Saturday Stats

"[Depression] is second only to cancer in terms of economic impact, approximately the same as the cost of heart disease and AIDS — and the number of deaths from suicide each year is approximately the same as the number of deaths from AIDS." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Advertisements

Elisabeth Elliot devotional

'Tis true. None of our problems are unique; someone else has experienced them in some way.

Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen

Elisabeth Elliot, A Lamp For My Feet
Hebrews 4:15-16
When we begin to imagine that our own problems are so deep, so insoluble, or so unusual that no one really understands us, we delude ourselves. It is one of the many delusions of pride, for Scripture tells us not only that our High Priest, Christ, has been tempted in every way as we are, but that no temptation has ever come our way that is not common to man. There are no more new temptations than there are new sins. Our story, whatever it is, is an old one, and He who has walked the human road has entered fully into our experiences of sorrow and pain and has overcome them. He has comforted others in our situation, gone with them into the same furnaces and lions' dens, has brought them out without smell of fire or mark of tooth.

It is a bad thing to take refuge in difficulties, thus excusing ourselves from responsibility to others because we think our situation is unique. If we are willing to receive help, our Helper is standing by–sometimes in the form of another human being sent by Him, qualified by Him to help us. It may be a case of our not receiving help because we were too proud to receive the kind God sent. Sometimes we really prefer to wallow.

"Ours is not a high priest unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who, because of his likeness to us, has been tested every way, only without sin. Let us therefore boldly approach the throne of our gracious God, where we may receive mercy and in his grace find timely help" (Heb 4:15, 16 NEB).

People pleaser and worrywart

I’m very bad at keeping up with my own blog schedule. I pay for it; I should be better at updating it. Thing is, I update only at work and pay for the mere convenience of not having a terrible hassle like I had with the free blog hosting site, blogger.com.

* * *

"You can please people some of the time,
but you can't please all people all of the time." – Anonymous

I should really do the whole “don’t fear man, fear God” thing. I’m trying. I’ve been throwing suggestions and ideas out at my manager with a “What’s the worst that can happen?” I swear, that needs to be my new motto or approach for life. People can say “no.” “Too bad.” I’ll disappoint or people will disappoint me. People can be rude and snippy to me, but in the end, what does it matter? I need to stop trying to curry everyone’s favor because not everyone is going to like me.

I’ve really been evaluating what I consider to be “pretty.” Really, what does “pretty” mean to me? Merriam-Webster aside, what is pretty? How would my dictionary define it?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I can’t look at myself because I don’t like what I see. Much of it comes from what society deems “pretty.” i.e. flat abdomen; slim, slender body; clear skin; non-bushy eyebrows; well-manicured nails; no excess weight.

When I look at myself, I see a black (derogatory reference in every sense of the word) female who has these crazy, ungroomed eyebrows, fat cheeks, big nose, excess weight, blotchy skin, unruly hair, fat all over my midsection, flabby upper arms, stretch marks — a big, overwhelming mass of cocoa-skinned blob.

I don’t like seeing “blob.”

I’ve never cared for my looks when I was younger (and skinnier) but never hated them so badly. Not like I do with this excess weight. And so I wonder — will 130 lbs. be enough? Will I ever exercise enough and control my portions enough that I’ll live to see that day once again?

* * *

I go around in circles when it comes to my thinking. I think about the people who have immense power over me during my personal time. People who teased me in high school, my micromanaging boss, people I wish I had in my life, people whose lives I wish I could change, my mother, my father — who isn’t even alive. The perceptions I’ve created in my head, paparazzi, tabloids — things that don’t even affect me!

A major future goal: Trying out for American Idol. Believe it or not, not for the superstardom. In fact, I doubt I’d make it past the first round (I’m a decent singer but I’m no Christina Aguilera) — but I need to get over my fear of making a fool of myself in front of people I don’t know. And even if I did make it all the way to the infamous Randy, Simon and Paula, technically, worrying about those who teased me in grade school should be the least of my worries.

