sad?

Since I last posted (where does the time go!?) I’ve been thinking about how the opposite of depressed is not happy.  Because depression is not sadness.  I fully realized this when I found myself experiencing great sadness over the fact that I was not able to witness a very, very dear friend’s wedding.  I was so, so sad about it.  I cried.  Then I stopped crying.  While I was still aware of the sadness around this though the tears were done, I noticed that I had been able to allow the feeling to pass through me and then I found myself back at peace in the present moment.  (Yes, I have been meditating.  More on that in some other post.) It was in that present space that I had a lovely aha moment in which for the first time I clearly felt the difference between sad and depressed.  I had just allowed myself to experience my sadness without it causing great anxiety and/or influencing my every thought and my outlook on life in general.  And this was awesome because I spent a lot of years trying to avoid my feelings because they were overwhelming and I simply had no earthly idea what to do with them.
i hid my deepest feelings so wellSo I resisted them.  I depressed (def: having been pushed or forced down) them.  The awareness of that internal shift made me truly happy, as in pleased and content, for this is a sign that my efforts to nourish and balance my mind, body, and spirit have been somewhat successful (with the help of my therapist(s)) in calming my nervous system, and in redirecting and reconnecting pathways in my brain that had habitually spun in anxious patterns of negative expectation so that I can experience my feelings without attaching my identity to them or getting carried away by them.  So that I can truly live.
After that mildly profound experience, I came across the blog post below for which Junior Seau’s death was the catalyst. Junior Seau committed suicide, but was not known to be suffering from depression at the time.  I am not implying that depression and suicide go hand in hand, nor am I  making any statement about race.  I simply like the way Miriam Mogilevsky differentiates between sadness and depression.  As I’ve contemplated my own depression, the part of me that is still resistant to it’s existence will every now and then pipe up with a, “But I’m so happy a lot of the time.”  And it’s true. Sometimes I am so happy.  Many times.  And sometimes I am not.  But, whatever, because happy is just an adjective (a word or phrase naming an attribute, added to or grammatically related to a noun to modify or describe it.  Happy: feeling or showing pleasure (satisfaction/enjoyment) or contentment.  Sad:  Feeling or showing sorrow: unhappy.I believe that I can be not depressed forever.  If not forever, for most of it I hope.  Speaking of which, to me depression most plainly described is a severe lack of hope.  I know that one can experience a moment of happy in the midst of the hopelessness of depression. Likewise, without depression, happyness is not guaranteed.  Sadness will enter.  After all we are talking about the human experience here.  There is no way that I will always, 100% of the time, experience pleasure, enjoyment, contentment, or satisfaction.  I don’t even want that.  That would lead to complacency and boredom.  I do crave peace, however. That is my goal. I want to always know the way back to the peace of the present moment that I find in the center of my heart.  When I can allow myself to feel that. That’s huge.  Peace in the midst of sorrow and joy and all the rest of it. I can only experience happiness.  I don’t think it can or should be held onto.  I can actually be peaceful though.  That is a state of being that is sustainable and maintainable.  That’s what I’m working toward.

artful peace hand

Peace:

-freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility

-mental calm, serenity

-freedom from dispute or dissension between individuals or groups (now we’re getting loser to race)

DEPRESSION IS NOT SADNESS: JUNIOR SEAU AND PUBLIC DISCOURSE ON MENTAL ILLNESS

by: Miriam Mogilevsky

A few days ago I came across the story of Junior Seau, an NFL linebacker who committed suicide on May 2 (2012). He shot himself in the chest and was found in his home by his girlfriend. Although little is known of Seau’s mental health leading up to his death, he had apparently suffered from insomnia for the last seven years of his life.

Sportswriter Chris McCosky  wrote a beautiful column in the Detroit News about Seau’s death and continuing ignorance about depression and suicide. In the column, McCosky shares his own experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts and laments how difficult it is to explain them to people. He notes, as I’ve noted before, that one common reaction that non-depressed people have is to wonder what the hell we have to be so sad about. He writes, “It’s almost impossible to talk about it to regular people (bosses, spouses, friends). They can’t fathom how somebody in good physical health, with a good job, with kids who love them, who seems relatively normal on the outside, can be terminally unhappy.”

The unbearable frequency at which McCosky and I and probably everyone else who tries to talk about depression get this response could be a testament to the fact the most visible symptom of depression is usually sadness. So that’s the one people latch on to: “What do you have to be so sad about?” “Cheer up!” “You have to decide to be happy!”

Because of the sheer obviousness of our sadness, we’re often forced to try to use it to describe depression. We say that we’re just extremely sad, or unhealthily sad, or adifferent kind of sad. It’s sadness that never goes away like sadness is supposed to. It’s sadness that’s out of proportion to the troubles that we face in our lives. It’s sadness that we can’t stop thinking about. For those of us with bipolar or cyclothymic disorder, it’s sadness that comes and goes much too quickly.

The truth is that sadness actually has very little to do with depression, except that it is one of its many possible symptoms.

