Monday, November 30, 2015

More...Insights by Judy

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The power of depression.......

I had an interesting question from a reader after my last article.  He asked me if my depression had "faded" so that I could recognize the positive in life.  I told him that it didn't fade, but it was managed.  I am very aware that depression is part of my biochemical makeup.  I believe totally that it is going to be part of my life until the end.  It is a lot like the diabetes that I struggle with.  It's just there.  I have had periods in which it seemed to be more of an underlying issue.  It could be seen in my total lack of confidence.  I could recognize it in my lack of hope that I could create a life that would be satisfying.  And even during those times that things were going well, I still had the anxiety that I would somehow screw it up.  And sometimes I did. In the last approximately three years, I've had a period that I would consider peaceful. And the depression is at bay.  Kind of like a remission.  I work hard to keep it that way.  I've had situations and problems that would normally lead to a serious bout with depression. I'm getting older.  Having health issues.  Job problems.  But I'm coping.

I have always recognized that situations can and do tip off my more serious experiences with depression. Moving to a new place.  Job issues.  My divorce.  Struggling with single parenthood. Breakups.  One of my hospitalizations was the result of a breakup. Which is why I always talk about how I see depression as a problem with coping skills. When I'm faced with a situation that I can't control...or seemingly get through...I give up. I do know that there are going to be times in my future that will be difficult. So, I'm very aware that depression is a possible future issue.  How do I plan to deal with that potential issue?  The same way I'm dealing with it now.  Using the tools that I recognize help me. I take medicine because it helps. I may not need medicine when things are going smoothly, although I could debate that, but when problems are there...it makes a huge difference. And we all know that life happens. I use support.  My daughter is a prime example of the support that has kept the last few years so peaceful.  I also use online support groups because I don't have the transportation to get to face to face meetings. I have utilized therapy during times that things threaten to get out of control or I have an issue I can't seem to get through. It helps me to have a professional to provide suggestions and help me process feelings. I get out and get some exercise even though I have physical problems.  My walks to and from work and to other places have been a miracle for me. The hills of Tennessee are beautiful.  I find much peace in walking them. Basically, I try to take care of myself.  I recognize that my chances of staying healthy are better if I work on nurturing Judy.

Is any of this a guarantee?  Definitely not.  We only have to look at people who have killed themselves to know that.  I remember one client that I worked with in my social service career.  She was a lawyer.  Bright, capable, and VERY bipolar. When she was involuntarily hospitalized, she kept the doctors hopping filing briefs to be released.  I loved her spirit, although I also recognized her very severe illness.  And she eventually killed herself.  I remember hearing about her death.  It was truly a sad event in my opinion.  This was a smart woman. Who had an overwhelming disease.  That led directly to her death. Brains and knowledge aren't always enough to save people.

So, to my reader.....thanks for your question.  It led me to consider the absolute power that mental illness can have on us.  How can you relate to this discussion?  Let's talk!  Sending love........

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Sunshine and Support...........

Love is seen in the most unexpected places.  Being a depressed person, I don't always see the love. I've been given a lot of love and support throughout my life that I didn't see as clearly as I needed to. I was so busy judging myself and my weaknesses that these expressions of love were a blip in my ongoing negative self-talk.  I would take them in and feel gratitude. Then I would feel guilt because for some reason, I thought I shouldn't need the support. But that has changed. Now I see support as an expression of love.  Basically because I've put in a lot of effort to recognize that I'm human and weaknesses are part of the deal.  We all have them.  How have I changed my attitude?  Through constant affirmation that I'm worthwhile. Being able to take in the love is something I had to learn. So, what brought this to mind?  I've had my struggles at work.  But there have been times that I have truly seen love in the people I work with and the people I serve.

I'm pretty good at my job.  At this time in my life, I've chosen to work in a retail establishment because I love the constant public contact.  I like to 'schmooze'.  Talking to people is essential to my nature. If I can't talk, I am TRULY depressed. When I get quiet, you should start worrying. Working in retail is a pretty good thing for me. And you can see the full range of human interactions there. So, the other day I had a situation occur at work that was an example of support in its most basic form. As you know if you read my blog regularly, I have a 'walking stick' (cane).  I use it regularly because I have leg problems.  I'm not totally disabled, but the walking stick is an important tool for me. I use 'pool noodles' on the handle because I tend to grip the handle of this cane too tightly, which leads to an extremely sore hand.  I have enough soreness, so the pool noodles are important.  They really make using the cane more comfortable. I have three of these noodles in various colors.  And I need them because these things eventually rip and break down. They are not able to be used at a certain point. So, I simply cut off a new piece and go on.  I'm not going to run out of them for quite a while.  I haven't finished the first one.

The other day, I noticed that my noodle was really getting pretty broken down.  It was ripped and not staying on the handle as well as I needed it to. But I was heading out the door for work and thought I could get one more trip out of it. But here is where I saw the love.  At the end of my work day, I went into the break room to pick up Barnaby. (My cane) And the pool noodle had been very carefully and beautifully taped. I was stunned. What a little piece of love! I don't know who did this. But I owe them a hug. I felt so cared for. And I'm very proud that I could see the love.  Many times in my life, I would have judged myself for needing that walking stick.  Or even for working in a retail store. (Retail isn't 'professional' enough.) Now, I am simply grateful for the fun in my job. And I think Barnaby is a totally cool walking stick. I see the love. I see the joy. This is quite a change....especially since there is no attached "BUT".

What about you?  Do you see love, joy and support for what they are?  Or are you still struggling with judgments that don't really serve you? Find the sunshine. Let's talk!  Sending much love..........

Thursday, November 26, 2015

On a day of giving thanks......

