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The holiday season is the hardest time of year for me. I hope for sun in morning so I will have a fighting chance against the soul-sucking darkness that sets in at 5pm. The past few years have been better because I finally found a little pill that helps, but this time of year is still tough. This year, the Newtown massacre has really slammed me. Happy children and happy family get-togethers, the bright spot of the season, are darkened this year.

I try to help care for my 89 year old mother in law who has suffered from bipolar disease and schizoaffective disorder for over 50 years. We try to get her in the sunshine as much as we can this time of year. She has her bad days, but no longer lies in bed crying for weeks on end. I wish we could just give here a pill but previous episodes of treatment damaged her gait and destroyed all vestiges of her trust of psychiatrists. We are lucky she can still get around a bit with a walker. We are lucky, despite her delusions, that she has some ability to care for herself and communicate.

The Gift of Depression is the name of a book compiled by a survivor of depression who moved to Kauai.

Some gift.

The suffering, mistreatment and abuse that my mother in law has lived with for so many years, because of a brain disease no one could treat effectively, is no gift. I have no remaining illusions about a benevolent God that answers prayers by intervening in this world. There is no purpose in such suffering. A caring God that intervenes in this world would not allow it to happen. If there is a God, it can't be the benevolent father in the sky pulling strings to reward the faithful and punish the evil. The innocent suffer for no reason at all. Mental illness is not a punishment. It is a disease of the brain related to genetics, brain chemistry, neural connections, physical injury, and many things we don't understand. When bad things happen, God won't come down from heaven and save us. We must do God's work and help each other.

Yet, I have come to see my seasonal affective disorder as a gift. SAD makes me see people, life and nature from different perspectives. The pain of the dark dreary days does not allow me the luxury of denial of the suffering of others. The walls built in the mind to keep from seeing the damage we inflict to the earth, our communities and our neighbors are broken by depression. When spring finally comes, the joy of the renewal of life, of connections, of love, abounds. The energy to rebuild comes with renewed vision that arises from the depths of depression.

So, for me, depression is a gift.

Yesterday the sun came out, the weather was warm and I found the energy to walk the beach on north Topsail island. I felt the warmth of the sun and the cool of the wind when clouds passed over. Weird high tides combined with a weak storm had been cutting away at the man-made dunes along the beach over the past week. The tides shouldn't be running so high in December. A small storm shouldn't cause so much erosion. The new moon has passed. Something isn't right. The ocean seems to have risen.

My mother in law is talking to herself again. I need to give her more attention. The one and only thing that has helped her do better is communicating with her regularly about the present, the real world. She still has delusions and bad times, but she has many moments of kindness and awareness. Our efforts to maintain communication and human connection have diminished the dark days and increased the joyful ones.

Thank you all for being here on my dark days. We all came here for the political discussions and the political action and we've had much success to celebrate. However, for me it's more valuable on the bad days.  On the bad days it's a connection, a place where caring people communicate and support those in need.

A real life connections we I made here really helped me at a bad moment. I was livid after a fracking gas company shill taunted the audience in Chapel Hill. He made it clear that nothing we said or did would make a damn bit of difference because the frackers had bought off the (Republican) north Carolina legislature. He mocked us for being Chapel Hill liberals.

Marihilda told the story, but here's what she didn't tell.

Solarmom and Solarkid pulled me back from the edge. I don't know if I've ever known a 14 year old kid with such wisdom and gentle adult-style humor. He gave me a ray of hope in the next generation. I may not have spent much time with her, but as far as I'm concerned Solar Mom will be a friend for life. She was there when I needed help. Thank you.

Is there someone in this community you wish to recognize by giving them a gift subscription? Contrary to rumor, ads and George Soros are not sustaining this place, so the help of people who can afford to chip in is needed.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Seasonal Affective Disorder (11+ / 0-)

    sucks.  For me, the stresses of Christmas are an added detraction (if that's not self-contradictory).  Yup, I was up all night, sleepless in Seattle.

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 09:34:12 AM PST

  •  Thanks for helping with this effort, FOoW. n/t (11+ / 0-)

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 10:15:43 AM PST

  •  I used to get really down as soon as the days (6+ / 0-)

    began to shorten. For two years I experienced clinical depression, during which I was told I was in a near-vegetative state.

    When I started to emerge from the dark places, I decided to use my research skills to find a biochemical solution to a problem that was overwhelming my life. For me, and this is for my biochemistry and don't know if others would find it helpful, I found some nutritional approaches that helped.

    First I now avoid as many refined carbohydrates as I can. If I use sugar, it's organic evaporated cane juice. My bread is sprouted Ezekial bread because it seems easier to assimilate. But the real breakthrough came when I found the right mix of supplements.

    That involved taking some 10,000-30,000 units of vitamin D3, high dose fish oil because the DHA fraction helped my mood, and when stressed, I use GABA for anxiety and Holy Basil for stress. The combination of supplements and using Holy Basil (tulsi) tea have really helped me.

    My big research secret is to take a condition like depression, and add the term alternative care. Then I dig through whatever comes up until I find information that seems balanced. If recommendations repeat themselves, often that is something I will try. When I hit on a combo of scientific research and anecdotal findings that seems relevant, I might try the herb or supplement to see how it works.

    Drugs didn't work. After two years of medically-supervised efforts, nothing worked except Welbutrin, which only worked for a week. Then I had an extreme, life-threatening allergic response to the drug, and had to quit. But for a week, the drug took me where the supplements now are able to do.

    Plus I use ginko and, when I have the funds, acetyl-l-carnitine for cognition. There are many herbs and supplements that can help clear up thinking.

    I didn't like feeling so helpless and unable to control my moods. What I uncovered has stayed with me for several years now, and this winter my mood has stayed very steady, even as the days shortened.

    After years of being the poster child for SAD, I can now say that through diet and supplementation, winter is just another season in my life. It is no longer something to fear. I hope others can find ways to help themselves this time of year, because depression is the pits!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences FoW, and I hope you find ways to help yourself and your mom. She is lucky to have you, as you obviously care deeply for her.

    Also thanks for the reminder that this place needs more than our posts to keep going. I'm pitching in, and hope others will show their appreciation for the site by sharing donations and gift subscriptions.

    This place is special, and very worthy of our support.

    Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.,

    by 4Freedom on Wed Dec 19, 2012 at 11:30:49 AM PST

  •  OMG Fish, I had no idea (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You are way, way too kind.  I feel privileged to call you my friend.

    You know, solarkid suffers from depression, but is doing great with SSRI medication and therapy.  We caught it very early, as it runs in my family and I could tell what was going on. I don't mind telling that here because he is very open about it.

    I believe it is partly a source of his wisdom, because he's had to grapple with issues of identity and self-esteem at a young age that others don't address til later if at all.  He's come out the other side with self-assurance and empathy for others, and for that I am grateful.

    I hope you're getting to spend real time at Topsail - my favorite beach.  One day years ago when I was a frazzled young mom and away from the kids for the first time - and right after my crazy parents had been visiting - I spent a wonderful weekend at Topsail.  The first day, I sat on the porch and rocked with a beer, staring at the ocean, for hours and hours.

    I hope peace finds you during the holidays. If you come by the area, give me a holler.

    “Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.” -- FDR, 1936

    by SolarMom on Thu Dec 20, 2012 at 10:34:34 AM PST

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