Thursday, January 21, 2010

P.S., The Town Square

When I posted The Town Square, I had no idea what to expect. Even though millions of people suffer from Depression to one degree or another—from occasional “blues” to the chronic mental illness of major (or clinical) Depression—it is a touchy subject.

Why? Because many people do not know the difference between periodic bouts of the blues and a serious illness that causes countless suicides if it is not treated with drugs and/or therapy. Because many people view it as a personal weakness, a personal choice. Because many people think it can be cured by "just getting over it."

Back in December, my long-time friend Kim Ayres wrote about his own struggle with Depression in The blog post I’ve been avoiding. Among the sixty-one comments was this one:

I found your post depressing to read because I have lived with Depression for 17 years, not mine, but the Depression of my eldest son. I find it totally impossible to understand and I feel very cross with him and others who say they suffer it. His Depression has caused so much grief in our family that I cannot help but hate that part of him, whilst loving the real person. I'm sorry but to me it's a totally selfish disease and I am of the 'snap out of it and give everyone else a break' camp. There are so many people in the world today who deserve to be Depressed and aren't that it must surely be self indulgent for those who have everything going for them insist on burdening the rest of them with their 'poor little me' outbursts. Get a life, you have one, take your pills and get over it. That's my opinion. I know it's not what you want to hear, but I took the trouble to read your post and these were my thoughts afterwards.
Blessings on your recovery, XXXX

I am not going to say a word and influence your comments—which both Kim and I are anxious to hear.

[Thank you all for your comments on The Town Square—I truly appreciated them. The comment from Kim's blog is used with his permission.]


Wandering Coyote said...

It is exactly correct that most people don't know the difference between "the blues" and major mental illnesses like mood disorders. People need to get educated about this stuff. I commented on Kim's post after reading it and all the comments, including that ignorant idiot who left that moronic comment. You know me, my history, and other relevant information, Charlie, so you know where I stand on this topic!

Should I revive "I'm Listening"? Sometimes I think I should...Just to combat these messed up attitudes...

word verification = rebar

Pat said...

Just for a moment I'm putting my Mum's hat on and trying to understand what that mother is feeling. She is obviously at her wits end and I do feel great sympathy for her as well as her son. I can imagine her feeling that she has tried everything and it must all be her fault. That possibly is what makes her speak out so harshly.
There needs to be more openness and education about this and all forms of mental illness - not everyone has the imagination - including this mother -to grasp the concept of depression because she can't actually see a black cloud crushing her son's spirit. If Wandering Coyote has written already about this then yes I think he should revive it. The more people know the more they can understand.

Tiffin said...

First of all, I felt sorry for that woman's son because not only does he have the pits of Moria living between his ears, he has no compassion and understanding from his own mother.

Then I felt sorry for the woman herself, because she can't conceive of a condition which isn't fixable by sheer dint of will. She either doesn't know or doesn't want to know about the reality of a chronic depressive disorder.

Then I went from feeling sorry to shaking my head in bafflement: how can anyone think that someone would choose to be depressed and to go through life like that? Why would any person elect to live in a state which alienates them from other people, from themselves, from life itself? Don't you think your son could fix it if he could? Cripes!

Replace your negative emotions of guilt, fear, blame, madam, with information and knowledge. Be an advocate for your son, not another burden he has to bear.

People with disabilities of any kind are no longer hidden in the attic because we've come, as a society, to a better understanding of them. As knowledge grows, so does acceptance. But I think we really need to speak up when someone posts something like this because it's very obvious that there is still a ton of work to be done.

Tiffin said...

Edit: ...your son WOULD fix it if he could.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Tiffin said pretty much exactly what I was going to say. (what are you doing in my head, Tiffin?)

I find it incredibly sad that a mother would have such a lack of understanding about what is going on with her own son. Yes, it is very very difficult having a child who suffers from depression (which is often accompanied by severe anxiety or panic disorder, by the way). I know. I am one of those mothers.

Our children need our support and understanding, to be their strongest advocate in a world that is so hard for them to cope with. He must feel so very alone.

Robert the Skeptic said...

My sister-in-law suffers severe depression as well as other debilitating mental illnesses. What has been amazing to watch are the remarkable changes in her behavior and mood as her medications have been adjusted over and over until the correct combination has been found.

After several trial and error attempts, some of which have brought her close to suicide, we believe she has found the balance of medications which have brought her some level of normalcy.

The point being is that our brains are a delicate balance of neuro-chemicals which drive and control our moods and functioning. We don't expect a blind person to just "get over it" and appreciate a beautiful sunset. Yet we often expect someone with chemical imbalances in their brain to just "get over it" and be happy.

laytonwoman3rd said...

