Succurrere

Have been wanting to write again here for a long time - just have not been able to decide what I wish to write about. Depression? Multiple Sclerosis (MS)? Something else? That’s probably why this post is so long (sorry about that, continue reading if you dare).

Well, for the most part this blog has historically not been for laughs - but guess my life could be termed as a comic tragedy (or is that a tragic comedy?). Either way you look at it, with few exceptions, I tend to write about things experienced past or present. Understand that’s one secret to writing: focus on what you know about - or go total fantasy where nothing is real. While I love to read fantasy novels, writing here is very focused on my very real life. Leaving aside the whole MS thing - today’s topic is once again returning to the realm of depression and dark thoughts (sadly something which I know too much about).

Please remember - it is not a choice to be or not to be depressed, it just is!! No one would willingly choose to live their life in this place. Let’s just say that the demon has once again reared its nasty head - filling my mind with all sorts of negativeness. This time deep depression and thoughts of suicide have lingered longer than I thought it could, or has before. Oh, every once in awhile it backs off a little and I am briefly almost normal. A few months ago I actually was smiling - something which has not happened in a very long time. A friend even made a comment about that, telling me it was good to see me smile. It did not last long and once again the looming dark clouds of depression quickly descended, plunging me back into the mists of despair. There is little to no light in this state of mind.

To make a comparison it sometimes might appear a lot like the story of the “boy who cried wolf”. Not that I make up dangers as he did searching for attention. No, black thoughts like mine should always be taken seriously - by myself and hopefully by others as well because they are very real. It is terrifying to think that someday I might act on those thoughts - worn out from fighting and with strength weakening, how easy it would be to follow the darkness and disappear. It seems like I am cycling through a repetitive and never ending lonely rocky barren landscape.

God may not get tired and turn away when we, His children, call out to Him for help. His love is always there. However, if I had a friend who was consistently like me, not sure how many times I could deal with it before turning away (mostly out of self-preservation). So, I really try to keep it much to myself, believing inside (even when told otherwise) that I am a burden to everyone and they are better off when I am not around. When the darkness descends I am engulfed in distorted cloudy mists, unable to see or remember times before that used to be so clear. The past few weeks I’ve thought a lot about what could possibly help - because someone asked me what is it that I want from other people. Concluded it is not about wants but actually has everything to do with needs. Hopefully I have uncovered at least part of an answer to this question with these two items.
  1. It is important to know that I am not faking, nor am I merely attempting to seek attention. However please acknowledge my state of mind - accepting that yes I am caught in a dark whirlpool, and no it is not my choice. Hopefully accompanied by communication that I am not alone. This can be done even if, or especially when, it is not understood.
  2. Instead of trying to fix my brokenness - perhaps remind me that there is light in the world. Light is so easily forgotten when I am feeling hopeless, lost, and alone. If there is no immediate response, please have patience and do not ignore what I am experiencing. It is a false belief that the darkness will magically disappear if it is never mentioned.
One unspoken clue that may have been noticed about my state of mind is the color of clothing which I choose to dress in. Usually it matches my mood - consequently I own a lot of dark color clothing. Black is self-explanatory; Navy is dark and almost black; grey the color of dismal mists; brown the color of dirt; and red. Wait... where did red come from in this boring color scheme? Red not seen as the cheerful color that most people think about - no for me it morbidly is often seen as the color of blood. Granted I do have a few different and brighter color shirts which I wear to work as an attempt to not be the daily office “gloom and doom” person. It’s all part of the mask which I wear to hide my reality. Or once in awhile I wear these colors because all my go-to ones are in the laundry, so please don’t read anything into it.

And that is where I am today, yesterday, and for weeks / months now - lost in depression. There are a few scriptures which have helped me - because even though I most often feel cut off from God, feeling there is a "pavilion" that stands between Him and me - I still do have a strong belief in the reality of God and our Savior Jesus Christ. I believe in their love for all of us, however I also often feel their love is there for everyone… except for me. There is quite a dichotomy in my life - knowing in my head that is not true (God does love all of His children) - but at the same time often feeling in my heart that no one cares, even God. Feeling this way is one nature of depression.