I've been really blessed in my lifetime.  I've had experiences that have confirmed for me that people are basically good. Even the clients I worked with gave me many memories of basic goodness.  I have much love in my life.  So, today, I'm giving thanks for that love.  My daughter, Jana, and my 'other daughter' Julie, are the motivation for my continuing to strive and keep going.  Both of them are wonderful, loving human beings who put up with and celebrate me.  I can't tell you how much I owe them.  Really, I owe them my life. If I hadn't had the love and support from the two of them, I might not have made it out of Orlando. I really was in pretty bad shape, not seeing solutions, and not able to make decisions. Because of that, I know the power of depression.  I know the feeling that a lack of hope brings. If I had been able to figure out a way to kill myself without pain in Orlando, I might not be here. There were many nights that suicide looked like the best solution. But there was this spark.  I knew that my daughter loved me.  I knew that my death would cause her considerable pain. So, I kept going. And eventually that spark grew into a flame that carried me to a bus and the trip to Tennessee.

I see much power in love and kindness.  I've seen it work miracles. Which means that when I see unkindness and anger, I know there is another way. I see a great deal of unkindness and hate in this world. Given my tendency to become depressed, I probably shouldn't even watch the news. But unfortunately, because I grew up in a Jewish household which experienced the Holocaust on a personal level, I believe that my only defense is being aware.  I can't hide out. The current political season in the United States is really very frightening.  Our candidates, at least on one side, are celebrating hate.  They want us to hate all Muslims. They want us to hate all Hispanics. They want us to hate all Black people.  And for many of them...Jews are the enemy still.  I'm watching this with a great deal of fear.  I know where hate leads.  I heard the stories that my relatives told about their experiences in the Holocaust.  Whole branches of my family tree died. I really do know that hate is always there. But something about this seems very ominous.  Hate has become not only accepted in certain circles, it is truly celebrated. Why did this come to mind on a day that is dedicated to giving thanks?  Because I saw a truly disgusting example of that hatred.  And I'm going to share it with you because I think we ALL need to be aware.

Donald Trump is under "fire" for making fun of a man who has a disability.  He was taped doing so. There is no denial here.  He actually went there.  And as I listened to this truly horrifying episode, I was reminded that Hitler despised those with disabilities.  We know that because he gassed them along with the Jews. It is a short leap from fanning hatred to coming up with a 'final solution'.  And there is one important lesson that I learned from my recovery:  I cannot ignore the elephant in the room.  I have to identify it and challenge it.  So today, on a day in which I would prefer to be giving thanks for all the love in my life...I am instead writing about hatred. I hope you understand why this has to be so.  I truly have to do my part.  I have no choice. Thank you so much for listening.  And for all of you reading, I am sending my LOVE.  With true recognition that you come from all sorts of different races, ethnic groups, and religions.  Love is the answer.  We CAN work out the problems without resorting to all this hatred.  Have a wonderful Thanksgiving....and a beautiful holiday season. Let's talk!


If you feel a need to actually view the video, here is the link:  http://aol.it/1XinKj0

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is love really the answer?.......YES!............

As someone who believes totally in the concept and practice of support, I think I tend to look at human relationships as the most important source of hope in dealing with mental illness. I know that love can do a whole lot to help people cope. And to lead to healing. Whether that love is romantic or not, love really is the answer in my book. I've told you about my anger at Maxine as I was growing up.  I've told you about the impact that she has had on my life.  But I'm not sure whether I've been able to adequately describe the love that permanently changed my life as I grew to understand her mental illness. While I never had the opportunity to tell her how much I really loved her, I know that somehow she knows. I know today that in spite of her illness, Maxine had an underlying loving spirit. And that spirit is part of my soul. And anything that I've accomplished started there. With my very severely mentally ill mother.

Over the last week at work, I've had two women reach out to me to tell me their stories.  I'm kind of used to that.  I make my interactions with the human beings I serve at work very personal.  I tease with them.  I welcome them.  I ask how they are doing. And amazingly, they tell me. One shared with me that she is facing her second Christmas at home without her beloved husband.  He died last year before the Christmas season. And she is clinging to her grandchildren to anchor her and move through this painful season. The second is a woman who always greets me with a smile. She laughs at me and with me.  I love seeing her because she is always dressed in pretty colors and a bright smile. The other day, she told me that she doesn't have to go back to her oncologist for the next ten months because she is cancer-free. We hugged and celebrated for a few minutes. I have to tell you that I was extraordinarily moved by both of those interactions.  I was thrilled that they shared with me.  I was honored that those two women are part of my life.  I was filled with love. And it made me very aware that love is really my antidote for the depression that has ruled my life.  Love.

So, today I got another reminder.  Two of the people that I value the most in my rather interesting and eclectic support system announced that they are in a relationship....with each other.  They are both sweet. They are truly adorable. And they live with mental illness. These two individuals have touched me in many ways. I've felt their support many times over the last couple of years. And it has made a difference for me. Because I utilize online support, these individuals reside in another country. But they've felt as real in my life as the people who live next door. And the love flows in every interaction I have with them. So, to hear that they've found love together was such a touching thing. It gives me hope.  Love is there. And all is right in my world at this moment.  Thanks so much, my friends.....I truly feel joy at your good news.

What does this lead me to?  How can I harness the joy I find in love to keep myself happy and stable? By recognizing it when it occurs. Depression thrives for me when I feel alone. I don't have to be 'in a relationship' to recognize that I'm part of the human community. I have found more sense of belonging than I ever did in "relationships".  Now, I'm looking for the love. And I'm finding it. How about you?  Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  I'm sending much love to you right now.  Let's talk!


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