My friend has lived in a “place” for oldsters for the last 4 years. Her husband died about 3 years ago. Before that, her youngest child died after a long battle with cancer. And recently, less than a year ago, her only daughter died. She mourns the loss of her home which grounded her, gave her peace, supported her creativity, cushioned life’s hardest knocks. She’s mourning the loss of her daughter and son who’ve died, and loss of another who sees red when she says green.

Does old age bring happiness? The topic of a NYTimes op-ed  on December 5th brought many comments. These spoke to me; “I am 95, and my mind is still functioning, I have an excellent memory, and a great family and friends — all of whom are one, two or three generations younger than I. I am content, but not happy. I miss my husband and the many friends of my generation…” And this; “Mr. Brooks should walk down the halls of America’s nursing homes and see the number of elderly women sitting in the hall outside their rooms, staring listlessly into space most of the day, or hear their screams of “help!” at night, repeated again and again…”

BlessLIghtDec

The elderly in this country are essentially invisible. We have little role in society. Much of our time is spent looking after our aging bodies…” Last quote, I promise; “Mr. Brooks suggests that elders have more empathy, knowledge and maybe wisdom. Yes, some, but many do not. Surely he has seen the stubbornness, the surviving hatred and the loss of perspective that too often accompanies old age, not to mention of those in need, physically, emotionally and financially…”

Yesterday in a store I cringed at the check-out counter, seeing the employees with their cheery faces and wearing holiday hats. I hoped they would not bestow Christmas wishes upon me in that sugary sincerity that sets my teeth on edge. And not just because I’m not Christian, don’t celebrate Christmas and don’t appreciate all the frou-frou Christmas songs, decorations, false cheer that abounds. What about if you’re my friend, and cannot smile even with all this the in-your-face holiday cheerfulness?

LoveKindnessDec

I stand on the outside of Christmas yet I’m amazed when people stare at my son who talks too loud, or has a temper tantrum in a public place. Where’s the hearty ‘love your fellow man’ spirit? We all know to try not to judge the person badly for parking in the “Handicapped” space when we see them get out and walk to the store. We can’t always SEE a disability or disease or mental illness. (Card, right; Love and kindness are never wasted. They always make a difference. Quote by Barbara DeAngelis)

The word depression doesn’t light up on our foreheads for the rest of humanity. If they could see the word wouldn’t they take note and then treat the wearer tenderly and with compassion? Maybe. I don’t have answers to the December dilemma.This is what Jews call the fawning Christmas-ness that occurs in December that doesn’t include the stranger or the outsider. It also doesn’t offer the deep need we all have to connect sincerely to other people, to feel kindness and respect because we live and breathe, have hopes and dreams, no matter our age, infirmities, and abilities.

When I’ve been in depression I rarely went into stores beyond shopping for food. I didn’t pay attention to much of anything around me, or anyone. But I have learned to appreciate freedom from depression. And I love my friend and feel pain for her losses and her circumstances. Sometimes all we can do is feel. I’ve been carrying this quote around with me, by Richard S. Wheeler a western novelist from a book published in 1983, Winter Grass;

“We have to keep letting go of things before we can grasp the future. The more we cling to what was, the more we freeze ourselves where we are. Like excess baggage on a long journey. How do we get where we’re going encumbered by it all?”

Here’s a young woman who figured out how to let go. Trash the Dress.

Stay warm.

P.S. The top card has an Irish blessing; “May the blessing of light be on you. Light without and light within.” I apologize for getting this out today, the first day of January. Originally written December 5th. Oh well, these things happen.

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Here is the best account I’ve read so far, and I admit I’ve been reading lots over the last 24 hours. Like many [most?] I’m stunned by the loss of this genius, and yet very human man.

From Time Magazine online; An Army Suicide Widow Remembers Robin Williams with a Smile, Leslie McCaddon, 8/12/14 (Personally I can’t imagine a worse title!) Here’s the article-

I remember running through the house, quickly opening a bedroom door to make sure my husband wasn’t choking or having a stroke. His screams and squeals could be heard throughout our entire place.

I found him, lying on the floor, in front of the TV gasping for air. On the screen above him was a paused image featuring Robin Williams’ face screwed up in a comedic expression. My husband was laughing and coughing, desperately wiping tears from his eyes.

“You”—gasp!—“have to”—cough!—“watch this”—howl!

He rewound to the start of the segment. Robin Williams was making fun of Scotland. And educating the audience. About golf. I don’t know if it is his accent, the reckless and wild use of the f-bomb, or simply the fact that he hits the nail completely on the head, but before long our three children were coming to make sure their parents weren’t choking. Or having a stroke. A stroke. Get it?

