Thursday, October 31, 2013

Living with Depression

      Saying "Living With Depression", sounds as if I were suffering from depression myself. I'm not. I'm one of those insufferable people who loves mornings and sees beauty in life, even difficult life. So why is the title "Living With Depression"? Because I live with and dearly love my husband who does indeed suffer from depression.
      We are bookends in personality. He can anticipate all sorts of dire consequences that might lie ahead-I happily blunder on never even thinking that those consequences could possibly exist at all. When he shares them with me, I am amazed that they have never crossed my mind. His depression, however goes way beyond those projections. Those projections of anticipated problems made him a valuable systems analyst for the companies that he designed computer systems for as they were debugged prior to installations of programs.
      The first indications that something was wrong showed shortly after we moved 1000 miles from Southern California to cloudy Oregon. I had been hired as a third grade teacher for the district of my dreams. I was working for a principal that can only be described as a kind, compassionate human being. The staff was delightful to work with, congenial, helpful, and professional. I loved teaching and the people I was with each day-students, parents, everyone! In the morning as I backed the van out of the garage, Don would walk out to wave good-bye with what came to be the most wistful, then as time went on, the saddest expression on his face. He was working from home on line with the company he had worked for in California. Those soft brown eyes pled with me to somehow make things better to ease the loneliness of being home alone.
      He also had to shoulder additional burdens at this time, as we had full custody of two grandsons. Since he was the home contact, he got the calls when things went awry at school. He took over the jobs of ferrying the boys to doctor and dental appointments, soccer and baseball practice. He even went to parent conferences when I was tied up with my own parent conferences for my students.
      I had planned to teach until Christopher, the younger of the two finished high school. That would make me 70 at retirement. To do that in Oregon it meant that I would need to get a master's degree. Long nights in class along with homework that meant the library became my second home.
      Through all this I was being stimulated and feeling that I could succeed at a level I had not experienced before. Even the district superintendent had personally complimented me. While I was having my self esteem lifted, Don was sinking, not even treading water any longer.
       While I was at school my thoughts were truly not on home or the problems there. Teaching is so absorbing and totally demanding that there was not a moment to dwell on what Don was going through. When I was at home there was not ignoring that something was terribly wrong and I had better fix things pronto. But that's the worst part of watching someone drown, you can do absolutely nothing to make things better for that person. Being cheerful is met with deer-in-the-headlight stares. Patter about how was your day elicits a dispirited shrug. Your loved one's whole demeanor screams help me. Posture slumps.  Feelings of guilt for feeling happy creep in. Real fear sometimes flashes in your mind as you wonder but are afraid to ask if thoughts of suicide lurk.
        Advice from a spouse is the worst kind of advice. But I offer it anyway. How about exercise, a physical checkup, better nutrition, a hobby, volunteer work. All run off his back as it, I'm sure, all sounds like too much effort when just getting out of bed is a huge effort.
        I watch as he painfully recounts every real or imagined offence he may have committed rises to the surface of his consciousness. Each account is not mulled over once, but over and over and over, each detail agonizingly worried about.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


There is an absolute loss. Loss of control, loss of feeling, loss of hope, of interest in anything, loss of worth and it seemed all else. It was as if my life was wasted, all the years and great effort to be a better person, to be of use to not only myself but to those I held dear.

Loss in all of its manifestations is the touchstone of depression. I felt loss at every hand. The loss of self-esteem is a celebrated symptom, and my own sense of self had all but disappeared, along with any self-reliance. This loss can quickly degenerate into dependence, and from dependence to infantile dread. One dreads the loss of all things, all people close and dear. There is an acute fear of abandonment.
William Styron

"It is hopelessness even more than pain that crushes the soul." -William Styron

Tuesday, October 29, 2013


If the pain were readily describable most of the sufferers from this ancient affliction would have able to confidently depict for their friends and loved ones, even their physicians some of the actual dimension of their torment, and perhaps elicit a comprehension that has been generally lacking.  Such incomprehension has usually been due, not to a failure of sympathy, but to the basic inability of healthy people to imagine a form of torment so alien to everyday experience. For myself, the pain is most closely connected to drowning or suffocation – but even those images are off the mark. 
To most of those who have experienced it, the horror of depression is so overwhelming as to be quite beyond expression.
William Styron

