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Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts
Showing posts with label depression. Show all posts

Friday, July 31, 2020

Not so beautiful trauma

It was nine years ago to the day that the police found my brother deceased in his apartment deceased.  A fuller story is in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.  Anyway, we had been very close at times and had always had a connection.   He'd been fighting depression and I'd been getting bad vibes that he was struggling to hold on.  But, the life is kind of funny.   The people and things in life seem to be constant and 'always there' until one day they aren't constant and aren't there.   I had an inkling that he struggling.  Enough of one that I threatened to have a wellness check done on him if he didn't call back imminently--which he did.  He called back and said he was okay and acted like I was overreacting.  It wasn't too much later that I got a cryptic text from him saying, something about "feeling like I am dying".  He'd spoken figuratively before and I was going through a life crisis myself.   I took it as, "I'm dying inside" or "I feel like dying".  I little time passed and I got distracted by my own life crisis.  He literally had made himself invisible to family for extended periods and I'd occasionally show up unannounced when I couldn't get a hold of him.  So, I wasn't too shocked when I hadn't heard from him in a couple of weeks.  I now understand that when facing depression, sometimes the last thing you want to do is to show your hurt to those closest.  I speak on my understanding of the subject matter in Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over.  His words may have been a final cry and I'll never know for sure.  That has haunted me since.  But, I have realized over time you can't save everybody despite sometimes valiant efforts.

 Obviously, the day he was found was in some ways the worst of my life in some ways.  Anniversary number 1 of his passing wasn't easy either.  It has generally been easier every year.   However, for some reason, it was harder this year.   Maybe it was the stress of work deadlines and the pandemic and all that involves?  In any case, it got me to thinking about his life, my life and the dysfunction we grew up in.  Someone he know from college had given me a gift, albeit a painful one, her memories of him.  I didn't see him much when he went away to college.  So, she give me a bit of picture of his life away at school.  She related that even back then she knew he was hurting more than the average kid who moves away for the first time to college.  Anyway, talking about it with her and others reminded me of something I'd figured out along the way.

When we have unprocessed hurt, our tolerance or ability to take more hurt is lessened.  Think of it like this.  We are a 16 ounce glass.  Life's daily struggles can fill our cup part of the way.  If we have a lot of unprocessed hurt, our cup may be well on its way to be full.  So, add life's daily struggles and it can get close to the top.  Now, add a particularly rough period and well you know the rest: the cup cannot take on any more.  For some people, it results in alcoholism.  For others, it can result in gambling, etc.  But, for the really hurt ones, the cup seems to find a way on the grounded shattered in pieces with the contents lost forever.

We may make it and recover from that rough period.  I survived a his passing, losing my house, losing my job, bankruptcy and my dad's health failing.  But, like him I had been scarred in the early years and the period immediately before, during and after his passing had it's own troubles, though I was able to start processing a lot that I hadn't previously.   Anyway, you survive the hurt/injury, but like a broken elbow that heels, it isn't quite the same.  The limb has healed as much as it can and you have 'full' use of it, but it it's not the same.  There may be weakness or scarring.  You may be aware on a fairly regular basis of the injury, but you don't necessarily focus on it.   However, you bang that elbow and the pain from the original injury and/or scarring will be front and center again.

I think hurt, especially that which isn't fully processed or 'healed' is like that.
  • You know it's there, but it is just there and not really interfering with your daily life.
  • You run into a situation or circumstance that reminds you or brings it front and center, and you feel the pain all over again--just not necessarily to the original degree.
  • You retreat or find something to take your mind off it until it subsides.
  • You get back to your everyday routine again and it recedes until the background.

However, sometimes just like the cup that has never been fully emptied, there is always a bit of a risk of it overflowing.   You may never get that cup fully empty and that may be your cross to bear, however, it is never too late to continue to process hurt where it exists.  It is never too late to look for opportunities to heal.  The big key is a willingness to work through it and building a good support system.  As we've discovered more and more during this pandemic, people are social creatures and we thrive on good support systems.

I guess my takeaways are:
  • We can't stop 'traumas' from happening to others, but we can be there for others after and provide them a support system.
  • Sometimes we have to face our own 'traumas' head on.  
  • In our recovery from traumas, it can be hard to get rid of the hurt that sometimes hides away.  However, it is best to address the hurt rather than just 'take a couple aspirin and sleep it off'.

