Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Fourth Blog Birthday, Depression and More

I almost let this fourth birthday of The Pagan Sphinx blog go by without acknowledgement. I don't know where my head is these days! Quite literally, in fact. More on that later.

I just went through and cleaned out some hundreds of spam comments manually, as I don't know of any other way to do it. Those were left on the blog before I began the pre-approval of comments. I've recently dealt with another jag of them. Though this time I screened them out, it was a bit of a bitch and I may begin to have to employ comment verification as well. I hope you will forgive the inconvenience. It's those Friday evening nudes that attract the most attention from the pornographers, so as long as I'm posting those, I can probably be guaranteed at least occasional spam.

While doing this housecleaning, I realized that it was four years ago around this time that I started this blog; during a February recess from school and with trepidation of what I might be getting myself into. The only thing I knew about blogging is that my ex-husband and good friend The Cunning Runt had a blog on which he was publishing not only his wonderful photographs but also some excellent political commentary. I began to read it and thought what a rewarding idea it might be to share my passion for art and a few formative topics with the blogging world.

My first post was nothing. Just a sort of meek shout out and included a photograph of the view of the river from my front yard. The first person to comment was a lady who then went by the name of DCup and has since grown into her own as a very creative and even more popular blogger - Lisa of That's Why and Politits. Thanks, Lisa for that first comment. Without it I would have probably retreated from blogging, immediately calling it unsuccessful.

 For me, sharing anything with a wide audience causes a bit of panic and any excuse not to do so is always a handy reason  not to. That isn't to say I completely eschew getting personal. I sometimes do but for the most part I do it through comments where it is hoped that it'll sneak by without too much attention. Overall, though, I'd say I'm a fairly private person. I think this is because I am an introvert and one of our characteristics is that we love people but...only a select few at one time. :-)

So here I am, still. I have received (I'm not sure if that includes the spam or not) 9,300 comments and I just noticed that my 200th follower just joined (though I'm not always sure if most of them ever come back!) I like those nice, round numbers. I still love blogging, mostly for the people I've met both literally and virtually. My passion and labor of love for The Pagan Sphinx has grown into a more mature relationship. The honeymoon phase lasted a lot longer than I ever expected it to but it has settled into a calmer place. It helps me to view it that way, as it was beginning to feel like the end of a relationship. I'm very grateful and happy that I didn't give up on it so easily.

Perhaps this next topic should be a separate post but since I don't often have the guts to sit down and actually write anything, I think I should continue just in case the temptation to quit because it's hard gets the better of me. It is private and difficult for me to write about this but I have to in spite of myself, as depression needs to be talked about more openly and I am seeing inroads in that direction socially. I want to be a part of that direction. I've not kept my depression a secret but I haven't exactly written about it openly either. Mostly because this blog was never meant to be this personal. I am usually reticent to get into personal issues that people may either shy away from or feel pressure to respond to. Then there are my own feelings of vulnerability when I do share openly about my life to a wide audience.

Since childhood, I have a type of depression that is referred to as dysthymia.  I know first-hand how it runs in families as I grew up with a father who struggled with it. I believe my brother does, though he has never discussed it with me. Luckily, I don't have another (or co-morbid) condition like anxiety and substance abuse and neither do any of the people in my family who have this type of depression. Medications often do not work as well for dysthymia as they do for major depression. It also may take longer after starting medication for you to feel better. I know about this first-hand as well.

What is most difficult about dysthymia is that on top of this already low mood, major depressive disorder can set in and it has with me, on at least two other occasions in my life. Once in the 80's and once in the 90's. I'm afraid that I believe to either be in a particularly bad phase of dysthymic depression or perhaps even on the verge of a major depressive episode. I have never been so bad as to be hospitalized but the problems that a major depressive episode cause me are fairly far reaching - work, relationships, lethargy, boredom, crying jags, loss of sleep and even a drop in appetite.  The later I haven't seen for some time now, being in a phase of less than ideal weight since my mid-40's. But it used to be that I could shed twenty pounds ( 9 or so kg) in a month's time when I was in the throes of depression.Very unhealthy, wouldn't you agree? The only good thing about it  is that I secretly liked being thin and so did, not so secretly, my ex. (CR - if you read this, I don't mean that in a nasty way and it could very well have been my perception more than anything you actually ever said or did to make me feel that way. Please believe that.)

So here I am. I've been avoiding telling my family so as not to worry them. I'm still undecided as to if I should. My brother might serve me my head on a platter for burdening my mother with it, as he believes with absolute faith that she cannot handle it. I don't think I agree with him but just in case he's right, I'm not telling my mother. I usually link these posts to facebook and that's either not happening or will be posted to a selected audience.

