Depression, Encouragement, Life, Looking Forward, Mental Health

Repost — A Little About Me

As this new year begins, I began to look back to the beginning of my blog.  I’ll admit, I’ve been lax lately.  I’ve struggled to post and have found that I had to have a lightening bolt inspiration to do so.  I hope that I can do better in this new year.  As I looked back to the beginning, I reread my “Little About Me” to see what has changed.  In some ways, nothing.  In other ways, a lot.  I have become much more informed about clinical depression.  I have been inspired by the many friends and strangers who have left comments on my posts.  I have found some things in which I was just pure wrong and others in which I hit the nail on the head.  Do I still struggle with depression?  Yes. I do.  Is it as overwhelming as it has been in the past?  Sometimes, yes.  Sometimes, no.  A while back I told a friend that I had come to the realization that I was just going to be depressed for the rest of my life and that it was too hard to get better.  I’m not sure if that’s so.

So, as 2019 begins, I wish you all a wonderful new year — full of love, laughter, and all the wondrous things available in life.  I am praying that I will be filled with inspiration and the desire to become much more active on A Light At the Top Of The Hole.  We shall see.

And, now, back to the beginning…………

I am just a person.  I am just like you.  I am nothing like you.  I have dreams, fears, needs, wants, demons,  and joys.  You may have these, also.  I have suffered just as many of you have — abuse, rejection, put-downs, disappointments, unfulfilled expectations, and terrors.  Do I understand why this has happened to me?  No.  Will I ever fully understand?  Probably not.  Is it fair?  No.  Can I change those things in my past that have made me “me”?  No.  Do I wish I could?  Of course.  Knowing these things, what do I plan to do about it?  Not sure yet, but I do know that I’m going to change.  I am going to become whole again (although I wonder if I was ever whole to begin with).

I was first a daughter.  I am a sister.  I was a child.  I was a student.  I was then a wife. I was then a mother. Then, I was no longer a wife.   I was a teacher.  I am now a retired teacher. I am my children’s biggest cheerleader.  I am a Grams who cherishes her grandchildren.  I am a loyal friend.  I am a floundering Christian.  I am a lover of knowledge.  I am someone who has spent time in a Mental Health facility.  I am a person involved in on-going mental health therapy.  I am a person who yearns to love and be loved.  I am a person who wants to understand all the “why’s” of life.  I am a person who has many fleeting interests.  I am a person with big dreams.  I am a Southerner.  I am an expert in the art of sarcasm.  I am a lover of words.  I am a person who has lived behind an array of masks for most of my life.  I am a person who is constantly climbing to reach the light at the top of the hole that I find myself in quite frequently.  I am a person determined to become whole.  I am Betty (although Social Security and the DMV insist that I be Elizabeth.)   I am now a Blogger.

Disclaimer

If you choose to leave a comment (which I sincerely hope that you do), please feel free to ask questions, challenge me, or disagree with me.   I will always do my best to give you the most intelligent answer that I can give.  Remember, though, that I am someone who is living with clinical depression and I only have my own answers.  I am NOT a mental health expert.  I am a mere mental health “be-er”.

Please recognize that while I may make posts that contain some scientific information about clinical depression, I am in no way claiming to be an expert about anything.  I may post videos found on YouTube or elsewhere on the Internet that contain some factual information.  I do fact-check as much as possible, but please do not hold me to be 100% correct — I will just normally post something that has drawn me in and that I think others may be interested in.  These videos may use information that I have learned through my readings or perhaps was introduced to me in my Psychotherapy sessions.

Please remember that I do reserve the right to delete any comment on my blog for any reason whatsoever, whether it be rude, abusive, profane, or just in my opinion, doesn’t help anyone.   Remember those of us who suffer from depression are normally very sensitive to criticism and have enough people in our day-to-day lives whose purpose in life seems to be to blow smoke up our butts. With that in mind, please do not use my blog to bash me or anyone else.  That certainly doesn’t mean that you can’t  question or comment on concepts, but let’s keep it polite, please.  Your comment or question may very well be something that someone else is questioning and is seeking answers to. When we all join in on a conversation about mental heath, we are lessening the stigma that is so pervasive. My blog is designed to help you look into the disease of clinical depression, see it though MY eyes, and to hopefully be able to spot the warning signs in those that you love.   My goal is for all of us to learn from each other.  With that in mind, please do share in the comments and share my blog with others.  This will only reach and be a help to others if it is shared.

