Tag Archives: depression

How to Speak to Someone About an Unspeakable Loss

unspeakablelossfeature

 

Reblogged from Linda Carroll at http://www.lindaacarroll.com/blog.php via Uplift

 

Five Ways to Help When You Feel There is Nothing You Can Do

“It’s not about saying the right things. It’s about doing the right things.” ~Unknown

 

Years ago, my family and I moved to a bucolic little town in New Zealand, where we were immediately swept up into a group of ex-pats and locals. We felt deeply connected to this community by the time I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in the local hospital.
When our son was three months old, a doctor heard a heart murmur. Twenty-four hours later, he died.

In the days and weeks that followed, I wandered in my own fog of grief as I went about the necessary tasks of ordinary life: shopping for food, taking our other kids to school, doing the usual mounds of laundry.

Meanwhile, my new friends kept their distance. I saw them take great care to avoid me: to cross the street, switch supermarket aisles, literally do an about-face when they saw me coming.

Invitations stopped coming. The phone went silent. My grief was marked by a deeper isolation than I’d ever known.

Later, many of these people apologized. They told me they were terribly sad and distressed about what had happened, but hadn’t known what to say. My loss was so enormous that words seemed inadequate, even pitiful.

They said nothing, out of fear that they would say the wrong thing.
This sort of experience repeats itself in many different forms: a friend gets dumped by the love of her life, a colleague is given notice at a job he’s held for two decades, or a loved one receives the dreaded news that she has inoperable cancer.

What can you say?

While it’s not an easy question to answer, one thing is certain: It’s worse to say nothing than to say the wrong thing. Here are five ways to respond helpfully to people who have suffered an enormous loss.

 

1. Manage your own feelings first.
When we learn that disaster has befallen a loved one, we initially feel shock. Our heart rate increases, our thoughts either speed up or slow down, and we may experience nausea or dizziness.

The anxiety we feel is real and personal. Our instinct, though, is to ignore it, find ways to numb it or minimize it. That’s a mistake.

If we address our own anxiety first, we’ll be in a much stronger position to respond well to the person most directly affected. Do the things you know how to do to manage stress. A walk in the woods, some meditation or yoga, or talking to a trusted friend can help.

Make sure your own body and emotions are regulated before you turn to the person in grief.

 

2. Now focus on the other person.
Remember that the isolation they feel is almost as painful as the shock and the sadness of the loss itself. If you avoid them because you don’t know what to say, this avoidance serves only your needs.

Our friends and other loved ones need our comfort, support, and involvement during times of sorrow.

Although there isn’t a right thing to say, there are some things to never say. They include the current favorite, “Everything happens for a reason,” or “I know just how you feel.” How do you know there’s a reason, and what difference would it make to a grieving person, anyway? And you don’t know how they feel—only they do.

 

3. Admit that you don’t know what to say.
That’s a good start. Try something simple that breaks the ice and starts a conversation, or at least sends a message to the other person that they’re not alone.

“I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I wish I could say the perfect thing, but I know there’s nothing to fix it. I just wanted you to know I care and am here with you.”

 

4. Listen.
If the person is willing to talk, listen. It’s the single most vital thing you can do.

Listen to their story without interrupting. Don’t turn the conversation back to you with statements like, “I know what you’re going through—my dog died last year.”

Don’t tell them what they will, or should, feel. Simply acknowledge their pain and listen to what it’s like for them.

We all have different styles of managing shock and distress. Some people are angry, while others seem numb. Still others turn to gallows humor. Your job is not to correct them but to give them space to be the way they need to be.

 

5. Rather than saying, ”Let me know if I can do anything,” offer to do something practical and specific.
Taking on an ordinary task is often most helpful. Offer to shop for groceries, run errands, drive the kids somewhere, or to cook a meal or two. Ask if you can call tomorrow, or if they want to be left alone for a few days.

When Survey Monkey’s CEO Dave Goldberg died suddenly, his wife, Sheryl Sandberg, wrote the following:

When I am asked, “How are you?” I stop myself from shouting, “My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am?” When I hear “How are you today?” I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.

