The Greater Effect

SidI don’t know about you, but when I give thought to my depression I tend to find myself thinking almost exclusively in terms of me, how it affects me, and how bad off I am because of it.  It’s an unfortunate side effect of mental illness, assuming I’m not the only one who does this.

The reality is that mental illness has influence over far more than simply one person.  Would that it really were just the sufferer who suffered!  In the short time that I’ve acknowledged having depression I’ve seen quite the path of destruction left as I saunter through life.

Sure, losing my job as a fairly direct result of mental illness affected me, but it affected my small non-profit employer as well.  Seeking, hiring, training, and acclimating to a new employee isn’t always a stroll through the garden.  My inability to perform as expected, and finally owning up to it and leaving the nature center where I once happily worked, hit me hard but I was of course not the only one affected.

I have two lovely tween/teen daughters who all at the same are the source of pride I have as well as constant reminders of how I’ve failed.  For thirteen years I’ve been letting them down, only recently realizing that it’s my depression that was causing a significant part of those failings.  In the past few years especially, as they’ve grown older and more aware, they’ve seen me crying like a baby and being unable to function for hours (or days) at a time.  That can’t be easy on a young person, to see a parent almost completely fall apart.  They’ve done their best to console me at those times, and as much as their love and attention meant to me they’re not equipped to fully handle that kind of thing.  It’s supposed to be the other way round – the parent is the strong one, the voice of reason and consolation, doing all he/she can to support and love the child.  But not in my family.  Depression has rendered me the child, and made my daughters have to act as the adults when they should be focused on living their childhood as children.  Those two beautiful little (ish) young ladies should be worried about nothing more crucial than algebra exams, boys, keeping up with friends and trends, and texting – not taking care of their malfunctioning father.

Hitting even closer to home is my affect on my sweet girlfriend Claudia (yep – of Summer Solstice Girl fame).  She bears the brunt of my mental health problems, acting as friend, confidant, therapist, parent, and all around tower of strength through all my episodes of acute dark times.  My depression has inflicted much upon the two of us, as well as the One we aspire to be together, more so than on any other relationship I have.  It makes perfect sense, being that she’s closer to me than anyone else, and at least as precious to me as anyone else, but it’s that much more sad and frustrating because she’s the one in the world I want to keep from harm and sadness.

We’ve gone through periods of misunderstanding, frustration, anger, sadness, mistrust, doubt… all because of my mental illness(es) – or, at least I hope that it’s mental illness that brings all that upon us.  There’s a real possibility that it is also simply my nature and who I am that causes these problems, but that only speaks to the notion that my mental illness(es) and I are not two distinct entities but are actually one and the same.

I know I’m not supposed to think that way, but it’s difficult to avoid that line of thought when the effects of the illness are so present and powerful.

The point of saying all that?  You’re always encouraged to seek help if you feel you have any mental health problems, and many of us are reluctant to do so, for various reasons.  If you’ve not sought professional help, or at least a medical diagnosis as a start, keep in mind that it’s not merely you that is suffering.  Those around you are too – not so much because of how your potential illness directly affects them, but by how they take no joy in watching you suffer.

If you need a reason to visit your doctor, or a kick in the bum, or are simply too proud to admit to mental health issues – keep in mind that it’s your loved ones around you that will be most relieved to see you seek help.  Their sadness in seeing you suffer should be enough reason for you to get what help you can.

Now, go – and all the best to you.

© Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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11 thoughts on “The Greater Effect

  1. I honestly can’t remember how and when I bumped across your blog, but I find what you write, and especially how you write it, very interesting, and evocative, and … well … truthful. I’ve always appreciated when someone is willing to speak the truth, even when the truth can reveal your flaws. Especially then, I suppose.

    I can resonate with so much you’ve said here, and, in fact, had to intentionally step back for a second because I felt myself spiraling down a dangerous path of reminiscing about all the many ways that mental illness has impacted the people I have loved, and how it continues to do so today. Even though I’ve managed to find a bit more of a balanced life for myself, the impact has already been felt, and all those lovely people who have been in my life are still carrying the burden of my mental illness, in one way or another.

    It always hurts the most when we hurt the ones we love the most, doesn’t it? For me, it was my youngest son, and older son, and (ex)husband, and siblings. And parents. And others, of course. The ripple effect of how one broken and struggling person has impacted all their lives. It can still be a source of pain, to live with those echoes.

    This, especially, spoke to me: “There’s a real possibility that it is also simply my nature and who I am that causes these problems, but that only speaks to the notion that my mental illness(es) and I are not two distinct entities but are actually one and the same. I know I’m not supposed to think that way, but it’s difficult to avoid that line of thought when the effects of the illness are so present and powerful.”

    It took me so many years of untangling and wrestling with mental illness to finally get to the place where I eventually had to ask the question, is it really the mental illness, or I am just an ugly and incompetent person that is buried under the mask of mental illness? Is the core of who I am as a person the kind of human that I would avoid? And always, the flip side. Who might I have become if I had not had a mental illness as the sieve through which all my life has poured out?

    The good news is that finally getting around to that question (or that line of questioning) has afforded me the opportunity to evaluate what qualities I would like to enhance, and which qualities I might like to discard. Believe it or not, I’ve actually finally managed to reach that place where I’ve begun believing a few of the nice things people say about me (and have been saying about me for fifty years, even though I was never able to accept them as truth before). Me? Kind? Generous? Humorous? Gifted? Compassionate? Surely these things can’t be true. I’m the broken one. The one that is buried under a multitude of layers of mental illness. Bipolar disorder. PTSD. Dissociative identity disorder. Depression.