I have been avoiding believing I'm really depressed again for over a year now. It's hard to admit once again feeling defeated by this illness. Therapy is a very gut-wrenching, emotionally and psychically exhausting process. But I finally did it. I made an appointment with my former therapist. It took me a long time to find her five years back, so when I called today, I was relieved that she was still in the area and had a slot available for me. The process I went through to find her, if I were to go into detail, would boggle your mind. There are so many unhappy, over-worked, incompetent therapists of various stripes, at least here in the U.S. Some I would even say could be damaging. I went through therapists like one goes through socks. I finally tried weeding them out by credentials and went for what was suggested to me by people I know in the field of mental health - start only with those therapists who have a ph.d in psychology. Some with clinical masters of social work are also very good. Bingo, it took only one other therapist before her, who seemed very capable but I detected a bad fit, before I found Dr. S.  She is a gifted therapist, kind and warm without sacrifice to boundaries and she has a beautiful office in downtown Northampton, Mass. where after a session I can either hole up in my favorite cafe and ruminate on my session or even walk up the road to Smith College's art museum and hang with the art. Perhaps near a Munch.  :-)

The piece of my treatment I am dreading the most is probably needing to see a psychiatrist for a medication re-evaluation, as my doctor won't up my current dose, saying it's already "hefty" enough and I may need to try another medication. Oh, joy.

I have had many dealings with various shrinks, too. My experiences have largely been negative. Here in the states, unless you are wealthy, there is no such thing an a psychiatrist who is also an analyst. Mostly, they prescribe medication; often one on top of another, on top of another. They are alchemists of sorts. I can think of five right off the top of my head (some were my daughter's doctors) who all shared similar characteristics:  cold detachment, indifference and let's hurry up and figure out how to set you right, with what pills and don't you dare come in here and try to be part of your own treatment plan. I'm going in with the mindset that I don't have to tell this person anything about myself other than what I've been diagnosed with and what the symptoms are.

Many things are wrong in life right now - work is not going well and I am having significant relationship issues. No outward drama, which is not my style nor his. But these issues are taking their toll on us both and we need to figure something out. What that will be, I'm not sure yet.  As for work, my concentration is off and it's been noticed. Lots to deal with right now.

Thanks for reading. Okay. I'm hitting the publish button now...


  1. Firstly, Gina, happy blog-birthday; yours is exactly twice as old as mine! :-)

    Secondly, from one depressive to another (!) - bravo for your courage. I know how difficult it is to get personal about the subject. Just as I know how important it is to make this subject as public as possible; depression - of one sort of another - is one of the most common illnesses in our society so why can't we talk about it the way we talk about heart disease?

    I had a discussion with someone very close to me about the subject of mental illness a few months ago. We came up with the insight that we accept it as quite normal that everyone will suffer from many physical illnesses during their lifetime. The brain is the most complex and complicated organ of all; it is completely unreasonable therefore to think that anyone could go through life without experiencing some episodes of psychic illness.

    And - despite all the difficulty involved - it does help to talk about it, to open up - even virtually. I know that it has helped me; both in working things out for presentation in a public forum and through the expressions of support and sympathy I have received from others.

  2. Happy Anniversary!

    I've been checking out your last couple of posts, but I haven't commented yet. I followed the link on the last post about the Photoshopped nudes. They were hit & miss, some subtle improvements, some bordering on grotesque alien ideals of slenderness. Still, it was an interesting little experiment, as well as an interesting commentary on how ideals of beauty have changed over the centuries.

    I love stuff like that!

    Keep up the good work, and I'll keep tuning in :D

  3. There is so much here. Thank you for the mention. I'm a shit because I often enjoy your posts in silence, can't take the extra step to comment because I'm afraid I'll make a banal statement - ooooh, I love that.

    But I do appreciate you and the art you share. I've learned about so many artists thanks to you.

    You know, I think, that I've been struggling with Depression for a while now. My doctor assures me that it's related to my joblessness and stress overload. I'd like to think he's correct, but when I think about the way my mother has gone through life, I feel certain, in an armchair therapist kind of way, that she, the daughter of an alcoholic, has suffered from low grade Depression all her life.

    I'm glad you shared here. I'm a believer in working through thoughts via the written word.

    I realize we know each other only online, but I'm always here if you need an ear.


  4. Happy Bloggerversay,

    I appreciate your comments on depression and where you are. I do not suffer from depression and it took me a long time before it hit me that depression is a lot more than just feeling blue and if you don't have it you don't really know what it is.