Today, as I recall the loss of my own infant son, I think about the one person who did truly comfort me. She arrived at my house with a bottle of fine brandy and said, “This is everyone’s worst nightmare. I am so, so sorry this has happened.”

Then we sat on the lawn and she poured me a drink as she listened to every horrible detail.

As I look back now, I still feel how much her gesture helped me cope through those early days of pain. She didn’t try to fix me or try to make sense of what happened. She didn’t even try to comfort me. The comfort she gave came through her being in it with me.

You can’t fix what happened, but you can sit with someone, side by side, so they don’t feel quite so alone. That requires only intention, a willingness to feel awkward, and an open, listening heart. It’s the one gift that can make a difference.

 

About Linda
Linda Carroll was born in 1944 in San Francisco and adopted into an Italian Catholic family. Very early, she discovered poetry as a form of prayer and a window into an expanded life. In 1961, when Linda graduated from high school, San Francisco was already buzzing with counterculture music, arts, and style, and Linda found herself selling beads and going to peace marches.
After finishing her bachelors degree in Oregon in the seventies, she moved to New Zealand, where she raised children on an 86-acre sheep farm. She returned to Oregon in the eighties and received a masters in counseling, and began practicing as a therapist.
In the nineties, she and her veterinarian husband, Tim Barraud, began to teach a couples course based on the Imago work of Harville Hendrix, the PAIRS training of Dr. Laurie Gordon, and their own insights, study and practices. They continue to offer retreats and seminars all over the world; Linda’s third book, Love Cycles, newly published, is based on this work.
As an adult, Linda found her birth mother, the novelist Paula Fox, and began to understand her deep-seated love of poetry anew. In 2006, her memoir, Her Mother’s Daughter, was published by Doubleday. In 2008, Remember Who You Are was published by Conari Press.
Linda’s new book, Love Cycles: The Five Essential Stages of Lasting Love, is now available. Sign up for her mailing list to learn the latest news for this terrific book. And follow her on Facebook.
Linda has five children and ten grandchildren. She lives in Corvallis, Oregon, with her husband and three Jack Russells* and continues her lifelong path of spiritual seeking.

 

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Spirit in the Sky

In wanting to pay tribute to a wonderful woman whom I barely got to know and her partner, Ed, I’m re-blogging his post.  This beautiful post reflects on love and loss, particularly to suicide.  But as you will see from the content, these issues are complicated and layered with many issues stemming from childhood sexual abuse and how it can steal one’s soul.  I’m proud of Ed Kurtz for loving her and having the courage and language to represent her with such sacred beauty.


Still-face paradigm

Henry Avignon image

Image by Henry Avignon-Used with permission

 

The subject of this post is one brought to my attention by my therapist Cathy.  We often work on issues related to connection or lack thereof. We’ve been discussing my deep seated longing for connection, the elusive feeling of absolute safety knowing that I above all, feel merged with myself, with my tribe, with the divine, with my soul.  

She tells me of Dr. Edward Tronick‘s work and gently describes to me how children of mothers who are absent, abusive, drug-addicted, depressed or afflicted with other mental illnesses, show marked negative coping, often developing long term affective disorders.  I’m taken back.  Partly because I’m touched deeply by how she validates my pain and partly because her validation makes this real, an issue that will have to be explored and conquered.  

What this means to children of trauma and sexual abuse, among many other situations, is that we have extreme difficulty with trust.  Because most probably, we haven’t had a consistent, cognitive connection with an available mother, caregiver, or parent and haven’t developed the attunement necessary to function well.  We don’t know who to trust, who is safe, what situations to avoid.  It delays, distorts, prohibits and skews our innate knowing.  

What are the implications and negative effects to a child with an absent, depressed or vacant mother?  What are the long term effects of a child’s cognitive development when subjected to a distressingly unavailable mother?

In 1975, Dr. Edward Tronick, Ph.D. at the Child Development Unit at Harvard University presented the still-face paradigm addressing exactly this issue.  It continues to be one of the most replicated findings in developmental psychology referencing affective disorders on infants and child development.  Dr. Tronick documents an infant who experiences his non-responsive expressionless mother after three short minutes of “interaction” View video here.  

