Monday, September 10, 2012

Seeing Through Eyes Darkly - The Illness Box

Lavender Field, Vaucluse, France, near Valreas

May my thoughts and information on mental health benefit all beings.

World Suicide Awareness Day

On the very day I've called behavior health (formerly called mental health) within my health care provider, I see on Twitter that this is Suicide Awareness Day.

In recent weeks, I've felt I should do a public service announcement on my blog on the illness of depression. While one day can trivialize a profound illness effecting many people, I wish to share some reflections and tools which have helped me fight my near life-long illness.

Years ago there was a big announcement based on the study of the Amish over ten-years time. The proclamation: depression runs in families.

Really? I said to myself, hand raised. You could have saved yourself a raft of research had you just asked me. 

My father told me that his maternal grandfather with little feet--cried all the time. His daughter, my beloved grandmother, Phoebe Josephine, had her ups and downs--once so bereft with grief that she went to the rocky edge of Minnesota's Lake Superior after her daughter Dorothy was accidentally shot in the head by a Lutsen Resort guest on the North Shore of Minnesota. Grandmother Phoebe was brought back from the danger she was in on that day. Her daughter lived.

In the family, this predisposition more than "trickled down" through the generations.  Two of Phoebe's sons were diagnosed as bi-polar, a third son struggled with alcohol and may have also battled depression according to my father and cousin.

Many descendants of my grandmother, my father, and uncles have been effected by this predisposition. (Years ago I read that the father passes this imbalance within the x chromosome which is why so many more women than men battle this disease. Now the research is so in depth, it's over my head. The National Institute of Mental Health has the latest research on their website.)

Because bi-polar disorder is in my family, while visiting mental health, I'd pick up brochures from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) on bi-polar disorder and depression.  The list of symptoms became in my mind The Illness Box (as it was frequently shown with a border on the literature). 

Here is the link which ran on Twitter today for World Suicide Awareness Day. 

But for depression awareness here is the link. It is to better caught early to reduce suffering.  

One of my tools when looking at the literature, is that it helps me realize I've slipped into the "illness box." This assists me in accepting my symptoms as illness and to detach with kindness.

People can lose sight that depression can be fatal. Prevention means we deal with awareness and seek help when we, or someone we love--is hurting.

I've been asked in recent months, how have you survived, how have you coped with depression? 

My answer is and was: I ride it out - like waves on water. I try to connect with loved ones, enjoy the outdoors, exercise, work with my doctors on all aspects of healthy living and prevention. I also work on gratitude. I pray. I meditate and try to return to my own breath. 

Unlike my great-grandfather's day, there is now much help and hope for those who suffer from mental health disorders. For the purpose of this entry, I've used some labels. But
it's important we see beyond labels, seeing each person as an individual. Labels themselves can categorize people, dismissing each by placing them in a group.

I hope this entry is of benefit.

May YOU be well. May your loved ones be well.  May we live life in fullness - with smiles, aware of our many gifts.