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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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Illustration by M. Rhea.