If you know my blog you know I always end with a song and this song is screaming out to be included.  I have always liked her music because she faces pain and hurt head on in her music and lets face it, she's a very talented songwriter and singer.  She was hurt in a profound way by her parent's divorce at an early age and she found a way to turn it around into a positive (see Family Portrait).  A funny story: one time we (my girlfriend at time and I) were relating to a guy serving us about her concert and he intimated to me later how it was a brave thing to take her to a 'chick concert'.  I had to laugh as it was actually me that pushed us going to the concert.  I could have corrected him but why bother.  I don't have to answer for my taste.  On a related note, I'm proud of my late brother for being himself.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin

According to, the Five Stages of Grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.   The idea is that you first deny the reality of that which grieves you; you are angry about what seems unfair or not right; you 'bargain' with your higher power that you'll do better if only you wake up and this horrible nightmare is over; you fall into a depression when you realize that no matter how much you wish it weren't so, there is nothing you can do to change that which grieves you and of course you accept that which you and move forward.

What I've learned along the way is the practice of 'medicine' is as much of an art as it is a science.  I believe this to be the case with psychology as well.  I believe that some models of human behavior, interactions and thought are better than others, that there is no one-sized, fits all model.  Each model has its flaws and exceptions as well as its accuracy and strengths, but I digress.  I believe the "Five Stages of Grief" model has a lot of value to it.  However, I believe the progression of grief doesn't always follow that model and frankly sometimes people never quite reach the acceptance stage.   From what I've seen some people never make it through the depression stage.  It's like they deny the loss, are angry about it, try to bargain the loss away, and hit the sadness or depression stage and struggle to handle it.

I called this post, "Placing Sadness in the Anger Bin", because essentially, the griever is at a point in which he or she should be working through the sadness, but for whatever reason, is struggling to.  What should manifest itself as Sadness or Depression instead comes out in Anger.  The sadness exists, but the griever is not processing or allowing it to fully express itself.  In my own life, this circumstance manifest itself with my brother's suicide, written in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother,

Due to the circumstances and timing in which he was found, the family was never allowed to see him after he was found.  As I worked through his belongings in his apartment that in the week that followed, a part of me expected him to walk in and gripe about what were we doing with his belongings.  It was surreal and was obviously the denial stage.  Gradually, it gave away to anger.  I knew he was struggling and did what I could to help him, but I felt the family overall had let him down.  He would 'disappear' from time to time and it seemed as if few in the family did anything more than to ask about him (from my perspective).  Had dealt with the same type of sexual abuse that I did as a kid and the struggles that come from growing up in a dysfunctional family which was unnecessarily poor and led by an alcoholic dad.  He struggled to find acceptance and had cried out for help in his teens with an overdoes on Tylenol.  From my perspective, he was largely abandoned and left to his own devices by the family.   I was angry and humiliated that as a family that we let him down.  I was angry at God I'm sure.  I was angry at myself.   I knew he was struggling and I dropped away for a little bit.  I didn't care that I was dealing with my own failing marriage, depression and unemployment.  I told myself I knew better and let him down.

In some ways, I'd wake up for a bit and just hope that this was just a bad dream and he'd show up and hoped there was a way that that could happen.  But, at my age, the 'bargain' stage didn't last too long as I am a realist.  At this point, having gotten over the shock, having worked through some anger and realized that bargaining was fruitless, I was was struggling with the sadness/depression.  Why should I have to deal with this?  Why should I have to feel this bad?   Why was I the one who was the last one in the family to attempt to be there for him?   I bounced back and forth between sadness and anger.  Eventually, I worked through the sadness and came to accept the reality of never seeing him again, but it wasn't a clean, linear five step progression.

As with the story above, I have come to realize in my life, a phenomenon.  I have seen in the life of others, especially, but not limited to kids and younger people that same phenomenon: Sadness hiding behind Anger.  That is Anger being Sadness's spokesperson, instead of Sadness speaking for itself.

  • The sadness hurts. Why should I have to feel this hurt or loss?  
  • The sadness leads to unexpected/uncontrolled expression sobbing or crying.  Why should we have to deal with something that makes us feel 'weak' or 'unsafe'?
    • It can make us feel vulnerable or 'weak'.   Anger tells us we should be able to better deal.
    • It can feel humiliating.  Crying, while healthy, is best done in a safe place.  If not done in a safe place, it can lead to humiliation.  Anger hates humiliation.
  • The sadness seems never-ending.  Why won't this stage ever end?  Why can't I just move on?  Anger hates an unresolved endless repeat of the same painful story.

Anyway, from what I see, Anger serves two purposes, not necessarily healthy, but nonetheless two purposes.

