Archive for June, 2018

Happy Father’s Day

Posted: June 17, 2018 in Uncategorized

Hmmm….. (lets out looooong exhale)

In 43 years, I have never told my father, “Happy Father’s Day”. There are quite a few reasons why that never happened. The first reason was, he wasn’t here, there, or anywhere when it came to me. I think he saw me about 3 times in my first 5 years. That used to make me so upset but, I was raised by my mother, and I like to think that I turned out okay.

Got a few screws loose but, nothing major.

Secondly, you have to perform fatherly duties to be considered a father. Yes, he has fathered children (5 to my knowledge) and he may have been there for my brothers and sisters but, he just wasn’t there for me.

This blog isn’t out of malice or anger, I forgave him years ago for not being in my life. I was recently told that I should be grateful for that. Why? Well, if he’d been a part of my life, I may have never have had the opportunity to be a father to my children and to be a part of their lives. Confused?

If I had not experienced a life without a father, I would not have known what it was like to feel abandoned and to have to deal with all the shortcomings of not having the first male role model in my life to protect me, teach me, guide me.

If I had not experienced a life without a father, I wouldn’t have had to make a vow, that I wasn’t going to be like him, and to be there for my children, no matter what it takes.

If I had not experienced a life without a father, I may not have had the experience that would allow me to grow into my own fatherhood, I may not be the father that I am today.

Earlier I mentioned, FORGIVENESS.

I forgave and forgive him for all the times when I wanted to reach out from a place of sadness or despair and wanted to hear fatherly counsel, only to go to the other men in my village to receive the right advice and receive the guidance that I needed. I forgive him for that.

I forgive him for abandoning my mother, putting her in a position of struggle just to put food on the plate and to keep the lights on. That struggle gave her unbelievable strength, determination and the will to take care of me. I forgive him for that.

I forgive him for sending back pictures and drawings I sent to him so that he could see his grandchildren and one day maybe be a part of their lives. That was a very hard one but, I forgave him for that.

My father, Julius Earl Thomas, passed away from this world on Monday May 28, 2018

These are his ashes. This is our first Father’s Day together.

I can finally say…. Happy Father’s Day!

CT

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May the Ancestors grant you the peace you so desperately needed.

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Hello.

There are many introspective and oftentimes misguided discussions on social media about the recent suicides of seemingly happy and wealthy people, and conversations about mental illness and how so many of us think we understand it. I thought that I’d add my two pennies to the subject and hopefully make some points that resonate with my readers, and with me as well.

Chapter 1: I Hear You and I’m Here for You

A popular misconception is that depression is not understood. Depression is not a complex set of emotions that only those that suffer from it can understand. I mean, there are no Depression 101 classes that anyone can attend. Just like many self-diagnose themselves to be depressed, there are others that must take the same presumptive approach to understanding depression and how to love and support friends and family who suffer from it. There are ways that support can not be supportive, there are ways that what sounds good coming out of your mouth, sounds like nails on a chalkboard to someone who is going through depression. Many times, I’ve felt that I put together the most delicate, compassionate, understanding words of comfort, only to be told that I am so insensitive. Sometimes, saying nothing is more than enough.  Depending on how deep their depression is, there is absolutely, nothing you can possibly say that will make them feel any better. For many of us, that is hard to accept.

How do you help? You don’t need to be a mental health “professional” to help someone in your life that may be struggling but, the best way to start is to ask if they are okay. Once they start to share their feelings, let them talk, show them that you can be a good listener, for them, not to them. Sometimes, it may not be enough for them but, you give it your best shot to let them know you will be there if they need you.

Understanding depression doesn’t mean that you have had to suffer from it to understand it but, that you listen to those who are, and you try your best to support them. Criticizing someone because of how they are feeling, isn’t going to make them feel better. It’s the exact opposite; it makes it worse.

Chapter 2: Understand Me, and I’ll Understand You

Now, you may have felt that this was from a writer who is on the outside looking in talking about depression. You may have thought I’ve been using information from stories I have read or have heard. Both are correct but, there is also more source material based on my own depression.

Yes, I know I seem to be upbeat, pleasant, in control, stable or any other misnomers many who know me would like me to be but, I am also suffering from depression. I have situational and seasonal depression. My seasonal depression was the worst! I won’t say that it’s gone but, this past winter, I was so in control of it that I didn’t gain the usual 25-30lbs over the winter that I’ve become accustomed to. I became vegetarian in the middle of the “holiday” season and lost a few pounds while “enjoying” the winter. In past years, the weight gain, the cabin fever, the winter blues, all formed around me like ice forms over a plant that decides to go through the winter, rather than hide from it. Well, I didn’t hide from it, I waited until I found the inner strength and felt supported enough, that I knew that I was going to make it through and have a healthy, depression free winter.

