Oh grandma!

I have suffered from depression and anxiety ever since childhood but I didn’t know it.  Mental health awareness wasn’t in the public awareness when I was a kid.  In my grandmother’s day, if you had someone who was “crazy” in your family, it was best to keep them hidden in the house or shut them up in an institution.

One day when I was visiting her in 1993, I told her I was seeing a counselor because I was so sad that my dad had died.  “Shhhh”, she said.  “Someone might hear you.”  Not that I cared if the retired people in her neighborhood knew that I was getting help.  But grandma would be humiliated if her friends found out.

My grandmother died never seeing me be okay.  She was not happy that I actually told people around me that I had depression.  She didn’t really understand it.  Grandma thought you should just keep quiet and stop whining.  I’m okay today with her attitude.  It was  a generational thing.

I wasn’t always okay with her attitude though.  It hurt that I was the subject of her disapproval.  I can remember getting very angry with her one day.  The previous day, my mother had not done me any favors.  She told me that my grandmother had been criticizing me.  Let’s just say mom and grandma also had their fun share of dysfunction.  Looking back, mom should never have told me what grandma said.  But nonetheless, she did.

The next day I went to visit grandma.  Grandma said one little thing, (I don’t remember what), and I just flew off the handle at the little thing she brought up.  As I was furiously telling her off, she remained silent with a look of “I knew she was crazy” written all over her face.  Of course I didn’t bring up what my mom had told me because that would be betraying my mother’s trust.  This was dysfunction-junction folks.

I’m not saying these things to be hurtful to my grandmother’s memory, or to embarrass my mom.  It’s just what it was.  Today I’ve healed with my mother.  We both have worked very hard to get things healthy between the two of us.  Times were just different back then.  The world of mental health and counseling was in its infancy.  No one really knew what to do.  Thank goodness there have been great improvements with the help that is available to us today.

I’m not ashamed of my behavior that I showed my family and friends so long ago.  I didn’t know any better.  Although I knew at the time that I was not acting appropriately,  I did not know what to do with all the pent-up emotions I had swimming around in my soul.  It’s been a long process of getting things in order.

Thank goodness that I have mercy on younger self.  I would not have much self-esteem today if I did not.  I acted out in different ways that were hurtful to myself and my relationships.  How could I not?

As a kid I was depressed and anxious….which led to unhealthy ways of dealing with the pain and nervousness….which affected my relationships negatively….which led to more depression and anxiety…..more unhealthy ways I dealt with the world….etc., etc.  A spiral that goes down, down, down.

There was no one in my life who ever dealt with this problem.  Mainly since there was no mental health awareness, I was treated as sensitive, touchy, moody, and no so smart.

Today I know that I’m really a great person.  I’m not only just smart, but I’m very intelligent and creative!  I’m not trying to toot my horn here, but for a person who struggled with mental health issues to say that to herself is practically a miracle!  There was a time in my life I couldn’t say one nice thing about myself.  The best I could do was to say “Everyone would be better off if I was dead”.  I thought that would be my positive contribution to society.

So, when I think about the work we need to do in order to promote mental health awareness today, I’m not so discouraged.  In my lifetime it has come a long way.  Today I can tell my friends that I can’t meet them for coffee because I’m depressed.  Usually they coax me out anyway because they want to cheer me up.  That would not have happened  a mere 20 years ago.  My friends would not want to be near me if I was depressed.  I am very thankful that things are getting better.

And, that’s the crux of my attitude today.  Being thankful is the number one approach I try to take with me everyday.  I know it sounds like it is not important to depression recovery if you are, in fact, still struggling with this horrible disease as I write this.  But it is.  It’s the first priority in my life.

Take care.  I hope you have an awesome day!  And if you are depressed today, I hope you feel better soon.  I really do.  I’ll be praying for you.

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