            Pain, from Depression is not like a toothache, or broken bone or some other injuries that cause us to feel serious pain, but there is absolutely a terrible feeling of pain. I could not point to a spot on my body and say, “This is where the pain is!” But it is constant.
            Could it be described using some other words? I have looked up every variation of words like pain, torment, lake of fire and brimstone, and so on, but nothing properly described the feeling.
            I have been sick before, sometimes with great pain, but you know that sometime in the near future you will recover and the pain will leave. Your doctor has given assurance, and probably just important, you may be comforted by someone who has also experienced your sickness.
             From the onset of the sickness through recovery, somehow you know that others sympathize with your condition, that no one is criticizing you for not handling the pain in a more mature way, or perhaps suggesting to others that maybe it is just a fake, just to get out of some responsibility, just doesn’t want to share the load, or is it just another away to get sympathy?

  The pain is unrelenting, and what makes the condition intolerable is the fore knowledge that no remedy will come – not in a day, an hour, a month, or a minute. If there is mild relief, one knows that is only temporary, more pain will follow. In virtually any other serious sickness, a patient who felt similar deviations would be lying flat in bed, possibly sedated and hooked up to the tubes and wires of life-support systems, but at the very least in a posture of repose and in an isolated setting.
  William Styron

A bright and seasoned oncologist, Dr. Ford has at close range watched many patients endure chemotherapy and cancer’s other terrors. Asked what the treatment is like for the people involved, the doctor says quite honestly, “I have no concept. It really can’t be described unless you have gone through it.” And even those that have been there cannot really explain               Neil Maxwell

It Started Slowly

            When I started feeling bad, I had no idea what was happening, except I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t sick, I just felt bad. When asked what was wrong, it was simply, I don’t feel good. I just felt bad. I didn’t lose any work, or stop participating  in things, I just didn’t feel good.  It’s hard to go to the doctor and just say; I’m not feeling well!  I couldn’t describe where I wasn’t feeling well, but just that I wasn’t. So how could I go to the Doctor?
            As it got worse, don’t make me explain what worse is, it was just worse. It became more and more important that I find a way to describe the way I felt. I knew I was beginning to act different. I might even ask someone if they could help describe how I felt. I needed to be able to describe how I felt and why I was acting different. I began to spend a lot of time looking for words. Worse got worse, It seemed I couldn’t make my mind work properly. As I tried desperately to find words, it seemed that my mind would just stop, seize up, and I couldn’t make it work. 
             I felt frightened. Nothing like this had ever happened before. Why can’t I be able to say what is wrong? 
            Life became increasingly difficult I thought. I didn’t feel good about my self; I lost interest in so many things. I was exhausted all the time. Had I brought this on myself?
            Had I done something that would cause this to happen? I thought I knew that Heavenly Father didn’t work that way, but was I being punished?
            There were things that I was involved with. I couldn’t do them anymore. When I announced that I needed to quit, and because he was a caring person, asked if he could help in any way? The conversation went something like this.

(me)  “I didn’t feel good!”
(him) “Well, tell me about it? Maybe I can help.”
(me)  “I just can’t do it, I’m so tired, and I don’t feel good.” 
(him) ”Well, we all get down once in a while, it even happens to me. But I’m able to pull myself out of it after awhile. It just takes some will power. 

            That really only happened once, but it was devastating. I couldn’t even do what I had been asked to do. And now it was my fault, I didn’t have the will power to pick myself up, and get on with life.

"In the early stages he begins to feel physically ill, and as the days pass his mental self-grooming decreases. At the start his optimism prevails. 'I feel ill now and unable to cope, but tomorrow I'll feel better.' When tomorrow arrives, however, and he feels slightly worse, he learns that the optimism of the previous day was unjustified. This gradual unlearning of optimism continues on for hundreds, even thousands of days, all optimistic thought abolished — for the patient has learned (correctly) that the future holds nothing but terrible suffering. Mental self-grooming has ceased and day after day a thousand and one events confirm previous pessimistic thoughts and a complete breakdown results"                                         John Stuart Mill