  • Anger can serve as seemingly less draining than working through the sadness.  
    • Anger doesn't require the level of introspection and processing of sadness.  It is a raw unfiltered emotion.  Let's face it, if you don't feel like you should have to deal with sadness, anger seems to be a good option.
  • Anger can serve as a way to block the sadness (at least for a time).   
    • In a way, it can be seen as the emotional version of cutting.  My understanding is that the raw physical sensation of cutting serves as a distraction for emotional pain of sadness.  If you are focused on the acute physical sensation of cutting* and all it involves, for a time, the emotional hurt is overridden.  Anger can be raw and intense, and in a similar way to cutting it can overwhelm sadness the emotional hurt of sadness.

I think most people have seen instances, either portrayed in the movies or somewhere in their own lives or those around them an angry person who is lovingly embraced and proceeds to break down and cry.  While I wouldn't categorically endorse that technique in dealing with angry people, it does emphasize a point: that sadness is often underlying anger.  

I guess my takeaway is this: Before you write off someone who has anger issues at least consider that there may be more than just meets the eye.  It isn't always just some jerk who decides that hating is an acceptable way of life.  It isn't always necessarily some psychopath who has predatory anger.  Sometimes, an 'angry' person is simply a person who is trying to avoid dealing with sadness.  So, instead of placing their Sadness in the Sadness Bin, they feel more comfortable placing it in the Anger Bin.  So, before you condemn an angry person, consider that there may be a sad person inside who just needs some understanding.**

Just my thoughts,

* I understand there are other reasons behind cutting as the Mayo Clinic details.  I've known people who cut, but I never began to understand why they cut themselves UNTIL one day when I chewed a fingernail too far down on the nail bed.  I'd done this before where it caused an uncomfortable, acute pain.  But, I had found that pressing down on that fingernail until it turned white for a while would lessen or block the pain in the nail bed.  I believe my higher power gave me an insight that day.  What I was doing was substituting one pain for another less intense pain.  In other words, I was blocking pain with pain.  I realized that day that people often cut for the same reason.  They are blocking an (emotional) pain with a less intense physical one.  I realize now that perhaps anger is just another form of pain displacement.

**But don't be so foolish as to try to hug and angry person with a knife or to ignore the symptoms of 'psychotic anger'.   Personal safety comes first.  ;-)

Saturday, April 28, 2018

I haven't got time for the pain or do I?

I recently went to a ballgame in which my daughter's choir sang: "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" for the seventh inning stretch.  It was a very cool thing to watch for a parent.  I was very proud of her.  Anyway, after all the fun and games so to speak, we left the Stadium and headed towards the car.  On the way to the parking lot, I stepped off a curb the wrong way, twisting my ankle with the weight of my body collapsing on top of it.  Besides being a bit humiliated, I was a injured and was in pain.  I still am having pain with it about a few weeks later as I severely sprained my ankle.

This whole incident and the inconvenience it caused kind of gave me the blues over the next few days.  Anyway, my wife and I had a discussion on dealing with adversity and she indicated that she does what needs done even when upsetting/depressing things happening to or around her. In other words, she can't afford to let things keep her mood down.  Like I said and I was feeling bluesy and probably a bit misunderstood and said to her, "People have time for depression?"  I wasn't trying to shame her or make her feel bad, but to express that yes we indeed can exercise control over how we deal with bad things, it is not always complete control.  

  • A situation in our life can be so upsetting that despite our best efforts to "soldier on", we have to take the time and give the wound a chance to heal before we go back into the daily grind.
  • We have face so much trauma over time that what seems like a small setback can just feel like piling on of woes and therefore can be disabling.
  • We are just having a bad day already and what we could brush off yesterday is something that we struggle with doing so today.
  • We have a family history of 'behavioral health' issues or problems
In other words, sometimes our spirit dictates to us what we can handle, not what we think we should be able to 'deal with'.

People say God will not allow more in our lives than we can bear in referencing the following:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

When relating this adversity, people take this to mean that God will not allow you more to happen to you than you can handle with idea of handling means "just dealing with it".

I think the problem lies in people's interpretation of it.  Handling or 'enduring' doesn't always mean just pushing the problem (pain) aside and soldiering on.  Sometimes, it means taking a break, taking a nap, stepping away or retrenching such that we can recover.  

