the blues

Author: angiem, 02 15th, 2010

I was about thirteen, the first time I had ever attended a bridal shower, when one of the women there announced to those gathered around the room that nothing made her happy.  Not even sex with her husband.  She said it so loudly that everyone stopped what they were doing, their plastic forks lifted halfway to their open mouths, clearly wanting to hear more, yet not knowing how to solicit the conversation.  On the one hand, sex was a taboo subject. On the other, the woman was a loose cannon.  Who knew what she would say?  Moreover, there was too much propriety amongst them all, and no one wanted to be seen as lacking good manners.

So mouths were quickly stuffed with food, furtive glances sent her way, and everyone got back to their own conversations.  A few months later, she was committed to a psychiatric hospital.

Of course back then I didn’t understand.  That her outburst had been a cry for help, I only understood in college.  I had never heard of depression, nor had I seen it.  We were all an emotional bunch, even my mom cried from time to time, but it was short lived and our smiles were so much more brighter.

The church was the most unkind.  Calling all that their small minds couldn’t comprehend as the work of the devil, they shunned her and instilled fear in the women, preaching from the pulpit submission onto their husbands as onto Christ, so that such a fate would not befall any of them.

I spoke with a friend battling cancer, earlier last week. And with another one who has a teeny, tiny newborn.  And another one who has lost her job after 20 years.  Stress in their lives, hormonal changes going on, left and right.  Dejected, listless, angry.  Yet despite it all, reluctant to admit that they are suffering from something.  Reluctant to grasp the outstretched hand.  Do they fear shunning?  Or perhaps lost friendships?  Why is there such a stigma still attached to depression?  Why can’t we discuss it?  Woman to woman.  Friend to friend.  Can we give our support without judgement?

When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and I was going through miscarriages, very few friends asked how I was holding up.  Only the love of my husband and family kept me going.  I was an emotional mess.  Many pulled away as though my sadness was contagious.  Perhaps it was. Yet a kind word would have been so welcome.

Can we be that ear, that shoulder, that word, to another one of us who is suffering?

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44 Responses to “the blues”

  1. Lori Says:

    These are beautiful and compassionate thoughts, Angie. But, yeah, we live in a society that does not accept failure of any sort. Depression is often perceived as a failure to control oneself. Life is hard, what if everyone would lie down on the couch and refused to do anything? Right? We only look up to those who have unflinching self-esteem and who always go for what they want and get it. If there are such people. I guess we all like to kind of pretend we are like that or only show that part of us, hiding the more human rest of who we really are.

  2. French Fancy Says:

    I was so surprised to hear that the church behaved like that. How can people go to such a place that does not welcome and help those most in need - such as this poor woman.

    Angie - if I had known you when your troubles were there I’d have been your shoulder to cry on.

  3. Francesca Says:

    First of all, I’m terribly sorry to learn about your miscarriages, Angie. Second, in some western cultures, talking about what’s not right is wrong attitude, whereas an upbeat smile is right attitude, disregarding what’s actually really going on. It starts in infancy: little children are not allowed to cry anymore, they have to pull themselves together and not manifest their suffering. Pregnancy loss is a taboo in every culture. Hugs.

  4. Mary Moon Says:

    As you know, I speak quite openly of my depression. I saw what evil was created when my mother kept hers in the house for only my brother and I to see when we were too young to have any idea how to deal with it. It’s a horrible thing- depression- and yet, it is not something that has to be hidden away. There is too much darkness associated with it as it is. There is no shame in having it. There is no shame in reaching out and asking for help. And there is nothing to be gained from trying to pretend it isn’t there, whether within ourselves or others whom we could possibly help if we just quit pretending.

  5. Beth Says:

    There should be more, “There but for the grace of God…” and comfort offered when one encounters such suffering and less fear.