It was only a few years later that my laughing, hysterical husband would succumb to the same illness that Robin Williams did Monday. From the beginning, I have chosen to be honest about my husband’s struggle with depression, and his eventual death by suicide. As the news broke about Williams’ death Monday, my heart broke for his family. And for him.

You see, my husband Mike was funny, too, and often laughing. He saw the humor in the mundane and he could disarm those around him with humor.

Robin Williams is one of those actors that made us believe. He made us believe he was a teacher, a therapist and Peter Pan. He made us believe that if you just paid attention, this world was something to be open to, armed with laughter. I think it’s fair to say that until Monday night, when most of us talked about him, we didn’t discuss his struggle with addiction. I’m betting we never paused to wonder if it was rooted in anything other than fame.

We never stopped to ponder whether this heartfelt, hilarious man was battling depression. That’s why I’m grateful for the expert on CNN who kept referring to the “brain disease” that took Robin Williams’ life.

Since my husband died in March 2012, I’ve worked hard to remind people that untreated depression can kill. And depression does not always announce itself to friends, neighbors, co-workers and fans. Depression can be a silent killer—with often only a family member or two struggling to find the right balance of love and medical support to help their loved one through.

Robin Williams has left me with one final smile. Because of who he was, because of what he meant to so many and because he was one of the finest entertainers to ever walk this planet, Robin Williams has broken through the stigma surrounding depression and suicide. There hasn’t been a global rush to judgment. I’ve (thankfully) yet to hear a single person refer to his choice as “selfish.”

Rather, there has been an overwhelming international response to his death as tragic—as the result of a disease. And as a great loss to those of us who already miss him. Just as I pictured my husband “on the other side,” baffled to discover how treasured he was by so many loved ones, friends and co-workers, I also picture Mr. Williams with tears in his eyes to discover that he was loved by the whole world. I just wish we’d had the chance to do more for him.

Today, I plan to curl up in front of the TV and remember two men who managed to capture my heart and make me laugh until someone had to come check on me. You are both loved. You are both missed. And we will continue to learn and grow in our understanding of how to treat depression because of both of you. Rest in peace, and laughter, Mr. Williams.

Please, if you, or someone you love, are depressed or thinking of ending your life for any reason, reach out. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK. You will not be judged. You deserve to know you are loved.

Leslie McCaddon, the widow of Army Captain Michael McCaddon, is a mother of three and lives in Arizona.

I’m moved to write of depression, again. Be grateful if you’ve not experienced the depressive state. If you have, know that I understand. My therapist called my bouts; situational depression. I found myself unexpectedly divorced, shortly after surviving cancer while denying the doctors attempts to do major surgery on me. I had all 5 children the first year in addition to the struggle to find me again.

The “me” I knew I had within me; the survivor, the person who could smile and laugh and enjoy life, not the me at that time who could curl up on the sofa in a sea of desolation. Those early years of coping with so much, too much, too many demands on me, and bouts of depression lasting 4, 5 months or more, became a pattern it took a long time to defeat.

I did experience a bout of depression, in late 2009, that I believe was the last. I wrote about it here. [9/1/2009] “It is so damned difficult to deal with my depression. (wow, what alliteration!!!) My older daughter and my cousin have agreed that since I’ve admitted that I’m in depression, I’ll soon be better.”

Shortly after that in another post, I included a letter to myself that said this; [1/9/2010] “…The most recent depression you have triumphantly conquered has proven that you can manage yourself and your emotions. And come through even more of who you can be, given God/good spirits, clarity of thinking and openness of heart and mind to accept, to deal, to grow, to attempt to relinquish the negative in favor of the positive.”

Have I ever shared the story of high school students asking me, their substitute teacher, about depression? Yes this happened. It was an English class the second half of the school year. Some students remembered me from the first half. I’d told a story about my depressions and how I coped. And so I retold it, because I believe we could deal better in adulthood if those with age and experience would only tell us more when we’re younger or in need of hearing those stories. I’ve told my youngest son about signs and symptoms of depression, and he managed his own recently, and beautifully, in terms of doing all that could be done- without medication.

Now there is new information on depression. A study from Standford University with pre-teen girls; teaching them to respond differently [positively] to negative events that could lead to depression. The positive responses act to re-wire the brain, and help defray depression. Neat, huh? I’ll wrap this up with a favorite quote;

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”
-Agatha Christie.

*Agatha Christie, 1890 to 1976, was/is a world renown writer of mystery fiction still popular in books and movies since she began publishing in the 1920’s. She disappeared for 11 days after her first husband announced his infidelity. This event made the news and caused public outcry. I always thought she KNEW what depression meant, as in the above quote.