One of my favorite scriptures is found in Alma 7:11-12 - where it talks about what and why Christ suffered all that was placed on Him (notice not once in these two verses does it mention “sin”, even though The Atonement of Christ very much includes sin). All this was so “that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.” When you know that the word succor comes from the Latin succurrere which means “run to the help of” - it gives a whole different view of why Christ experienced all of our afflictions, so that He can and will run to help us. There are also many talks given in my church’s bi-annual General Conference which are of great worth. Just one of my personal favorites is: Like a Broken Vessel by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland.

Sadly even though I read from the scriptures regularly, and have downloaded the audio of oh so many talks from General Conference and listen to them pretty much every day. They tend to work for only a brief moment in time, then once again I find myself floundering in darkness trying to keep my head above the surface of water. But at least they do offer some help, so I shall continue reading and listening even if the help is temporary.

Bountiful, Utah Temple
There are a couple of blessings in my life right now. First is that I have been asked to teach an adult Sunday School class. Preparing lessons for that, and feeling a deep desire and need to bare my testimony each time I teach has helped me immensely the past couple of years. That along with the wonderful insights I receive from class member comments. It has always been for me a reaffirmation of truth - however this too is often only temporary in length. The second blessing is being able to work in the Temple two Saturday mornings a month. There is a spirit found there which brings peace while I am in the building and for a short time after leaving. Wish that I could sequester myself there and live out my mortal days surrounded by that spirit of peace.

There are other sources of help which I have discovered. One is a YouTube channel by Seth Adam Smith - in particular videos he made with Ganel-Lyn Condie (she talks about her sister and suicide) - plus his videos that feature Carrie Maxwell Wrigley (my counselor with whom I frequently talk about many things, including Christ centered healing).

One source in particular has helped me to see how, and to know that I am in danger should the dark thoughts continue unabated - it is part of my church's online initiative to help anyone affected or impacted by Mental Health. This website, in addition to the wonderful spiritual guidance, they also offer other online resources to help. One section is called: Preventing SuicidePlease click on the links and read, there is so much more to be found! Personally I took note of the part, I’m worried about someone, where there is a list of wonderful information under the title of... Is it possible to predict who will attempt suicide? Are there any common warning signs?.

Please don’t dismiss or ignore if you see someone in trouble - by doing something, even small things, perhaps you will save a life. Also know that those who live with depression are very skilled in hiding what is really going on. This is done for many reasons - if you want to know some of mine just ask (but be prepared to find out).



To end this long blog post - here are some images I found on the internet and have kept them for awhile. Instead of doing possible future blog posts using these, decided I'd just leave them here and hopefully leave them behind. Don't worry about me... I'm fine.

Never cut myself - but the rest is fairly true.
A lot of it is related to PTSD

How am I doing?

Many people have been asking me for a number of weeks now how I'm doing. That is a very difficult question to answer as it depends on the day, time of day, or even the week. It's difficult to tell people how I'm doing mostly because Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has a lot of different symptoms - which can vary in degree and intensity. The type of MS I was diagnosed with is called Relapsing-Remitting MS. Some people may be fairly symptom free for years - or the symptoms can go into a period of relapse (aka: come on in force). Even with the possibility of MS remitting (or a cycle of retreating), there can be severe chronic symptoms which never go away.

Not listed in any particular order, some of my ongoing symptoms are these...
  • fatigue
  • walking/balance difficulties
  • numbness or tingling in hands and feet
  • muscle stiffness and cramping (or spasms)
  • muscle weakness
  • dizziness
  • back pain / neck pain
  • clinical depression (like I needed any help with that)
  • mood swings and irritability
  • tremors (uncontrollable shaking)
  • blurry vision
  • insomnia
  • heart palpitations
  • and cognitive changes 
There are a few other symptoms that I have, all of which can come and go in degree or intensity - but this gives you an idea of what I'm living with pretty much every day. For more information on MS symptoms, this is a great website: http://www.nationalmssociety.org/Symptoms-Diagnosis/MS-Symptoms

There are also things in everyday life which can trigger episodes of relapse. The biggest triggers which exacerbate symptoms for me are... not getting enough sleep, stress, physical over exertion, and heat intolerance. With temperatures consistently being around 100 every day this summer, that is why I've been staying indoors. Pretty much that, though necessary, has been like putting myself into isolation (which does not help with depression). Sadly an activity which I really enjoyed in the past, that of walking around the neighborhood, has become out of reach or severely liminted for me. It's not just the hot temperatures, but also a combination of many other factors listed above.