I think,...
  • Provided we aren't invested in a lifetime pass to a pity party and want to move forward in our lives.
  • Provided we don't have a nervous breakdown when we stub a toe or a similar overreaction.
  • Provided that deep down inside we are committed to moving forward and haven't just given up 
That we should be accept that sometimes we or those around us do need to make or allow "time for the pain".  If there is anything I've learned, it's this:  Feelings denied, suppressed or otherwise minimized don't go away, but instead can metastasize into something far worse or destructive.   So, be kind to yourself.  Don't sit around and expect life's hurts and problems just to go away as you rock your life away, but don't ignore them always pushing forward and pretending like they don't exist either. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Depression: It Ain't Over 'Till It's Over

Sorry folks, but it is time for a melancholy post.  Don't mean to be a killjoy, but I say what my head and sometimes my heart tell me to write and I feel this one in my bones, needing to get out.  It is my hope that my posts are read and shared.  I hope one day to have a wide distribution that people can either can relate, hear something that 'explains' what they've felt, or just give a different perspective to what they've thought on matters. Anyway, I am working on a more 'positive' one to balance out, but I digress.  Anyway, here I dive in.  

The holidays can be hard to face for those who have lost someone close and/or do not have a close knit family.  When you see the warmth and joy elsewhere around you, it is easy to reflect on what is missing.

I have circled this issue many times and in many forms, but I have never landed on it.  Like releasing an ordinance from a jet and hitting around a target, but never quite hitting the target.  Some of the forms I've touched upon are as follow:
  • Suicide
  • Feeling blue
  • Disconnected
  • Sadness
  • Walking wounded
  • Melancholy
So, here I speak on it finally: Depression.  As a Christian, we are taught not to worry and to have faith in God above.  We are taught to look at the big picture, that is the long view.  Struggle and suffering are a part of this life, but that ultimately in our Savior we will have victory when the struggles of this life have passed.  There are countless scriptures for encouragement and strengthening.  I won't enumerate them, but will point to Encouraging Scriptures.

I believe all these things and more.  However, I know that faith itself will not prevent us from struggles, faith itself will not prevent us from getting down at times.  Faith itself will not keep us from the trials and tribulations that are the byproduct of our fallen nature and an imperfection.   Faith itself will not always keep us from moments of feeling sad and hopeless.  The Bible itself has numerous examples of people feeling hopeless at times: Jonah, King David, Elijah, etc.  While the takeaway from the Bible is there is hope for those who call themselves Children of God, from what I see, the Bible recognizes feelings of discouragement, hopelessness and depression.  So, how can I square my faith with my feelings of discouragement at times?  How can I square my faith with my moments of depression and hopelessness?   How do I tell others to have faith, when I have my moments of hopelessness?  Eternal questions.  The short answer is that in following our faith, we are not promised a life of comfort, a life of ease, a life of carefree.  What we are promised is an absolution of our sin and ultimate victory over death.  I gave this as part of the eulogy for my brother Bill what we are promised...

1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 54-56
42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is
perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised
in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural
body, it is raised a spiritual body.
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal
with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has
been swallowed up in victory."
55 "Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?"
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.
57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


As I wrote this for my brother Bill who took his life in July 2011.  The backstory I wrote in Don't you forget about me: The blog I needed to write one day about my late brother.   He was a baptized believer, but he struggled mightily with hopelessness.  I hope and pray God understood his pain and took that into account.  Anyway, with him it was like as if you told him the weather was mostly sunny and he'd probably come back and effectively say, "I guess that means it is cloudy outside".  When you are in that place, it is hard to see the glass as half full, but instead it is easier to see the glass as half empty with the risk of the glass just being knocked over and all the hope drain out.  I know this because I have had points like that before.  Not quite to the extent that Bill had, but enough to know the personal hell he must have felt.  Divorce, death of close ones, loss of custody, bankruptcy, losing your house and losing most of your possession, & job loss all can weigh on you.  But, like Job, even when you think God has abandoned you, He is there.  But you have to look past the debris and look at The Promise (see above scripture).


What is depression?  According to Merriam-Webster, one of the definitions of depression is as follow:

"a psychoneurotic or psychotic disorder marked especially by sadness, inactivity, difficulty in thinking and concentration, a significant increase or decrease in appetite and time spent sleeping, feelings of dejection and hopelessness, and sometimes suicidal tendencies"

Those are fine words and that is a good clinical description, but let's take it down to the day-to-day level. What does it feel like?
  • It is a dreading of getting out of bed to face the day ahead.  It is a wanting to go to work early, to run errands early, to go to the gym to work out, but instead feeling like it is safest to just stay in bed as long as you can.
  • It is the sense that no matter how much you try things will inevitably not end well.  I sense of what's the point.  In other words, not getting too high when good things happen as it is just a cruel trick before the other shoe drops as it inevitably will.
  • It is a feeling of needing something to numb, block, drown or overcome the pain.  Something such as alcohol, drugs (prescribed or other), gambling, extensive TV watching, drowning in music, a tryst, you name it.  Just anything you can to take away the pain for as long as possible or to extend better feelings for just little longer.
  • It is a vacant or blank affect of, I don't care,  That is what does it matter anyway?
  • It is like the feeling of wanting to walk away and never look back.
  • It is the wondering if anyone would care if you just disappeared.  It is the sense that you don't matter too much if at all.
  • It is the sense of tiredness of fighting it all.  Wishing you could just have the pain taken away.
  • It is the sense of shrinking into yourself and not wanting anyone to notice or say anything.  But, instead to let you lick your wounds.