  6. Claudiu Says:

    The best way I can start out is by saying ” How sad”…. Not as much for those that suffered (even though it is sorrowful) but more for those that didn’t do a thing. I believe it is a sad statement of where and how someone sees themselves within a culture when they don’t step in to help. The bridal shower outburst, the looks, the lack of asking, the shunning tones of the backbiting whispers, the rampant gossip circles that can only lead one to puke….. And we saw all that…. And when your in the midst of your crisis… Who would you dare go to…? Even if they asked… who would you tell..??? Sad sad sad… We need to nourish an environent of safety… To the druggy, to the pregnant teen, to the mom that’s lost her nth pregnancy, to the homosexual, to the depressed, to the, to the……… They need to know my house your house Gods house is what the Bible calls it…. A SANCTUARY…. not so they can go on being druggies, or whatever else they’re involved in… But so that there is a resting place for the weary soul… For the one that’s in pain, exclusive from anything they’ve done…. They’re just in pain…..we have found this resting place in Christ…. When will we learn to extend this no-holds-bar grace to those around us… without passing an ounce of condemning judgment…??

  7. Jena Says:

    I admire you about speaking out about depression. I suffered in silence for years and years. My friends had no idea because I was too emberassed to tell them anything. I got medical help eventually. I am so glad I did. I urge everyone to speak out and let their medical professionals know. There should be no shame and we shouldn’t be feeling we are alone.

  8. angiem Says:

    Lori, we are all fooling ourselves. And there are no such people. It is all an illusion. Or so it appears to me.

    Oh Julie, I know you would have. That’s what I love about you. Your compassion and honesty are so refreshing.

    Thank you Francesca. You are so right. And no wonder that one day some just explode from it all. Bottling up for years is bound to do that.

    Ms. Moon, I couldn’t have said it better than you did. Why are we so resistant in facing the realities in our lives or the lives of our dear ones?

    Beth, yes there should be.

    When indeed, Claudiu? I often wonder the same thing.

    Jena, I am so sorry. I am glad to hear you got medical help. And you are correct, there should be no shame, and we shouldn’t be feeling we are alone.

  9. bethany Says:

    So true Angie. Love the way you write, you pull me right in.
    People are afraid that is’ contageous or maybe that they will somehow have to “save” the person. We can’t save them, but we can certainly help, like you said, just by asking and listening. You are very compassionate.

  10. Corinne Says:

    I keep hoping that with time comes more acceptance of our lows. I think it’s coming. There is no shame in showing our hard times, our lows. How else can we get out of them if we don’t feel as though we’re accepted and loved for each state we’re in?

    Such a good post Angie.

  11. Ruth Says:

    I echo Claudiu’s remarks. I once read that in a culture when someone dies, there is a mourning period where family and friends will visit the victim and sit in silence with them. It sounded beautiful, to sit there with the person experiencing utmost sadness and just BE THERE.

    I am glad you have learned from the past experiences and that you are able to talk about them openly like this. Your words will hopefully inspire us who read them to welcome people who need us to be there for them. I’m here for you as well. xoxo.

  12. She Writes Says:

    “Do they fear shunning? Or perhaps lost friendships? Why is there such a stigma still attached to depression? Why can’t we discuss it? Woman to woman. Friend to friend. Can we give our support without judgement?”

    When we find friends who can do this, we find comfort untold.

  13. Susu Paris Chic Says:

    I have been the ear, and will always be! It is often hard, but thus be it. This is what I’ve set as the most important goal for my life. To be there for that person who needs me.

  14. audrey Says:

    dear Angie, what an incredibly moving post. i do hope and feel that in our ‘own special way’ we are a help, care, and support for one another here on our blogs.

    as for friendships in the ‘real world,’ i know very much what you mean. when i had a depressing low about 3 years ago i was painfully surprised how VERY few ‘friends’ were around.

    i said my prayers, wrote on my blog, and am slowly finding my way back to life.

    i honestly don’t know what it is about this day and time when friendship seems to be slowly dissapating to a thing of the past.

    people are into their own things which claim much of their ‘love and attention.’

    it’s been hard, but what i do have in terms of love and friendship i guard and care for with much love (this is my sincere hope).

    i’m so happy you have such a strong love and connection with your family. and i am always happy to hear about your genuine friendships and the good work and care you share.

    i think it says something too about you, that you remember this lady who was crying out for help after all those many years ago.

    i salute you, if i may…

    hugs!