So what about medication?


Surely there's something the doctors are doing to help, right? Well the medication I am taking - which I administer to myself is a three times a week subcutaneous injection (meaning in the non-muscle fatty areas of the body). The purpose of that is to help lessen or prevent future relapses, and it can also theoretically help to slow the progression of this disease. However it does nothing for current symptoms. For those I do other things - among many are to take muscle relaxant pills three times a day, and the end of June I had three days of a IV steroid infusion.

Other questions?


Other question people ask mostly deal with them not understanding what MS is, or what it does to the body. Completely understandable, it is not something one encounters a lot - and until I was given this diagnosis I too did not know much of anything about MS.

There is a great presentation which goes over that on this website: http://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/ss/slideshow-multiple-sclerosis-overview. In case you don't have time to pan through all 21 slides in that presentation - here's a brief overview which I copied and pasted just a few snippets here for you...

What is Multiple Sclerosis (MS)?

MS is a chronic disease that damages the nerves in the spinal cord and brain, as well as the optic nerves. Sclerosis means scarring, and people with MS develop multiple areas of scar tissue in response to the nerve damage. Depending on where the damage occurs, symptoms may include problems with muscle control, balance, vision, or speech.

How MS Attacks

In people with MS, the body's own immune system attacks the tissue surrounding the nerve fibers in the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. This covering is made of a fatty substance called myelin. It insulates the nerves and helps them send electrical signals that control movement, speech, and other functions. When myelin is destroyed, scar tissue forms, and nerve messages are not transmitted properly.

MS Symptoms: Weakness or Numbness

Nerve damage can cause:
Weakness in an arm or leg
Numbness
Loss of balance
Muscle spasms
These symptoms may lead to frequent tripping or difficulty walking.

Other MS Symptoms

MS can take a toll on mental sharpness. Some people may find it takes longer to solve problems. Others may have mild memory loss or trouble concentrating. Most people with MS also experience some loss of bladder control, because signals between the brain and bladder are interrupted. Finally, fatigue is a common problem. You may feel tired even after a good night's sleep.

MS and Weather

Research suggests that the disease may be more active during the summer months. Heat and high humidity may also temporarily worsen symptoms. Very cold temperatures and sudden changes in temperature may aggravate symptoms, as well.

Treating MS: Medications

While there is no cure for MS, there are "disease-modifying drugs" that can reduce the frequency and severity of MS attacks. Use can result in less damage to the brain and spinal cord over time, slowing the progression of disability. When an attack does occur, high-dose corticosteroids can help cut it short. Many drugs are also available to manage troubling MS symptoms, such as muscle spasms, incontinence, and pain.

Treating MS: Pain Management

About half of people with MS develop some form of pain, either as a result of a short circuit in the nervous system or because of muscle spasms or strain. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants and anticonvulsant medications to ease nerve pain. Pain medicines and anti-spasm drugs may also be used. Muscle pain often responds well to massage and physical therapy. Be sure to discuss the options with your doctor if you find yourself in pain.

Behind the curtain

In the movie The Wizard of Oz there is the phrase at one point when the wizard says: “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”. Well this week the curtain was fully drawn open, but there was no man there - only a medical diagnosis which I am still trying to process. What is this diagnosis you ask? Okay, I won’t make you read any further to discover what is behind that curtain.
I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

After having a brain MRI done last Friday afternoon (and joking with everyone that they wouldn’t find a brain in there), I figured I wouldn’t hear from my doctor until at least Monday this week. Last weekend was difficult to get through, wondering and not knowing. After waiting all day with no news - late Monday afternoon I finally logged into my insurance’s public portal and quickly found the radiologist’s report. Reading that while sitting at my desk at work - alone - I just started crying. Wasn’t the way I would have liked to find out, but then don’t think there would have been a “good way” to do so.

I really wanted an answer for the previous months of increasing dizziness (this time, unlike in the past, it just was not going away). Already tests last month showed it was not related to my inner ear and I so much wanted them to find something - anything to explain the why - even if it was bad news. Well, it was just that… bad. ugly. news.

Spent Monday evening searching the internet for information about MS. While it is a great tool, which can provide so much with a simple search - the internet can also be very scary when you are reading about a medical condition that you've just found out you have, and for which there is no cure.