Fear

"I fear / I have nothing to give / I have so much to lose / Here in this lonely place / Tangled up in our embrace / There's nothing I'd like better than to fall / But I fear / I have nothing to give." ~ Sarah McLachlan "Fear"

I've been thinking much on the concept of fear. I fear people, I fear my family, I fear my friends, I fear change, I fear airplanes, I fear those who teased me in grade school, I fear my hairdresser, I fear my boss, I fear saying no. My life is overrun with fear.

I'm trying to approach life a little differently. I've lately been asking myself "Why am I so afraid? Really, what's the worst that can happen?" And realistically, I analyze the potential worst-case scenarios. It usually follows with: "Will I get yelled at ?" (Answer: Probably not.) "Will this person be mad?" (Answer: Maybe but unlikely.) "Will I get shot?" (Answer: Highly unlikely.) "Will I disappoint?" (Answer: It's possible, but people will deal.) "Will I upset?" (Answer: That's possible too but it's not the end of the world.)

Talking through worst-case scenarios has helped me come out of my shell a bit more. I have a long way to go but I've been more assertive with what I need over the phone (I'm not afraid to sound nasty anymore – what do I care what people I never will meet think of me?) and I'm no longer as apprehensive to change an appointment or cause disappointment. Disappointment is a part of life – something that can't always be avoided so I do what I need to do and try not to think about it.

I had to let down one of the ladies that's trying to sell me Mary Kay. I agreed to a facial on Tuesday but realized I don't have the money and I don't really want a facial. She's a pretty good salesperson so I got talked into rescheduling and really – I really wanted the "try it before you buy it" facial at the time – but now that I'm at home thinking about it, I'm wondering again if I really need it and am wasting my time. And I'd feel terrible for her to drive a half-hour all the way out here to my home and me not buy anything. And I don't know what I'd do if I felt pressure to buy. I usually end up doing something because I'm afraid to say "no." Again – fear. I need to see if my new approach will work. Unless Mary Kay's products are so likable – as she says they speak for themselves – that I actually want to buy it. The challenge will be if I don't. Then I'm faced with saying no and feeling bad that this poor woman drove 35 minutes out of her and wasted gas for no sale.

I need to remind myself that people will feel bad and even though I may cause it – the way other people feel is NOT my responsibility.

Applying the fear factor with loved ones tends to be a little trickier. As such, because they're loved ones, we care more about what they think. I don't want to upset my mother in law sometimes so I agree to something that I'm not necessarily fond of, I don't want to upset my mother when she I disagree so I agree to whatever it is to avoid a fight (which usually ends up with me unhappy in some way), or I don't want to upset my husband so I either don't express my true feelings or I agree even though I feel differently. Some of it is superficial, but for the most part, it's harder because since these are the people I love – and will see again – what they think about me holds more weight in my mind.

[NOTE: Do not mistake my saying that "I am not responsible for the way he feels" as "I am not responsible for my actions toward him." I am completely responsible for any inappropriate or hurtful actions toward him. But in a situation where two people who are talking and a person takes the truth of a matter very hard, the person speaking the truth cannot be responsible for the way the other person feels. Especially if it was not said in a hurtful or injurious manner.]

"There is no fear in love: but perfect love casteth out fear,
because fear hath punishment; and he that feareth is
not made perfect in love." ~ I John 4:18 (The Bible)

If the above is true then the opposite of fear is love. O, that I may be filled with more love for those around me and my fellow man so that I may do what is right, pure and honest – both for them and for me.

Letting go of fear releases the demons of depression and opens up paths to true joy and happiness.

Saturday Stats

"Depression is the second most costly disease there is." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Failure = Suicide; where's success?

Last week, I felt extremely suicidal. The feeling began about Thursday or Friday of early August and lasted through the 10th. It came to a head on the 10th when I finally decided that I’d end my misery in the same token way as “Ryan.” I wanted to fall down brain dead by “huffing.”

I tried to evaluate my thinking: I had a wonderful husband, a good-paying job with great benefits, lovely in-laws, a beautiful new apartment and wonderful opportunities for me on every corner. So why was it that for the first time, my external circumstances being great, I was internally shaken?

The pain in my heart had gotten too unbearable. Nothing externally was wrong, but internally, I was depressed, suicidal, hopeless and worthless.

