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#73739 - 09/03/05 03:10 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Originally posted by smilinize:
Here's a couple of questions...that should keep you busy typing for a while.

Thanks Smile, and my answers will keep everyone reading for awhile!!

What do you think brought on your initial depression?
It took me a long time to figure that out, and even now I'm only guessing. My very first conscious memory of depression was at the age of 13 (1968). Things were very rough at home, no physical abuse ever, but my Mom and I just didn't get along and there was lots of fighting, angry hurtful words that, in hindsight, definitely wounded me. I distinctly remember lying at the top of the big staircase in our house one night, trying to figure out how best to throw myself down and kill myself. In the end, I couldn't do it because I was afraid I'd only hurt myself and then my Mom would hate me even more for being such a nuisance.

We didn't know to call that "depression" at the time, but looking back, it was the beginning of a lifelong struggle with sadness and sense of failure. My major breakdown began in 1982 and came after a combination of stressful situations: I was still apparently affected by a serious mononucleosis/meningitis illness from 1979, so my immune system was fairly depleted; I had just been dumped by one of the first really serious boyfriends (he became and still is a priest), and I had been burning both ends of the candle with work and church activities for three years. I burned out, broke down and spiralled into profound depression.

Was the onset sudden or over time?
The 1982 breakdown was gradual. I had been feeling fatigued ever since the meningitis, but kept ignoring it. In June of 1982 I took four weeks off and went to Pecos, New Mexico for a spiritual retreat, and came back feeling rested and rejuvenated. But by September, I was immobilized by the fatigue and had to quit my job. After all the medical tests came back showing that nothing was physically wrong, I sank into that profound depression.

Were you clinically depressed (meaning you were depressed regardless of the situation) or were you situationally depressed, (meaning you were depressed as a result of a bad situation)
I'll continue to speak from the 1982 breakdown experience. The psychiatrists determined that my depression began as situational (loss of boyfriend) but became clinical. I would say that my last bout of depression in 2002 was situational, after the death of Mom so soon after the death of my Dad.

How did you know you were depressed as opposed to blue?
For the 1982 breakdown, I didn't have a clue what was wrong. My debilitation and inability to function took me completely by surprise. It actually took me almost two years before I would admit that I was depressed beyond my capability to get myself out, which is when I finally had myself hospitalized.

How long did it last?
The dysthemia (low-grade chronic depression) has been a constant lifelong companion since my teen years. I'm not sure I've ever been completely free of it. The 1982 bout lasted in that severity until November/December 1984. But I continued therapy for about three years after that, and didn't really feel secure and "home-free" until about 1988. This last 2002 bout's severity only lasted a few months, although again I continued therapy long after the crisis was over, and the grief persists in much less severity today.

How did you know you were recovering?
Hmmmm. Good question. I began to notice the sunshine again? I began to want to get involved in outside activities again. I began to BELIEVE that I was recovering. I started to feel positive feelings again. It's as if I had been in a dark fog for many years and then the sun began to shine through and eventually the fog dissipated completely. It wasn't a sudden took months/years of hard internal work.

Was there a specific incident that started the recovery?
For the 2002 breakdown, I was very fortunate to find a wonderful therapist, Dr Qadeer Ahmad. He was very caring and from the moment we met I knew I was going to make it out okay. For the 1982 breakdown, it was after my suicide attempt in 1984. I woke up in the ICU and had an amazing epiphany that totally changed my life from that point on.

[ September 02, 2005, 08:15 PM: Message edited by: Eagle Heart ]

#73740 - 09/03/05 06:23 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Just in case there's a run on questions and discussion here [Razz] , I want to mention that I won't be able to get online as much over the weekend. So it could take longer than usual for you to get a response to any new posts.

#73741 - 09/03/05 04:47 PM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Dotsie Offline

Registered: 07/09/08
Posts: 23647
Loc: Maryland
smile, great questions. I've read Sharon's book and I'd have to say she addresses all of them in it. Pretty cool, huh? Smile, do you do interviews? You should. Great questions for this topic.

#73742 - 09/03/05 06:11 PM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada

If you’ve ever suffered from depression, mental illness or low self-esteem, you know what I mean by self ostracism. This is another difficult symptom of depression that I personally struggle with every time I go through a bout of depression. Again, it begins very insidiously, with whispers in the brain that convince me that everyone would be better off if I just crept into a hole somewhere and disappeared. So I begin to make myself “invisible”. I push people away, make excuses not to go out to social gatherings and gradually stop going out altogether.

The problem with self-ostracism is that it’s very difficult to come back out. Over and over again, I emerge from my self-imprisonment to find that most of my friends have given up on me, not because they didn’t care, but because they just didn’t understand. Many friendships are lost forever, but some have returned once I’ve explained the mangled thinking behind that self-ostracism.