The child...“rapidly sobers and grows wary. He makes repeated attempts to get the interaction into its usual reciprocal pattern. When these attempts fail, the infant withdraws [and] orients his face and body away from his mother with a withdrawn, hopeless facial expression.”

This video is disturbing for me to watch.  Because I get it.  Because I’m ultra sensitive and I want to shake that mother and tell her to respond to her child even though it’s a research experiment.  Because I know what that baby feels like, as a young child, as a young woman, as a full grown mid-fifties adult.  It haunts a survivor to witness an empty person, giving us no social cues to process and understand, reminding us of our initial failed connections to our own mother or caregiver.  It fills us with anxiety as we try to connect, doing all sorts of things as the child in the video did.  We smile, cajole, reach out.  When unreciprocated, we recoil, withdraw, feel rejection, depression, shame. 

I serendipitously stumbled upon an artist who creates from one of the deepest places I’ve witnessed.  We’ve not met but have exchanged a few conversations.  I don’t know Henry’s background or childhood. But Henry knows something. He understands some place within that I’ve lived.  I don’t know how but he does.  This painting represents to me, the small child, fraught with fear, frozen in emotion, empty of connection.  It provides me with a place to be, a moment where the child can release, to be seen just as she is.  I can’t entirely change my neurological programming but I can choose to honor her in the place she was given to exist.

Here are the links to his work.  I bow in respect.

Henry Avignon Art

Margot Muto Contemporary Art

 


Robin Williams Lived

There by the grace of God go I….this could have been me, this is me. By posting this article, I reach out my hand to another person with mental illness, a brain disorder, trauma or depression. It’s time we make our families and neighbors talk to us. We won’t survive in silence.

Please take my hand and hold on,  stay with us. If you can, please stay.

We can share this together, the dark and the light, eventually circling the world with love and the new definition of who we are.

We will circle the world until we are whole and dancing again.

Sarah Griffith Lund

Robin Williams lived a life that brought laughter and joy to millions through his comedy and acting.

He died at his home from suicide on Monday, August 11, 2014, at the age 63. He battled a brain disease that included severe depression. Even with treatment, support from loved ones, and a successful career, mental illness still can be a deadly disease, especially when paired with addiction to drugs and alcohol.

I remember when I first learned that Robin Williams had a mental illness and I was encouraged by his openness. I loved his work in Good Will Hunting, The Fisher King, Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, and his role as Mork from Mork and Mindy. My favorite work of his was stand-up comedy.

He had a brilliant brain. And he had a brain with a disease. He richly blessed us with his life.

May all of us find ways today…

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what it takes to start writing….again

1604885_10152130171577702_1009583295_nSomewhere around the end of last year, right around the holidays, the bottom fell out of my world. Emotionally, spiritually, physically.  Actually, it had been falling out for over a year but the accumulated stress hadn’t taken its final blow.

It wasn’t the first time or the second but what felt like the hundredth, thousandth, millionth time.  All my coping skills had been used over the last year surviving several huge hurdles and I now found myself with what felt like an empty bag of tricks.

The number of times I’ve bottomed out or the trauma of my childhood isn’t the point of this blog post, its about what I did in that situation.  What I did was succumb. Psychically unplugged from life.  Flat. out. gave. up.  It had won.  I just couldn’t pull myself up one more freakin’ time to stare down the demons again and again and again.  Wouldn’t do it for my daughter, my husband and or for my dogs, which if you knew me is saying a lot.  

After limping through the holidays on about 25% of myself, the final layer peeled off in early January and took my physical health with it.  For months I was gone.  Lost in that circular, downward spiraling, free falling haze.  The demons recognized its frazzled, stressed out host with parasitic vigor.  They seized that opportunity to invade my body with long buried memories of abuse and violence.  They haunted my dreams, robbing me of much needed rest to heal and recover.  They invaded and eroded my skin, giving me huge welts across the backs of my legs reminiscent of beatings with the belt.   My skin itched and burned at the slightest touch, wearing clothes or any contact with a piece of furniture was a challenge.  I lost the ability to be comfortable in my own skin.  I had no where to go.