    Sorry, didn’t mean to ramble on and on, but wanted to say that your post resonated with me, so thanks for putting it out there, and thanks for sharing your unique point of view about the subject. We all seem to dream of a better tomorrow, where our mental illness fades into the background, and we get to experience life without that filter always in place. In the meantime, we find ways to minimize the impact, and keep moving forward. Hang in there. And thanks again.

    • I’ve poked and prodded around, looking for a link in the event you keep a blog outside of the COTM blog space. If such a blog exists, I would love to have a link, so that I could explore further. Thanks.

    • I’m so happy this resonated with you! Knowing that it does helps me, too, as I see I’m not the only one struggling with this kind of thing (as if, right?). Seeing how I affect those around me, esp my girlfriend, is what finally has me stopping to think a lot more often about what I’m doing or saying or where I’m spiraling down to. That’s a good thing.

      As for you (or I, for that matter) being an ugly person at the core, we can only have one conclusion, and that’s that we’re NOT. A very wise person tells me often that I’m not my mental illness. Neither is yours, and I’m glad you realized you are the human you actually are, and not the illness.

      Your reply is, by the way, worthy of a blog post all in itself. Cheers to you!

  2. We don’t think about what other people think though do we… we are so utterly consumed with how unbearable life has become for us that we don’t think how it might affect other people. Or we go down the other route and assume that nobody cares, even that some have a vested interest in keeping us the way we are.

    When I stood on the edge of a cliff and contemplated jumping, a thousand thoughts ran through my head in that brief second. A few of them considered other people… but they were not good thoughts Nobody will notice… nobody will care….life for some people will become uncomplicated that they will be relieved. Twisted thinking but then nothing about our mental health is rational.

    • Nothing about mental illness is rational, FOR SURE. Thanks for reading, and I’m happy to see you survived the cliffside. I know some of those thoughts of which you speak, and I know how difficult it is to quiet them. All the best to you – keep fighting!

  3. It’s so easy to blame ourselves when life is hard and we are so far down, but we have to remember we don’t choose to have this illness. Something else we should remember is there is only so far down you can go before you start to rise, but during the drop nothing about us or our lives is rational and no amount of self blame will change that. One thing I have learnt is no matter had difficult our life becomes living in isolation is not beneficial to either us or the people around us whom we love. One of the most important things we can learn is how to be honest with ourselves and others, “I’m fine, alright, ok, hunky dory, or whatever euphanism we choose to use is not helpful for those around us. Once we can admit to not being fine then we can begin we get the help we richly deserve. I’ve suffered from depression, anxiety attacks, PTSD, all of my adult life, and part of my childhood, and it has taken me all these years to ask for help. It is out there, albeit difficult to tap into sometimes, but people are more aware of this illness and the effects on the lives of those around us, and are more able to give the us support we deserve and find the support they need to help us. Stay strong, reach out and accept whatever help is out there. Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us

  4. Everything you say is spot on, in my experience. I do tend to withdraw/isolate when things get bad, and I know I should do just opposite, but I still do it. At least now I’ve, as you said, reached out and asked for help. While there are still plenty of bad days, the help and support I have now has made all the difference. So I’m happy to know you reached out and asked when you did. Thank YOU for reading, and all the best to you!

  5. Hello again Sid. Do your girls know that it’s a mental health issue? I ask because my mother has had a mental health diagnosis for about 20 years now, but me & my sister weren’t ever properly told, well, ever, I don’t think. I was probably 16 when I found the Prozac in the medicine cupboard. I must have worked it out by then because it wasn’t a shock to find it. But if I’d been told a few years earlier than that, I would have understood a bit better what was going on with my mum, and why she wasn’t actually around emotionally for me as much as perhaps I felt I needed. The result is that when I was in my early teens, I had a mother who was there physically but not so much emotionally, and that’s something I’ve only realised quite recently, and I realise that that has affected my relationship with her – I tend not to go to my parents with any problems because I’ve somehow picked up the feeling that I shouldn’t be putting any extra burdens on my mum, and have always looked to other women to provide additional mothering for me. (Things were rather different for my younger sister, and she has a much better relationship with mum and they talk on the phone at least once a day.) And I’m pleased for you that you recognise the selfishness that depression can cause. It’s something I find difficult to deal with, the days when I feel lonely and unloved and unloveable and just want to hide away from everyone.

    • Hello again. Is Sister the proper title for you? I have spoken to the girls about my mental health issues, and they know that I’m having a difficult time because of that, but it wouldn’t hurt to talk to them again about the whole thing.

      I have a similarly less-close relationship with my parents than my sister, who is much more open and willing to speak her mind, with our folks or with anyone. My therapist occasionally asks a question or two to delve into my childhood, and I’ve always felt uncomfortable with heartfelt, intimate conversations with them. That’s neither her nor there now, though.

      Yeah, I’ve recognized my selfishness but haven’t yet conquered it. That’s a bigger battle yet. And you know what? I think those times you, or I, want to hide away from everyone – it’s ok. Lonely, OK. Unloved and unloveable? Certainly not. Keep up that faith and hope!

  6. Hi Sid,
    Yes, you can call me “Sister”. Although I’ll also answer to “Faith”, “FHC” and “Louisa” or “Lou”.
    I’m glad you’re keeping your girls informed with what they need to know. And they don’t need to know everything, because that wouldn’t be fair on them, or you, or the lovely Claudia. Providing they know that it’s not their fault and that you still love them and that they can still lean on you because you’re their dad, then you’ve got something to be proud of.
    I have found ways of being able to be by myself without it being a problem for the community. Fortunately I’m the only novice at present, so that makes life a lot easier. And there are a couple of Sisters who understand because they’ve been there too.
    Keep on keeping on, my good man!
    Lou

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