Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A Blog Award And Why I Am So Sickeningly Sentimental

My Blog Award from Bobbie
I received a blog award today. A simple, sweet message from the lovely blogger Bobbie at Almost There. I can't think of anyone in the blogosphere whom I could be happier to be considered a friend of. I hope that when I am in my seventies, as Bobbie is, I am half as sharp, active and strong of character as she is.

I'm overly sentimental. That is the truth. I'm just so full of love. Really. It's not an act. I'm not trying to hide anything. I don't twirl around or bounce or throw my arms around everyone all the time. But I'm happy inside. Sickeningly happy. Most of the time.

And you know what? I deserve it. I suffered from depression since I was about five years old. The family genes of depression overtook me despite having loving and dedicated parents and basically a pretty good life.

I finally understood what was wrong when, after having a bout with postpartum depression, I began to ask questions about what was making me feel so worthless, angry and hopeless. After trying talk therapy with an ineffective and manipulative male therapist (who, by the way never once mentioned medication as an option), I finally went to my family doctor and was prescribed an antidepressant. I tried several until I hit on the one that worked for me.

Then came the deterioration of my marriage and my daughter's diagnosis of bipolar disorder at age sixteen. Here again, the mental health professionals failed us. After taking our daughter to a handful of therapist for what we had no clue what to call, never once was the possibility of bipolar disorder or depression even mentioned to us. It was called a "family systems problem" or a "parenting problem". Until the day when I found my Supergirl curled up in a corner frightened out of her mind because she didn't know what was wrong with her. She had crashed. She also confessed something to me so horrible, that when I found out all I wanted to do was to run outside to scream and cry as loud as my voice could possibly allow: she had been raped by her boyfriend. A kid we had welcomed into our family and had treated with kindness and respect.

As if all of that wasn't enough, Supergirl also came out as a lesbian at our rural high school. You can imagine how well that went over with most of the student population. She was now not only ostracized for being a mental patient but also for being gay.

The next two years were a hell-hole of admittances to psychiatric hospitals, visits with shrinks and therapists and a roster of medications that would make you toes curl and your skin turn green. The lithium caused her to gain about 40 lbs. and created acne that left scars. Another medication caused her hair to fall out in large chunks. Imagine going from being a beautiful, slender dancer with a pimple here and there to gaining that much weight and having so much acne it was hard for you to look at yourself in the mirror. Imagine also being a brilliant student and having your intellect dulled by medications to help you sleep and lessen the anxiety caused by the disease and the trauma. It tore us up so badly that nothing, absolutely nothing could have made a dent in the pain and sorrow I felt during that time. What saved me from ending up a psych patient myself was that I had the anti depressive to keep me stable. And my daughter needed so very badly. Luckily for me, I have a garden-variety depression that is easily treated with the proper meds. Unluckily for Supergirl , she has a stubborn, very severe form of bipolar disorder and at that time was also suffering from PTSD from the rape. She was on suicide watch several times, for weeks at a time.

Amazingly, Supergirl I was able to graduate from high school with honors and in the top 10% of her class. She would have graduated with a higher class rank but naturally, her grades dropped to some extent. She was accepted early decision to her dream college and though she had to take a year off for medical leave, she will be graduating on time in 2009,most likely with honors. During the year's medical leave she was finally put on the right medication, Lamictal, which is being termed a miracle drug for people with bipolar disorder. It is indeed. SGI has experienced no side effects. She has lost all the extra weight and her skin is nice again. More importantly, she is incredibly, sickeningly happy. Like her mother.

Do you see why I call her Supergirl?

My Supergirl is in love with a beautiful, brilliant and caring young woman; her peer at Mount Holyoke College. They plan on being married when they complete their post-graduate work. We are thrilled for them and I gain another daughter. So happy.

So, you see. I really am happy. When you've traveled with your beloved child to hell and back and come out the other side into the light, you have every reason to feel happy, thankful and proud. You find out what's really important to you. You don't sweat the small stuff. You take nothing and no one for granted. You learn to love your ex-husband as your friend. You learn that it is more important to give. You learn that love is everything.

If you've made it this far, I thank you, kind people. I really needed to let that out and it feels good.