Based on the diagnostic criteria for depression, you don’t even need to be chronically sad to be considered “depressed.” Anhedonia, which means losing the ability to feel pleasure from things that you used to enjoy, could be present instead. Under the formal DSM-IV definition, you must have at least five of nine possible symptoms to have major depression–and one of the five must be either depressed mood or anhedonia–and only one of those symptoms involves sadness. (If you so some very basic math, you will notice that this means that two people, both of whom officially have major depression, might only have one symptom in common. Weird, huh?)

So, even if your particular depression does include sadness, it’ll only be one of many other symptoms. The others might be much more painful and salient for you than the sadness is. Some people can’t sleep, others gain weight, some think constantly about death, others can’t concentrate or remember anything. Many lose interest in sex, or food, or both. Almost everyone, it seems, experiences a crushing fatigue in which your limbs feel like stone and no amount of sleep ever helps. Then there are headaches, stomachaches, and so on.

So, depression doesn’t necessarily mean sadness to us. (And a gentle reminder to non-depressed folks: being sad doesn’t mean you’re “depressed,” either.)

Depression is not sadness; it’s an illness that often, though not always, involves sadness. No amount of happy things will make a depressed person spontaneously recover, and, usually, no amount of sad things will make a well-adjusted person with good mental health suddenly develop depression. (Grief, of course, is another matter.) And sadness, on its own, does not cause suicide.

We need to start talking about mood disorders as disorders, not as emotional states. McCosky writes:

Junior Seau wasn’t sad when he pointed that gun to his chest. He wasn’t being a coward. He wasn’t being selfish. He was sick. I wasn’t sad when I thought about swerving into on-coming traffic on Pontiac Trail some 20 years ago. I was sick.

mag_a_seauukelele_600

Junior Seau one month prior to his death

What he’s saying is that people don’t kill themselves because they’re sad. They kill themselves because they have an illness.

There is a tendency, I think, to assume that people are depressed because they are sad. A better way to look at it is that people are sad because they are depressed. That’s why, even if we could “turn that frown upside down!” and “just look on the sunny side!” for your benefit, it would do absolutely no good. The depression would still be there, but in a different form.

Junior Seau did not leave a suicide note, so only God knows what he was thinking when he died. I would guess, though, that he was thinking about much more than just being sad.

dm_130402_nfl_junior_seau_schaap_essay

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happy?

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so Happy Mental Health Awareness Month to you!

I intend to explore the impact of race on mental health, both individual and collective, in a few posts this month.  And, of course, how biracial factors into it.  Or, more accurately, how it factors into biracial.  All I know right now is that it does.

May the force be with me.

To kick things off:

Lately I’ve been pondering my dis-ease in the world and have come to think that maybe it’s why (on the whole) i don’t talk to people much.  As little as possible at least.  On a personal level, anyway.  Although I genuinely enjoy people, intend to love them even…but, my default mode is to just smile at them a lot…because eventually someone is probably going to say something that makes me feel invisible with an invalid life experience,  and that throws me right into the center of the dis-ease I walk in this world carrying.  This has led me to experience anxiety and depression.  I have experienced many things in the last 36 years, don’t get me wrong.  Many things in perfect alignment with the love, beauty, and sheer wonder of the Universe.  But if i’m honest, I will acknowledge here that the dis-ease has weighed heavier.  It has been my most constant companion, so constant I was not fully aware of it.  I just thought that was life.  This has affected my relationships, my endeavors, and certainly my happiness.  That’s most likely why I cherish my experiences of joy and freedom so steadfastly that I have a (bad?) habit of clinging to the past (perhaps missing my future.)  Nostalgia and I are super-tight.  I recently bought a latch-hook Smurf wall-hanging at a flea market.  It wasn’t all that cheap.  Totally cute,  but i don’t really want it.  I saw it and for a fleeting moment a spark of pure childhood joy was ignited and i impulsively purchased that thing.  Didn’t even try to bring the price down. (smh)
photo
Clearly I digress…what I was trying to say, I think, is that depression and anxiety have been a part of my biracial experience.  That’s why i speak so fervently about freeing the mind and spirit from the confines of racial identity and racial separation and a whole bunch of other issues we needlessly toil under the illusion of.  I am passionate about this for a few reasons.  The one I’ll give now is: because it has been my “biracial” american experience and i can only be as free from the shackles of it as is the “biracial” american community in which i live.   I don’t mean a literal community of “mixed-race” people*, but the diverse community of this country.  and yes, it extends to the global community as well because basically all i’m talking about is how we’re all the same thing.

please be well

*and on the other hand, that’s exactly what i mean because i believe that we are as a country and a species quite literraly a conglomerate of mixed-race people.  Given that on this other hand we’re still pretending that race has any real relevance.  Biological or otherwise.

mental health month calendar jpg

mental health month wellness calendar

another social taboo

The first taboo being openly discussing biraciality without adhering to the one-drop rule.  Of course I find this blog post to be interesting, or I wouldn’t put it up here.  I appreciate the bit about biracial identity as well as the outline of the overall struggle and the shame that go along with the labels of mental illness in this country.  Especially in the black community.

