31 December 2011

Sayonara!


We will no longer be posting on Blessed Depth. We just don't have the time to post often enough or in-depth enough to make the blog a place where a community can build. Instead, we're going to switch to a more frequent tweeting schedule (@blesseddepth) to share depression-related articles, research, blogs, and videos that we find worthy of note. (We're on tweet hiatus as of August 2012.)

But it's been real and we've gotten a lot out of the 47 posts we let loose upon the world in 2011. Some of our favorites:

Nia's:
-Damn the DNA (by Soledad)
- Which of your traits made your life easier than it might've been?

Pastor Jayne's:
- Whaddya mean by depression?
- What comments or assumptions about depression really get your goat?

Soledad's:
- Discuss: "Depression makes you more creative."
- How has your depression affected your spirituality?
- Is there anything good about depression?

At the risk of having Ms. Kali file a restraining order against me for linking to Beyond Meds so often, I suggest you check out her blog roll if you're looking for other blogs on mental health/illness, written either by sufferers themselves or by practitioners who understand their patients' struggles and actually know what they're talking about when it comes to the state of mental health care in the US.

All the best to you.

____________________
Illustration by M. Rhea

27 December 2011

What did you get out of contributing to this blog?

by Nia, Soledad, and Pastor Jayne

This is our penultimate post. Our last post will be on December 31st. After that, we'll just be a-tweetin'.

Nia: My experience with this blog has not been what I thought it would be. I started it as a place to vent my anger about the depression that started in junior high and ended about 12 years ago, both for my sake and just in case there's someone else out there searching for some affirmation of their experiences. I worked the anger out pretty quickly, what with all the writing and reading myriad perspectives of hundreds of other bloggers who have gone through similar crap.

Unfortunately that anger was replaced with another one. I found myself drawn to writers like those at Beyond Meds who are deeply troubled by the scattershot, inept, and uninformed approach to mental health care of the average practitioner encountered by the average depressed person. These doctors think they're healers when they're just nodes in a distribution system of anemic ideas about how the mind and brain function, ideas that in practice have a sucky record at easing suffering and that are based on a research process warped and distorted by the influence of pharmaceutical companies.

I was more content with the world back when all those thoughts were just vague suspicions. Confirmation was not comforting.

But except for that...

For the first few months I found myself building up a weird, resentful-nervous-bitter-paranoid jitteriness that would keep me from writing. I'd manage to clear my head and write a post, but then the whole thing would start again. Finally I figured out that I was trying to frame my thoughts the way my favorite popular bloggers do, who write for audiences of approximately 5 trillion on subjects that make their readers happy, like Parisian fashion and life on a (seemingly highly profitable) Oklahoma ranch. That voice didn't work for my topic. Am I the only blogger to go through that?

Working with Pastor Jayne and Soledad was by far the most enjoyable aspect of this enterprise. I am proud of myself for managing to con talk two such articulate and compassionate people into participating in this little folly, which was in danger of becoming a seething cesspool of sarcasm otherwise. I hope their experiences have made Blessed Depth that much more helpful.

********

Pastor Jayne: (Editor's note: one of our Twitter followers is a gluten-free pastry chef. I'm assuming we caught her attention because I mentioned the gluten-free diet in one of my posts.)

Other than hoping to get a following that included a pastry chef, Justin Bieber and prominent members of the Mormon tabernacle choir (1 out of 3 ain't bad!), I was jazzed to reconnect with my college roomie once again, about something which deeply changed both of us. I remember our original e-mails about coming up with another term for "depression" which would take away some of the pain and stigma. "Blessed depth" was the result of many great e-conversations.

In addition, it was good to be reminded of how far we've both come. I hope it gives the same hope to anyone else who reads our musings. This too shall pass. And even if it doesn't ever go away completely, there are blessings in the depth.

Fond aloha to our favorite pastry chef. And Justin, you missed out. To my Blessed Depth blog-mates: be blessed.

********

Soledad: I have enjoyed writing for this blog over the past year. It was very interesting to see how three very different people, who happen to be friends, see depression, its causes, and its fixes.

Nia's posts were light and funny, not something you'd ever expect to see in a blog about depression. Her wit, intellect, and humor make it hard to believe that she has ever suffered from the Big D. Her humor reminds me of something I read not so long ago about the irony of comedians. Their depth and intellect and insights into human nature are what make them funny, but a large number of them suffer from D. I call it being passionate. They're passionate when they're happy, and they're passionate when they're sad. They never do anything half-assed. It's that depth and that sixth sense that allows them to view the world so precisely, that leads to some great comedy and also some very low places.

