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.
Official War on Christmas Fundraiser
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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.
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.
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