A friend pointed out that Ryan and I were no different. This revelation which should have propelled me to see the severity of my condition and turn my view around for the better, backfired and propelled me into depts. of despair, wanting to rival Ryan’s demise.

In the end, I took a “mental health” day — this day for me, is no particular joke — and my husband and I went to a Christian counseling center just north of Philadelphia. I received a new counselor but talked at length about my history with depression. (The bad thing about finding new counselors is that you must rehash your entire life story for the first session.)

My new counselor, Julie, pointed out a few interesting things, one of them namely being that the people from my past — no longer in my life — hold more control over me than the people who matter: the people who love me.

Such a revelation is disturbing to say the least. I knew I hadn’t been able to get past the traumatizing years of high school and grade school but the idea that they still kept me captive was crushing. My tormentors probably haven’t given me a second though yet I think about them in some way, every day. I am so afraid of that I will give them another opportunity to laugh at me that I keep myself from things I’d like to pursue — mainstream singing, acting, entrepreneurship, etc. My life revolves around being able to say or feel “told ya so” toward them. Why? Why can’t it just be enough that I tell myself so?

And why I am so afraid of failure? If I fail at something, it only means I can succeed at something else.

Can pharmaceutical companies be trusted?

I can’t help but express my skepticism that a site maintained by GlaxoSmithKline is very reputable: http://www.depression.com.

Registrations of an unfulfilled life

My mind is full of nothing but lists and to-dos. I’ve sapped my brain of all creativity simply because I have too much in my head. I just can’t seem to win. When I do nothing, I’m extremely depressed. When I do something, I begin to lose my mind because I’m so busy.

* * *

Gretchen RubinSandra Day O'ConnorI wish I could be an authority or “expert” on something. Take Gretchen Rubin, for example, who has quite an impressive resume. She worked for Sandra Day O’Connor. And me — I’m lost, floating in the middle of nowhere. (It’s simply not enough for me that I interned at Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s office.) Not content with ordinary boredom life but I want high-profile, glamour, status, glitzy. I’m not really cutout for that kind of life. Funny how I desire something I’m not really cut out for. I think of people who dream of better things, but simple thing: a nicer house, a good neighborhood, obedient kids, a decent financial salary. I have all of those things sans the kids and yet I am not content. I am not content to be a “nobody” by my standards.

Why do my standards even matter? Really, my standards don’t matter at all. I really should care about God’s standards. And I’ll be honest because I’m not fooling any deities. I want to do my own thing: I want success, fame, wealth, international recognition.

Tina TurnerBut if I were really honest with myself, I’d know I’d never be able to handle it. The constant media scrutiny, paparazzi, tabloids, weight watching, exercise, dieting — the prancing, dancing, superficiality. Not with the depression and insecurity I’ve got. (For heaven sakes, I have a family history of schizophrenia on my father’s side!) But I’d love to meet famous people. Tina Turner, for one. How I’d love to sing with her! Or start my own organization that funnels money to finding a cure for eczema. It’s all wishful thinking, I suppose. I tell myself that I’ll do these things once I’m rich and famous. Will I? And isn’t my part in a community theater just a small bit of hope that I’ll be “discovered” and suddenly “make it”?

It’s not impossible for me to achieve that which I so desperately desire — it’s simply unlikely. But I think of Madonna and others who are not content with “ordinary.” I border on manic depressive for the extraordinary.

Or startup capital for a late-night coffeehouse. For anyone, but with a Christian leaning. A place for teenagers and adults alike. (Come to think of it, a section for each group might be good.)

  • No smoking allowed.
  • All sorts of coffees, teas, and other assorted beverages.
  • Different pastries, small appetizers — things I would want were I a paying customer.

I’d like to think of a brighter Witches Brew coffeehouse. Not so dark. But I admit, the dark, dismal atmosphere of my favorite coffeehouse on Long Island appeals to my fascination with death.

Barren wasteland

I receive daily Christian devotionals in my e-mail from Elisabeth Elliot. Some are good and some just don’t really affect me much. I wanted to share this one piece that really spoke to me. Non-Christians won’t get much out of it but I really could have used something like this when I was suicidal and working in Kentucky.