Coming out of an entirely different closet… the one of mental illness

by Eliza Barnett

VIA

Unfortunately as prevalent as mental health disorders are the nation (50+ million diagnosed in the US alone) and world wide, it still tops the ranks as the most difficult to admit.

Higher than revealing to be a victim of domestic abuse, sexual assault, or molestation, harder than confessing a drinking problem or previous bankruptcy; surveys have even shown it to more difficult than admitting ones gender identity or homosexuality. Sufferers face significant social taboos. And it doesn’t affect just one type of person. Mental illness knows nothing of age, race, gender, or economic background.

You don’t have to personally admit it yourself to believe the notion the reality that people are more likely to break off, or not even start, a relationship with someone with mental issues -which I for one find particularly interesting because members of society are more likely to stay with someone with a physical disability. People with mental disorders tend to prefer to hide their illness like major depression and anxiety, because unlike people with physical illnesses, people with mental disorders must also fear being rejected by family & friends, harassed, fired or not hired, or denied child custody—just for starters.

(Please check out this personal blog discussing the Price of being Bipolar in Public)

Last week I had an entire conversation with a friend about them being practically afraid to admit their Christian faith at their workplace because of the negative assumptions his non-same faith based peers might think about his character or behavior.

Once you know someone’s religious preference it changes your whole personality to people who don’t agree with you. Sometimes it’s like every negative image or thought they have about it becomes who I am as a person- even though I haven’t changed. It’s their behavior towards me that has.

I’ve read more than a few articles of a biracial person attempting, or enjoying the ability to pass for one race over another—not because they have a problem with it necessarily themselves, but because other people do.

Sometimes it’s like every negative stereotype or prejudice they have against a race I share membership of encompasses who I am as a person. Granted racism is an ongoing issue for those of one race, but it is just as prevalent towards those of plural heritage.

Sexual orientation discrimination —don’t even get me started.

(great message board discussion here coming coming out as gay with coming out as bipolar)

Mental illness sufferers are also victims of discrimination and the issue continually needs to be recognized.

“I’m Asian, I’m gay, and I have faced discrimination – but not for the reasons most people think; it was actually when I got depression that I faced most discrimination.”

(Quote from an article in the Guardian)

Attempts to end this discrimination are being lead by strong individuals, in the public eye, and by everyday people. Changed perception comes through increased knowledge and visibility.

People need to be taught that mental disorders don’t come from places of personal weakness, and don’t make everyone violent or unpredictable. They need to be made comfortable in seeking help. (Two thirds of sufferers in need of treatment do not seek it. ) Even more importantly open, honest visibility helps others with the illnesses themselves to stand up without shame.

Negative stigma’s of this variety aren’t just external, they’re internal. Who wants to think of themselves as crazy…? When feelings of guilt, shame, or a notion that you’re somehow weakened for needing help are thrown in the mix, it only reinforces the negative feelings.

Isn’t it always the case that telling the ones you love is the hardest thing to do? This isn’t any different. And ignorance towards the idea of mental disorders can to be hard to deal with; some people may not even believe mental illnesses exist. Americans particularly have vast misconception that all mental disorders can be simply be self-corrected with enough work.

Similar to the first step in admitting you have an addiction; your own acceptance is where it all begins. Examine your own feeling first and foremost. You have control over who you tell, so it’s okay to be cautious about it.

“There is no rule for who needs to know about your mental illness diagnosis, but sharing it with someone is a great way to get support.

The silence helps maintain the ignorance about mental illness.”

(http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/features/coming-out-about-mental-illness?page=2)

That being said,

“It doesn’t mean that it is always beneficial to open up indiscriminately about mental health, to your detriment. It would be wonderful if everybody came out.

But it is a very subjective decision and consequences should be considered. Society isn’t at the place of acceptance that it needs to be. Not everyone in the world needs to know if you struggle with diabetes or hypertension or some other illness. The same is true for mental illness. Those with the disorder, are the ones in charge, and should think about what the payoff is to share information about their mental health. For example, if you need to miss work to see a psychiatrist, you might want to tell your employer about what you are going through.”

When someone does react negatively, agree to disagree or try to educate that person. Share educational materials. Share your own experience. And to those on the receiving end of the information, think before you speak.

“Try to react the same way you would if you were told about a physical health problem that you don’t know much about. Avoid trying to be the hero or savior. Being empathic and understanding is one thing, but trying rescue someone is a completely different. You shouldn’t try to fix them. This is something that is way beyond your capacity.”

Treatment and support from others goes a long way; the mental illness journey is a rough one for everyone involved. Help is required, it’s critical down the path of recovery, management of ones condition, and ability to lead constructive and healthy lives. Support can and does come from strangers as well, who share in this unity of diagnosis. As corny as it sounds, sharing is caring.

–Posted By Eliza Barnett