Let’s talk depression and why I dislike suicide prevention campaigns – Daily Thoughts 02JAN2015

Over the last few years I have dealt with depression and mental illness in many forms. Personally-a minor depression which caused me to constantly doubt myself and put myself down, never being able to convince myself that I was doing the right thing or I was doing well. I was completely unable to see the good I had done, no matter how many people told me otherwise.

I also have been dealing with a much more serious form of depression in someone very close to me. It was heartbreaking to me that this person I love dearly was struggling so much internally. Watching them seek and receive treatment and walk the long LONG road of recovery has been equal parts almost impossibly hard to watch and beautifully wonderful watching this person get back to being who they were before they got depression.

Why do I bring this up? Because so many people think that depression and mental illness is a fault in the affected person that cannot be fixed.

In reality, depression is something that happens TO a person, just as you or I get a cold at any time of the year. Depression happens to someone without any warning. The problem is, unlike a cold, where you cannot hide your runny nose and sneezes, depression can be hidden, festering into a horrible, system-wide attack.

The best example I keep coming back to is the death of Robin Williams. “But he committed suicide,” you counter.

I disagree. It is true, he took his own life, but it was the result of depression. Depression and mental illness are the CAUSE of suicide. Here is the best example I can think of: Lets take a cancer patient. They have been suffering from cancer for years. Getting treatments, seeing different doctors, but the treatments don’t work. When the patient dies, the cause of their death is more than likely organ failure–the liver and kidneys stop working, or the lungs can no longer exchange gasses–and that is why the patient dies. But instead of saying they died from lung or kidney failure, we say they died of cancer, because that’s what we could see on the surface.

When someone commits suicide, that is what you see on the surface, but underneath, it is really the depression or mental illness that caused their death.

Suicide prevention is not what we should be focusing on, managing and treating mental illness and depression is what we should be advocating. Mental illness and depression are the disease, not suicide.

These comics explain depression in a way I never could. Please read them, please look to your family and friends and neighbors and support them if they are experiencing this disease. Or show them to the same people if you are experiencing symptoms of these diseases.

Adventures in Depression

Depression Part Two

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Getting lost on purpose – Daily thoughts 7.29.13

Sometimes getting lost on purpose is some of the most fun you can have.

Armed with only a worn, torn road map (Sprint doesn’t service the area we were in well, so no Google maps for us) and my incredible sense of direction – that’s not sarcasm, I always know what direction I’m facing, it’s a convenience that Jacob finds creepy – Jacob and I made our way to his family reunion.

We ran into some road construction and followed the detour like good little Minnesotan travelers, that is, until we realized the detour was taking us over 60 miles out of our way. Then we decided  to take our own route.

We had the map – the map that is about 10 years old, and my trusty navigator-fiance led us off the scheduled detour and onto our own detour.

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Jacob was narrating directions from the map as we took in the sights of roads we had never driven before. I had a rough idea of where we were in reference to where we were supposed to be — and that was WAY way out of our way — but we were enjoying the rolling hills and deep green colors of the trees and varied lolling fields of crops, mostly corn or soy beans, with the occasional bright yellow heads of sunflowers starting to peek up through rows of tall green stems.

Jacob told me our next turn was to be a right onto highway 4 and as soon as I spotted the sign, I slowed and took the turn. After about five miles Jacob said, “I think we are on county 4, not highway 4.”  Sure enough, in my over-eager state to get to our destination, I had made the turn on the wrong road. We briefly discussed if we should turn around or just find yet another route.

Since the road we were on wasn’t even on the map, we just started driving on any east-bound road we could find — all of which were gravel — until it came to an end, then went north until we found another road that went east, thinking that EVENTUALLY we would have to hit highway 4 and know just where we were again.

We never did find highway 4, but after a long series of gravel east-then-north-then-east-bound roads we came to a paved road that appeared to lead around a lake. The navigator told me to take a right – it was a pure guess – but a correct one!

Finally! The “Kuperus Family Reunion” signs that Jacob says his grandmother has been putting up for over 20 years, if not longer popped up on the edge of the road next to a sign pointing to a campground on Lake Koronis.

We were late arriving by about two hours after all our detouring, but as soon as we realized and accepted that we would be late, the ride was relaxing and enjoyable. The scenery was beautiful. We passed many old farmsteads that we fantasized about living in one day — when we grow up.