The world ain't a kind place sometimes. And comedians are sharp enough to see the doom that threatens us. But they also know how to make it immediately humorous, a skill that brings intense happiness to so many. It counterbalances the negative in the world and helps make the journey more worthwhile for all of us. I tip my hat to everyone like you, Nia, with the gift of comic insight.

Writing for this blog has also helped me revisit many of the notions I have arrived at that help me continue to survive in a world that is often unfair at best. I know my creativity comes from the dark, blessed space where D also resides. That depth has been the blessing that brought me a wonderful writing career and awards and recognition from readers of my work. I was never a superficial type; I always looked further into every subject than many others would. And it's made me who I am, for better or worse.

Thanks to Nia for starting this blog. And to Pastor Jayne for adding her unique perspectives to round out this study of experiences. I salute you both for your courage and wish you more success in everything you seek.

21 December 2011

Damn the DNA

by Soledad

Realizing that I might be a little different from the average child was a gradual experience. I remember not being included in some neighborhood social activities and wondering, why was everyone else invited but me? So, like a normal child, I asked my mother: why would they exclude me? And like a normal mother, she called the people involved and asked them to include me, which they did.

The experience got my thinking started: why don't people want to hang out with me? It was the beginning of a deeply ingrained attitude I have as an adult, of hating social contact purely for the sake of social contact. There are some people whose company I always enjoy and I seek them out when I need a social fix. But there are just as many people I avoid like the plague. To hang out with them is nothing but torture. (This applies to every work function I've ever been forced to attend, even my husband's).

I realized that my mom spending all day in bed, every day, was not normal. And I began mimicking her behavior on a smaller scale. She discovered she was hypothyroid, as was her mother and her mother's mother. This condition can be accompanied by depression. And of course we've had a long history of depression and suicide in our family. The chemical makeup that's in our DNA predisposes us to depression. It doesn't take much to start a landslide of emotion, so when things get particularly tough...

It's amazing that as many of us have survived as we have. I think the key is realizing that the cards were stacked against you from the beginning, but also realizing that only the toughest among us survive and thrive. So damn the DNA. I am going to beat this. And that is the purpose for living, to rise above what I was handed and give it my best shot. And better yet: to help others in the same situation by telling my story.

We can all survive and thrive. It's like a diet: you just have to stick to it, while remembering to also be kind to yourself along the way. You are not the enemy. The depression that steals your happiness like a cloaked intruder in the night is. A positive attitude is the poison he will breathe when he breaks into your mind, and he will die, and you will emerge victorious.

____________________
Illustration by M. Rhea

20 December 2011

Do/did the holidays make your depression worse or better?

By Nia, Pastor Jayne, and Soledad

Nia: I always enjoyed the holidays during all the years I was depressed. I liked my family, I loved the snow, I enjoyed seeing relatives who came in to visit from other states, I liked hearing old family stories, I liked getting loot, and I even liked the fruitcake. The only thing I hated, and still hate, is the turkey. Turkey was originally eaten by people who lived in log cabins, had no dental care, and bathed in buckets. I rest my case.

A few factors made it easier for me to enjoy the holidays than it might be for others: 1) I was never pressured by an employer to attend office parties held after hours. I declined every one and thus avoided having to watch idiots get drunk. 2) I never had to go to more than one house. One friend had to go to three different gatherings every Thanksgiving and Christmas until he finally moved out of state to escape the ordeal. 3) I never had to cook for anyone. 4) I'm not a big food or baked-goods person, so no diet worries. 5) We got a TON of presents every year.

Now that my depression is 12 years in the past, I consider the holidays something to minimize. I plan my schedule so that I don't have to go anywhere near a shopping mall from November to early January, and I only give presents to very small people. To me the holidays are just three hours of shopping, three hours on Thanksgiving for a meal someone else cooks, three hours of tree decorating, and three hours on Christmas for a meal someone else cooks. I am happy to see those people for that time, and am very grateful that they serve non-turkey dishes, but I do not particularly care otherwise, and if I were ever asked to host these events myself I would leave town and change my name.