I recently learned about situational depression from someone very close to me. (Hopefully, they are reading this blog.) After doing some reading and reacting I realized that it was describing me to a tee. I always wonder how much time it takes to come up with these diagnoses and definitions of things that are so on point and relevant to me, and they’ve never met me before. That goes to show just how well researched, and studied, depression is.

Situational depression is a short-term form of depression that can occur in the aftermath of various traumatic changes in your normal life, including divorce, retirement, loss of a job and the death of a relative or close friend. Doctors sometimes refer to the condition as adjustment disorder.

I have found at times that when my depression is getting better, I’ll see something sad or hear something terrible or find out that someone close to me may be dealing with something difficult, that will send me right back into the sinkhole and I’ll be there until I find a way out.

I guess, it’s the empath in me.

Situational Depression Basics
As we go through life, we all have experiences that stretch the limits of our normal ability to cope and continue our daily routines. In addition to the experiences listed above, situations that can potentially overwhelm your normal coping mechanisms include surviving a hurricane or other major disaster, surviving a serious accident, experiencing a major illness, and even marriage or the birth of a child. Situational depression occurs when you haven’t yet adapted to the changes brought about by these situations and incorporated them into your overall life experiences.

Most people with situational depression develop symptoms within roughly 90 days following the event that triggers the condition. Depending on the individual, these symptoms can include listlessness, feelings of hopelessness, sleeping difficulties, sadness, recurring bouts of crying, unfocused anxiety, unfocused worry, loss of concentration, withdrawal from normal work or leisure activities and withdrawal from friends and family. In addition, some people develop suicidal thoughts.

I have wondered about the impact of my death and how it would affect those around me but, I’ve never thought about taking my life. There are so many things that people who don’t make that choice are going through, that they can’t think of anything else and that is because they feel there is no other way. That is very serious, and we must find ways to help our family and friends to help them understand that there are other ways to get through.

Chapter 3: Anxiety, Depressions not-so-cute Cousin from Atlanta

All jokes aside, anxiety isn’t a joke. I recently had an unexpected anxiety attack during a very sad moment following the death of a family member. I couldn’t breathe, my head was tight, I was hot, I was cold, I was afraid, I was falling, I was crying, it was a brief panic attack that seemed to last forever. Luckily, I was comforted by a loved one who was able to tell me what was happening. I was shocked because I had never felt anything like that before but, they knew. Understanding that anxiety is a nervous disorder, helps me understand that it can’t be fixed with just words alone. It’s usually a long drawn out culmination of thoughts that cause excessive worry.

Anxiety (GAD)
The hallmark of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)—the broadest type of anxiety—is worrying too much about everyday things, large and small. In the case of GAD, it means having persistent anxious thoughts on most days of the week, for six months. Also, the anxiety must be so bad that it interferes with daily life and is accompanied by noticeable symptoms, such as fatigue. – www.health.com

Being able to talk away someone’s anxiety is nearly an impossible task. If words could have stopped my attack, I wouldn’t have had a story to share. We can try to use words but, we must listen, and we have to watch and learn and most importantly, we have to be present. Paying attention to the signs that they share with you, there may be some signs that we may have to pick up on our own. Encourage, but don’t recommend that they seek medical treatment, and don’t expect them to make themselves better.

Treatment of anxiety focuses on a two-pronged approach for most people, that focuses on using psychotherapy combined with occasional use of anti-anxiety medications on an as-needed basis. – https://psychcentral.com/disorders/anxiety/

Chapter: You [Looking after yourself]

If you are the main support person for someone going through depression or anxiety it can be rewarding, but it is challenging too. It could take a while for them to get through it, which is why it’s very important to look after yourself. – www.depression.org

It’s really important to be able to ask someone who is suffering from depression if they are okay. This opens a lot of air and opportunity to receive a lot of information about things that you may have never known or may not be prepared to hear. It’s important that if you are willing to be a part of the process to begin to help someone get through their depression, you must take care of yourself. Work on understanding yourself and know who you are, ask yourself tough questions, ask yourself, why do you care and if you can do this. If you can’t, you may make matters worse particularly if the person suffering looks to you as someone who can help them, you don’t want to let them down.

For years, many in the African American community have called each other crazy or have swept a family members “odd” behavior under a door, the same door they pass food to their so-called crazy uncle. I think it’s not healthy to ignore or avoid the subject of mental health when it comes to people we love or, just people in general. There are a lot of broken, men, women and children walking on our streets that have mental health issues and need help. Some more than others. What do we do? Are we going to keep our fear of mental issues, hidden behind doors or swept under rugs? How do we heal if we cannot deal with the work that it takes to be diagnosed and treated for illnesses both physical and mental that many of us can’t understand? Ask yourselves; am I alright, and are the people I love alright as well?

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. If you need to learn more about depression, anxiety, mental health and suicide prevention, contact the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255

CT