The next morning my doctor’s office finally called, but thanks to my curiosity I already knew. Was told he wanted me to make an appointment with a Neurologist, which I did. But the earliest appointment with her is 3+ months from now (hopefully that can be moved up, I am on a waiting list, and my doctor said he would help). Then thankfully I was able to meet with my doctor that very afternoon where he asked me so many questions. Things like - have you ever experienced this symptom; when was that; how long did the symptom last; did it ever return, if so when. Then on to the next symptom, and the next, and the next with the same line of questions. He warned me that when I saw the Neuro doctor, she would ask way more questions and in greater detail. Then he gave me a confirmed medical diagnosis that yes, I do have MS.

One good thing is that now I have a permanent handicap parking permit on the license plates for my car. There are some days when it is just so difficult to get from car to building and back again. Have become an expert at driving the motorized shopping carts at the grocery store. Well, at least I haven’t run over anyone… yet (but beware and watch your feet if we are in the store at the same time!!).

Next up this coming week is a spinal tap and yet another MRI. These are tests to help better pinpoint what type of MS it is (there’s like four different types). This time it will take three hours in the noisy MRI machine to scan my entire spinal column. Now I’m making jokes that they may have found a brain with the previous scan, but this time will discover I’m spineless. You see, it’s the jokes which keep me from going insane with all of this. So if you hear me joking and think that I must be doing really well handling this - just don’t look behind the curtain because odds are you’ll see a woman there, maybe curled up in a fetal position, crying and trying to find her way through this.

The hardest thing this past six or so months is probably not what many people may think - which would be recovering from a fractured ankle in mid-December. No, the most difficult for me has been having to ask for and rely on help from other people. That is something which does not come easy for me. I’m stubborn, and yes there’s one of the seven deadly sins of pride thrown in there too. Now there’s also a modicum of anger found in the mix of stubborn pride (sorry about that, hope the anger won’t stick around very long). Please be patient as I navigate this unknown path set before me and come to terms with my new reality.

Know there are many people who have MS and are leading very productive lives. There are also others reading this blog post who know someone, or heard of someone with MS - and will have a multitude of suggestions or recommendations of what I should do. While it is interesting to hear about different treatments - please do not take it personally if  (while grateful for the efforts to help) - if I am not as receptive as you might want me to be. Everyone is different - MS symptoms and treatments are not the same from one person to the other - and I am not making any decisions about treatments (western medicine, alternative, or a combination of both) until after the testing is completed. And after I meet with the Neurologist to find out which of the four types of MS it is that I have.

At least now I know the why behind my ever present and increasing dizziness and stumbling around; having to use a cane for balance and try to not look like the "drunk lady in the neighborhood" (which is weird because I've never drank alcohol). But it’s not just the dizziness - it is a lot of other symptoms too. MS is one of those autoimmune diseases that are often referred to as being an “invisible disease”. But I should be used to that by now, because depression is also in that same category of being invisible.

Answering my doctor’s questions, and thinking about the answers made me realize that I have had many of these issues for about 6-10 years now. My coping techniques were no longer working - and thanks to the prodding (aka: shove) from a dear friend to go see my doctor - I finally was put on the path which has brought me to this point. While I’ve joked with her that it is "all her fault" that now I know about having MS - I really am grateful for her loving push. And I’m also thankful for those who have looked past my stubbornness and pride to give much needed help, especially these past few months.

What’s next? Your guess is as good as mine. For now the MS roulette wheel is spinning and no one knows just what the results will be.

A winter's day

Well - I made a promise to myself that I would post something here again should the "total page views" get up to 8500. Guess it's close enough at 8498 (sigh, many of which are probably my own views).  Not that anyone really reads this blog anyways - so not sure why I even care. Yeah, I hear the violins playing with that last sentence too.

And since I am unable to come up with anything coherent to write - I shall instead steal (ahem, borrow) the lyrics from a song which seems to be quite fitting at the moment.

I Am A Rock

by: ~Simon & Garfunkel

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December;
I am alone,
Gazing from my window to the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I've built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
It's sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me;
I am shielded in my armor,
Hiding in my room, safe within my womb.
I touch no one and no one touches me.
I am a rock,
I am an island.