Tuesday 1st September, 2009
It is so damned difficult to deal with my depression. (wow, what alliteration!!!) grmom&me3 My older daughter and my cousin have agreed that since I’ve admitted that I’m in depression, I’ll soon be better. They actually discussed it between themselves, over long-distance telephone; like two adults trying to talk over a child’s head so said child doesn’t hear. Funny, also touching to have evidence of how they care about me.
The photo on the right is an old one I’d used in a collage–when I was stupid naive enough to believe I’d never need it other than glued to a work box in my art studio…was in place of one I thought I’d lost permanently this time. Okay, explanation. All summer I’ve been extraordinarily forgetful. Like forgetting where I put things. Leaving the beans to cook and then burn on the bottom of the pot while I mow the grass, etc. Then one day reading the news, a New York Times article described the plight of a young man, age 53, now past the first stage of early Alzheimer’s disease. Whoa, that was scary. I’d taken myself off for some “talk” therapy, to deal with unresolved junk (like plaque in arteries that needs to be chiseled out or it causes fatal trouble). All mad here 09 But it turns out, despite the new therapist saying/repeating it each visit; memory loss can be due to insufficient sleep (check), depression (check) and I forget (ha-ha). No the last is um…oh year too much stress (check). She said when I find my coffee cup in the clothes washing machine, or bureau drawer, or other totally odd place, or forget what the purpose of the cup is–then, and only then should I worry about early Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
I’m so glad I stopped drinking coffee over a year ago. (I am just full of jokes today.) b-day Humpty Perhaps I shouldn’t worry so much about my mental health and just keep making cards–which I truly love to do. You’ll see from the two examples here, one a Lewis Carroll quote; “we’re all mad here,” and the other about falling down and not able to get up, accompanied by a picture of Humpty Dumpty, that my humor is surviving intact. Even if the rest of me is slowly aging. Thankfully I’m not near my sell-by date. Here’s a fun bit of history (video from youtube below), dedicated to the one. And that reminds me. I was asked to put together some classes to teach for my city’s Rec/Parks Department. I did, after tons of research. I love teaching, have done it for a long time, and feel very confident of myself in that field. What I came up with was a class for adults with disabilities, like Nato, my son and his friends- to dance, learn to dance, get limber, have fun. Just watched the video I’m posting. What fun! Now I’m determined to find a sponsor for that dance class, since it seems the city’s not interested.
We all need all the fun we can find/make/obtain.
Here’s Fred and Ginger dancing- Enjoy! http://www.tcm.com/mediaroom/index.jsp?cid=93731

val09sntra3 Feb. 2009

In the past I’ve dealt with depression by myself. People have said; why don’t you take something for it?

I follow my own counsel on the matter. Perhaps it takes me longer to find my even keel, but I like being in control of my health, or lack of it.

This morning I pulled the curtains open to receive the full benefit of the sun shining in, though it was -3 degrees sometime overnight. I love that about living here–having so much sun, even when the cold is penetrating to the bone. You see, one of my own prescriptions is savoring the sunlight.

Our kitten is sleeping on the throw rug close to the shaft of light coming in. She’s another part of my daily tonic; loving her is warming, internally, and makes me feel good. I gave my middle son a big hug today too. Despite that he needed to talk to me when I was on the phone with my closest friend here in Iowa… So often his behavior, at 26 and with his Down Syndrome is similar to a younger child’s antics. I try to deal from a place of patience, but I can tell you at times it’s difficult. Today I told him to wait ’til I was done, and turned my back. He took the visual prompt, I finished my conversation.

Nate and I sing in the car because  we really, really enjoy singing, and there’s no one to “boo” at us. Bread-making days are good ones too. Feeling happy through the senses; touch, taste, sight (one of the cards I made in last few days is above), sound.

Each day I find so many reasons to be glad for what I have, instead of seeing the glass as half-empty. When I use a saying for my collages, it’s because I like what it says, and want to pass it on. Today’s says: “Love one another–I mean really love. If you don’t know the guy on the other side of the world, love him anyway because he’s just like you.” by Frank Sinatra.

And humor…laughter is the best medicine they say. So I’ll share some funny quotes I’m using this year on Valentine’s Day cards I’m making to sell. Here goes:

“Go ahead and marry. If you get a good spouse you’ll be happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” by Socrates

“It does not matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you do not do it in the street and frighten the horses.” by Mrs. Patrick Campbell

“True love comes quietly, without banners or flashing lights. If you hear bells, get your ears checked.” by Erich Segal

I’ll leave you one more from a writer who’s books I’ve enjoyed, who spoke so eloquently about love. “Happiness and love are just a choice away.” by Leo Buscaglia.

Here’s hoping we all make good choices!