Wastelands: Exodus 13:17-18

There are dry, fruitless, lonely places in each of our lives, where we seem to travel alone, sometimes feeling as though we must surely have lost the way. What am I doing here? How did this happen? Lord, get me out of this!

He does not get us out. Not when we ask for it, at any rate, because it was He all along who brought us to this place. He has been here before–it is no wilderness to Him, and He walks with us. There are things to be seen and learned in these apparent wastelands which cannot be seen and learned in the "city"–in places of comfort, convenience, and company.

God does not intend to make it no wasteland. He intends rather to keep us–to hold us with his strength, to sustain us with his sure words–in a place where there is nothing else we can count on.

"God did not guide them by the road towards the Philistines, although that was the shortest…God made them go round by way of the wilderness towards the Red Sea" (Ex 13:17,18 NEB).

Imagine what Israel and all of us who worship Israel’s God would have missed if they had gone by the short route–the thrilling story of the deliverance from Egypt’s chariots when the sea was rolled back. Let’s not ask for shortcuts. Let’s keep alert for the wonders our Guide will show us in the wilderness.

Take a walk down the aisle to relieve depression

bride and groomSaying “I do” can boost your mental health:

Lonely? Feeling low? Try taking a walk — down the aisle. Getting married enhances mental health, especially if you’re depressed, according to a new U.S. study. The benefits of marriage for the depressed are particularly dramatic, a finding that surprised the professor-student team behind the study. They expected to find that one spouse’s depression weighed too much on the marriage, but “just mattering to someone else can help alleviate symptoms of depression,” said Adrianne Frech, a PhD sociology student at Ohio State University who conducted the study with Kristi Williams, an assistant professor of sociology

Quote of the Week

"Depressed people are great strugglers, but to struggle is to drown." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Loose Screws Mental Health News: Suicide slide

Marie OsmondMarie Osmond was hospitalized not for a suicide attempt — but for a bad reaction to medication she was taking. Interestingly enough, they would not comment on whether she was taking antidepressants. If she was, I’d hope she’d admit it. The recent surge of celebrities admitting that they struggle with mental illness sheds more light on the problem.

A family is suing the University of Akron in Ohio because a student who had drug problems committed suicide. He supposedly was “cleaning up” when the school suspended him. The family cites that he killed himself over the university’s decision and are seeking damages. I’m not sure I agree with the family but it should be interesting if the court rules in their favor; are colleges and universities responsible for students who commit suicide on their premises?

Two Iowa senators are co-sponsoring legislation to try and prevent suicide among war veterans. According to Sen. Tom Harkin, nearly 1,000 veterans under the care of the Veterans Adminstration, commit suicide each year.

In one case of at least 50 lawsuits against Paxil maker GlaxoSmithKline, a woman who was on the antidepressant during pregnancy has had to endure a nightmare: her newborn is on life support and was born with half a heart.

In international news, The Hindu reports that an advocate has filed a public interest litigation petition in the wake of farmer suicides in India. The article introduces a staggering statistic: 10,000 Indian farmers have killed themselves in the past five years because they were unable to repay loans or were not given a fair amount for their produce, which resulted in their indebtedness.

The Australian reports that a new study says people who suffer from BDD, body dysmorphic disorder, are 45 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the general population. Individuals with BDD have a “distorted body image and think obsessively about their appearance, often for hours a day. The disorder frequently leads to self-loathing and social isolation.” Estimates suggest that 2.4 percent of people suffer from BDD.

Ryan is me and I am Ryan

(Originally written August 4, 2006)

Ryan died today.

Ryan isn't my husband, a friend, an acquaintance or someone that I even care about.

But Ryan is loved by someone whom I love.

Ryan was a friend of one of my friends, Girl D. Girl D joined a "punk" band and met Ryan through it. Ryan was a drug addict and from what I understand, was also manic depressive. I just recently learned about the manic depressive part. Ryan did all sorts of drugs: meth, cocaine, heroin, you name it.