And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

Battling demons

It has been a long time since I've posted anything on my blog. There are many reasons, some of them better than others. Let's just say that I decided to take a blog break – and that it has lasted longer than I originally thought it would. So what has brought me back to the blogosphere? It is something that has been very much in the news, on social media, and on my mind for just over a week now. I speak of the death of someone whom I never met, except through the movies. Yes, I'm referring to the heartbreaking suicide of Robin Williams.

His death has bought to the surface thoughts and feelings which I have always kept very silent about. You see, I know there is still a stigma attached to depression, and heaven forbid anything related to suicide. It can be difficult for me to fully understand... but if someone were diagnosed with cancer, heart disease, or a plethora of other physical illnesses - their struggles would be freely shared with friends, family and even strangers. Empathy and support would be free flowing, lifting them up and sharing the burden as much as possible. But for those who suffer from more invisible illnesses, such as any form of mental illness... well it is common to just keep it quiet, knowing that avoidance rather than support is the the typical reaction.

This past week many have questioned why someone so widely admired, funny, wealthy, and having loving family & friends could do something like that. And if Robin Williams could do it... what's stopping others fighting similar demons from following suit?

For that reason I feel today a need to address the topic of suicide, which is sadly a common occurrence among people who live with depression. In the past I may have made casual remarks to a few people here and there - but am fairly certain they have never truly known the depths. So why now? Not really sure, but it is my hope that perhaps one thing said here might be of help to someone - even if that someone is just me. The following are thoughts taken from something that I wrote months ago in a notebook. At the time I told my counselor that it will never be published on my blog. Never say never, eh?!

In case you haven't caught on yet and are still wondering... today's blog subject is about suicide. Specifically suicidal thoughts - often referred to as suicidal ideation. What is this word, "ideation"? Basically it's when a person thinks about something a lot. Sometimes to the point that they may even act on such thoughts - because thoughts are a precursor to action.

There is an old adage regarding a progression of thought: first a thought is abhorred, then tolerated, and finally it is embraced. Which is one reason why scriptures warn about watching our thoughts. One verse for example:
"…if ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, and observe the commandments of God, and continue in the faith... even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now... remember, and perish not." (Mosiah 4:30)
Only my counselor, my Bishop (ecclesiastical leader), and perhaps one other person have really known the truth that I don't talk about. Since my teenage years in the early 1980's, I have had suicidal ideation. Not constant, not every day, but way more frequently than I'd like to admit. Sometimes these thoughts are more pervasive than other times, and are a serious drain of emotional, physical and mental energies.

Once at the age of 18 and newly enrolled in college; in an English class I wrote a composition. The topic was my choice - and what I wrote about was a fairly detailed exploration of all the different methods which could be used to commit suicide. At the end of the paper I even came to a succinct conclusion of what my preferred method would be. Disturbing as the topic was, I remember having received a good grade on the paper (guess it was well written or something). However there were no comments nor questions about the topic. I would like to think should a paper of that nature be handed in today, that red flags would be raised and referrals for help extended. Looking back I now recognize that it was my first silent plea for help - for understanding - even if I didn't know that I needed it at the time. How would my life have been different if that professor had recognized the pain and reached out?

Often I make comments in talking and writing – which to me hold a completely different meaning than that perceived by others. Mostly those comments are hidden in the guise of humor - because I honestly do not wish to burden others, and in a way feel that I am protecting them from the depths of darkness that I feel. As I said four years ago in a blog post... "When I laugh, make others laugh, and portray the illusion that all is bright - I can for a moment in time hide, even from myself, the reality which lies beneath."

There’s a poem (that I wrote in 1986-87 during a very depressing dark time) and which I actually shared on my blog a while back. Seriously doubt that anyone who read it had the slightest inkling of the true meaning to me behind these closing words..
Clouds of fog blur my hearing.
Gripping the wheel of life I slip and grow cold.
Leave as silently as you came,
and tell no one of your going.
The majority of those who experience suicidal ideation do not carry through with it (or so I understand) – and so it has been with me. However some may make attempts, and some deliberately plan to fail or be discovered, while others might carefully map their plan for success in carrying out those thoughts. It is my opinion that such attempts happen when a person finally becomes too tired and overwhelmed from repeated battling the thought demons. It's not that they necessarily want to die, just need the very real pain to go away.