  15. Kary Gonyer Says:

    I agree..i lost my mom to cancer 4 years ago… some women who were my mom’s best friends never even called me…and some did. Even though you don’t know what to say..it’s better to call and say “I don’t know what to say..but I just wanted to call and see how you are”…….doing that is better than nothing at all. It really is.

  16. Cindy L. Says:

    Angie, this is a kind and insightful post. And very wise. My mother was suffering depression and anxiety long before her dementia was diagnosed, and she has been in denial for a long time- - about her depression. In her day, depression simply wasn’t talked about, let alone featured as an issue on TV talk shows.

    Likewise, I am always a bit shy about admitting when I have the blues, especially to people who expect me to be “the strong one” who’s typically cheerful.

    In “Care of the Soul,” Thomas Moore discusses the value of depression and how we need to honor it and to listen to it. I found that helpful, and I remember his advice when I get down and am told to “get over it.”

    Thanks for your insight here. You’ve helped a lot of people with your post today, I’m sure.

  17. angiem Says:

    Thank you, Bethany. Having someone there to listen, really does help.

    I agree, Corinne. This shame we are made to feel for our lows stands in the way of our healing.

    Ruth, thank you. I know you are. You have always been super reliable.

    Amy - Oh yes!

    Oh Susa, you are just lovely and dear. I pray that whenever you need a shoulder to cry on or an ear to speak into, it will be present and willing.

    Audrey, I have often thought of this as well. What happens to what we consider as real friendships in time of need? Why are loving friendships becoming such a thing of the past?

    Kary, I am so sorry for the loss of your dear mom. As we all are on the road to death and have no clue what tomorrow brings, insensitivity to another’s pain is inexcusable.

    Cindy, I believe that this culture is largely responsible for maintaining a facade of false cheer and strength.

  18. corine Says:

    I battled chronic depression for two years in my 20s. The worst thing about it is that I kept looking for a cause, a flaw, when i needed was medication. No prozac then, and plenty of guilt and misunderstanding. I love that depression is now seen as it is: a treatable illness, not a character flaw.

  19. SJ Says:

    You know, I had this very same conversation last night with my dad. I got on some low-grade anxiety meds (same stuff they treat depression with too though) when I was going through a very difficult fall when I was juggling multiple big decisions, not the least of which was which job to take and where I was going to move and all that stress. I think it did actually help knock the edge off a bit, and now I’m off them.

    And I think I’m depressed, and I want back on them and having to admit that is so damn hard. I have to have my best friend pick them up and bring them to me when she visits and I stumbled all over the place when asking her because I hated admitting that I needed pills to cope with my happiness. It makes me feel weak, dependent, and I guess that is why there’s such a stigma attached. Only the strong survive, the weakest length -our culture is full of instances where we value mental and physical strength and when one of those two feel threatened, we can feel very very vulnerable.

    I’m TRYING really hard to get over that.

  20. Bunny Says:

    I am always there for my family and friends and I will never ever judge someone’s pain and suffering. I had cancer 16 years ago when my first son was 8 months old and it was an indescribable emotional pain , to fear not being there for your baby is horrific. My family, husband and friends got me through it and I will never forget that and I will never let a loved one suffer alone.
    It is easiest for those who have not suffered to judge others, but depression is very very serious and those going through it just need to be heard and loved.

  21. Autumn Says:

    I think that people do shun you when you are sad. I have battled depression at different times in my life and I feel that people do not want to hear about it. Very few people take the time to listen. Do you know that I had a girl not even want to accept a friend request on FB because she said that I had the spirit of depression. Yet she would talk to me when she saw me and never offered to really try and see how I was doing. This is the reason that I feel very insecure about showing emotion.

    Nevertheless, just as depression falls down on us - it also lifts. Sometimes life can be hard but it does not last always. To me it is the people who are there for you in the troublesome times that really care.

    I thought that I was the only one who felt that way about this matter. It is really sad that we can not just be real with each other, but as a pastor once said in a sermon that I was in - sometimes our pain reminds people of theirs (or something like that)

    That is why I really try to be there for people. I know how it feels. Nice post!

  22. elizabeth Says:

    Who knows? I myself feel pressure from god knows where to constantly be strong, to be an inspiration, etc. etc. Instead I wish for someone, something, to step down and take me in arms and tell me what to do. Who knows?