To quote a Deena Carter song, “The shortest distance between two points is a straight line…” but in my experiences, the most fun is the longer and uncharted of the routes, especially with your best friend by your side.

Showing your flaws – Daily Thoughts 7.23.13

I woke up after having several dreams overnight that included many people from my life who, in my dreams, were exactly like they are in real life except their flaws weren’t hidden. Last night, my dreams vividly detailed the worst parts of all of these different people — now I don’t know what that says about me, but it got me thinking about how we see people and how much of ourselves we let other people see.

I have spoken of my great grandmother before and she came to mind once again because she was a person who let me see her in sickness, who told me things that she kept from other people to “keep up appearances.” I also think she told me because she knew that I knew enough to know when she needed help with something. Especially when she didn’t want others to know she wasn’t feeling well.

One of the things on the unending list of things I loved about her was her fashion. She was a working woman when she was in her prime and after seeing this article on buzzfeed I realized that she hadn’t really changed the way she dressed — up until her death in 2008, she dressed in clothing she had probably owned since the 1960s. Sure, she bought new clothes for weddings and had some nice church dresses, but she was a simple woman with simple taste. She didn’t have to “dress to impress” anyone because her attitude toward life did that for her.

I remember helping her press her slacks and blouses and sometimes even her stockings. She had the fashion of a 1950s working woman and the spicy attitude to go with it.

Grandma didn’t like people to know when she was under the weather. She didn’t like it when the neighbor man came over for morning coffee early before she had time to do her hair. But she also didn’t hold back her thoughts. She was a straight-forward, honest woman. If she would have been in my dream, she would have been exactly the same person she was every day. I think that is something to strive for.

It’s okay to have flaws, everyone does. But we waste so much time trying to hide our flaws. What are we afraid of?

The list isn’t short — failure, rejection, humiliation…and those are just the ones that sound the worst, there are so many more, most with worse implications that just self-humiliation.

I’m going to strive to show my flaws, to lay it out on the table. I think once it’s out there, it’s easier to deal with. I just wish it wouldn’t have taken some seriously weird dreams and a buzzfeed article for me to figure this out.

Injuries are not a vacation – Daily thoughts 7.15.13

This is my second week back to work after having lower back surgery. It feels great to be back at work, back to my old life, back to me.

But then co-workers started asking me questions like

Doesn’t is suck to be back after all that nice time off?

No. Not it does not suck. Before I was gone, I was in excruciating pain every second of the day. I couldn’t walk standing up straight, I didn’t feel like myself.

Now I am back at work, I don’t have any restrictions and I am starting to feel like the peppy ‘ol me again. It is really nice.

While I was gone a co-worker broke her foot and was unable to work for a few weeks during the initial healing period. Today was her first day back and in the first three hours she has been here, I have heard no less than four people ask her how her “vacation” was.

Getting injured and missing work is not a vacation.

It is miserable.

Your life is stopped in it’s tracks, and instead of planning on going out with friends, you plan (or more like freak out about) your finances, because your employer doesn’t pay you while you are out on leave. You figure out how to get to and from doctors appointments when you can’t drive a car.

And then, when you are finally feeling better you come back to a place where you are supposed to feel normal, and your co-workers, these people that are essentially your friends, say things like this.

It makes you want to go crawl back into bed and hide under the covers with a pint of ice cream.

Being injured and out of work or missing school doesn’t mean you are on a vacation from life. It means that your life gets put on hold while you try to figure out how to put yourself back together enough to function normally.

Taking your own engagement photos – Daily Thoughts 7.14.13

After waiting for a year and three months, I was finally able to talk Jacob into taking some engagement photos yesterday. I think it worked because I guilt tripped him into it by saying, “Well we were supposed to get married three days ago, but that kind of fell through, so can we please, please, PLEASE at least take some engagement pictures?!”   🙂

We also want to try to keep our wedding budget low and since I have the equipment to take our own pictures and the willingness to learn how to edit them, I thought it would be a fun experience to take a stab at taking our own photos. My eventual goal is to also take some at the North Shore — my second most favorite place in Minnesota — and at Itasca State Park –My first favorite place in Minnesota.