But mostly, they intruded upon my feminine parts with a vengeance.  The little girl parts that took the abuse, tried to adapt and scar over, the parts that became swollen almost beyond recognition, the parts that tried and tried to stretch but couldn’t….eventually giving way to rips and shreds.  Those parts were the target again.  What the little child couldn’t tolerate at that time, she buried deep and then systematically began to hand back to the adult woman in bits and pieces over the years.  Somewhere in our collective unconscious, we must have bargained. I must have made a deal with her that if she survived the early trauma through whatever means she needed to, then I, the adult, would deal with the suppressed memories and physical sensations later.

And that is what happened.  For weeks turned into months, I rode the edge of the razor’s split.  Burning, stabbing, swelling, searing pain.  Urinary, vaginal, rectal.  My every orifice that was violated contained sensations that rose to the surface.  Over and over and over and over.  The cascade of symptoms was never ending. Urinary swelling turned into infection which spread to my bladder and kidneys.  More crying and screaming than my husband could handle.

Eventually by late Feb, the symptoms began to subside a bit thanks to Marilyn and Betsy, two women energy healers who encouraged and tolerated appointments with me; half dressed in nightshirts due to my sensitive skin and sporting ice packs for my swollen parts.  Week after week, they lovingly helped me on the table and began to spin their healing magic.  We began to make progress that continues at this writing.

That’s the backstory, here’s the point.

What it takes to get writing…. again….is LOVE.  Four women emerged as a cosmic lifeline who carrying me out of the physical and emotional pain.  Four women who I’d come to know online but never met, shared many conversations with over the years, created a small online support group for me.  Just for me.  Each day and often several times a day, I’d come to the group page to see beautiful images, unfailing words of support and love as well as space just to let me be.  It was beautiful.  I nicknamed them the “Fabulous Four” because I’m not sure I would have emerged from those dark depths without having these angels to carry me.  And I’m coming up short with words to describe how it feels to be loved and cared for with this level of compassion, especially when one isn’t familiar with that level of support.  Again, it was just beautiful.

As I plunged to the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, my writing and words died.  It was impossible to write, think straight of have any type of creativity when coping with issues of basic survival such as pain.  The bottom and largest portion of Maslow’s pyramid describes needs such as breathing, food, water, sleep.  He suggests that one must be secure in the basic needs before being able to move up the hierarchy.  Creativity is characteristic of the very tip-top of the pyramid and during this health crisis, far beyond my reach.

So, this is my debut….again.  I have scaled the pyramid with the LOVE and support of four extraordinary women as well as my energy practitioners.  My words are coming back as the crisis fades.  I see hope again and crave being present on this blog and with my sojourners in healing.  I’m confident that many more layers of the health crisis will be revealed when the time is right. As the accompanying image depicts, not only have I been lifted from the level of most basic needs, I’ve been infused with the energy of a Goddess-Priestess-Warrior vibe.  The power of our hearts beating in unison, multiplied.  I stand at the top of the pyramid with my arms wide open.  I feel my power again. 

Blessings to the women of Sacred Circle Retreats:  Jackie,  Melynnda,  Joss and  Deanne.  May we nourish the Divine Feminine in each other. 

Photo credit, used with permission from Sarah Durham Wilson, DOITGIRL .


my separation agreement

split

Yesterday I was presented with a formal separation agreement via text from my husband.  He is seeing a counselor now for his personal issues and those relating to me as a caregiver.  I have sensed him wanting to go for a while. He was amazingly chipper when he called and stated he was sending this document to me, it seemed to make him happy or at least relieved.

The depression/suicide rate is 8-10 times higher in BPD individuals.  Combine that with childhood trauma and incest and the statistics must go higher.  Those without any family support are figures I can’t even allow myself to think about.

I sit and pray.

 

 

 


Little L comes out of the virtual world….

