Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Great Depression - Part One

Here's a postscript (March 13, 2013).  I'm very proud of what I wrote in these 6 posts, but I have to tell you that I hurt my Mother a great deal by posting them.  At the time I didn't think much about it and thought that she was over-reacting.  I was just getting this out because I needed to.  But after re-reading it over 3 years later, I can see that I said a lot of things that could do nothing BUT hurt her.  I am sorry that I put the truth so painfully out there, and I am sorry that I hurt her, but I am not sorry for sharing our story.  I think it is important to tell these types of stories so that people know they are not alone.  So to my Mother ... I'm sorry I "outed" you and aired what you consider to be some dirty laundry (I do not - I consider it to be life), but truth be told, there has never been anything but sympathetic feedback for all involved.

Text as it was written:

As I mentioned in my post about sugar highs and lows, I want to blog about depression (I use the terms "depression" and "anxiety" interchangeably here as my experience equates them). I know several women who suffer with anxiety and depression. Having dealt with it all of my life, I do have some tidbits to share. I hope I can write an interesting and informative blog here without sounding hard-done-by or victimized - because I don't feel that way. I just want to share my journey in the hopes that it might make others' journeys a tad easier. It's going to take more than one blog entry to do this justice, so if you're with me on this, have patience. It's going to take some time to get it right, too.

If you know someone who has issues with depression or anxiety - or just know someone who is very emotional and over-reacts to things, please feel free to share this blog with them. I just want to help.

Okay - with that said, let me add to the preface that I don't know if I can write this without hurting my Mother's feelings. My mother has been dealing with anxiety/depression for the past 40+ years, and her journey is inextricably tied to mine. I know that when one deals with anxiety, feelings are easily hurt and over-reaction occurs often. So, Mom, nothing in this post or others that will follow is at all meant to make you feel guilty, bad or sad. I just want to put our story out there to help other people.

Let me begin ...

I was born in 1968. The late '60s were an interesting time (that I don't remember). Post-WWII our culture was all about science - the trip to the moon, medical miracles, mothers little helper (Valium), etc. It was a time when birth control could be attained by the mere ingestion of a pill. It was truly the time of miracles. And it was a time when medication became widely available that helped control moods. Now, I'm sure medication was available before the late 60's and if you really want me to, I'll do the research, but I'm sure we can all agree that it was around about this time that moderately successful drug treatments started to become available to the masses.

I don't remember much about my childhood. I've often wondered if it was because of the emotional upheaval that we dealt with on a daily basis or just that I have a bad memory. My parents fought ... a lot. There were many reasons for this - my father's upbringing was emotionally devastating, my mother had underlying mood problems, we were not wealthy, my father was in a very stressful job (firefighter). My parents were also of the opinion that it was better to scream and yell at each other than bottle up their feelings (I would argue that it's better to talk about them - that the yelling isn't necessary.  By the way, I HATE yelling now. It brings up a lot of old feelings). But I don't think at the time they were aware of how much Mom's moods added to the milieux. The causes were not really all that important - the result was a household in frequent turmoil. And children learn well from their parents. One of the only ways my sister and I learned to deal with conflict between each other was by ... you guessed it.

Anyhow, I don't remember many details about my childhood. If pressed, there are a few back there, but 95% of it is pretty much gone. I know the facts though. My mother was diagnosed with depression around about the time I was in grade 1, I believe - although it might have been a little bit earlier or later. By that time, she was in rough shape. She was sad all of the time. I have been going through photos my dad took during the 70s. Early on she looked happy and full of life, later she looked miserable - just no happiness left in her. She didn't get up to get us off to school. I would go in and wake her long enough for her to put my hair into two pony tails - but that was all I'd see of my mother until I came home for lunch.

I remember my mother crying. A lot. A friend of mine told me the other day that he saw his mother cry once. In his entire 54 years, he saw his mother cry once. That was completely unbelievable to me. I saw my mother cry often. Daily. Maybe multiple times a day if things were bad.

I'm not entirely positive about this, because it all seemed very normal to us, but I suspect that my mother's reactions were not predictable. I do remember one time hiding around the corner at the top of the basement stairs and playfully yelling "boo" at my mother.  I recall her getting very angry and yelling at me not to scare her like that. The added adrenalin that her anxiety put into her system caused her to really get scared. We weren't allowed to "play" like that.

"The Depression" as it was known at our house, was an entity on it's own. It might as well have been a demon sitting at the dinner table with us. It was this illness that had attacked my mother. There was no sense of being able to manage it without drugs - that nutrition or exercise might help. There were only the drugs ... and at that time those drugs didn't help a whole lot. "The Depression" took a lot away from us.

The point really is that when you live with a depressed person, you learn their behaviour. So by the time I left home and started to truly be part of the world outside of our household, there was a lot of un-learning to do. I had learned how to over-react, how to cry, how to yell. I had learned that you really get attention when you're sick, that illness runs your life. I recall learning a lot of lessons from relationships with people I knew in my early 20s. They were hard-learned - the family-taught lessons hard to un-learn. But I guess the patterns that I left home with were hard-earned, too.

I'm going to leave it here for now, but will continue with my part of the story in part 2.

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