  23. Jessica Says:

    Angie, this is such a good post. I’ll admit: When I know someone is going through a really tough time I don’t know what to do or say. Thank you for posting this. Now I know that offering to help or listen is sometimes all someone needs.
    I’m sorry people didn’t come through. I’m not sure it’s a fear of contagiousness, but more a fear of hurting someone more or being hurt by the “loose cannon.”

  24. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    Angie,
    How beautifully you tied so many things together in this post.

    I hope that our children are living in a culture that is less attached and suppressed by social stigma. Religious, cultural, political, sexual , mental or otherwise. Acceptance and tolerance and compassion seems to be gaining over fear and ignorance and survival of the “fittest”.

    I hope.

  25. Se'lah Says:

    We are all human and everyone has their ups and downs. Part of being a good friend is lifting up your loved ones when they are down (if you can). Sometimes, just being there is enough.

    lovely post.

  26. brian miller Says:

    great post. heartbreaking as it is all too common…as if it were contagious…and muddy the waters of our peaceful plastic lives…

  27. rick Says:

    I think some of us are afraid we’ll do it all wrong and make things worse. Glad for those who are capable. ~rick

  28. Stephanie @ La Dolce Vita Says:

    What a touching post on a difficult subject. I recommend reading the posts Sande at a Gift Wrapped Life wrote on giving comfort. A good guide for how to treat one another in difficult times.
    Best,
    Stephanie

  29. Allegra Smith Says:

    What continues to puzzle me is that if you have a toothache no one would think a thing about you going to the dentist, but heavens help those who mention going to see anyone because of depression.

    Depression is a chemical imbalance of the body and acts as a Uroboros: the more depressed one is the more depressed one becomes. Some times anti-depressants work to restore part of the balance and unfortunately most people stop taking them because they feel alright or accept some that are not alright for them and suffer dire consequences by being unable to speak up about the problem. Then Uroboros rises in full fury and it adds insult to injury by making one believe that we are not worthy of finding a way out of the black room.

    You are very right, some times all it takes for someone to feel better is to know that someone else is listening without judgment, that they understand and a hug is worth a thousand pills. I learn to listen to the between the lines unspoken words and have learned to say nothing sometimes and hug the person tightly and let them know I love them. Others, I offer suggestions and reinforce when I can their sense of value which depression attacks knowing it is the most fragile flank.

    This is a very good post and I am sorry many people you considered friends walked away, but having been there myself, looking back I realize they were never truly friends. And so the loss is not as bad as it could have been.

  30. adrienne Says:

    here, here!

    ‘Can we be that ear, that shoulder, that word, to another one of us who is suffering?’

    yes!

    and i agree with allegra; a hug is worth a thousand pills.

  31. Vanessa Says:

    It absolutely rubs me raw when men flaunt that we are to submit to our husbands. Yes, the Bible tells us that the man is the head of the house hold and we are to submit to him…but what that conveniently forget is that man is to love their wife as Christ loves the church. I don’t think there would be many women who would have a problem submitting all decisions, etc. to a man who loved and respected her so much.

    I think sometimes, unfortunately, people avoid contact with those going through a loss because they don’t know what to say. They fear saying the wrong thing; they fear hurting them any more.

  32. La Beletter Rouge Says:

    I do believe that depression often frightens people—they don’t know what to do and the impulse is to say or do something that will ‘fix’ the person. Being with, being there, and, as has been said before, a hug and ear are a great gift to give a suffering soul.
    I admire the woman at the bridal shower for having the courage to be honest about her pain. That ain’t easy to do. People don’t often want to hear about others pain as they are too busy suppressing their own.

  33. Holly L Says:

    It is so hard to approach someone with this. I have a special friend who could use some help and I have tried so many times to talk with her and tell her my story…after my son, I was a mess - frantic, depressed, you name it - I was it! But even with me telling her my story and what I went through and how it could help her, she chose and chooses to ignore the situation.

    After the birth of my son, even being educated about Post Partum depression, etc, I was fully in it and my hubby and I “missed it” for at least a year because we were so caught up in surviving babyhood.

    Thanks for sharing and making me think some more about this subject.