You get the picture.  Some of this I've felt at times, some of it I've observed in others and some of it is what I perceive that it would be like.   Anyway, if you observe this attitude or behavior in another, it's hard to know what to do.
  • Do you press your loved one for what's wrong and not take 'Nothing' or "I'm okay" for an answer?  Hard to know what to say.  
  • Do you 'stage an intervention' and risk them shutting you out or totally rejecting you, thereby destroying ability to influence them.  
  • Do you just constantly remind them in a friendly but not pushy way that you are there for them, hoping that they reveal enough or let you in enough to know when it is time to step in?  (In other words, come to you before they completely check out).
  • Do you 'ambush' them when they've dropped off the grid?  In other words, checking in on them, but not quite staging an intervention.
Obviously, with my brother, I had some, if not all, of these questions in my mind.  I'm sure for anyone who has dealt with depression or someone who has it, has additional pondering similar to those above.  

I'm not sure exactly what the takeaway from this post is, except for the following:
  1. Regardless of how deeply you choose to intervene, always remind your loved one that you care about them.  Even if you think, well, they won't care or notice my efforts, they will.
  2. Share your concerns with trusted others around you--including possibly a counselor or minister or his/her friends.  Many people have either faced or known someone who has faced similar struggles.  With a little bit of God's grace, you might find someone who can either share your burden or give you pointers on what to do.
  3. Pray.  It doesn't have to be a long prayer.  It doesn't actually have to be speaking aloud to God.  It could a simple thought to Him: "God, I don't know what to do, 'please advise me'." or "God, 'please let my loved one be open to Your help'"
  4. Remember ultimately, there is only so much you can do.  Just like much else in life, you have to do what your gut tells you and leave the results to your Higher Power.

I hope this post will hit a person or two along the way.  Thanks for being my audience.  It sounds funny with such a melancholy blog, but Cheers.  :)


Thursday, June 23, 2016

Finding Jewels in the Darkness

It's been a few years since my old life as I knew it stopped and it transformed into a new and different and in some ways better life.

I will eventually write a blog called "Growing up the hard way" about how the difficult and painful years from an early age to young adulthood and beyond can either destroy a person or be their path to maturity.  But, for now I will focus on something that I have realized recently.

Sometimes we go through dark periods in our lives in our lives animated by sadness, depression and/or grief.   At the time, we are focused on the hurt and the pain and surviving it.  In other words, we are too busy working through the pain to notice or to accept the happy moments.  In a way, we are stuck in the darkness of the moment and though we have happy moments, we really don't appreciate those moments until long afterward.  In other words, in hindsight, we locate jewels in the darkness.

The concept has been floating in my mind for a while not quite crystallized.  It was a simple thing that really flipped the switch on this the other day.  I was driving home from work the other day and heard "Wild One" by Flo Rida featuring Sia.  I love music and I have gotten some happiness or contentment out of listening to that song.  I looked back and at the time I was underemployed,  working through a divorce, didn't have my daughter, was in the process of losing my house and just lost my brother.  In short, I felt like I was living in hell.  But that song, for the few minutes it was on at a time, brought a little respite for my sadness and grief.

But, I look back and now I see that while I lost full-time custody of my daughter, I had some special moments with Olivia that I will savor.  It was me and funny girl facing the world.  We learned to enjoy "chasing nature": usually birds, ducks, squirrels or rabbits.  We went to church together and made friends.  We went on shopping trips together where I bonded with her over helping her to find clothes she loved.  We learned the simple joy of picking up food and refreshment at QT.  We learned the joy of sitting on the sidewalk, while picking out seeds out of pods.  I could go on forever, but what I realize in hindsight is this: while things were brutal around me, I look back and had moments of joy or happiness.  I call them "Jewels in the Darkness".

I guess my takeaway is this: always realize there is joy to be found in the darkest moments.

Goodnight and I hope my readers have a good day tomorrow.