Thank you for joining me in my search for A Light At The Top Of The Hole.

Depression, Encouragement, God, Mental Health

Please Be Careful of What You Say

As we head into 2019, I have become truly troubled today by someone’s post in our local prayer group that I administer. And that breaks my heart.

A member of our group had posted asking for prayers for her child who is struggling during this holiday season with depression. So very many people truly struggle during this time of the year. We are bombarded on television, by friends, family, social media and everywhere we go and everything we do, reminding everyone that we are in the midst of a “happy, wonderful, joyous time of the year”. Sadly, that is not true for many. As I had posted a couple of weeks ago, this time of the year is a true challenge for many, for so many reasons. They are reminded of times past when things were good, when they had good health, when they watched the joys and fun of the season through the eyes of young children. These people may now have severe medical problems, be alone, have financial problems, or perhaps they may suffer from clinical depression. Any or all of these aspects can create real problems for these people. We cannot take their struggles lightly; not if we care. Not if we are God-fearing people who strive to understand this disease. You see, Clinical Depression is not just feeling sad. It’s not just feeling lonely. It’s not just not having enough faith. It is a MEDICAL problem. It’s like having cancer, or diabetes, or heart problems. It’s having a chemical imbalance in your brain. This chemical imbalance needs treatment, just as the cancer, diabetes, or heart problems need. Do you tell someone with cancer to forget their doctors, that their medicine or treatments is not necessary? No, you don’t. Not if you care.

While I truly believe in the mighty power of God, that does not mean that I can turn everything over to Him and not do my part. God can work miracles. God does work miracles. But, God expects us to do our part. Our faith, our healing, our salvation is not automatic. It takes us to do our part.

It is my belief that one of God’s miracles is in giving us doctors and therapists and medicine to help, heal, and cure our bodies from diseases. It is my belief that if God did not intend for us to use these doctors, therapists, and medicine, He would not have made them possible.

And, that is my problem. We had a member in our group tell others (in a response to the mother who had asked for prayer) that doctors and medicine are useless in treating depression. He stated that we just need to contact him for help in healing our depression because through his faith, he had been able to heal his depression. I’m certainly not going to say that God did not heal him. But, I do wonder if this gentleman suffered from Clinical Depression or perhaps just from a mood disorder. I have no idea. Many people call many things “depression”. Only a doctor can tell you if you actually suffer from Clinical Depression or not. Can God heal depression? Of course, He can. Does He always do so? Well, does He always cure our loved ones of cancer? Does He always make our hearts work correctly? Does He snap His fingers and cure people of drug or alcohol dependency? No, He doesn’t. He can, but He does not always do so. He expects us to do our part. Am I going to stop praying to God for healing? No, but I’m not giving up my meds, either.

I believe that it is wrong for us, especially in a prayer group, to advise others to give up their doctor, to give up their medicine, and to ONLY believe that he and God are going to cure you. You may say, but, Betty, where better than in a prayer group to tell people to trust in God? That’s my problem. I do trust God. But, I also trust His gift of doctors. I tried not to answer this member’s comment because of the pure anger I was feeling about it (and yes, I admit that I was angry that he had told that to people and I have spoken to God about it) but in my heart, I had to ask him to please not advise others to give up their doctors and medicine. I hope I was respectful. I hope I was kind. I hope I was correct in doing so. I had hoped that he would understand. By his reply, I don’t think he did.

I have spoken my peace and explained my actions and have prayed for the mother and her child who is suffering. I have prayed for the millions of others, including myself, who struggle with any health-related concerns. I have asked God to continue to grant us His blessings and thanked Him for His many blessings we have received. I hope I have done my part.

Depression, Encouragement, Family, Life, Mental Health

Another Year, Another Prayer

It’s been 52 years now since I whispered in your ear for the first time.  That whisper was, “Happy Birth Day, sweet little boy”.

