Stigma

Hello dear reader

Note:  There were some issues with publishing this post. I apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

I try very hard to keep a positive outlook on my life, and most of the time I’m fairly successful. But I have to admit that I’ve been in a really bad place recently.  It’s hard to explain, but I just gave up. I didn’t follow up on getting my teeth fixed, or doing the mammogram or colonoscopy my doctor ordered a month ago. I stopped wearing any jewelry or make-up. I didn’t care what I wore, just pulled on clothes because it’s what I had to do. I didn’t keep up with housework or laundry, just did what absolutely had to be done. Nothing mattered. I didn’t want to do anything but sleep. I felt done.

The thing is that I didn’t realize what was going on, or didn’t care. I’m not certain which. Maybe both.  But I woke up this morning and felt different. I got up, took a bath, thought about what I was going to wear and got dressed, and started cleaning the house.  Yes, I know. It was classic depression.  But what I don’t know is where it came from and where it went. 

I’ve dealt with depression for the majority of my life and have been on some kind of antidepressant or another for years. I know the signs and symptoms. I know things that help and things that make it worse.  But I cannot see it when I’m in it.
About three weeks ago I woke up at 3:30 in the morning with a high fever and having convulsions.  My husband rushed me to the hospital, where they diagnosed me with pneumonia. They gave me a prescriptions for antibiotics and home oxygen and told me to follow up with my primary care doctor, which I did. I spent the next week and a half in a LOT of pain and completely exhausted. The one good thing that came out of it was that I quit smoking. I’ve tried so many times and ways. All of a sudden I simply had no more urge to smoke!  Almost worth the pneumonia… maybe.  The point to this long story (yes, there is a point) is that there’s a possibility all of that happening had something to do with the depression coming on.  I say possibility because I believe the depression started before the pneumonia and all that went with it.

So I still don’t know where (why?) it came from or where (why?) it went. I only know that I’m very glad it’s gone and that I have a TON of catching up to do.

I think the reason it’s important to me to put all of this out there is that there is still a stigma about mental illness, which depression is a form of.  But I don’t choose to be mentally ill any more than I choose to have Chiari Malformation or chose to have pneumonia.  There should be no more stigma attached to mental illness than there is to physical illness. 

There needs to be conversation about these things. Only by talking about them can people understand what mental illness is and is not.  Communication is what will bring us out of the dark ages and the fear that goes along with ignorance.

Until next time….

Lessons learned

Hello dear reader,

The last time I wrote I was trying to explain how St. George is one of the positive things in my life.  I got sidetracked (as usual) but that’s part of who I am and the things I deal with.  One last thing I want to explain about the meals we cook five days a week is that everything is donated.  This makes cooking there different from cooking anywhere else.  Normal cooking involves deciding what to make and gathering the ingredients to make it.  Cooking at St. George is the exact opposite of normal.  When you get there you see what has come in and what leftovers there might be from the day before and you figure out what you can make with what you have.  This involves a lot of creativity and experimentation.  But somehow it always works.  I’ve been working with St. George for over 11 years and there has never been a time we didn’t have food.  We feed, on average, 50 people a day.  One last thing…nobody will ever ask you to come to church, preach at you, ask you for money, etc.  The meals are simply a place where people from all walks of life gather over food and create community.  Isn’t that cool?

Okay, enough about that.  My kids have really been on my mind lately.  They always are, but some times are harder than others.  This is a harder time.  I miss them like crazy.  I would give anything to go back to when they were little and all home.  I can look back now and see so many mistakes I made in raising them, but I did the best I could with what I had at the time.  I didn’t have a “childhood” like many people.  I spent those years wishing and waiting for the time I could leave home.  I was determined that my children would have a childhood where they would be able to look back and remember those days as happy and fun.  I wanted them to have good memories of growing up.  My only guidance in how to parent my children was to do the opposite of what my parents did. 

I do not believe in physical punishment.  All that does, in my opinion, is teach children that if someone isn’t doing what you want them to, then you simply hurt them until they do.  Let me be very clear here…I believe children need discipline and structure.  It makes them feel safe and secure.  They know what to expect and they don’t live in constant fear never knowing what will happen.  I do not believe in physical discipline.  I can honestly say that my children were very well mannered and well behaved children.  I heard that from many people.  Off on another sidetrack. 

The point is that kids don’t come with instructions and even if they did you’d need separate ones for each child.  Hindsight, as the saying goes, is 20/20.  I would have loved to know then what I know now.  My children are all grown and have lives of their own.  That’s what we try to prepare them for, isn’t it?  While I know I messed up a lot, they’re all living happy and successful lives.  They all know how to give and receive love.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s the definition of successful.  So I must have done something right. 

I find it quite ironic that by the time we (parents) finally figure things out, our children are no longer there to benefit from that knowledge.  I think the biggest lesson I learned was how important it is to listen, really listen to our children.  A five year old telling you in detail about everything that happened at school today (who got in trouble, who they played with at recess, what they drew, what they had for lunch and whether they liked it or it was gross, what movie they watched, whether or not they slept at rest time, you get the point) can seem very trivial, even irritating, especially when you’re trying to get something else done.  However, ten years later when they want to talk to you about the pressure they feel from their boyfriend (or girlfriend) to have sex or use drugs, now that’s important to us!  The thing people don’t seem to get is that in your child’s eyes they are equally important at the time.  Here’s the real kicker….if you didn’t stop to listen to them when they were five and what happened at school today was important tothem then by the time what they have to say is important to you they’ve given up trying to make you listen.  The bottom line is that the dishes and laundry and other housework is always going to be there.  Your children aren’t. The things that matter to them are important, no matter the age or topic.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things. So please feel free to hit that little comment box and tell me how you feel about it.

Until next time….