I am wondering…



Exactly How I Feel Lately

“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four people is suffering from a mental illness. Look at your 3 best friends. If they’re ok, then it’s you.”
Rita Mae Brown

I have suffered from depression for as long as I can remember. I had it even before I knew I had it, and long before I even knew what it meant to be “depressed.”  My depression has always been cyclical in nature meaning that I suffered from continual, on-going low levels of depression interspersed with serious depressive episodes where the only solution appeared to be suicide.  I can still clearly remember the first time I thought about suicide, the feeling of not wanting to be alive, and I can clearly remember my shock.  I was only 16-17 years old, and even though my life would have never made the “Leave It To Beaver”  cut, it was still life and I still wanted it. Until, that piercing moment when the thought occurred to me, “Maybe I should just kill myself.” 

I was in the car with my first husband, I don’t remember what we were talking about but I do remember the hopelessness, the pain and the despair.  I also remember that the thought shook the very foundations of my concepts of the sanctity of life, reality and sanity.  A million questions ran through my brain as it tried to digest the unpalatable reality of my new world.

Who in their right mind does not want to live? What was happening to me? Was I losing my mind?  I would never find the answers to these questions, but I was to suffer much worse over the rest of my life as this mild form of depressive thought spiraled out of control and led up to three major depressive episodes. The first of these episodes, occurred about 40 years ago and lasted nine months.  The second occurred in 1996 and lasted two years. The most recent bout happened in 2003 and lasted nine long years. A key feature of these episodes, aside from not wanting to live, is the inability to function, to cry, to laugh, to live. I spent the better part of the last nine years in bed:  sleeping late, taking long naps and going to bed very early. I also spent the last nine years heavily medicated as only drugs could control my constant companions: self-loathing, discouragement, and overwhelming hopelessness.

Recent studies indicate that one in every 10 Americans suffer from depression of some sort, with 4 of those individuals, nearly half, suffering from major depressive episodes. However, in light of my own recent experiences, I have a ton of more questions to ask.  Like, what causes it? Why don’t the treatments work better? And, who says what depression really is? I can believe you are depressed if you want to kill yourself, but are you depressed if you simply just don’t like the current circumstances in your life?

I know they have charts, grids and tests, I have taken enough those tests myself to build a bonfire with them, but who establishes the standards and measurements for those tests and charts? If you perceive yourself as being depressed, are you? Or, if you perceive yourself as being not depressed, are you?  From my own experience, I think it is a combination of both. I think there is a physical and inherited tendency toward depression, but I also think how I perceive myself also factors into the reality of its severity.  The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is quotes as saying, “Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.”

And, I am wondering, is this true? I cannot explain what has happened to me, or what has happened in the past. I do not understand why the depression is gone, why it happened in the first place, and if it will come again. Studies suggest that those who have suffered one major depressive episode will like suffer another, and that each new episode will be more severe than the last.  I, personally, have found this to be true, and I am terribly afraid that if it happens again, I won’t survive.

 However, today, I am good! I am in a new place, an environment of my own making where I am free of depression, and once again, I am wondering…what and who I am? I have never experienced this level of freedom, this level of energy, or this level of love in my life: love for my children, my husband, my students, my pets, my friends and my God. I awake, when I sleep, energized and ready to take on the world. I am excited about my career, my writing and even posting on Facebook. So, I am wondering, is this what normal people do? Is this what life is all about? Or, am I must in a manic phase of a manic/depressive episode. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “And those who were seen dancing, were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.”  Is this me now?  I don’t know, but I am wondering. 

“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.”
William Shakespeare, Richard III 

Why In The World Am I Doing This?

My Girls

Many years ago, at the age of 15, I found myself pregnant in a culture where “good girls” didn’t do things like that. I became a social pariah, and which was worse, an outcast from the faith that for so long been my only emotional support. I married the baby’s father on my 16th birthday, an abusive, alcoholic drug addict, and thus began a long slide into several divorces and other abusive relationships. However, it also led me into a lifelong pursuit of truth and knowledge as my emotional and spiritual needs were just not being fulfilled in either my relationships or my current worldviews. As much as I was able, I attempted to address this need by reading everything I could in this area, but the hunger for advanced education persisted. Unfortunately, this desire for learning took a back seat to the responsibilities of raising five daughters, but eventually I was able to start pursuing my dreams; dreams which culminated in two Master’s Degrees and three published books, two novels and one non-fiction book on spiritual direction.

 My journey has not been easy. I have had to overcome the trauma of divorce, the ramifications of being an abused child and spouse, and the inherited tendency toward depressive episodes. In addition, as a pregnant teenager I was, for most of my life, in the lower social-economic strata. Thus I was continually faced with financial challenges while trying to ensure that my children had more than just the basic necessities so that they might grow into fully confident and accomplished adults. I did succeed in this area and am proud of them; proud that they have well-balanced lives, proud that they have not succumbed to the pressures of substance abuse, and proud that all of them have had enough confidence and motivation to pursue and succeed in the areas of advanced education.

 However, I want to do more. I want to reach more people. I want to help others through the type of trials that I went through. I believe that the way to do this is to learn more about religion, education, counseling and writing in order to bring to the faith-based denominations an ecumenical outlook toward the various doctrines which currently only serve to divide and discredit Christian Spirituality.  I want to be able to provide comfort and solace to others that experience the underbelly of life whether it be addictions, poverty, mental disorders, or lack of educational opportunities, and I believe that a united faith, one devoid of doctrinal issues, is the key to reaching those that are in the most need.

 In addition, I have had a lifelong love affair with the written word. It was my passion, my dream and, next to raising my children, my greatest accomplishment. It manifested itself in many ways including the publication of two novels, numerous articles and newspaper stories, children’s literature, poetry as well as adult literary fiction. I pursued advanced education in this field and achieved a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing. This love for the written word extends itself into my teaching philosophy as I seek to instill in all my students not only a passion for writing but the ability to write clearly, concisely and effectively. I know that not every student will fall in love with the written word like I did, but I strive to at least give them a taste of what is possible when one communicates successfully in writing.

 It is my goal to combine these three passions, faith, writing and teaching, in such a way that I may help others learn, grow and prosper in their academic, professional, creative and spirituals lives and, I am humbled by the trust my students, my friends and my family have in me and my small attempts to help others. I honestly don’t know if I am worthy to do this, if I have the talent, the skills and/or the brains to even try this, but if I don’t try, I will never know.  So, I thank you all in advance for your patience, love and support.

God’s Peace,  Nancy