Over a long period of time, wanting to know more about suicidal ideation, I have read from a multitude of different sources (books and oh so many sites on the internet). Discovered there is quite a long list of suicide ideation signs and symptoms. If you've read my blog before, you'll know that I just love making lists of things! Am not providing all of them for there are too many, but in no particular order some of mine have been:
  • feeling trapped or hopeless
  • heightened state of anxiety
  • very moody
  • changing sleep patterns (sleep deprivation/insomnia, or too much sleep)
  • depression
  • experiencing panic attacks
  • impaired concentration
  • increased self-criticism
  • isolating oneself (this is a huge one for me)
  • simply wanting to escape the pain and make it end
  • believing you are a burden to others
  • no sense of purpose in life; no reason for living
  • feelings of seclusion or loneliness
  • sincere belief that everyone would be better off if you weren't around anymore
  • unable to experience pleasurable emotions from normally pleasurable life events (eating, exercise, social interaction, etc.)
  • talking about killing oneself – expressing regret about being alive or even ever having been born
If you haven’t observed any of these things in me – trust when I say that they are there. Then remember that a significant number of people with suicidal ideation keep their thoughts and feelings a secret, and appear to have no apparent signs. Also don’t forget that I am a master mask maker who is very experienced in hiding.

Along with the list of signs and symptoms – there are also nice useful lists of things which may help lower the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. Think I need to focus on and do better with some of these.
  • compliance with treatment plans (counseling or even prescription drugs if needed)
  • avoid alcohol, and illegal or prescription drug abuse (this has not been a problem for me, as I try my very best to follow guidelines in the Word of Wisdom - but know it is often an issue for many as they attempt to self-medicate away the pain)
  • avoid isolation – try to stay connected to the outside world
  • exercise
  • eat a well-balanced healthy diet
  • involve friends or family in your treatment
  • focus on good things in life - at the end of each day write down at least 3 positive things that have happened to you, for you, or because of you
  • get at least 7 to 8 hours continuous sleep every 24-hour period (easier said than done – especially for me)
  • separate yourself from means of ending life – get rid of guns, knives, dangerous drugs, etc.
  • seek out things that give you pleasure, such as being with friends/family
  • self-help groups – sharing anguish and anxieties that drive you towards such thoughts can be relieved and comforted by:
    • seeing how others get through it
    • supporting others – this can help you feel better about yourself and those around you (in a way I suppose that my blog has helped to serve in this capacity for me)
In conclusion...

Yes, I live with frequent suicidal ideation - the key word here being live. No, I have not acted on those thoughts (even when so very tempting as they sometimes are). There are a few things which work well in keeping me from acting on or embracing those thoughts.

First and foremost is my religion and faith in God. Often I turn to the scriptures and prayer for help. That help has always been there, and it always will be. For I know that God will not abandon me – nor will God abandon any of His children (even when depression thoughts try to tell me otherwise). I may not know His reasons for this "thorn in the flesh" - but in the end have faith that it will somehow become a blessing.
"...as much as ye shall put your trust in God even so much ye shall be delivered out of your trials, and your troubles, and your afflictions, and ye shall be lifted up at the last day." (Alma 38:5)
Second are the coping tools and skills learned from gifted knowledgeable counseling (both professional and that received from conversations with dear friends and ecclesiastical leaders). For me it takes hearing something multiple times before it begins to sink in or make sense. Hearing the same thing said from different perspectives is also helpful. Am very thankful for those who have simply listened and/or offered their love. They may never know what a difference their small acts of kindness have made.

Third is keeping a notebook of thoughts (less formal than a journal). For me, seeing things written down can help to recognize and sift through the often false thought processes which accompany depression.

Fourth has been this blog for giving me the opportunity to express things that I would probably never just talk about with people.

I'm sure there are others - but am too tired to explore them right now. And with that I end this long post. Hope this will open the mind gates to begin writing here again - and really hope that future topics won't be as serious. Just felt this was something that I finally needed to talk about.

Holes

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters

by 
Portia Nelson


Chapter One

I walk down the street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I fall in. 
I am lost .... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault 
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again. 
I can't believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn't my fault 
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I see it there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit ... but, 
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four

I walk down the same street. 
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. 
I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down another street.