So what is behind that urge to hide ourselves away, to banish ourselves from society? Again, I’m only speaking from my own experience, and have come up with four rationales, or thinking patterns, behind my own disappearance:

1. SHAME – Normally I’m a strong, self-sufficient, intelligent woman. Depression reduces me to a writhing mass of weeping agony. I cry if someone looks at me the wrong way. I sob uncontrollably in the middle of lineup in the store over the most insignificant problem. I’m overwhelmed by an inexplicable sadness, my mind is full of dark thoughts, I am unable to see any positive spin on anything, and am powerless against the tide of darkness that’s taking over my mind. I’m deeply ashamed to be in this condition and simply don’t want anyone to see me like this.

2. GUILT – My life is good. I have a great husband and a beautiful life. We’re not rich, but we’re not hungry. We travel. I have everything I could ever want out of life. And still I suffer from this overwhelming sadness and feeling of failure. It doesn’t make sense to me (because I forget that it’s a bona fide illness!) and so I feel guilty for feeling so sad when my life is so good. I feel like a total failure for not being able to “snap out of it” or find ways to get myself out of these “blues”. So I retreat in confused guilt for feeling so inept and useless.

3. INABILITY TO COPE – My own sadness becomes overwhelming. I begin to feel everybody’s pain as acutely as if it’s my own. It’s as if I’m walking around with my skin inside out. Every hurt, every wound, every sadness, every pain in the world becomes a part of me. I rage with guilt for my role in the agony in the world. I feel anger in the lineup, I feel pain in the bus, I feel EVERYTHING from everyone around me. I simply cannot cope with the tide of emotions that I feel coming at me from every direction. I have to shut down. I have to pull away because it hurts so badly. It feels like the pain is going to swallow me whole. For me, this is a huge problem when I’m depressed –very difficult to explain to anyone - and it’s probably my number one reason for withdrawing from everyone when I’m clinically depressed.

4. FEAR – Panic attacks. Fear of rejection. Heightened sensitivity to criticism. And wide open to what I call “cruelty of kind intentions”. I’m going to talk about “cruelty of kind intentions” later. But to quickly explain it, I’ll use one example from my own experience. I’ve been told too many times that I’m depressed because I don’t pray enough. That’s a kindly intentioned bit of advice from well-meaning people, but it’s actually a very cruel thing to say to someone who’s depressed. It devastated me beyond description to hear that the God whom I had loved so deeply (and believed for so long that He loved me unconditionally) might be using this horrible depression to punish me for not praying enough. IT’S NOT TRUE. God doesn’t work that way. And we’ll talk about that later. But in the depths of my despair and depression, I couldn’t remember the Truth. So I believed those words. My memory of that experience now makes me very afraid to be in contact with people when I’m depressed, for fear of being hit with more of that inadvertent-but-nevertheless-painful “cruelty of kind intentions”.

This has been another long post, so I’ll leave it at this for now. Maybe you recognize some of these thought patterns in your own self. Maybe you know someone who’s depressed who has ostracized him/herself. Maybe this will give you a glimpse into the “why” behind that disappearing act.

[ September 03, 2005, 11:13 AM: Message edited by: Eagle Heart ]

#73743 - 09/03/05 11:32 PM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Vicki M. Taylor Offline

Registered: 01/06/03
Posts: 2196
Loc: Tampa, FL
OMG, Sharon, Self-ostracism hits so close to home. I liken it to an enforceable agoraphobia. I shut myself off completely from my friends, my activities, everything. It's like going through a long illness with a communicable disease. You can't be with anyone. Once you're "cured" of the communicable disease (I know I shouldn't use that word with depression but I hope you know what I mean) you can once again be among people again. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on self-ostracism.

I'm always afraid of when it's going to come back again. Being bi-polar, I know I'm cyclic. I know I'm going to go through cycles of ups and downs. They won't be as severe because I'm on meds, but I know they're coming. How should I prepare myself for those times? Should I build up a small support system with hubby and friends so that I can let them know when the cycle is coming and be prepared for their help during the low/depressed time? What kind of help can they give me?

#73744 - 09/04/05 12:07 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Originally posted by Vicki M. Taylor:
I'm always afraid of when it's going to come back again. Me too! It's a constant fear...and I'm not bi-polar.

How should I prepare myself for those times? Should I build up a small support system with hubby and friends so that I can let them know when the cycle is coming and be prepared for their help during the low/depressed time? What kind of help can they give me?

YES! That's one of the keys to learning how to manage depression...prepare yourself during the good times. Arm yourself with whatever you know you're going to need to fight off what you fear the most.

