Maybe you feel alone? Maybe you feel worthless? Maybe you think you waste everyone’s time with your problems/feelings. Maybe just breathing fuels your feelings of despair and the only thing you can manage is sleep.
You probably won the depression lottery. It is estimated nearly 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression according to the WHO.
Social stigma is one of the biggest factors preventing effective care.
Do the whole world a favor and be proactive with those you love. Let them know they are NOT alone.
Depression doesn’t respect the holidays. It is the Grinch. It is the Scrooge. It is the devil in a red Santa suit come to steal all your beautifully wrapped silver linings.
Some call it Seasonal Affective Disorder. Others call it pre-holiday blues and some simply acknowledge how much they miss that significant other. It is sometimes like missing a limb or a deflated lung…we all have our stories. What helps you through these times?
This is a time of year a virus peaks its ugly head around mid-November. It spreads its infections to those most vulnerable. You may not “catch” it at the same time; you may not catch it every year and yet, there does not seem to be guaranteed antibiotic to cure its infective powers.
September days start waning as the sun sets sooner; October days rob you of nature’s dinner’s sweetest and most potent “digestif”. November drops its veil of hoary matter and thickens day after day, week after week hiding nature’s Monet, slowly slipping into Picasso’s Blue period. Nights are longer than days and symptoms of this virus multiply
Humans are deprived of nature’s nutrient feeding brains with hope and cheer. Life, death, separation and loss blend. Waiting, as it stings open wounds and those who’ve barely healed are reminded of life’s demises.
They call in the evening. They call late into the night. They cannot understand why they feel so depressed. They are teens and young adults…some are even pre-teens. They ask me why they should continue?
The pain travels through space into my ear…they are misunderstood, treatments keep changing with little or no windows of sunshine peeking into their long dark lives. Some are even told, it’s just a teenage phase…get over it…pull it together!
Too often, I hang up feeling powerless, wondering if they will heed our verbal contract …to hang in one more hour, one more day…to reach out one more time.
Many adults finally get treatment for their mental health only discovering many times it started when they were teens. Experts in psychiatry say if a teen gets treatment for depression, for example, the recovery can be so much shorter than, if they wait until they are adults, the recovery is longer. This information sometimes gets a youth’s attention and I am hoping they will find the help they need…deserve.
This morning, I read this article on my friend/colleague’s Facebook page here about people from all over the world coming together to share their findings…professionals going back to the drawing board to study, do more research; to connect with those who have been working in isolation… to listen and try to find better treatments for depression in youths…to prevent suicides.
It only makes sense that a youth may not manage well on an “adult’s cocktail” even if professionals keep tweaking it. “Trial and error”, I sometimes try to explain the complexity of a youth’s unique, amazing and ever changing brain.” What do I know? I am not a medical or psychiatric expert? And, deep down in my heart, I am frustrated.
And then this article I just read by “Toronto’s CAMH (Canadian Ass. of Mental Health) who have launched a new centre dedicated to child and youth depression.” Let`s hope this video also reaches people to raise awareness…raise funding so researches globally, can find better “cocktails” and treatment geared to youths, come to understand the complexities of their brains…finally give them hope…their friends and family hope…
Suicide is a tragedy that affects the family, friends and the community in so many ways. It takes time to heal and everyone heals in their own way, in their own time…but never EVER “gets over the loss”. People learn to move forward despite the loss, the emptiness.
At first there can be a celebration for having found the strength and courage to get out of bed; others it’s to put one foot in one shoe on at a time and shuffle into another room. There is no right or wrong way. There is no such thing as “they are stuck in the past”. Some do not acknowledge the grief until years later, because it is too painful to make sense of such a tragedy. It is eventually walking, shuffling or limping forward with the memory imprinted on your heart that is a success. Prints on a heart are made with indelible ink…
Sometimes it’s the guilt that tears one apart for the longest time…guilt, an emotion with sharp teeth. Other times it’s the anger that consumes one…anger sucks the energy like a vacuum. The sadness, the pain, the hurt can be felt differently by any one person…it can burn. It can feel like your gut was cut out, a limb torn off, a Mack Truck parked on your chest…and the list goes on. Why? Because it’s different for each person. There is no ONE size fits all.