"There are so many people in the world today who deserve to be Depressed and aren't that it must surely be self indulgent for those who have everything going for them insist on burdening the rest of them with their 'poor little me' outbursts."

Holy Crap. I think this woman may need some anti-depressants herself. There are people who smoke all their lives and don't get lung cancer or emphysema, or die early from heart disease...but that doesn't mean the people who DO get those diseases are "self-indulgent" for allowing themselves to be sick! I'm appalled, and damn near speechless. I think Pat may have put her finger on it----Mama has a load of guilt buried under all that ice.

Diane said...

That comment seems like it is from a "very angry" person with little compassion for others....I mean we are talking "her own son". Gezz...depressed people "can't just snap out of it", maybe she needs a good book or an anger management class. JMO

Attila The Mom said...

I know I'll probably get my butt kicked for this, but...

Chronic depression not only effects the person who suffers from it, but their loved ones as well. My son can suck the energy and joy out of a room in 5 minutes flat when he is in a depressive state.

It's not his fault. It just is.

That said, it's only wishful thinking that an individual can "take your pills and get over it." Sometimes it takes years to find appropriate medication, and it may not work for extended periods (thus another go round for searching for appropriate meds).

And it may not work all the time. Or the person might accidentally or not forget to take a dose and rebound.

I can't help but have compassion for the author of comment, simply because I've stood in his/her shoes and it sounds like he/she is at the end of the rope.

For those who have family members who have certain kinds of severe depression that is not under control, it can go like this: The person is not only miserable but has only enough energy to make those around them as miserable as he is. No one else can be sick, because he is sicker. No one else can have a crisis, because his crisis is more important. No one can have a good day because it diminishes his suffering. He not only wants you to constantly acknowledge his pain, but he wants you to experience it with him as well.

There are other children in the family who have needs, but they have to wait to get them met in every instance because any attention given to them is taking away attention that could be focused on "his" suffering.

Although he is too depressed to function properly, he still has to consume to survive. So somebody (usually family) has to finance it. Not only do they have to finance it, but they have to clean up the mess of his consumption because he is too depressed to clean up after himself. It can be a financial mess or a physical one, but somebody has to clean it up and it usually falls to loved ones to carry it out. Until they have a nervous breakdown themselves or walk away.

This goes on day after day after day. Without a strong support system within and without, living with a person who has certain kinds of severe chronic depression can break you. Every morning when you wake up, you don't greet the sunshine and hope of a new day, but dread leaving the comfort of your bed because all you can think of is "what next?"

That's not a life. It's a prison.

And sometimes when you're overwhelmed and emotionally exhausted--yes--you want to slap the person and scream, "Snap out of it!!" Especially when the person is too depressed to try to help themselves be better---by doing things such as taking their meds.

We're pretty fortunate that our son has been stable on his meds (barring his recent health crisis) for a little over a year now. But I've been where the commenter has been, and I can't help but have compassion for him/her, even though the comment was very insensitive. Untreated depression can devastate a family as well as the person who suffers from it.

It's not his fault. It just is.

Tiffin said...

Charlie, if I could presume to use your blog to speak to Atilla the Mom: no one would ever kick your butt for writing that. It came from the heart and shows how very hard it is for those who love an individual battling this disease.

Although I don't have to live with it day in and day out, I have been going through it for years with my friend of longest duration (we go back 40 years+), on suicide watches for her, driving her to the hospital, bailing her out financially, all of it.

The difference between you and that other mother is that you DON'T say he should just snap out of it. You understand only too well how incapable of this he is. It's that lack of understanding in her that was giving me a hard time. And I respect you enormously for the compassion you have for her pain about it all.

As a mother, I feel deeply for both of you. I know how stepping away isn't an option when you love your kids. I hope you are able to have access to good support resources, including independent living support for your son. I am so grateful for our socialised medicine here in sure isn't perfect but it allows my friend a housing subsidy and a disability pension. I pay my taxes happily to allow those individuals a more level playing field.

Thanks, Charlie. Sorry to threadjack.

Charlie said...

Thank you all for your detailed and well-thought-out responses. Because of what's been said, I think I understand the mother's viewpoint a lot better.

I do fault her, however, for not finding out more about depression. There are reputable books (NOT Dr. Phil), hospital seminars, caregiver seminars, support groups, and her son's therapists.

Please note that there is no such thing as "threadjacking" here, unless it's snark. Rather, it's a form of discussion and communication.

Kim Ayres said...

I'll just sneak in at the back here and add my thanks too :)