Comics that Highlight Frustration of Depression

 

I came across this BuzzFeed page, from Sept 2013, earlier today. This webpage provides a collection of comics that highlights the multiple frustrations that people experience with depression. For myself that knows someone who is living with depression and battles its ugly darkness every day, I feel a bit of relief that these comics exist. The relief I experience as I read through these comics comes from the idea that my relative can also read these comics and understand they are not alone. You are not alone in the depths of sadness that you feel. You are not alone in the excruciating pain you experience while you attempt to find any reason to get out of bed or to tackle the overwhelming pile of laundry that waits to be washed. You are not alone. 

These comics are also tools in the continuous efforts to create and enhance awareness for mental illnesses, like depression. Lastly, the use of expressive therapies, such as art therapy, is a wonderful way to express one’s experiences and struggles (as clearly displayed above). 

The four comics provided below are my favorite:

Comic #1: The persistent, engulfing darkness (art by Sylvie Reuter)

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Comic #2: Carrying the darkness with you where ever you go (art by Kristian Nygård)

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Comic #3: The inability to communicate how you actually feel (art by Elysian-Dreams).

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Comic #4: The difficulty in trying to get your friends to understand (art by B. Patrick)

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To check out more comics, visit: http://www.buzzfeed.com/hnigatu/comics-that-capture-the-frustrations-of-depression.

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Brittany’s 7 Tips for Coping with Parent’s Diagnosis

This blog is written for the adolescents and young adults that have learned about their parent(s) mental illness diagnosis.

I am a child of a parent who has been diagnosed with depression during my late childhood. My adolescent and young adult years were the most difficult for me in terms of understanding depression & watching the depressive symptoms negatively impact my family. I had no guide to help me cope or manage my own emotions that I had towards my parent’s depressive symptoms.

These tips that I am sharing with you are parts of the road-map that I constructed for myself. You may find some of these tips unhelpful for you, depending on the severity or type of your parent’s mental illness. If so, please use these tips in a way that can assist you in finding your own ways of coping.

1.Become Knowledgeable: This tip is very important. The more (correct) knowledge you have about your parent’s diagnosis, the more likely you will be able to see your parent as the person they are, not as the symptoms. For example, my parent was and still is loving and supportive. However, when the depressive episodes take hold, the circulating negative thoughts temporarily prevent my parent from remaining in the moment with her family.

2. Find someone to talk to: Having a person you feel safe and comfortable talking with can be very helpful. This person can be either a therapist/counselor, a close relative, friend, or anyone else that will provide you with a safe place for you to express your emotions and share any challenges you’re experiencing. For me, I found a therapist and very close friends the most comforting because I, and my parent, wasn’t being judged or criticized. Who ever is this person for you, make sure they really listen to you and acknowledge your emotions and experiences.

3. Be kind to yourself and your parent: When I mention being kind to yourself, I mean giving yourself the allowance to feel how ever you feel each day. There were days when I was angry with how my parent’s depressive symptoms were impacting my family. I was sad some days because how I saw the depressive symptoms prevented my parent from getting out of bed some days. I was frustrated sometimes, too. I believe my ability to identify how I felt during these difficult years, and even today, have assisted me in increasing my understanding and compassion for my parent and their experiences. Once you are able to be kind to yourself, the kindness can expand to your parent.

4. Positively Interact with Your Parent: With depression, there may be times where the simplest tasks may be the most difficult, such as getting out of bed or cooking. I suggest modifying such activities so that you can do them with your parent. When I knew my parent didn’t want to cook because they lost their appetite, I suggested helping. Or even encouraging a game of scrabble. Playing any game or sharing a hobby that you and your parent can do together can remind the parent of the activities they enjoy when they are not in a depressed state. Lastly, if your parent doesn’t agree to any of your suggestions, use this time to focus on you. Doing a task that you enjoy can assist you in regulating your emotions and manage stress.

5. Start a Bucket List Together: This activity goes with #4. By starting a bucket list with your parent (when they are not in a depressed episode), can act as a verbal and written contract between the two of you. For instance, writing items on the list that are healthy and active, like simply walking around the block in your neighborhood or traveling to the beach, can (1) be a bonding experience for you two, (2) assists in getting both your parent and yourself active and moving, and (3) can create positive and rewarding experiences for all involved. Collaborating in the creation of this list can instill hope for your parent and your family.

6. Support for Siblings: When my parent experienced depressive episodes or was having a bad day, I stepped-up my duties as an older sister to include helping with homework, laundry, cooking and providing emotional support when it was needed. These tasks, for me at least, fit well with my role in the family as a mediator. When I noticed my sibling was having a difficult time, I tried my best to be a supportive. If it is too emotionally difficult or you are not at an age where this is possible,  I suggest assisting them in finding someone they feel they can talk to (as suggested in tip #2).

7. Know & Believe that RECOVERY is possible: This tip is as simple as that.
Below, are resources that can assist you in collecting information, enhancing your knowledge about mental health and mental illness, and provide you with the reassurance that you, and your family, are not alone.

Helpful Resources:

California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies: http://www.ccmha.org

Children of Parent with Mental Illness: http://www.copmi.net.au –> Even though this organization is based in Australia, there is lots of helpful information for children of parents with mental illness. There are resources for children, young adults, & parents.

