Friday, October 05, 2007

All over the place

SisterJ (the bride-to-be) has had, in the past 10 or so years, at least one bout with serious depression. She's been battling it again for the past year or so, in combination with anxiety, and trying different meds to find the right cocktail for her brain. It has been a frustrating, and, at times frightening, process - with physical and mental side effects that have caused major problems. One pill made her throw up all the time; another took away the anxiety but made her hyper. Her current meds are controlling the anxiety to a point (she's now experiencing a sort of social phobia), but the depression is roaring away, unchecked.

I know all of this, but when your sister sits you down and tells you that, if she and her fiance could afford it, she would commit herself because she's afraid she'll hurt herself - well, there's really just no way to be prepared for that.

Her doctor has advised her to take 2 weeks medical leave from work, while she tries again to adjust her meds (adding another pill, subtracting one, fudging with another's dosage), so that she can do so in a less stressful environment. That would be nice, if we were in a perfect world, but even the idea of it just added to SisterJ's stress and fear - how would they be able to afford that? Would her boss fire her just for asking, considering she certainly hasn't been doing her best work in the past month or two? If she got fired, not only couldn't she afford her doctor and her meds, but they couldn't afford to live in their condo. You can see how this may not exactly be the most comforting of thoughts.

But she did have some vacation days that she could use, and she has Monday off anyways, so she went into a meeting with her immediate supervisor today, prepared to use her three vacation days and an unpaid day, giving her all of next week off. The meeting went just as badly as she feared it would - yes, they had all noticed that her work has been sub par, and she's now on probation, having to report in at all times during the day. Supervisor was not happy about her taking next week off because of health issues. She is one step away from being fired, and there's little hope that she'll come off that step positively, no matter how much they like her or the job she'd been doing before things took a turn for the worse.

She arrived at our house in tears, and wouldn't tell us what was wrong right away. We played with the baby, distracted her for a bit, and then, when her fiance got off work, she started to tell us. About how much worse the depression is right now. About how she's had serious suicidal thoughts. About how worried she is all the time and how it seems overwhelming and never ending and unbearable. About her doctor's advice, her plans for next week, her horrible meeting with her supervisor.

And we talked and cried and laughed and tried to make plans - what she needs us to do (just listen; let her cry if she needs to; remind her that there's hope still), what her fiance needs us to do (be available whenever he needs to talk; listen to what he needs to say), what they need to do for us (keep in contact; stop hiding things; ask for help), and then they went home for the night.

About 10 minutes ago, she called me in tears and my heart plummeted. But these were happy tears - she failed to mention that after the horrible meeting with her supervisor, she'd gone to see the big boss, (it's a small company - there's the two partners/big bosses, her supervisor, then SisterJ and people below her) to let her know exactly what was going on. She explained what she hadn't been able to say to her supervisor - about the depression and her doctor's advice, about the paralysing fear and inability to feel like anything actually matters - and her boss set up a meeting for the Monday she returns with all four (two big bosses, supervisor, & SisterJ) of the main players, so they can move on from there. She was sympathetic and appreciated that SisterJ came in to tell her about it.

Apparently, after SisterJ got home and checked her work e-mail, she had a message from the big bosses that said that they think she should follow her doctor's orders and take the two weeks that she recommends. They'll cover the extra week, paid, because they have faith in her & because they value her as an employee, and want her to be able to stay and be a part of their company.

If I had their number, I would call them right now, regardless of how unprofessional it would be. I would send flowers, or trek over there to hug them myself: SisterJ called me crying because she couldn't believe that people could be so nice. That something good like this could actually happen to her.

(Hello, I'm depression - I will now convince you that you are worthless: always have been, always will be. I will terrorize you until you think that the world consists only of pain and heartbreak, and that your only shot at avoiding this horrendous torture for eternity is to remove yourself from the playing field completely. And immediately. And you will believe me in all things, because that's the way I work.)

And they, just by virtue of being nice people, by doing something that feels right to them, have put a little piece of hope and happiness in my sister's heart.

At this point, they could declaw cats for kicks, and they'd still be some of my favoritest people on the planet.

It may still be a far cry from a perfect world, but these two people are doing there best to help us get there.

Two other notes -

First, I've noticed a lack of positive posts here lately, and am attempting to make myself focus on some of the better things that are going on, so you all get to share in those too. They are here, I promise.

Second, my family has a rather large history of depression (and at least one suicide attempt), I myself have suffered as a result of chronic illness, and still, I find that I'm not sure if what I'm saying is the 'right' thing. I know a lot of the 'wrong' things to stay clear of ("Just smile!" or "Think positively" being two of the tops there), but I'd still appreciate your wisdom here. If you've suffered from depression, what were some of the things people around you did/said that helped or hurt? If you've loved someone with depression, what are some of the things you think I should know? Of course, I am doing my research (yay Internet!), but I know you all are pretty much interpersonal geniuses (see "Why is it so hard?"), and always have something useful to say. Thanks in advance!


The Goldfish said...

Sorry this is so late; I was way out of it when you posted.

To address your question at the end here, the most important thing I have found, both with my own experiences and those of people close to me, is to keep talking. Not to be afraid to speak. And to make sure that no subjects remain taboo - one of the most isolating aspects of depression (and isolation is a huge vulnerability) is the idea that what you're going through is so completely removed from the people around you.

For example, many people are extremely shocked and disturbed by the idea that their loved-one might want to hurt themselves. But if as a result, that person thus feels unable to talk about it...

All the best to your sister and everyone in her support network.

Arizaphale said...

My sister has suffered from depression for years. Porzac was her panacea for years. Pregnancy helped.New babies did not. She tried psycho analysis which probably helped in other areas but did nothing to help her control her emotions and deal with the overwhelming and ludicrous anxieties.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy has been her best friend. It is an ongoing process and she still needs her meds but the CBT gives her another strategy and is under HER control whereas the meds she feels aren't. Did that make sense?
I have found her whole condition draining and infuriating but do my best to speak firmly to her and not be sucked into the nonsense the depression produces. I stay rational and tell her how much we love her and how flawed we are too and how it doesn't matter. I also pray for her and tell her that she is loved and that she is exactly as God intended her to be. The 'beating herself up' is what drives me insane.

seahorse said...

I will give this some thought and come back over here soon.