On October 5th of each of the last 51 years, I have whispered a short prayer in my heart.

On this 52nd year, I again whisper the following in my heart:

Happy Birthday, Allen Lee.

I pray that you are healthy.

I pray that you are happy.

I pray that you are safe.

I pray that you Believe.

I pray that you are loved.

I pray that you love.

 

 

Changes, Depression, Encouragement, Life, Mental Health

You Can’t Skip Chapters

Pillow Thoughts 2 by Courtney Peppernell

After yesterday’s post, I thought it was interesting for this to have shown up on my FB page.  Lots of thoughts these days about life and about the ultimate ending of it.

I think most of us wish we could go back and skip some of the tough chapters. But, what would have happened if we had done so? Would we still be the person we are now? Of course we wouldn’t. Which chapters made us who we are?  Which chapters were just fluff?  Without those tough chapters, we would not have learned — about strength, about courage, about love, about losing, about envy, about fun, about sadness, about winning.

Without having experienced these chapters, we would all be a bunch of spoiled, spineless people who think of no one but ourselves. We want to think that if we only had good in our lives, we would always do good in our lives. Very few people can live up to those expectations.

We are a mixture of the good, the bad, and the ugly. It almost makes our lives sound like an old western movie, doesn’t it?

If that’s the case, I want to be Miss Kitty from Gunsmoke.

~~ Betty

Depression, Encouragement, Mental Health, Suicide

Those Dreaded “Copy and Paste To Show You Care” Posts

For those of you with a Facebook account, I know that you have seen the following post.  It’s been around for quite some time. 

“Maybe if people’s heads weren’t buried in the sand of ignorance and they took the time to understand, instead of judging and thinking it won’t happen to them because they have the perfect family, life would be a little bit easier for people that do experience this! This hits close to home for me, for family and friends who live under this shadow. The days of ‘it’ not being talked about or being taboo should be over. In the most difficult moments of life you realize who your true friends are, and the people who really appreciate you. Unfortunately, most social media ‘friends’ aren’t true friends. They will send you a “like” here and there, but, they do not take time to read your status if they see it’s lengthy. More than half will stop reading right here, or have already scrolled on to the next post on their page. I decided to post this message in support of all those who continue to battle with their mental illness. (Suicide is at an all time high). Now, let’s see who will have taken the time to read this lengthy post right through to the end. If you have read everything so far, please “like” it so that I can put a thank you on your page. More mental health awareness is urgently needed. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering. Please, try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk (about anything). Talking can help us all to cope a little more, keeping things bottled up just makes it worse. Most people will say, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there to help you” but will they? I believe a select few of my friends will post this, to show their support for those who may be struggling. You just have to copy and paste rather than sharing. I’d like to know who will take a minute out of their day to read this all the way to the end and then copy and paste it to their page, will you? If so, please write “done” in the comments. Thank you! Maybe if people’s heads weren’t buried in the sand of ignorance and they took the time to understand, instead of judging and thinking it won’t happen to them because they have the perfect family, life would be a little bit easier for people that do experience this! This hits close to home for me, for family and friends who live under this shadow. The days of ‘it’ not being talked about or being taboo should be over. In the most difficult moments of life you realize who your true friends are, and the people who really appreciate you. Unfortunately, most social media ‘friends’ aren’t true friends. They will send you a “like” here and there, but in reality they do not take time to read your status if they see it’s lengthy. More than half will stop reading right here, or have already scrolled on to the next post on their page. I decided to post this message in support of all those who continue to battle with their mental illness. (Suicide is at an all time high). Now, let’s see who will have taken the time to read this lengthy post right through to the end. If you have read everything so far, please “like” it so that I can put a thank you on your page. More mental health awareness is urgently needed. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean people aren’t suffering. Please, try to spare a little of your time with someone who may just want to talk (about anything). Talking can help us all to cope a little more, keeping things bottled up just makes it worse. Most people will say, “if you need anything, don’t hesitate to call me, I’ll be there to help you” but will they? I believe a select few of my friends will post this, to show their support for those who may be struggling. You just have to copy and paste rather than sharing. I’d like to know who will take a minute out of their day to read this all the way to the end and then copy and paste it to their page, will you? If so, please write “done” in the comments. Thank you!”

