TRIGGER: SUICIDE (discussed in the context of a tragic news story.)
Dear Annie: My ex and I got married when I was 19. We stayed together for 10 years, during which I was dealing with untreated depression. That did not make life easy for either of us. Eventually, he left, leaving me to care for the kids. He gave us some financial support but was not present in their lives.
Unfortunately, I did not give my kids the attention I know now they badly needed. I was preoccupied with my worry about being alone forever. I have tried to make up for this since, but my daughters still harbor a deep resentment for me. I have told them numerous times how much I regret my behavior and offered to hear all their sadness as a consequence of my actions without trying to defend myself. But they have both cut me out.
My son, the youngest, is still in my life and has reassured me that I was not a terrible mother. He also suffers from depression, and for years he abused drugs. I blame the fact that he had no father in the home for those important first years.
Even after all these years, I am still preoccupied with my time married to my ex. Random thoughts are always about him — what could have been — and I always feel on the verge of tears.
I’m about to turn 70. Is there a way to finally put this behind me? I’ve had much therapy over the years but still revert to the pain and sadness about the childhood I was unable to give my kids and the loss of my marriage. I think that if I go into therapy again, nothing will change. But should I try again? — Regretful Mom
Dear Regretful Mom: To the question of whether to try therapy again, my answer is always yes. In your case, especially so. You’ve been dealing with clinical depression since you were a teen. That black dog, as Winston Churchill called it, can’t just be shaken off. Therapy won’t wash away all your pain and regret, but it can help make your feelings more manageable and life more enjoyable.
Additionally, in light of your son’s drug abuse, you might benefit from a support group such as Nar-Anon (www.nar-anon.org), LifeRing Secular Recovery (www.lifering.org) or Families Anonymous (www.familiesanonymous.org). (c) Annie Lane @ Creators.com
Well, that is the lamest, most pitiful advice I’ve ever encountered.
By all means, she should keep going to therapy. I’m sure it’ll start helping her depression any day now.
Um, is there some reason Annie Lane couldn’t recommend psychiatry? Why does it seem as if there’s a pejorative belief that depression isn’t a “real” mental illness? It’s like, just go to therapy and figure it out. Do you know how often people with other mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or bipolar, get told to keep trying at therapy (in lieu of taking drugs)? NEVER! Because those mental illnesses are taken seriously and understood to be connected to brain chemistry.
But with depression, there’s this condescending outlook where it’s assumed that the depressed person has a bad attitude and just needs to try harder to get to the heart of it. [Eyeroll.]
But I’m giving Annie Lane too much credit. It probably didn’t cross her mind to recommend psychiatry. That would’ve required too much thought.
Depression can be every bit as debilitating as other mental illnesses. This bizarre belief that therapy can turn it around because depression’s just a negative mental outlook is offensive and untrue. It could be true in some cases, but I’d say it would be a small number of cases altogether, maybe 5% at most.
And here we have someone who’s been depressed for her whole freakin’ life, as Annie Lane pointed out, and yet she should just go back to therapy.
And what’s up with all the support groups? Her son no longer uses drugs, and he’s the one kid who she has a great relationship with. Or do we want her to question how solid that one relationship is?! Geez.
But about depression. I watched an episode of 48 Hours Mystery once, and it was really upsetting. It was about a boy who was around eighteen years old, and he struggled with extreme depression and anxiety. A female friend of his convinced him to commit suicide. She was like that devil on his shoulder who pushed him over the edge. I think she’s doing hard time now, as she should be. Not cool.
But as horrific as that is, the other thing about the episode that really upset me was the treatment for depression that this young man was receiving. His doctors had him on a low-grade antidepressant like Celexa, or something, and it made a tiny, tiny dent in his depression; and everyone seemed to have the attitude of, great, he’ll be better in no time flat, as if it was up to him to overcome the remaining 95% of his depression. But you could tell from his vlogs that he was still miserable and barely hanging on.
Why do so many doctors refuse to take depression seriously to the point of only marginally medicating people who are suffering from severe symptoms? It’s loathsome. It would be similar to having extreme and severe anxiety and being given a prescription for an antihistamine.
And it’s hard for patients to speak up and say, “I need something stronger,” because the patient doesn’t want to seem like a whiner, nor does he want to acknowledge to the doctor how hard it’s gotten, nor does he realize how bad it’s gotten because his perception is grossly skewed. Doctors shouldn’t let patients fall through the cracks by treating severely depressed people with token prescriptions of Celexa.
This poor letter writer has all these critical inner thoughts, and to me it seems like it’s the mental illness(es) talking. But she doesn’t have enough objectivity to realize that, because those inner thoughts have always been her reality. And here Annie Lane had the opportunity to recommend psychiatry, and she totally dropped the ball.