My former acupuncturist Needleman (not his real name) pointed out that in winter you're supposed to sloooowwwww doooowwwwwn. So I do. I watch DVDs until my brain oozes out my ears, I ponder deep thoughts, I ponder shallow thoughts, I read, I walk. I do not run around like a crazed fool.

********

Pastor Jayne: The first year of my depression the holidays made it worse, because it was as yet undiagnosed and I was overcommitted to many events, a job hazard when you're a pastor. In the years following my diagnosis I learned to anticipate how fewer sunlight hours, missing my parents (who died in the years just prior to my depression), and the expected busy-ness for me as a pastor might combine to produce disaster if I did not leave margins in my daily schedule. I gave up sending out our Christmas cards. Did you know Chinese New Year is a great excuse for sending out those annual greetings in late January? I also exercised more, said "no" to more things, and spent more time with my kids and hubby -- ALWAYS healing.

Merry Christmas everyone!

********

Soledad: The holidays always made my depression worse. Having to see people you haven't seen in awhile and having them ask the dreaded "How have you been?" was always the worst feeling. If I told the truth, it would wreck the whole gathering. If I fibbed and said, "Everything's fine," it's an obvious lie. Being the honest soul that I am, I have ventured somewhere in between. That way I'm not lying, but I'm not laying out all the details either. Some people say, "Pretend to be happy and then you will be." The simple act of smiling or laughing joins you with the "happy" world, they reason. There is at least some truth to that, so I will take the "fake it until you make it" route for now. It beats sitting and stewing in my own juices.

I think seeing happy people over the holidays can generate one of two reactions in those of us who don't find themselves currently in a happy place. Either you get jealous that the lives of others are somehow working out so swimmingly -- and this is generally the route my mind has taken over the years -- or you join the merriment. It's a lot easier to be happy for someone's victories if you've also seen them endure the hard work it can take to get to that happy place. No one likes to see someone get everything they want effortlessly, especially if you are having a much harder time of it.

So bring on the holidays. I resolve to take the Buddhist view and not look too far into the past and to focus only on the present. How can I improve the life I have right now? Starting with a reality check -- having realistic expectations and taking baby steps towards new successes -- is an excellent start on a new year of more smiles and fewer tears.

Happy holidays everyone!

____________________
Illustration by M. Rhea.

30 November 2011

2011 holiday gift guide

Embrace your meds!

Except for #1, I found these items by searching for "pills" on Etsy. The studs in #1 were featured recently in a Tomboy Style post.




Clockwise from top left:

1. 14K gold Alprazolam Rx pill studs by Loren Stewart $205.00.

2. Bronze pill necklace by LostApostle $55.00.

3. Red and blue pill Matrix-inspired earrings by cosplaycraft $3.00.

4. Yellow resin stud earrings by greeneyedgirl $10.00 (also available in blue).

5. Xanax cameo stretch bracelet by joolzhayworth $56.00.

6. Dog tag-style abstract pill necklace by spexton $84.00.

7. Amethyst and silver pill container/prayer box/perfume bottle pendant by MegaBeadStore $41.99

8. Especially handy at family gatherings:
Balinese poison ring by Telur $39.99.

29 November 2011

Are you able to filter out the good memories from your depressed periods and enjoy them? How long did it take before you were able to do that?

by Nia and Soledad

Nia: I can now but it took a long time. For high school, which was the worst period, maybe 15 years. Later periods did not take as long.

A possible factor in this long delay might be that after high school I rarely spoke with any of my friends from that time, so had no one with whom to relive and strengthen the positive, shenanigans-related memories and thus create some counter-balance to my Extra-Large-Sledgehammer-of-Mental-Doom memories.

But eventually they lost their hold over me and I could recount amusing stories like normal people do. There was the otherwise prim-and-proper friend who made up obscene lyrics to the theme from "MASH" and sang them on the bus, and the time I was set up on a blind double date with the closest thing to a feral human being I've ever seen.

A while ago I realized that I've loved perfume since grade school and can remember every scent I've worn at any given time in my life, but strangely I had never registered this before. I just considered it a necessity, like bathing regularly or Oreos. I had the same experience with science-fiction movies. I saw almost every one that came out, back when they were considered two steps above zombie movies, but never thought of it as a hobby until a lot later.

Maybe that's normal? Or maybe it's due to a blunting of emotions early on by the depression, or because none of my friends have ever shared these interests so I had no one to talk with about them, except for a guy in college who could name every perfume I wore. (Which should've been a tip-off.)