There are many milestones to this writing~healing journey that I embarked upon almost 5 years ago.

The first being that my body had to remember.  It gave me the challenging gift of  tangible form to my mental illness carried around for my entire 45 years.  At the time I might have been very reluctant to admit that this was a good thing but in retrospect, it was the essential plunge that one has to take to rise up as someone different.  These transitions have come to many of us played out in different ways but with the same theme of rebirth.

After weathering the body memories and night terrors where the stories began to unfurl, I began writing.  It seemed high time to take this swirling mess from my psyche and put them into another tangible form…words.  Decades of rage poured out of me in scratchy, erratic phrases.  I cried and raged with my paper and pen, determined to purge myself of its hold on me.  I found an image of what I thought this child looked like and began to make her real.  Not that she wasn’t real all along, but she’d been buried and oppressed in an effort to go through life until she crashed so hard, taking my body with her and demanding that I finally pay attention and put her first.

So I did.

I began putting these writings into a blog that I secretly and lovingly created for her.  It was a place that I could actually go to, turn on the computer and look at her words and manifestations.  It became intoxicating.  The freedom of releasing this pain is one that only a survivor of trauma of any form can understand.  Being let out of prison.  Feeling safety in one’s home and skin. The sweet joy of letting go, little by little, word by word.

Soon after this, I had the divine blessing of finding a forum set up by a woman artist, Terri at Bone Sigh Arts, who had the incredible perceptive foresight to provide a place for women, survivors and otherwise, to place their thoughts.  An inclusive haven, without judgement for those of us who are the smallest and the most timid, to peek out and see if the world was really a place that we could trust.  A place that wanted to see us as we really were: fragile, sensitive, creative, wounded.  I lurked, I read their posts, I watched as they supported others in their healing.  And when I finally came out, it was here that a group of incredible women gathered around me and loved me so unconditionally that I finally found the nerve to push the “publish” button on my blog.  After praying, smudging and turning it over to God and a higher power, I screamed and hit the button.  Frozen for several days, not going near the computer or the blog for fear that I might have made a horrible mistake, that I would be found out and ostracized from my newfound circle of friends for being…..me.

Well, we all know that didn’t happen.

Instead and of course, I was flooded with well wishes and support, praise for my courage and for my writing.

Go figure.

But that was enough for me to forge ahead.

So I’ve been happily blogging for a year now.  I’ve met dozens upon dozens of incredible virtual friends who have lovingly supported me as I dip in and out of depression and mental illness.  I can readily admit that now. Its who I am and have accepted and even revered myself for the warrioress that I am to have thrived in spite of horrendous circumstances. Some of these women share many of my characteristics and talents, others have very different gifts to offer, all are treasured friends.  And yes, I do call them friends even though we’ve never met.  We have, however, shared many challenges of joy and sorrow over the last year and what we lack in physical face to face contact, we make up with in genuine concern for each other, our families, our communities.  Holding hands with each other, we watch the full moon together from all parts of the world, share our gardens and grieve the loss of our beloved ones.

Although quite content with this arrangement, I was given a unique opportunity to meet a fellow writer, survivor and hopefully, a new friend in real person.  Several weeks ago, a trusted friend gave me a book written by a male survivor of horrific child abuse.  She stated simply and knowingly that this book would be similar to the one that I would write.  She’s always believed in me like that.  I devoured his story, the pain and the triumph, in one afternoon and began the process of locating his website and facebook information.  Within days, we were friends and this weekend, I attending his book signing.  How incredible that this man brought to me actually lives in my neck of the woods.

Keith Hoerner, author of “Missing the Mark: A Target Child Speaks” signed my copy and became my first real live human writer~survivor friend.  I’ve officially gotten to the next level of creating the person I want to be. We connected and recognized each other immediately like dogs to their pack.  I hope that we have many sessions over coffee, discussing writing for healing, trauma recovery and all associated topics.  I look forward to that.  And I hope that his book makes its way into the hands of anyone that has experienced childhood abuse of any form.

I feel absolutely giddy….and am wondering what’s next?


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