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We went to Maplewood State Park in hopes of finding a nice green grassy field. I was willing to put up with the potential of wood ticks if it meant that we could get some nice pictures in some prairie grass. But when we arrived, all of the nice prairie grass fields look like they have been mowed over and sprayed with gallons of weed killer.

The thistles were somehow able to survive though…

Needless to say, we had a pretty good time.  I made us a little picnic lunch we spent the morning with Jacob posing like I was next to him while I ran back and forth between the camera. This is the first time I have tried to take pictures in this fashion, so it got a little frustrating at times, but we got a couple good photos out of the experience. July132013h

Some things I took away from our experience taking my own engagement photos:

1.) Make sure you tell your Fiance that you intend to take the photos AS WELL AS going to the park to have a picnic and enjoy some lake time  🙂 I woke up at 5 a.m. and started thinking about all the fun pictures we could take while Jacob was still asleep, and, well, he was a little disappointed that he had to spend part of the day standing in front of a camera. (Overall, he enjoyed it, I just don’t think he wants me to know that)  ❤

2.) If you own a remote for your camera, learn how to use it before you go out to take photos of yourself.  — I bought a wireless remote a while back but I never bothered setting it up. It wasn’t hard, but with the imminent rain, I just decided that running back and forth between the camera and using a 10-photo burst with the timer was a little easier. (I have learned!)

3.) Even though Jacob seemed like he wanted to be anywhere else in the world when we started, with enough joking around and wandering off of the marked trails, we were able to have fun, which I think was the best part of our day.

4.) When taking your own photos, make sure that the other person doesn’t make faces like this when you are taking specific pictures that you want to use on your save-the-date cards!

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 We took four different pictures for our Save-the-dates like this and he made a crazy face in each one. Luckily that just means that I get more time to experiment with taking pictures and he has to put up with me taking a bunch more photos of us together…he acted like I was performing Chinese water torture on him the whole time, but eventually I got that lovely smile to come out, even if he had to throw in some crazy faces too.

5.) I mentioned this a little, but I should have done some more investigating into the environment at Maplewood State Park. I frequent Itasca State Park, and I have never seen acres upon acres of fields just mowed down and dead-looking. The only green “fields” we could find were swamps, and since we didn’t pack our hip waiters for our engagement photos (What were we thinking, forgetting those?!)  Any areas with natural prairie grasses were mowed down and a nice dead-brown color. It was rather disappointing.

5.) Plan ahaead. For us, this was a spontaneous idea that I cooked up at 5 a.m. But before we take a trip to do any more photos I will be making detailed calls with the state parks that we will be visiting prior to heading out.

Overall, we had a great time and, as usual, we were able to make light of the less-than-optimal situations.

I have a few more photos on Facebook if you are interested in seeing more photos from this trip!

What I was supposed to be doing today – Daily thoughts 7.11.13

When Jacob proposed to me in April of 2012 I didn’t immediately start thinking about wedding ideas. We were just so happy to be engaged that we were enjoying it. After about a month, we started throwing around ideas and places and dates.

We both preferred an even numbered date to an odd numbered date — I don’t even know how that one came up — and we wanted the date to mean something more, to have some significance to us in our personal lives. When I suggested that we get married on my Great Grandmother’s birthday, I expected Jacob to scoff and say that we couldn’t do that, that people would think it was silly or worse yet, be upset by it. Instead, the first thing out of his mouth was

Hey, if we do that, our wedding date will be all prime numbers! That will be so cool, 7.11.13! Lets do it!

I explained that I thought that my grandma would have loved for us to celebrate with her in that way, and he agreed too (but liked the prime number thing more.) So that was the date we set.

But then comes in that darn ‘ol life, and my back problems started flaring up again, even after I had lost 70 pounds since I had quit working on the ambulance. (The weight was what I attributed and blamed my back problems on.) Dealing with potential back surgery and school and working three jobs just wasn’t working out with our perfect prime number wedding.

It was after one particular nervous breakdown about finding time to plan and make all my DIY wedding things that I have planned, that Jacob suggested that we bump the date back, saying I shouldn’t be so stressed out about something that was over a year away. I was immediately relieved, the stress just *poof* magically disappeared.

Well today is that year! and today we were supposed to be getting married under the beautiful  towering white pines of Preachers Grove at Itasca State Park.