********

Soledad: I find that I am able to filter out the good memories from bad when the bad times are several years past.

Lately I often tell terrible tales from my dating days. Thankfully they are from long ago and I can laugh about them now! But at the time they really depressed me. It was incredible to me how many morally bankrupt people I encountered, and how many people just didn't seem to care.

When you can look back at a terrible time and laugh, it means you're moving forward, feeling good about where your life is headed, and yet still aware of the lessons learned from those darker times. I think it often takes a few years, sometimes longer, depending on the nature and cause of a person's depressed periods, to really be able to look back and say, "Hey, it sucked at the time, but I learned a lot about myself and what not to do. And it now all seems so ridiculous because I am a different person now, and I'd never do what I did back then that contributed to my sadness."

You just have to arrive at a place where you give yourself a lot of credit for everything you've been through, and give yourself a pat on the back for staying strong, surviving, and emerging victorious despite all the bad crap that seems to fall into every life at various times. Crap happens. So you may as well learn to live with it and laugh at it when you can.

Here's to happy living and laughing despite the crap. Happy holidays!

____________________
Photo: detail of "William H. Egberts examining trepanned skulls in the anthropology laboratory at the National Museum," 1926, photographer unknown, National Photo Collection, Library of Congress. No known restrictions on publication.

19 November 2011

Discuss: "Depression makes you more creative." and/or "Depressives are more creative."

By Nia and Soledad


Nia: I've heard this discussion several times over the years but when I start to think about it I just come up with more questions.

When people say more creative, do they mean more talented? Capable of producing better quality art?

I have found that introverts assume extroverts are shallow and I think depressives have the same feelings about non-depressives, especially if they (the mood-challenged) are saddled with depression early in life. They want to find some meaning or payoff in all the misery. They tell themselves they are more sensitive or smarter or that they see the world more clearly or that they're the true conscience of the universe.

In college I met a performing arts major who had obviously never had a low moment in her life. She once said, "I'm used to being ecstatic every minute of the day." She made my teeth grind, but I figured the universe would even out the score and make her a mediocre actress. Of course she turned out to be perfectly fine. That was an education.

If you're depressed you'll often be drawn more to the darkest music/literature/art, which is often produced by people who have known dark moods. Is the darker stuff more creative or better? Are depressed creatives more creative than non-depressed creatives? Can you compare with the same criteria the creations of two people with radically different moods/worldviews/outlooks?

Would an otherwise non-creative person become a creative one if he developed depression and was encouraged to express it through some form of art therapy? (Here we must imagine an alternate reality in which the mental health care community is competent and enlightened.)

Finally, are creative people better than non-creative people? That's silly: of course we are. In fact those dimwit f---ktards are lucky we don't put them on a reservation.

********

Soledad: I think depression does inspire creativity. More songs have been penned in depressive states than in jolly ones, that's for sure. That depressed feeling can put you in touch with your inner reserves of creativity.

I always think of Gwen Stefani of No Doubt writing the song "Don't Speak" in her room, after breaking up with her bandmate Tony, who never really loved her back. I just love that song; it's haunting and beautiful. Sara McLachlan's songs touch me the same way. It's obvious she writes from the very deep recesses of the heart.

I have written poetry when depressed and come up with some deep, jarring verse myself. The Beatles used to say that pot made them creative. I think being "contemplative" (as I prefer to refer to depression) gives you the same access to create resonating stories and lyrics that touch people with slices of real life -- real "I've been there" stories.

Do I think that people who are contemplative are far more creative than people whose minds simply aren't wired this way? Without a doubt. A recent entry on the blog The Universe expresses this:

Usually the most beautiful people, the most popular and loved, the "in" and chic, cool and hip, are the last ones to ever wonder about life, how it really works, manifesting change, and making a difference. . . You beat the system.

I love that, as it refers to the extra gift we have. We have a sixth sense for seeing life's real power that superficial people just don't have. It's what inspires writers, artists, and musicians to create some of the great artistic wonders of the world. We use our power to help others feel, relax, learn, love and endure. Artists like Sara McLachlan and Gwen Stefani are rich for a reason: because they have used their powers for good, and the world has "hugged" them back for their gifts to humanity. Karma is a beautiful thing.

_____________________
Illustration by M. Rhea.