  1. I really like your combination of driving forces - I'm talking now about your blog in general. It's unique and intriguing and it makes sense. My mom sent me your blog ages ago but I'm slow and maddeningly busy.
    And even now, I'm frustrated thinking my brain is too frazzled to comment in some way that can do justice to all that you've put down here and the way I've taken it in (and I've only read a few posts). The unfried parts of brain head immediately to mommy mode and I want to tell you I have the greatest children's book about Frida. Anyway. Thanks.

  2. All I can say is thank you for sharing this with us. I don't have the words to convey what I feel about what you've written.

    I, too, have suffered with depresssion all my life, so I understand a little about what you say.

    Peace and love to you and your family.

  3. Congratulations on your award! What a lovely gift to a deserving person. It sounds to me like you've emerged from the darkness, a winner. :)

  4. I meant to add that I have left a comment on my blog for you today.

  5. I'm so happy that both Supergirl and you have come through all this into the light at last. Isn't it good to be able to write it all out, too?

    I, too, have been through depression, though not for such an extended period. I am finding that many, many people have experienced this. Not all that many have found the medical professionals of much help.

    Thank you for sharing with us. And thanks for feeling I am a friend.

  6. Your daughter is blessed to have such a loving mother as you. The issues you bring up in this post are sore spots for me as well so I'll just leave it at that.

  7. I'm glad it felt good to write that out and I know this might sound odd to some, but it felt good to read it. I always feel less alone in the world when I realize how we all have so many common struggles and how wonderful it is when we can connect with each other and reach out.

    I know I've been here before, another life perhaps?, and I'm so glad that I'm here again.

    I came from bobbie's place. Congrats on your friendship award.

  8. Being happy, for me, means being sad at the same time. I guess I just feel all of my highs and lows very intensely. The meds help; mostly with work. If I didn't have to work, I probably would not need the meds. But...I have to work.

    Can any of you identify with that?

    So I've tried to stay with work that I can handle. That is fun most of the time. Not too much stress. Too much stress frequently turns me into someone I don't like. I care deeply about and enjoy the children. They only stress me out in little spurts. It's the adults that make me nuts! There are many difficult parents, invasive specialists and over-worked administrators.

    Being happy is a more peaceful place. I'm also beginning to believe in something very profound. I'm not sure what that is yet but it's most certainly a spiritual awakening of some sort. My first. Ever.

    I'm very grateful to those of you who have commented. I'd love to hear from other people.

    I have to admit to you: I practicaly held my breath the entire time I wrote this post. I just went for it.

    Thanks for reading. Really.

  9. Damn! I just typed this lovely, flowing welcome to Kitty and Diane and did a dumb thing and lost it all. grrrrrrrrnnnn.

    For now it will to do: a lovely, warm welcome to you both! I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

    (shaking hands virtually with Kitty and Diane)

  10. Thank you for sharing -- this was such a touching post.

    I too have suffered depression all my life, and in recent years only been taking serious steps to treat it. In fact the most successful therapy has only been in the last 4 months.

    I'm glad to count you as a new friend!

  11. Reading this brought back some terribly vivid memories. I cried, feeling again the helplessness and fear, the uncertainty as to whether we'd all come out of those days alive.

    I feel like we're all still swimming upstream, but I'm much more hopeful now, having seen those dark days and appreciating how far we've come.

    And Congrats on your award, Gurrrl, it's well deserved!

  12. What an incredible post. I realize how hard it might have been to write it and yet, how cathartic it must have been.

    You are all amazing survivors. I wish the best for you all.

  13. A very honest and passionate post. Thanks for sharing all this. I'm happy that you're both so happy, and have come out of the darkness into the light of joy and love.

    I read your profile and feel we share a similar "world orientation," if my intuition is correct.

    I really like your blog, so I'm adding your URL to my page.

    And strangely, of all the comments and feedback I've ever received about my art, I think YOU hit the nail on the head. You said "There is such a strong life-force running through your work." I think that I feel that most intensely, regarding my own work, and it's wierd to me that you could recognize it!

    Please visit again soon, and I'll do the same!

  14. blessings on you and yours.

    the right meds and love make all the difference. this i know full well.