For me, the thing I fear the most is the suicidal thoughts coming back...I ALWAYS fear that next time they'll be too strong and I won't be able to resist. But now they won't be, because I've armed myself with three things:

THE TRUTH: I AM LOVED and My Life is Worthwhile simply because I exist...therefore, I choose LIFE - those are the Truths I keep flinging at the lies that try to suck me down into despair;

KNOWLEDGE & COMPASSION: I know now what those sirens of suicide sound like, I know their MO, so I know to fling that truth at them the moment their destructive whispers begin to appear on my horizon. And I know now that it's part of my illness; they will come back. But instead of beating myself up for feeling those thoughts, I embrace myself with compassion and love myself through the fear and anguish of those long dark nights;

SUPPORT: Yes, build up a small support system for yourself now, with people you KNOW to the core of your being love you and will be there for you. I didn't have anyone this time around except hubby and my therapist. I hadn't had time to build up that network here in a new city. It made it so much harder. If you have such people in your life, ask them if they're willing to be there for you when that depressive cycle hits you. Tell them what to expect. Tell them how it specifically hits you...mangled thinking, self-ostracism, whatever. Tell them how to be there for you.

In this last bout, I went through a disastrous detox from one anti-depressant while switching to a new one. I was in agony, both physically and emotionally. There was one day when I was so antsy and skitterish, I could barely hold husband didn't know what to do. I said the first thing that ran through my mind: run me a warm lavender bath. He did, he gently bathed me for about 20 minutes, and the crisis passed and I was able to call the therapist and get help the next day.

As to what kind of specific help they can give you, it really depends on how the depression hits you. The number one thing would be to ask them not to give up on you, no matter how much you withdraw from them. Ask them to keep loving you and to keep reminding you that their presence and friendship will still be there for you when you're ready for them again.

Other than that, figure out what you most yearn for in those depressive be left alone or to be gently surrounded by quiet caring people who will accept you just the way you are? Ask them to understand that this quiet downtime is essential to your mind being able to heal itself.

Casseroles, homemade cookies, ice cream and/or fresh fruit? Ask them to help you with keeping your comfort foods in stock, since you won't feel like going out to the grocery store.

Try and remember what you most anguished for during your last depression, write those things down, and ask your network of people to help ease that specific discomfort or meet some of those special needs with/for you during that time.

[ September 03, 2005, 05:08 PM: Message edited by: Eagle Heart ]

#73745 - 09/05/05 07:25 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
jawjaw Offline
Da Queen

Registered: 07/02/03
Posts: 12025
Loc: Alabama
This information is outstanding and opens my eyes to so many things about depression. Its healthy I think for others to have insight into the life of someone who has experienced an illness such as this, and it helps us/them to "walk a mile" so to speak. I can't thank you enough for being so thorough. I'm in middle of your book and that helps as well.

I'll be the first to admit years ago I pooh poohed the idea that someone couldn't handle life. My thought were "get over it" or "put your big girl panties on and deal with it." I was so wrong. After having close friends who were/are bi-polar and clinically depressed, I got a first-hand lesson(s) and woke up.

Of the things you mentioned that have helped you get thru it all, do you think one is more important than the other? For instance, is having a support group in place the most important?

At least thanks to you and others, people no longer walk on the other side of the sidewalk when they hear someone suffers from depression or is bi-polar!


#73746 - 09/05/05 12:44 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
leigha Offline

Registered: 02/21/05
Posts: 211
Loc: british columbia
Dear Eagle

Your beauty and heart are incomparable and the courage it took to write a book and share who you are to help others...that is couage, heart and destiny! For within your life many lives may be saved!

With love

#73747 - 09/05/05 02:03 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
JawJaw, thank you for sharing such wonderful words with me. Bringing light into people's lives is what I live for. Finding out that some of my feeble ripples are actually making a difference "out there" gives me the hope and courage to keep going and not give up.

Of the things you mentioned that have helped you get thru it all, do you think one is more important than the other? For instance, is having a support group in place the most important?

It's hard to separate the Truth and Self-Knowledge/Compassion. Both have become vital for me, not only when I'm depressed, but in my day to day life. I have to continually steep myself in the knowledge that I am loved, worthwhile and have a rightful niche in the world. And I have to continually self-talk myself out of despair with my own compassion, stop beating myself up for not being "better" or especially for not being able to beat other people's expectations of short, for not being perfect.

I didn't have a support group during my last breakdown. Being here in this community of sisters has reminded me again of the tremendous healing power within a network of people who care. So now it's really hard to separate "support" from the other two, because the support group affirms the Truth and the Compassion, making it easier to believe when it's harder to believe.

Still, if I had to choose one, I'd have to choose Truth (that I am loved and loveable), because that is ultimately what will give me the courage to talk myself (I like to call it "mapping myself") out of any darkness.

#73748 - 09/05/05 02:06 AM Re: Eagle Born To Fly, Sharon Matthies
Eagle Heart Offline

Registered: 03/22/05
Posts: 4876
Loc: Canada
Leigha, there is no way I can adequately convey to you how much your words mean to me my heart needed to hear your voice. Thank you.

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