I know that there is no way we could have pulled off putting everything together with our busy schedules, but part of me just wishes that I had tried a little harder, pushed a little more. I feel like Grandma Roberts would have told me to “snap to it” with a grin on her face.

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Lillian (Carbert) Roberts – Known by most now as “Grandma Lil”

She would be 102 years old today. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t use something she taught me. The one thing I wanted more than anything was for her to see me get married and to hold my first baby. But celebrating my wedding on her birthday was the closest thing I could do.

I’m sad that I’m not getting married today, I’m sad that I can’t hear one of grandma’s jokes that she would mumble under her breath, usually just loud enough for my trained ear to hear her, when she thought no one else could hear her, even if it was at my expense — usually about being a “young’n.” And I’m the most sad that I can’t sit at her little brown formica kitchen table that sat over the brown 1970s carpet that spanned the length of her kitchen, listening to the Obituaries and “Information Please” in the mornings on her little black radio that was forever tuned to the local AM radio station.

People come into our lives, and we know that they can’t stay forever, but one of the biggest things I learned from Grandma Roberts wasn’t one of the many things she actively taught me — like how she taught me to spell Mississippi and Minnesota when I was three years old. The biggest thing I learned from her was that we should really cherish the time we have, and not to waste time with things that don’t make us happy.

Grandma made me very happy. I couldn’t help but smile when I saw her. And even though I’m not getting married today, on her birthday, I know that when I do get married (in less than a year from now) that it will be a very happy day because I am marrying my best friend, the only person I have known since Grandma who knows what I’m thinking before I say it, and sometimes before I do.

After some internet searching, I found this eulogy by my great-uncle Herb Roberts, Lillian’s son. 

Putting the past in the past – Daily Thoughts 6.25.13

Two months ago I hobbled, almost being carried by my fiance, into the neurosurgeon’s office and was told that I had to have spinal surgery.

I cried.

I was so afraid. I was in pain. I wasn’t myself.

Today, I walked, with my head held high and a spring in my step into that same neurosurgeon’s office. I am six weeks post-op, and this is the best I have felt in about a year. 

Besides some back stiffness from sleeping on a futon — who’s back doesn’t hurt after a few months on one of those? — this is the best I have felt in almost a year.

I have so many angry and upset emotions over this (see my previous post ‘Modern medicine can’t fix my broken heart‘) and I think I am finally ready to put all those feeling in the past.

I have never ever been a person who can hold a grudge. I usually tell people how I feel right up front and then forgive and forget. Sometimes it bothers me that I can’t hold grudges longer because even though I don’t like to be angry with people, there are a few times in my life where I wish I just could stay angry. I always forgive or just move on. Sooner or later, usually sooner, I find myself being nice and wanting to help this person who has jilted me. I get hurt all over again.

With this back injury, I didn’t have a person to blame. I certainly couldn’t blame the patient I was helping when I hurt my back. That person was much worse off than I was, even after my back injury.

So I blamed the profession.

Up until about three hours ago, I was still in this two-year-long anger cycle, a love/hate relationship where I was filled with hatred that I couldn’t work as a paramedic anymore, but I loved the job so much that I wanted to continue working even though it ruined my body, and in turn, my spirit.

But walking out of that neurosurgeon’s office today, I feel good. I am happy. My back is great, and I have a new profession that I am finally ready to fully embrace.

I am sad that I can’t work in the back of an ambulance anymore, but all of this heartbreak that I have been unable to let go of for the last two years — even though if it were a person I was angry with I would have only been able to hold the grudge for two weeks at most — I am happy that I am finally able to get this burden of anger out of my mind.

More importantly, I finally feel ready to jump head-first into journalism. I feel that I have only been dipping my toes in to test the waters. I am excited to see where this goes. I am finally excited to give it my all.

Don’t get me wrong, I have worked hard on what I have already written for the student newspaper and for my classes, but I know that I can do better, I know I have been holding back. I feel ashamed that I have been holding a grudge so big that it has kept me from really going out and trying, especially when I have encouraged so many others to go out and do things, while I am cowering in my mind.

So here’s to my better back, better body (just being able to walk properly over the last six weeks, I have lost 10 pounds) and a better mind.