He was in and out of rehab. He was far from a "success story." He reveled in drug use, its highs and celebrated his overdoses. Apparently, one of his favorite mantras was "We don't drive sober."

Many youngsters are misled in the "punk" lifestyle. And Ryan certainly had your typical "punk" attitude. He kept a blog littered with cussing, never seemed to care about anything, railed against the government, and performed "hardcore s—." He was homeless and jobless. He worked at a record store before being fired for chronic lateness and unexcused absences. He also stole thousands of dollars in CDs. In his mind, he was invincible and every succession of OD he recovered from proved he was truly indestructible.

But I learned today that Ryan isn't Superman.

He "huffed" an aerosol can – I learned that this means you spray an aerosol can into a plastic bag and inhale its fumes – about a month ago. He had just gotten out of rehab and hadn't touched his normal drugs but was angling for a "high." He sniffed a little too much, which made him instantly collapse and fall down brain dead. His parents were left with the grueling decision on whether to pull the plug. The prognosis was grim: Even if he came out of his coma, he'd be in a permanent vegetative state.

Ryan exhibited his determination and grit to the end. His parents decided to the pull the plug and his survived for a week without life support.

His funeral was today. And Girl D is in the process of grieving for a friend she desperately reached out to but never heeded her advice — or the advice of others.

I met Ryan once.

It was only in passing. Girl D was performing in a show with him and I was there to support her. The music tried to channel Nirvana but didn't quite make it there. I ended up enduring "screamer" punk. I listened to Ryan's words, watched his actions then read his blog. He was an arrogant, selfish man. He celebrated his drug use and idolized Kurt Cobain. (Sadly, I used to as well.) He knew he'd OD and die a living legend because — yes, folks — he was that great (sarcasm). I grew to dislike Ryan and his destructive behavior.

It turns out his destructive behavior is no different than the reckless habits Girl D engages in with alcohol and sex.

It turns out their destructive behavior is no different than the reckless, impetuous behavior I engage in with depression and suicide.

And so when I criticize Ryan, I am a complete hypocrite because he is a reflection of myself. Different paths, different depressions, similar attitudes and the possible gloomy end.

Ryan is not a living legend. His death serves as a sad testament to destructive behavior and reminds me that engaging in it is thumbing my nose at the very thing that can save me.

Quote of the Week

"Expecting us [those who are depressed] to stop being depressed is like expecting a blind person to suddenly see the light of day — with one important difference: eventually, we can do it." — Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Saturday Stats

I’m starting something new: Saturday statistics. Every Saturday, I’ll post a statistic about something relating to depression. Some of the stats can be mind-boggling.

"Researchers estimate that almost 20 percent of the population meet the criteria for some form of depression at any given time — and that does not mean people who are temporarily feeling the blues and will be better next week, but people who are having real difficulty functioning in life." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Separating myself from my depression

Undoing DepressionI have been reading Richard O’Connor’s Undoing Depression. No doubt, it’s not an easy read. I’d started it before but stopped for some unknown reason. Now, I’m reading it much more closely with more insight and some skepticism.

It’s possible that my mind simply can’t wrap itself around the fact that “depression is a disease,” as O’Connor so plainly states many times in the book. My mind cannot wrap itself around the fact that I am not to blame or I am not guilty for depression and my actions as a depressed person. Murderers are held accountable for their actions in their “psycho” state (anyone who kills anyone must be psycho), so why aren’t depressed people held to the same standard with their actions? Murderers don’t get off easy when proven insane, so why should people have compassion and sympathy for those who are depressed?

Bits of cynicism bite at me as I read and hear “it’s not you – it’s the depression.” O’Connor says that because the depression has been a part of the person for such a long time, that the person cannot separate him or herself from the depression and consider both one.

I’ve been told that my depression isn’t me and I am not my depression. This is very difficult for me to differentiate. My anger and rage and crying fits are not me? But they emerge from me, they are my voice and they are my actions but I am not accountable? I often feel lifeless, dull, worthless, hopeless… sometimes empty. Isn’t that what depression feels like?

Depression is me and I am my depression and we are both accountable for what we do together.