There is no perfect “How To” instruction manual but there are many places that offer support. Sometimes it’s trying to find the right fit for a person. It can be reading stories of people who have experienced the same type of loss and tragedy. Other times it is seeing a grief counsellor or a family doctor. Some have found going to a bereavement group helpful. Others have a supportive network of friends “who DO get it”. These are only some ideas and whatever has worked for one person may be different for another person.
Hopefully more people will learn through the experience of friends and family who have lost someone through suicide…so we can still keep talking about it and keep it out of the closet.
Here is a song that inspired me to write this little piece tonight.
I just watched Deux Jours, Une Nuit (Two Days, One Night) with a 2014 joint Belgian-French-Italian production starring Marion Cotillard (La vie en rose), who was nominated for an Academy Award for her role as Sandra, a Belgian working mother /wife who is faced with a simple and time sensitive challenge. Within two days, Sandra must reach her 16 co-workers and organize them for an important vote.
From the start we feel for Sandra and her pain realizing that after being off work for depression, management realizes they can be more competitive with one employee less which gives the remaining employees a bonus and three hours weekly overtime to compensate for abolishing Sandra’s position.
I keep vacillating between wanting to shout for the rights of people who have suffered mental illness and screaming in the faces of working class employees who are not showing their solidarity. It angers me, it frustrates me to see how management can entice people with money and scares them about their job safety.
And then there is the flip side where this woman, who has battled mental illness and feels like giving up but at the risk of allowing her colleagues to get their “promised” bonus she questions her rights and self-confidence starts to slip. Her husband continues to encourage her.
This movie is so real…we see the struggles and how families are all impacted by mental health and it warms my heart to see Sandra’s husband root for her, believe in her and encourage her. I keep thinking that if she does not get her job back, this is a human rights issue but then again, how many have the time and money to fight cases like this.
Management and some greedy employees threaten others to vote for a bonus which is the same as voting Sandra out of her job. A manager scared employees by saying if they did not vote Sandra out, they would lose their job. It is sad to see the “divide and conquer” approach and I can see how the company is trying to remain competitive but their tactics are so very wrong.
The movie hits many nerves…human rights, mental illness, human greed, abuse of power but mostly I was proud to see a show of integrity by some humans who know what is important in life.
The movie brought up old memories of a steel company where I worked and the employees voted for their raises which would lay off many employees…they were going through a rough patch and if everyone would have worked 4 days a week (and believe me, they had great salaries!) they could have weathered through that economic crisis.
They show working class as the targets of such issues and we all know it happens everywhere but in other places employees do not EVEN have a say. When some companies have to eliminate a few jobs during financial difficulties, they rehire new people a year or two later with just a new title for the same job. Meanwhile, do they know how it impacts on the people they let go? If a person is 20 or 30, it is tough but they will find something eventually but what happens to people over 50?!! We are seeing more and more of this and I find it sad…very sad.
Olivia sighed a sigh of relief after speaking to her caller for two hours and the threat of suicide had finally waned when the teen thought of her little sister, her mother and her dog, Chelsea, she would not want to leave behind to fend for themselves with her step-father.
“But how do I know there is light at the end of the tunnel when my life is shit all the time… when my step-father won’t stop beating my mom and won’t stop coming into my room to get his “sugar” that I’m too old to believe that anymore, eh?” she wailed into the phone.
“Allow me to guide you through an imagery and let all your thoughts, fears, images float by you, like the credits at the end of a movie: now, imagine you are in a dark gigantic cave and as you move along you notice a fork and you have to decide which entrance you will continue on your journey.
You may choose one passageway that will make you go in circles in total darkness for a while but still brings you back to this fork; the other entrance will bring you towards the light but eventually you will still get to the light and you have me and many other counsellors here to guide you until you reach the light,” she stops to give her caller space to explore this imagery.
She hears the caller sob softly, “I can see it, I can really see the light”.
Depression can be a passage in time life offers one to take stalk of one’s life; other times it can be more complex…meeting up with past traumas, a chemical imbalance and the brain needs a boost of “vitamins”, a professional who accompanies one through the darkness so they don’t stumble in those twists and turns in that labyrinth of a tunnel…perhaps it is a moment to grieve which I often call a “necessary depression” to take the time one needs to mourn a loss…to recognize and embrace that moment even when it hurts. I remember telling a youth embracing suffering sounds so absurd but picture embracing a cactus! and once you have felt the pain, with a supportive listener helping you detach from the needles of that plant, a lightness is felt and finally one may find enlightenment.
sitting in darkness waiting for the light nothing seems to change
sitting in darkness
feeling the presence
no longer alone
waiting for the light
must walk out of obscurity
nothing seems to change
twisting paths, in time, alight
dark roads less traveled
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ― Rose Kennedy
Time heals they say and I have to say I agree only to a certain point. Time allows a person to process the pain, the hurt and grow through it. I don’t believe anyone “gets over” intensely difficult times. I don’t believe it helps when someone says, there are starving people in Africa…that sure does not heal any wound but adds guilt and shame for feeling the way you do. Okay, enough with what I don’t believe as this post is getting to be a bit negative and that was not my goal.
