Depression: A Catholic Perspective

I have suffered with bouts of serious depression since my early childhood, and so I am particularly aware of and interested in this issue. It is a pervasive problem in our society, and one that needs increased attention and education in order for positive change to occur.

Depression runs in my family. Evidence has shown that there is a strong biological link to clinical depression, and so, a number of years ago I turned to medication as a last resort to combatting the debilitating symptoms of depression (and anxiety).

I found great relief from finding the right medication (it can take awhile) and combined with psychotherapy, I have been able to get to a stable and healthy place in my life.

Another thing that has greatly helped me is maintaining an active faith life. Prayer and meditation have helped to combat pervasive feelings of hopelessness and despair, as well as attending church services and being involved in a church community of believers.

I have also been greatly enriched and healed by practicing the Sacraments of the Catholic faith, particularly Eucharist and Reconciliation. I’m not perfect (my husband can attest to this :) so I “fall of the wagon” at times with regards to being consistent in my practices, but my faith will always remain important no matter how many times I may briefly fall away.

I came across this great book and podcast today featuring the author (psychiatrist and professor at UC Irvine ) speaking on this important issue. I really appreciate the multifaceted approach he takes and how he talks of the compassionate stance the Catholic Church takes regarding depression, suicide, and mental illness in general. I am looking forward to reading it and I highly recommend listening to the podcast!

http://www.amazon.com/dp/1933184760/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=7005841480&hvqmt=b&hvbmt=bb&hvdev=m&ref=pd_sl_5xm6c1417x_b

A Closer Look – Apr 28, 2015

Forgiveness

Not just
A single moment
In time

Or a long awaited
Olive branch
Extended

But, a lifetime
Of moments

Expertly etched
by Grace

Glimmering facets
Made more brilliant

Depending
on the angle
Of the sun

Shining within

Painful memories
Blended &
Reconciled
With the truth

Of our Universal Human
Brokenness

A song here
A sermon there

All offering
Truth, love,
And mercy

Healing gifts
And salves
Mending
Our injured, bleeding
Hearts

Setting us free….

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When I Leave the Room

Originally posted on Caregiving with Grace:

My mom’s home now for the last six years has been a little room that consists of a bed, chair, two dressers and a bedside table. The world of a person with dementia becomes smaller and smaller as the disease progresses. Memory falls away for the places and people that he or she were once attached to or dearly treasured.

At first it bothered me when mom lost her memory of her beloved lake home, where she lived prior to moving to the care center. She remembers her childhood home well, which is often the case with dementia.

It took me a long while to adjust to her new cramped physical space and call it “home” (she does not, as she frequently tells me “please take me home”.) I went through all the regular grieving stages of loss (still do) of denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance, & depression as each new…

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“Still Alice” speech

I recently finished reading the book, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova. It is also now a nominated film, which is currently playing in theaters. It is a moving story, and is told through Alice’s voice, which gives one a very interesting perspective on what it may feel like to be living with dementia.

The following excerpt is my favorite part of the book. It is a speech that Alice gives at a dementia care conference. It is real, raw and powerful and relates how above all, those who live with dementia have a soul and spirit that transcends the ravage effects of this horrible disease.

“Good morning. My name is Dr. Alice Howland. I am not a neurologist or general practice physician, however. My doctorate is in psychology. I was a professor at Harvard University for 25 years. I taught courses in cognitive psychology, I did research in the field on linguistics, and I lectured all over the world. I am not here today, however, to talk to you as an expert in psychology or language. I’m here today to talk to you as an expert in Alzheimer’s disease. I don’t treat patients; run clinical trials, study mutations in DNA, or counsel patients and their families. I am an expert in this subject because, just over a year ago, I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

I’m honored to have this opportunity to talk with you today, to hopefully lend some insight into what it’s like to live with dementia. Soon, although I’ll still know what it is like, I’ll be unable to express it to you. And too soon after that, I’ll no longer know I have dementia. So what I have to say today is timely.

We, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s are not utterly incompetent. We are not without language or opinions that matter or extended periods of lucidity. Yet we are not competent enough to be trusted with many of the demands and responsibilities of our former lives. I no longer work at Harvard. I no longer read and write research articles or books. My reality is completely different from what it was not long ago. And it is distorted. The neural pathways I use to try to understand what you are saying, what I am thinking, and what is happening around me are gummed up with amyloid. I struggle to find the words I want to say and often hear myself saying the wrong ones. I can’t confidently judge spatial distances, which means I drop things and fall down a lot and can get lost two blocks from my home. And my short term memory is hanging on by a couple of frayed threads. I’m losing my yesterdays. If you ask me what I did yesterday, what I saw, and felt and heard, I’d be hard pressed to give you details. I’d guess a few things correctly. But I don’t really know. I don’t remember yesterday or the yesterday before that.