    I appreciate your comments on psychiatrists. We went through several with our boy with autism before we found one who was interested in him as a person and took our observations in his evaluation of Logan.

    I wish you well on your journey.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Happy Anniversary to your blog, my friend. I'm very glad we met one another not long after you began this new and beautifully creative phase of your life.

  7. there's so much going on. how could we NOT be stressed.

    " I have had many dealings with various shrinks, too. My experiences have largely been negative. Here in the states, unless you are wealthy, there is no such thing an a psychiatrist who is also an analyst. Mostly, they prescribe medication; often one on top of another, on top of another. They are alchemists of sorts. I can think of five right off the top of my head (some were my daughter's doctors) who all shared similar characteristics: cold detachment, indifference and let's hurry up and figure out how to set you right, with what pills and don't you dare come in here and try to be part of your own treatment plan. "

    Yeah, you see through that! So search out your salvation with diligence. Let go, Let God.

    Sending you love. i know you will
    find your joy again.

    Aloha from Waikiki
    Comfort Spiral

    >< } } ( ° >

  8. Wow, four years of blogging! That's wonderful and I'm glad I discovered your blog recently, Gina. As a fellow art lover, I look forward to your past musings on that topic and more. By the way, I love Munch's work!

    I admire your openness and honesty. As a person who has struggled with depression all my life, what you shared here touches me profoundly. Although our experiences are uniquely our own, I see the commonalities, similar challenges that bind us together.

    I'm sorry to hear about the difficulties you face currently. Undoutedly sounds overwhelming and my warmest thoughs are with you, Gina. Often words fail when one is going through a lot and yet still it's good to open up and share. I am reminded of this again.

    I realize we are just getting to know each other a bit on Google+ but I sense a connection. We seem to share a certain temperament and sensibilities. And since I'm a big proponent of friendly hugs, I send you warm (((hugs))) and wish you a deep inner peace that sustains you through these challenging times.

  9. ooh gina, the highs and lows both in one post...brava for making it and i am so sorry to hear you are not feeling well...as a major depressive who is med. resistant myself, i understand your feelings AND your resistance to treatment and THERAPY if we can call it that. i hesitate as often it puts me in a deeper hole for awhile when i cannot take a deeper hole,you know? i'd never get out!

    you know i am here and always available should you need a listening ear. just drop me an email and i will give you the number-probably not smart to do it here.

    try to be in the light as much as you can, keep breathing deeply and do not let go of a meditation practice and if not, then start- you will find some inner peace to carry you through the day. prayer and meditation are very close within the brain in it's activity both being very quieting, do whatever makes your mood lift-at least not sink, if only for a little bit. and please try not to worry. these things, the highs and lows do pass for us all....soon spring will be here and my guess is you will have begun to feel yourself again in a much lighter way. xoxoxoxo

    oh speaking of spamming, i started a new blog and just posted for the very first time. it's on type pad and called moody hues! i am addie there but you will know it's me. please come and see me, i am lonely right now but blogger/googler is just going south too fast and furious for me. and the spam...oy vey x 10000

  10. It's a brave thing that you have done, publishing this to the world. I like to think that I would have done the same. I see it as a kind of prayer to the Universe. Seven years ago I did the same thing, in a different way, protesting desperately against my own illness. I tapped my question into Google, something like "Where is my long-awaited cure ..."

    It worked! I found someone half an hour's drive away, a doctor who had specialised in my condition and had a special approach.

    From that experience and deeper studies I undertook thereafter, I've one point to offer: that depression has either a spiritual or a chemical cause.

    And if it's the latter, a chemical imbalance in your body, it's likely to have arisen from a spiritual cause which your body has struggled over the years to deal with and compensate appropriately.

    I think it would be possible to find appropriate help.

  11. Firstly, I want to thank you all, of course, for taking the time to leave a comment. I am especially grateful to those of you who have expressed the warmth and nurturing I so desperately need right now.

    In a typical post, I usually respond to each and every comment but I'm feeling very overwhelmed both emotionally and physically, as I have not been sleeping at all well. I'm trying to avoid the temptation to turn on the computer as a sort of emotional beacon in the night and to read instead or make a cup of tea.

    Those of you who mention spirituality as a sort of answer...I'm not sure what to call it...I'm just not there. I think I'm far too entrenched in being a secular humanist to do anything but flirt with the idea of spirituality. The only thin I can muster is to find comfort in the words of the dali lama, which are so simple and down to earth, that only the most bereft and cynical human could reject them outright.

