiness and peace was supposed to feel like. (I wrote a blog post about this, so I won't go on.) But, I know that you needed to talk to me that day, because the day that it kicked in was also the day I found out my stepsister had died, and I needed to have that perspective on that, of all days.

Queen--I never thought that I was depressed--I just thought that life was supposed to be sad. I initially went in because I was having severe panic attacks, and my doctor recommended this, and that started the dialogue. If you go to the Zoloft website, there are a bunch of indicators and things. Interestingly, I was in therapy for about a year, and my doctor kept asking me if I was depressed, and I always answered that I wasn't, because I thought depressed people cried all day and were lay-abouts. Silly me!

I had a dream that you brought me cheesecake. Get on it.

Carina said...

We did, we sent it ground. Didn't wrap it or nothin'.

Lorien said...

Good dialogue. I think understanding and awareness are critical, particularly to those who haven't been depressed. I've only had little bitty windows into depression, like when I sobbed almost every night for a year about my parents' divorce (which I began healing from about the same time I changed birth control...hmmm...coincidence? I don't think so. The many "therapy sessions" I had with a close friend helped, too). But my dark days were only grey some of the time, not black all the time like some of my friends have described. Depression seems counter-intuitive and unfathomable to someone like me who hasn't been there, so kudos to people who talk openly about it. That't the only way people who haven't been there are going to be able to understand it.

So these are the questions I guess I still have: how can I know when someone is down, and what kind of things can I do to help that person?

Lorien said...

Oh, and I wonder if the guilt thing was that your RSP meant that hopefully there aren't women who were supposed to be VTing M, but didn't, and so are now feeling guilty? Not assigning guilt to anyone about what happened, but that if someone thinks they could have helped prevent a tragedy, but didn't do enough, so now feel guilty? I don't know. Just a thought.

~j. said...

Lorien - THANK YOU for your perspective, and for being so willing to try to understand it, as someone who has not had to deal with it.

As far as how to know someone is down, and what to do...I guess that's why I am an advocate of strengthening the girlfriend bonds. Not everyone is as open about these things as I am, and it can be especially difficult to express those feelings when you're in the midst of them (which is why, like I said, now that I'm not in it, I feel I can get a grasp enough to put it into words). Simply knowing that you have a friend that is open and non-judgmental is huge. I can tell you that when I was in the depths, I sat down and cried because I honestly believed that there was NOT ONE PERSON that I could talk to about how I was feeling. Not one. I needed someone to be physically present and there was no one within driving distance that I could consider that would completely accept how I felt without judging me. I had nowhere to turn. Had I had a bosom buddy, I would have known I could have called her. So my suggestion would be to really develop friendships.

That being said, last Friday night I spoke with a very close friend of M., and she had just seen her a few days before M. died. It's so sad that sometimes people feel so helpless and hopeless. And who knows if medication and/or counseling would have helped...

I got the feeling from M.'s friend that she (the friend) was going over and over in her mind, "What could I have done?", and really, who wouldn't? In a situation like this, I think everyone thinks back to the last interaction they had with the desceased and asks themselves, "Could I have seen this coming? Could I have prevented it?" That's where I have the problem with what RSP said. It's asinine to suggest that anyones action, or in this case, lack of action, would contribute to someone taking their own life. Especially in this instance, when enough people are already feeling helpless ("What could I have done?"), it does no good to contribute to the inner guilt - casting a feeling of, "Well, yes, if you only would have done your visiting teaching before the 15th of the month, then maybe she'd still be with us, and let this be a lesson to us all...". That's crap.

Lorien said...

yep. I agree. Guilt for someone else's actions goes nowhere. We women are so guilt-laden--laden by others and also by ourselves. I'm trying really hard not to use guilt as a motivator in my relationships, but it's hard to get out of old patterns. This guilt thing is a whole nuther topic altogether!

Geo said...

I'm no expert on depression or suicide, but I've dealt with both on very intimate terms. I am one of the proud . . . the few(?) . . . the chemically imbalanced, and all agree that I inherited these bad genes from my father who couldn't handle his own chronic pain anymore after about 50 years on the planet. It's been my life's work, since childhood, to resist similar urges to fly. The topic of depression has been such a huge presence in my thoughts lately, mixed up with questions about other issues--loneliness, isolation, abuse, fear, and so on. I search my own experiences, my memories, my dreams, library shelves, news reports, scriptures, other people's blogs, my environment, the heavens, my morning tea leaves (kidding), homeopathic theory,--oh, you name it--for answers. I think I'm getting some answers, but the trick is synthesizing all the information that pours in and also the quiet feelings that come that are so hard for me to articulate. I do have hope for myself and others. My own impatience drives me crazy; I want to learn faster and smarter. I want to be part of the healing force in this world. So many of us suffer. Where am I going with this comment? I meant to say something else entirely! What was it? Aargh!

Anyway. I am in agreement with all you've said, ~j. And dreamy cheesecakes are a very good place to start. That's the right track. There's something so vital about thumbing your nose at your own shyness and living in a way that helps you see and welcome opportunities to touch somebody. When I'm not in a muddle (which is when??) I like to keep a little book handy for jotting down inspirations, which are nearly always people-related. I'm not always good at following through with them, but occasionally I do, and I'm always encouraged to keep going with the practice. It's too easy to have a loving idea and then lose it in the swirl of the day's business.

I'd better stop here or I'll spend my whole day rambling.