I have no control over which yesterdays I keep and which ones get deleted. This disease will not be bargained with. I often fear tomorrow. What if I wake up and I don’t know who my husband is? What if I don’t know where I am or recognize myself in the mirror? When will I no longer be me? Is the part of my brain that’s responsible for my unique ‘meness’ vulnerable to this disease? Or is my identity something that transcends neurons, proteins, and defective molecules of DNA? Is my soul and spirit immune to the ravages of Alzheimer’s? I believe it is.

Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like being branded with a Scarlet A. This is now who I am, someone with dementia. This was how I would, for a time; define myself and how others continue to define me. But I am not what I say or what I do or what I remember. I am fundamentally more than that. I am a wife, mother, and friend. I still feel, understand, and am worthy of the love and joy in those relationships. I am still an active participant in society. My brain no longer works well, but I use my ears for unconditional listening, my shoulders for crying on, and my arms for hugging others with dementia.
Through an early-stage support group, through the Dementia Advocacy and Support Network International, by talking to you today, I am helping others with dementia live better with dementia. I am not someone dying. I am someone living with Alzheimer’s. I want to do that as well as I can possibly do.

Please don’t look at our Scarlet A’s and write us off. Look us in the eye, talk directly to us. Don’t panic or take it personally if we make mistakes, because we will. We will repeat ourselves, we will misplace things and we will get lost. We will forget your name and what you said two minutes ago. We will also try our hardest to compensate for and overcome our cognitive losses. I encourage you to empower us, not limit us. If someone has a spinal cord injury, if someone has lost a limb or has a functional disability from a stroke, families and professionals work hard to rehabilitate that person, to find ways to cope and manage despite these losses. Work with us. Help us develop tools to function around our losses in memory, language and cognition. Encourage involvement in support groups.

My yesterdays are disappearing, and my tomorrows are uncertain, so what do I live for? I live for each day. I live in the moment. Some tomorrow soon, I’ll forget that I stood before you and gave this speech. But just because I’ll forget it some tomorrow, doesn’t mean that I did not live every second of it today. I will forget today, but that doesn’t mean that today did not matter.

I am no longer asked to lecture about language at universities and psychology conferences all over the world. But here I am before you today, giving what I hope is the most influential talk of my life. And I have Alzheimer’s disease. Thank you” – Alice Howland

This is a beautiful song written for those with dementia…

Lifeline

Phone conversations with mom have become almost impossible. She refuses to wear hearing aids and she tends to accidentally push the mute button, so you can imagine the result.

So I brave through another wave of grief. Back in the day, mom and I talked on the phone almost every day. We would chat about everything and nothing. A friend to confide in, who was always ready for some loving advice. She was a positive person, always trying to find a bright spot to any issue. I wrote this last night to help me “just keep swimming” in the grief. Poetry always does that for me.

Attempting
To reach me
Across
The line

Feeble, rushed, and
Stuck
On the buttons
You can’t
Find

You mumble,
“Are you coming to get me?”

Among other
Disjointed imaginings
Floating
In your head

“That’s what the Dr said”
“Tomorrow, you take me home”
“Speak louder! I can’t hear you!”
Again
and
again
And
Again

Like trying to
Save a drowning
Swimmer;
Muffled requests,
Urgent pleas,
Save me
Save me
Save me

Screaming
“I love you, mom!”
“I’ll see you soon!”
Knowing
And seeing
It’s a I can do

A lifeline
To hold her up
So her fears
Don’t choke her
To soon

Just enough
To keep her afloat
another minute,
Or until
I’m with her again
In her
room…

Strength for the Journey

We needed to move mom to a new room in a different wing in the care center this weekend. Ironically, it is the exact same room that they wanted to move her into when she first arrived five years ago. It is a very small room at the far end of a hallway, so back then I worked to have her moved to a larger room right away. She has been in the newer, larger room, & unlocked wing since then, until yesterday.

She has had a few incidences these past couple years of escaping her floor to other floors. Last week she was found upstairs (she had taken elevator) and was found at the far end of the assisted living section. The director suggested that we move her as soon as possible, since it is a huge liability and safety issue for her as her dementia progresses.

Change can be very upsetting and disruptive to a dementia patient. When I went yesterday and today, mom began crying right away, exclaiming that she was so happy and relieved to see me. She hates her room, and thought she was in a new building. She has no idea where she is or why we had to move her. I don’t explain that it is because she needed to be in locked unit, so I say that they have her on a waiting list for a bigger “apartment” style room upstairs. I try to be as upbeat and positive as possible, trying to point out the good in the situation.

I feel strong today, thanks to my deep faith getting me through. As with other challenges throughout this journey, I try to focus on the positive, even amidst the rough moments. That mindset greatly helps me to recognize the wonderful moments throughout. For instance, today while wheeling mom down her new hallway, there were two very sweet & friendly ladies who just beamed when they saw my kids. One reached out to my oldest and complemented her and said sweetly, “I just love you!” We just laughed and smiled and knew we made her day.