Not just for soldiers

Bereavement / Grief / Traumatic Grief
with associated depressive, anxiety disorders & behaviors
"...no person has ever lived entirely free of suffering and sorrow, nor has there ever been a period in human history that did not have its full share of turmoil and misery." ~Thomas S. Monson


It is well past time to write again on my blog. Continuing on with the topic of "grief from my previous post, I'd like to talk a little more about a type of grief I live with. This has not been an easy post to write, but feel the need to do so. At this juncture it is the best that I can do. It is my hope that perhaps in some small way it might help others find a better understanding of something that more people than you would suspect deal with.

Disclaimer: I am not a trained therapist or ‘ologist of any kind. These are my personal views, thoughts, observations, or experiences - along with some gathered insights here and there. From what I have found, there are a number of different groupings of grief, which everyone at some point in life will experience one or more of.
  1. Bereavement - identified with a loss that has happened within the past couple of months. If a longer time has passed, then another category of grief might be more accurate.
  2. Prolonged Grief Disorder - grief lasting longer than six months (formerly, and somewhat inaccurately, identified as complicated grief).
  3. Traumatic Grief - this frequently accompanies prolonged grief with many overlapping symptoms. It also can include:
    • Major Depressive Disorder
    • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
    • Panic Disorder
    • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) - today’s post will focus on this portion of traumatic grief
    It’s not just for combat soldiers, although that is the population most commonly thought of when addressing PTSD. Certainly some traumas are more catastrophic than others, but actually it can affect anyone experiencing or witnessing an overwhelming life event. Something where you (or even someone you were near) are confronted with a threat to safety, impacting a sense of security, making you feel vulnerable helpless, or intensely fearful. Among such events are things like trauma, abuse, violence, actual or near death, injury, or a bodily threat.

    PTSD develops and is exhibited differently from person to person - and can happen at any age. It can surface within hours, days, weeks, months, or even years following a traumatic event. Symptoms may show up suddenly, gradually, or can ebb and flow over time - and can sometimes be triggered by a reminder such as a noise, a smell, an image, or even certain words. While they can be unique to the person, symptoms usually show up in three main categories:
    • Emotional numbing
      • avoiding activities, places, certain people or topics of conversation
      • memory problems, denying or suppressing an event
      • detached and emotionally numb
      • difficulty maintaining close relationships 
      • feelings of distrust in others
      • major depression
      • negative self-image, sense of worthlessness
      • feelings of abandonment or being separate (from others, and/or from God)
      • suicidal thoughts and feelings
      • hopelessness about the future
      • some people resort to substance abuse in an attempt to self-medicate the pain
        • thankful that I never turned to the false numbing methods of drugs or alcohol - food was my substance of choice
    • Anxiety or panic
      • trouble sleeping (too much, or too little)
      • difficulty concentrating
      • easily startled or frightened
      • irritability or anger
      • self-blame or guilt
      • feeling alienated and alone
      • hypervigilance (extended state of “red alert”)
    • Intrusive memories
      • flashbacks and/or upsetting dreams
      • physical reactions to reminders (pounding heart, nausea, muscle tension, etc.)
    All of these are a natural response to an unnatural situation. Where your mind demonstrates its capacity for self-preservation by simply doing what is necessary at the time by retreating to a place of mental “safety” and in a way shutting down.

    However, on the inside you are far from shut down and feel things so intensely that you carefully erect walls or barriers. Afraid to show the depth of emotions. Afraid to love or reach out to another person. This is how you cope with what you experienced. This is "normal" to you.

    And that is what I have done now for decades... carefully constructed walls and barriers. Today I still hide behind that familiar illusion of safety - but now know the reasons why they were built in the first place. Guess knowing is good - after all "knowledge is power", right? So why do I often feel so vulnerable and helpless then?


    Good grief

    Processing grief is like treasure hunting in the dump. In order to find the good stuff, you can't tiptoe through.

    You must dig in and prepare to get messy, knowing the riches of joy and peace lie underneath the unpleasant stuff.
    ~ www.lorilara.com



    Sorry for the gap between blog posts lately. Have been busy digging through about 4 decades of stuff, looking for that treasure of joy and peace underneath it all. Not certain when it will be discovered, but have hope that eventually it will.

    This post (and anticipated future ones) will talk about something which everyone at some point and in some form will experience in life... grief.

    What is grief?

