Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wanted: good vibes

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit a family member who means a great deal to me. She’s one of my few living relatives and, over the last 20-years or so, has become very important to me. It was so good to see her and spend a few days with her, to share some family memories, have some great meals and just “be” with family.

Throughout it all though, there was the spectre of a black dog hanging over us. For you see, she’s a manic-depressive, so sick that she has been on disability leave for at least two years now and has recently taken retirement because there was no prospect of her returning to work. She is on large doses of medication, sees a psychiatrist and a psychologist and other professionals routinely. Some days she is barely functional; on a few other days she prepares meals, bakes cookies and is the way I used to remember her. It’s the pendulum between the manic and the depressive. I love her dearly, but there are times when I feel like I have to escape.

In part maybe because of the mirror. When I look closely at her, I see much of me. I see the lethargy, the disinterest, the desire to just stay in bed and keep the drapes closed and the doors locked. There are days when it is a challenge to get out of bed and get something to eat. Why bother?

Recent events in my life have helped to precipitate this phase and I recognize it. There were some circumstances beyond my control and others within my control. Trying to measure up to others’ expectations professionally when the target keeps shifting can leave you physically, mentally and emotionally exhausted. Finally, there needed to be a separation, a parting of the ways in order for some semblance of sanity to return and that parting brings with it its own pain amid the realization that this adventure is over and another must be found.

Fellow blogger WiseWebWoman recently wrote a post about the black dog entitled “Act As If”. You can read it here. It forced me to realize that my coping skills have just about hit the bottom of the barrel and I realize that with a move coming up in two weeks, packing is proceeding at a snail’s pace … and I think the snail is winning. I’m looking forward to the move because it will put me physically in a better place where I have friends who care. But as a mid-range baby boomer, I also recognize the liabilities of age. The animus and the anima.

There are so very many of us out here who are fighting this beast of depression – sometimes winning, sometimes losing but constantly in the struggle. When you have a minute, send some positive thoughts in our direction. We can use all the good vibes we can get.

Thanks WWW. You have courage.


Wisewebwoman said...

Oh you made me cry with this one, Veep. We need to write about it. To put it out there.
Many creative people have this, down through the ages, to list would be impossible.
Many use drugs (legal, I mean) to combat it but as I mentioned in my post these may extort a toll of flatlining, though some have no choice but to use them.
I have friends who do and are willing to sacrifice their artistic spirits. It is hard for me to connect with them as they seem to be on vacation. From the selves I knew in the past.
You have a lot on the go with moving, etc. I do hope it all goes well for you and be gentle with yourself, try and still those inner voices, they are so brutal.
Only way is up, I am pushing from behind.

ViewPoint2010 said...

Your post this morning is what prompted me to write this piece. I’ve been struggling to write here for the last few weeks – lots of ideas but they don’t get translated to paper. I wrote the fluff piece this morning about Anthony Weiner but it meant nothing … then I turned to your blog and like you said, I thought, this is something we need to write about and put it out there. I’m not sure of the statistics, but I know the incidence of depression in this country is enormous – one of those largely invisible diseases that we only hear about when someone crashes and burns.

It never occurred to me when I was searching for a video of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys to add to the piece, but Brian Wilson who wrote the song and sings lead on it, suffered hugely with depression. There are many who say that his brother Dennis, who drowned in 1983 after drinking too much, was fighting his own depression demons with booze.

Neither that, nor the medication route is for me. I needed that push. Thanks.

Government Funded Blogger said...

VP and WWW: Thanks very much for your posts about the "black dog".
I have seen how it affects a friend of mine and its heart breaking.

I wish you both courage in your struggle with that malady.

Chris said...

Truly sorry to hear you’re feeling this way VP, it can’t be easy. I would guess that everyone experiences the feelings you describe at one point or another and some more severely than others. I know that doesn’t help you now, but rest assured, things will improve.

If I had an easy answer or button to push that would help, I would. Unfortunately, these things take time and right now it appears time is not on your side (contrary to what the Rolling Stones might say). I’m not sure what the answer is so I can’t - and won’t - offer any advice, save to say that your post is a courageous one and definitely a step in the right direction. Take care.

ViewPoint2010 said...

GFB, thank you for your good wishes. Once upon a time, I would have been loathe to admit that I had depression because it carried with it a stigma, but as it becomes more and more "common", there's less of a stigma and we can take support from one another, whether in cyberspace or in person. The first step is acknowledging that "black dog" and then growing from there.

ViewPoint2010 said...

Chris, thanks for your comments. Would that we all had that magic buttton to push and make things better ... not likely to happen in our lifetimes! :-) Appreciate you stopping by.

Lisa Browne said...

I think I've learned (rightly or wrongly) that most family/friends want to help but don't know how or soon run out of energy; the general public doesn't want to talk about it (even though many are also suffering) and the psychiatric community seems to focus on drugs as the solution. So the botton line is reliance on yourself. And from what I can tell, you have the smarts and drive to fight it. My best wishes to you.

ViewPoint2010 said...

Thanks for your input Lisa. I know from personal experience that dealing with a family member suffering from depression can truly be exhausting because we only have so much to give. It's why support groups are often of so much help because they are "there". You're also right about the medication. It seems that modern psychiatry spends too much time at the pharmaceutical altar. Thanks again!