  34. Karen@SurvivingMotherhood Says:

    Yes. Yes!
    We need to be able to share openly and accept lovingly. None of us is perfect. Not one. And when we try to be perfect ourselves, and demand perfection from others - we just make ourselves more sick!
    Jesus willingly receives us - yuck and all - and it makes me so sad when “the church” scares people away from Him by their judgemental looks and hypocritical ways.

  35. Braja Says:

    We can possibly only count on one hand (with change) how many truly understand us and support us thru the deepest times….but that’s all we need….

  36. angiem Says:

    Corine, yes I do too. Because it is a terrible illness and if left untreated it escalates.

    SJ - yes culture is to blame. But there’s no shame in admitting you need help, and I’m happy that you realized that, even if it was a difficult thing to do.

    Bunny, yes! And you were so blessed to have your family and friends support you through it all. Pleased that you survived both the cancer and the depression accompanying it.

    I am horrified, Autumn. I believe that many people live within a bubble of denial. They absolutely refuse to be real.

    Elizabeth, that’s how it is.

    It’s true, Jessica, that some people can be hurtful in their sadness. It isn’t aimed at the person showing them love, but rather a release of the built-up sadness within.

    Me too, Deb. I hope so too.

    Se’lah - I agree. Sometimes all we need is to know that someone is there for us.

    Brian - Thank you. Sadly, it is so.

    Yes, there is that fear, Rick.

    Stephanie, thanks for the recommendation. I will check it out.

    Allegra - I believe you said it best. It is a disease and it escalates. Listening without judging, being in the present, offering a hug. All so very precious and so needed.

    Yes, Adrienne. I agree with Allegra too: A hug is worth a thousand pills.

    Vanessa - Yes there is fear of not knowing what to say. But rarely are words needed, I think. A hug and a simple and clumsy even, “I am thinking of you,” is welcomed.

    “People don’t often want to hear about others pain as they are too busy suppressing their own.” Yes, Belette.

    Holly, after the birth of one of my kids I was a mess too. I had horrible anxiety attacks.

    Oh Karen, thank you.

    Braja - Yes, that is all we need.

  37. Susan R. Mills Says:

    This is a great post. I want to be that ear, that shoulder and that word. I’m trying.

  38. Mama Zen Says:

    I think that people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that they say nothing at all. And, that is tragic.

  39. krista Says:

    maybe people see too much of themselves in the dark. that’s what scares them most of all.
    that helping would mean acknowledging that they understand.

  40. angiem Says:

    Susan - Thank you. I do too.

    Mama Zen - Yes. I do not like how fear gets in the way of our becoming our best or doing our best.

    Krista - That’s it, right there!

  41. mrsbear Says:

    It makes me sad to think that the church offered her so little compassion…

    I think most people don’t know how to respond to someone else’s sorrow. I’m guilty of keeping things to myself, occasionally I skirt that depression line and my first reaction is to withdraw, because it’s usually met with confusion, discomfort. Who knows?

  42. Phoenix Says:

    It is our job as human beings to listen to others and help out where help is needed. To the dismay of my friends and family, I almost always get involved when someone needs help. This makes me a target for those who are more interested in having others cater to them and fix their lives than doing it themselves; however, I would not trade that for the world if what I gained in return was utter ambivalence to the pain and needs of others.

  43. Jennifer Says:

    I think many people don’t know how to handle someone else’s pain and aren’t able to see how their withdrawal feels to the person they are (inadvertently) avoiding. Many of don’t get an emotional education — one of the things I am trying to give our son.

    I have a strong family history of depression (my father hasn’t worked because of it since he was forty; he’s been through electroconvulsive therapy and has been on every medication available)but I admit that I would find it very hard to say “I am depressed.” It would be even more difficult for me to ask anyone for help. But there are a lot of complicated reasons in my history for that.

    (My apologies for not being here in so long. There’s been some mystery illness going through our household and things have been off kilter since the 11th. My husband is still out of commission.)

  44. Jennifer Says:

    p.s. — I am sorry that you weren’t able to get the support you needed from most of your friends during your mother’s illness and through your miscarriages. And I am so sorry about the miscarriages.

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