    Simply put it is a natural and human response to loss. It comes in many different forms and intensities - and is not always about the death of a loved one (even though that is most commonly associated with grieving). Grief can be triggered by many things:
    • changes or loss of any relationship
      - divorce
      - miscarriage
      - end of friendships
      - death
    • illness
      - your own, or that of a loved one
    • financial instability
    • trauma
    • changes in life
      - retirement
      - moving to a new location or job
      - graduating from school
    • loss of a dream
    • loss or absence of what "might have been"
    Subtle or intense losses can all lead to the path of grieving. It makes sense that the more significant a loss, the more intense the grief might be.

    Most people are aware of the "five stages of grief": denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Other theories out there point to anywhere from three to 12 different stages of grief. None of which have been able to fully describe everyone's grieving reality. Separating grief into stages implies that mourning is a passive experience - creating an expectation of what it is supposed to be like. This can in turn create the assumption that each of the stages at one point or another will be experienced.

    But everyone grieves in their own way, and in their own time. Every grief is unique. There is no map or timetable for grieving. Grief can manage to slide into every crevasse and space of daily life, and easily infiltrates the long nights.

    When a person is not able to cope with the intensity of emotions - the heaviness of heart and mind - often they will find other methods to distract themselves from the loss or trauma. Trying to avoid feelings of sadness and loss can only prolong the whole grieving process. This can then lead to other complications such as depression, anxiety, substance abuse, or health problems.

    It isn't always easy to tell the difference between grief and depression - they share many overlapping symptoms. Grief can be more like a roller coaster - with a variety of feelings, both good and bad - where there can be moments of happiness in the midst of grief. With depression thoughts of emptiness, darkness and gloom are more constant.

    Medication (anti-depressants) can relieve some of the symptoms of grief - but it cannot treat the cause, or the loss itself. Numbing the pain and delaying the mourning process is not the cure. Grief must be eventually felt and worked through before healing can be found - you can’t heal what you can’t feel. Grief can be better understood in yourself if you are aware of the nature of the pain. This is all part of the healing process.

    If you haven't guessed by now, I'll tell you. Finally just this year I have been able to dig deep enough to uncover a foundation for the majority of depression in my life. Depression which has been very real, intense and pervasive. Lurking beneath it all with roots trailing back literally 40+ years (yes, that is a long time), what I discovered was... grief.

    Choice and consequences

    Every choice and decision we make in daily life has consequences associated with them... the good, the bad and the ugly (sometimes all three, and sometimes all at once). Recently it has been my choice to stop taking anti-depressant medications, which have been a part of my life for many years now. They served a very valuable purpose, and I do not regret the decision of having taken them. But now have chosen to take a different path.

    Why am I doing this? There are several reasons, most important among them has been to finally allow myself the ability to accept and face certain previous life events without the mental and emotional anesthesia provided by those medications... which to a certain extent have actually prevented or inhibited necessary healing and learning.

    Please know that this decision was not made lightly - and I did taper off the medications under proper clinical guidance. But with all prescription medications there are side-effects associated with both taking and stopping them. The main problem for me has been trying to separate out medication related side effect symptoms - with those stemming from facing and dealing with certain past life events. I've done the research on all of these, and there are so many symptoms which are very much common in nature. Here's a small sampling of reactions I have been dealing with the past number of weeks. Just so you know, nothing here is listed in any particular order.
    • anxiety / nervousness
    • nausea, stomach cramps
    • confusion
    • irrational fears
    • rapid, pounding heartbeat
    • irritability, hostility or anger
    • worsening depression
    • troubling thoughts
    • highly emotional
    • impaired concentration
    • over reaction to normal situations
    • overall malaise or feeling generally unwell
      Trying to pull it all together has been more difficult than anticipated - but I do not regret this decision. Eventually, given some time and effort, there will be a leveling out. Until then please be patient, and know that I really am trying.

      As promised

      Yes, I did promise to post updates on how I'm doing with the whole "going off anti-depressant meds" thing. Still trying to wrap my head around it and sort though things. Am more emotional now than I was before. For me the meds provided a type of barrier which I hated, but also miss at the same time. Not sure if that makes much sense.

      To fulfill my desire to post something, anything, on my blog -- I am resorting to a simple grouping of random photos. These are photos I've stolen (ahem, collected or borrowed) from the internet over the past few years - many of which were saved with the intention of possibly using them in a blog post. Well, here's my opportunity.

      Interpret these photos however you wish. For me they are simply beautiful black and white photography... interesting images... and I'm just too tired to write a thoughtful blog post right now.