    There are a couple of people to whom I can respond:

    Francis Hunt - your post on your personal experience with depression helped give me some courage.

    Linda - your consistently honest and complex view of your own experiences have also been very helpful to me in evaluating whether I should write about this openly. Sending a warm hug in return for the warmth and love you so unselfishly display toward others.

    Yogi - I've gotten to know Logan a bit through your blog. The three of you are so lucky to have each other. I love a couple of people on the spectrum. If we viewed autism with the a more loving lens, we would so much more appreciate the wonderful gifts of autistic people and not just their deficits.

  12. Dear Gina - All I wish to say is that I admire you very much for your beautiful blog and your interesting Facebook posts. I'm sorry for your pain. I pray that you find relief and reach inner peace and joy. With much friendship. Always. De tout coeur, Claude.

  13. I didn't know you were set against the word 'spiritual', Gina, or I would have said 'psychological'. The distinction is artificial.

  14. Congratulations on your fourth blogoversary Gina. Here's to many more years of the Pagan Sphinx.

    As for the Black Dog, I can only empathise. I know full well it is never easy, even in the up phases but hang in there!

  15. Vincent - I'm not set against the word spiritual at all; I know what you meant by it.

    I said what I said as a reaction to another comment which has since been deleted by its author because, from what I understand, that person wanted only that I see it. I inadvertently probably included you in it, though I did not mention you. If that makes any kind of convoluted sense. But thanks for the clarification anyway. And for your support. :-)

  16. Congratulations on four years of your splendid blog, Gina. I hope it will carry on well into the future. It has brought me much pleasure.

    Thank you for sharing your feeling about your depression. As someone who has also experienced a life-time of the bloody thing I can relate to what you say. It takes a brave person to admit to mental health difficulties, even in the day and age. Seems like 'treatments' the world over can be a little 'hit and miss' but I trust you are in good hands with your therapist. I've had both good and bad experiences of the mental health services in the UK but, sadly, on the whole, they are pretty crap, I'm afraid. There just isn't the funding or the sufficient level of understanding to adequately deal with long-standing depression, I have found. Mainly, it's just, 'here, take these Prozac and try not to keep bothering us'. Make sure you get the help you need.

    Will be thinking of you.


  17. Oh, dear Jerry, you are one of my first blog friends. I must be a magnet for fellow depressives and if knowing people like you is somehow a bi product of depression, then there are positive aspects to this condition! Much love to you and yours and thank you for your friendship over these four years.

    We went through the loss of our dear Bobbie together...and there has been an upside to that as well, in having met and become friendly with Kitty and Mike and the boys now that live in Northampton.

  18. Susan - thank you for your heart, dear Susan. I am lucky to have you for a friend. Much love.

  19. here you go, dear heart♥


    i'm not posting it on vpm due to spammers. please come by and say hello! i am lonely over there right now. and please change your reader URL or whatever you do to read blogs, you can subscribe on my new blog too.

    i look forward to seeing you there, sweetie and thank you for your lovely reply to my comment. xxx

  20. Gina: Firstly, your four years of spreading the beauty of art make you the Miss Rumphius of my world! You've always been a teacher to me, and a guiding light. Thank you.

    About your struggle with depression, that's always been a great stone on my heart. I've watched it for such a long time, and always felt So. Damned. Helpless. I think it took Meredith's situation to finally help me to understand something about it, and to see it in myself as well.

    I'm presently wrestling with that dark beast myself. No job, no money, no excuse for not diving headlong into the business of photography, except for the growing realization of how much I don't know about how to make it happen. It's tempting to call it "situational," as I did at another point in my life, but that doesn't get me any closer to dealing with it. Perhaps seeing you move toward a solution will give me the courage to confront my personal demons as well.

    Good luck, Gina, and all the love in the world to you.

  21. CR - situational, lifelong, whatever you want to call it, when we have it we feel really bad. In some ways depression in an otherwise healthy person is worse than physical illness because it tends to define us more. Or should I say, we in our weakness, allow it to. That vulnerable feeling can often make us slip and slide for a long time before we get a grip and finally start to do something about it. I've been on a slippery slope for about a year and I am only now trying to seriously deal with it.

    Good luck to you, my friend. I know you are in a tough spot. Just remember how creative and brilliant you are...don't slip and slide too long before you at least begin to try out possibilities for turning your talent and brain into something wonderful. At least our girls are on their own and doing fine without our financial help. That is not only something to be proud of but also a relief when trying to find a new path for ourselves. Much love to you and thanks.

  22. Taxi - thanks as always for your comments here.


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