Depression Facts: http://www.aboutdepressionfacts.com

Each Mind Matters: California’s Mental Health Movement: http://www.eachmindmatters.org

Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel: http://www.healthyplace.com

Mental Health America: Depression: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org –> Can provide information about mental illness as well as family support at chapters throughout the country

Kevin Breel shines light on the True Relationship between Society & Depression

This movie will provide you with truth, honesty, courage, & insight into the experience of depression in our society today.

To watch, please click on the link below:

http://www.upworthy.com/this-kid-thinks-we-could-save-so-many-lives-if-only-it-was-okay-to-say-4-words

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Every 30 seconds, someone in the world takes their life because of depression”–Kevin Breel

MAY is Mental Health Awareness Month

MAY is Mental Health Awareness Month!

Wear lime green this month to show the world your support and advocacy for mental health.

I advocate for my mother, my cousins, my sister, my grandparents, my friends, and myself. I advocate for those that are too often ignored by society: the homeless who also experience psychological symptoms/episodes and for the children who are simply misunderstood in school for being “weird” or “different”. Mental health is held close to my heart because it impacts so many of us on multiple levels (ie. individually, as a community, as people of this world, economically, physically, and spiritually).

Let’s continue the discussion about mental health so we can dismantle stigma from our society!

1 in 4 American families are impacted by a mental illness
1 in 17 American adults have a mental illness

These statistics include mothers, fathers, siblings, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, cousins, & dearest friends. Share your experiences with the world…

 

We can make a difference together! Stand tall & strong for mental health!

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Resources:
About Depression Facts: http://www.aboutdepressionfacts.com/category/depression-facts
California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies: http://www.cccmha.org/
Children of Parents with Mental Illness: http://www.copmi.net.au
Connecting with People: Promoting Emotional Resiliency & Suicide Mitigation: http://connectingwithpeople.org/
Healthy Place: America’s Mental Health Channel: http://www.healthyplace.com/Mental Health America: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net
National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://www.nami.org

Mental illness impacts the family system, too!

A diagnosis of a biological ailment, such as cancer or diabetes, is easier for a family to understand in comparison to a mental health diagnosis.

 

           My parent’s diagnosis of depression was not clearly explained to my sibling or me. I did not understand that it was the dark depths of my parent’s depressive episodes that kept them in bed—not that they didn’t love me. I did not understand there was no dinner some nights because the depression suppressed my parent’s appetite—not because they didn’t want to feed me. I didn’t know that when my parent had a migraine, it was because of the depressive symptoms—not because I was talking too much. I also did not realize that when my parent felt ill, and therefore missed a day or two of work, that those missed work days would enhance the financial stress my parent, and thus I, would experience once the following paycheck arrived in the mail.

 

I was not alone in these experiences.

 

          A mental illness affects 1 in four American families. This statistic makes sense once we take into consideration that 1 in 17 American adults have a mental illness diagnosis, such as depression, an anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Many more people may be undiagnosed, for a number of reasons. These statistics include fathers, mothers, grandparents, sons, daughters, and siblings.

 

These statistics do not include the very children who are both directly and indirectly impacted emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes physically within the family.

 

          As an adolescent, I associated my parent’s behavior with how much they loved me. If I had knowledge about what depression was and how it would be affecting my parent at a younger age, the information would have enhanced my understanding of the illness and increased my compassion for my parent. Being able to identify my parent’s depressive symptoms in my adolescent years would have allowed me to differentiate between the parent I truly loved from the depression I began to despise.

 

 Mental illness also impacts families on a broader scope regarding how the family interacts with systems such as employment and pharmacology, to name a few.

 

           The days my parent didn’t go to work, due to not having the energy or ability to get out of bed, prevented the paychecks from being the same amount as their fellow employee. A smaller paycheck meant less money for food, school supplies, and the requirement to decide paying the mortgage or the electric bill. Although the smaller paychecks allowed my sibling and I to spend more time with our grandparents, I soon began to rely on them for meals and laundry soap.

 

          The smaller paychecks also impacted my parent’s interactions with the pharmaceutical business. After paying the necessary bills and buying groceries, some times there was no money available to purchase their antidepressant medication. The missed days from work also increased my parent’s stress level. The consistent high stress levels my parent experienced also negatively impacted their physical health; a high release of cortisol over time decreases an individual’s immune system efficiency. Hence, my parent would also become physically sick and miss more days from work. This cycle could not last forever. 

 

          Mental illness, such as depression, also impacts the relationships within the family. As I nurtured a level of understanding and a compassion for my parent, I witnessed the dismantling of some relationships within the immediate family. The relationships suffered from a lack of knowledge in combination with combating communication styles.

 

As I attempted to demonstrate, mental illness, both diagnosed and undiagnosed, impacts the family. Even though matters within my family are not perfect, I am glad to say that they have improved over time and from an immense amount of understanding from all members involved.

 

          Mental illness affects each family differently and similarly. Each family is different because each family is its own entity. The similarity is in the process; the process in which families adapt to change and challenges by building resiliency. The ways an individual comes to accept a diagnosis (physical or psychological) does not end with the individual.

 

Rather, the process continues with the family. The individual does not progress towards recovery alone; the family moves towards recovery together, as one.

 

A diagnosis is not an end-all; it is an opportunity for the family to grow.

 

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