Moving right along on the word at hand here on my stream of consciousness, “heal”, let’s look at what that means. We can heal from many diseases, illnesses and yes many mental illnesses as well. Perhaps I will delve more into the latter. Since we are nearing the Bell Let’s Talk day soon to remove the stigma of mental health, it may be an appropriate time to discuss this.
So many people still today are not comfortable with the phrase “mental illness”. I am well aware of that when I speak to youths at work. I say mental wellness, emotional illness, mental health and a new one that is more positive “mental ill-health”. Why all the fuss for Pete sakes? Well, if you have ever suffered from a mental illness or are being treated for some form of mental illness, you know darn well why we are sugar coating it …to make it enticing. We need to add lovely superlatives to entice the non-believers and especially to lure mentally ill persons who are not getting treatment so they can finally recover from their illness. Mental illness can be treated and yes, many can be “healed”…recover .
So much is still misunderstood even by many professionals. I remember going to a lecture at the Douglas Hospital a few years ago and the topic was Schizophrenia. A guest speaker was a person who took years of misdiagnosis year after year after year of her condition…until finally she had a serious episode of psychosis and another doctor diagnosed her with Schizophrenia. I won’t go into the details and yes, I realize not all people affected with this illness can recover completely, but they can live healthy lives with proper treatment. This speaker was sharing her experience and told us she no longer had to take medication. I was shocked. I thought it was not possible.
I later spoke to a brilliant professor from Queens University in Kingston on the train to Toronto several years ago. I was going to Toronto for a job interview related to Bell Mental Health project. I told her about this woman who spoke at the lecture and added how rare this must be. She shook her head and said, “Actually it is not as rare as you think.” Well, there you go…another condition that can be treated and some may even recover…be healed.
Depression is one mental illness that I hear about day after day. So many youths are afraid to reach out for fear of being labeled. Many times they don’t want to worry their family and friends. I hear this so often from youths and what breaks my heart is when some parents tell their teens they will outgrow it…it will go away like it came…it is part of being a teen. Really? They will outgrow feeling sad when it lasts months and years? Some don’t get help for they are not permitted to get treatment because some adults/parents believe there is no such thing as mental illness such as depression. “Just stop feeling for yourself and get over it.” Yes, we do hear that again and again.
Recently I heard someone say that psychologists and psychiatrists are just out there to invent illnesses to make money. I suppose many do believe this.
Lastly I would like to talk about grief for a moment. I often say that Grief is a necessary depression only it is time that alleviates the pain. Grief and loss are difficult events in a person’s life and they are not easy to process especially when you don’t know too much about it. A teen is grieving the loss of a boyfriend for example…that is a huge loss and it hurts A LOT for a while. It feels like your heart is literally broken and science has proven that parts of the brain are triggered in the same areas where you feel pain. So yes, grief and loss hurt a lot.
Do you heal from such losses? I believe it hurts less and less each day and in time, in your own time, you learn to move on despite that loss. A wound is healed but you are left with a scar…there that sounds better. Scars are reminders of past hurts…not to feel sorry for yourself but to be reminded of what was, what you learned and how you grew through those difficult times. Soldiers have scars when they come back from battle…well, yes, I realize they have huge emotional scars too but here, I am referring to the physical scars. They are somewhat like a badge of honour for the bravery they had to go to battle and fight for their country. So if you finally “heal” from a loss, depression, a difficult patch in your life, any other emotional mayhems you have experienced, your wound will heal and a leave a scar. Wear it with pride for the courage you had to survive that ordeal as well as reach out to get support to get through it.
I have a tiny scar on my right shoulder that is barely noticeable. It is from sailing when I was doing trapeze on our catamaran. I feel pretty good when I share that story and carry that shiny scar with pride.
Healing is a process…not everyone has the same time clock but you still get there eventually.