Sometimes it seems as if the residents haven’t seen kids in years, and with some, I think that is the case. It warms our hearts to bring that kind of meaningful joy to those who are so lonely. It is those gifted moments that help illuminate the dark times, and gives me hope and a reassurance that God is always near.

I found this prayer tonight and it was just what I needed to hear today:

Beatitudes for Caregivers

Blessed are those who sleep poorly because they’re worried about their loved one or because their loved one wakes in the middle of the night and needs help, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn because their loved one, though still alive, is slipping away because of dementia, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek who force themselves to speak up and speak out to make sure their loved one receives the help he or she needs, for they will inherit the land.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for answers to why this is happening to their loved one and how much longer it will go on, for they will be satisfied.

Blessed are those who show mercy, kindness and compassion to their loved one, for they will be shown mercy, kindness and compassion.

Blessed are those who keep clean a loved one who is physically or mentally unable to keep himself or herself clean, for they will see God.

Blessed are those who help their loved one find moments of peace, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are misunderstood, not appreciated and taken for granted in their role as caregiver, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you whose caregiving efforts are unjustly criticized — or who are falsely accused of not caring about others — because of your love for your care-receiver and your love for God, who has asked you to help his beloved son or daughter.

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

A Caregiver’s Prayer

Heavenly Father, help me better understand and believe I can do what you ask me to do.

Forgive me for the times, even now, when I question your judgment.

As I go about the many daily tasks of caregiving, give me energy.

As I watch my loved one oh-so-slowly walk across the room, give me strength.

As I answer his/her repeated question just one more time, give me patience.

As I look for solutions to whatever is the most recent concern, give me wisdom.

As I reminisce with him/her about the “good old days,” give me a moment of laughter.

As I get to know my loved one in a new way, seeing both his or her strength and frailty, give me joy.

As I sit beside my loved one’s bed waiting for his or her pain medication to take effect, give me comfort.

Lighten my burden, answer my prayer, and give me the strength to do what so often seems impossible. Give me a quiet place to rest when I need it and a quieting of my anxieties when I’m there.

Change my attitude from a tired, frustrated and angry caregiver to the loving and compassionate one I want to be.

Remain my constant companion as I face the challenges of caregiving, and when my job is through and it’s time for me to let go, help me remember that he or she is leaving my loving arms to enter your eternal embrace. Amen.

From Catholic Herald.

This entry was posted in Caregiver Stress, Caregiving, Caring for Self and tagged Caregiving, Caring for self on October 7, 2014 by LifeFone.

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Rising up

There are days when life is unbearably hard. We carry around our old burdens like sacks of boulders, unwilling to set them free.

I know that I don’t need them,
but without them, how can I be me?

For most of my life, I have been my mother’s caregiver. Her guide…hoping, willing, trying…to set her free. A role I know I was never meant to play…or was I?

I have been strengthened &
refined by
these trials.

The other week I went to visit her feeling so weighted down & heavy with resentment, going to see her mostly out of duty. As we go up to the deli, I see printed on the board:

“Be thankful for the obstacles in your life…they give you strength on your journey.”

Yes…Ok, God…you are right. It is something we hear again and again, isn’t it?

“That what doesn’t kill you, will make you stronger”

I sometimes get stuck in the old lies and hurts of the past. I even get angry at God, so I avoid him for awhile. But all that serves is to cause me more pain.

I get so tired of trusting in a plan that I can’t always see. I suppose it’s my old need to stay in control. When I struggle to surrender my control, I pray for Him to help me trust:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” ~Jeremiah 29:11

“We do not look at the things which are seen but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. ”
~2 Cor. 4:18

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, 
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.” ~Proverbs 3:5-6

This song, Rise Up, has gotten me through this tough week. It reminds me to keep my eyes UP, focused on Him, His word, His light, His mercy, His ever present grace & love.

“When you don’t know how to surrender
Cause your whole life’s been a fight
When the dark holds you and you can’t break through
Cause you haven’t seen the light.

Open up your eyes…

You’ve got to rise up, rise up
When this life has got you down
You’ve got to look up, look up
When you search and nothing’s found
My eyes have seen the glory of the love that’s here and now
It’s coming down
So rise up now.
Yeah rise up now,
Oh rise up now.”

A poem I wrote this summer:

Forsaken,
Alone,
And
Misunderstood

Uniting
Your sorrows
With All,

When
No one else
could

Following you
on the road
To Calvary,

Wretched,
Aching,
& Unforgiving,

This heavy cross
Of wood

Clinging to you
for dear
Life

Your promises
And
Hopes

Holding on…

We were
Made for You,

We were made
For good…