  15. I have found the hardest posts to write and publish are often the best, for ourselves and others.

    I find numerous parallels with you in this; medication and good therapy only partly alleviate my depression, but I have moments of the kind of happiness you speak of. Like Supergirl, my illness frequently hobbles my achievements, which is frustrating.

    Teen age sex and abuse, scary mental health issues, and mental health treatment that is worse than useless: been to all those places.

    But I'm a proud Daddy of a beautiful and successful woman, and about to be a grandpa for the second time, so even this terrible past has turned out to the good.

    It's good to hear about your happiness: thanks.

  16. Hey Pagan Sphinx,

    I came through Lynda's blog (I read your comment there)! My name is Max :).

    I enjoy politics, art, philosophy, belief systems, entertainment and long debates lol and that is reflected on my blog...

    Congratulations for your award, and for the good news on your Supergirl :D!



  17. hey, stopping by again to let you know that tomorrow is blog for equal pay for women day and I hope that you will be able to post about this topic. more info at various many feminist sites.

  18. I'm completely and totally blown away by all of your responses.

    I was really quite terrified to write about this. Firstly, I'm not a good writer. I used to write a good reasearch paper in college, I have written well for reports, professional communications and newsletters, etc. That is a very differnt type of writing. I am even usually annoyed by my private writings. Further, I'm fairly private; more than I used to be as a younger person. I've developed a sort warriness about people over the years. I have been, at times, a bit of a misanthrope.

    To risk putting myself out there on topics this intimate was a huge stretch for me. I've grown accustomed largely to keeping it to myself.

    I thank you so much for making the risk so worthwhile. You've made me feel less alone; less afraid to risk exposing vulnerabilities. I so appreciate your goodness.

    Peace and love to each and every one of you,
    Pagan (Gina)

  19. Kitty, Dianne, Sherry, Lynda:

    Thank you for coming by and leaving such kind, compassionate comments. I am so sincerely looking forward to getting into your blogs more thoroughtly. I've been very busy with college financial aid stuff and tonight Supergirl and her Beloved are visiting with me. But next week is spring break and I'll be doing a lot of blog reading.

    I feel that you coming by is a gift. I can't believe how fortunate I am that your blog is written in both English and Portuguese. My dual languages. This will surely improve my Portuguese reading. I can't wait to read and comment there!

  20. PS- I have not been around for a few days, we went away.

    I am sitting here reading this and weeping and yet so moved by what came of it all and time is too short today for me to say too much.

    Supergirl is amazing - and so are you.

    Peace my sister and healing for one and all.

  21. Pagan Sphinx: What a wonderful and inspiring post. I have been a mental health nurse for most of my career and I must say you have expressed yourself beautifully. I wish I would have had more patients like you, giving love and encouragement to their family members and others. Love and support of family is such a potent component to healing.
    I have never had much confidence in therapists, as they have an adveserial relationship with psychiatrists. They usually scorn medications and are very reluctant to have a patient put on meds by their pyschiatrists. Since mental health issues are tied in with your physical being it is important to take the right meds.
    I also have had bouts of depression through the years and always took some type of med until I felt I could manage. You daughter sounds delightful and you are unbelievable.

  22. Fran: thank you so much for supportive words. Your presence always bring warmth. Thank you.

    Minniblue: This is amazing. I'm tired went to bed, couldn't sleep and came to the computer to check the blog. As I'd been laying there in bed, I was thinking about some of the events described in this post. I was reminded that it was actually a psychiatric nurse at one of the M.H. facilities that saved our lives. She took me aside after one of the most intense hospitilizations and told me the best shrink and therapist to switch our daughter's care to.The two working with my daughter were not cutting it. I got on the phone, called the head nurse she recommended I talk to, and the switch to the desired doctors was implemented the next day. That was the first step to lasting stabilization.

    I can't say enough about the nurses I met along the way, especially the ones at the facility I talked about above. Wonderful people. Kind. Smart. Respectful. Most of the so-called therapists? Not so consistently good. Nor the pyschiatrists. That nurse, that lovely woman, knew who could help my daughter.

    Thank you so, so much for writing what you wrote. It meant the world to me that you came by.I admire you so for the work that you do.

    Peace to you,


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