Each time I see someone post the above message, I have the same feelings.  I think it’s unfair to many people.  And it’s not the people you think – it’s not those who are suffering – it’s those who are in the dark.  I think it’s unfair to them.  Let me explain how and why.  And remember, these are MY thoughts.  If you don’t agree with them, that’s fine.  We are all entitled to our own thoughts. 

1.      I think the post is judgmental.  I remember the first time I saw this post and read the first line, I thought, “Well, geez, aren’t you just the perfect one?”

Is Mental Health something that should be understood by more?  Of course.  But accusing them of burying their heads in the sand of ignorance is not going to make them want to research anything.  And blaming their lack of knowing on the fact that you think they have a perfect family or life is not going to endear them to you.  I don’t think that many people are won over by a challenge to them to get smarter from someone on Facebook.  We all pretty much think we are smart enough and don’t like others telling us that we are not. 

2.     I think the post is one of those threatening posts in which the poster shames the readers with that old “copy and paste and if you don’t do so, it must mean you don’t care”. 

I hate those copy and paste threats.  I think it’s because I’d rather use my own words.   If there is a topic that I feel the need to share on Facebook, why would I use someone else’s words to do so?  Most of the time, if you read through those things, they are filled with errors, make statements that everyone knows have nothing at all to do with you, and are just so insincere.  It’s kind of like those aggravating private messages that people send you because — this is something that you MUST know, it’s VITAL for you to know, or IT’S GOING TO SAVE YOUR LIFE.  Well, dang, if it’s that darn important, why are you sending the message just to me, why not send it to everyone from your Facebook wall?  And why not use your own words to let me know that it’s coming from YOUR heart?  I detest those boilerplate warnings or threats or life-saving messages.  My friends know that I’m a real big proponent of “Use your own words.”  

3.      Now, for the meat of the post – Mental Health. 

Yes, I absolutely think that Mental Health has gotten the raw end of the deal as far as Medical Advancement goes.  However, through some of the recent books I have read and some of the documentaries I have watched lately that deal with Mental Illness, we have come a long way.  It wasn’t that many years ago when people were sent to Mental Health hospitals just so that someone in the house could get a break.  Doctors have most certainly diagnosed and treated mental conditions with medicines.  So, yes, advancements have been made. 

Are there still millions who have no clue?  Absolutely.  How do we change that?  I think that the best way to change this is for those who do suffer to talk or write about our experiences.  I know that it makes it much more real for me to hear about something happening to someone who I know and care for.  It makes it REAL.  I can read books about faraway people all day long and it doesn’t make an impact on me.  But, let me read something about someone I know, and I’m all in it.  I want to find out about what it is they are suffering from.  It connects me to them.  And by making that connection, it becomes MY problem, too.   

We must make Mental Health REAL to others so that they see the importance of education.  We must make it REAL so that they can see the actual suffering.  We must make it REAL so that it becomes their problem, too.  Perhaps by making it REAL to others, we can share our suffering in such a way that it lessens the impact it has on us.  

4.       So, in the end, do these “copy and paste Facebook threats” do any good?  Maybe they do.  Maybe they encourage those of us who live with Mental Health problems to share with others on a one-to-one basis.  Maybe our friends who never imagined that we suffered will become aware of what a nasty thing Mental Illness can be.  Maybe it will help others to learn.  Maybe these posts are not so bad, after all.  Who knows?  Maybe I’m the one with the wrong ideas about them.  Maybe. 

~~Betty

Depression, Encouragement, Good News, Mental Health

My Days in the Georgia Department of Corrections

A friend had posted a video this morning of the abandoned Rivers State Prison in Milledgeville. Seeing the video brought back many sweet memories of my time spent with the Georgia Department of Corrections Educational Department.

Ahh, so many memories. My first experience with GDC was teaching a class for GMC at Rivers on Tuesday and Thursday nights. I remember those long, dark, dingy halls that were shown in the video.  I remember the clanking of the metal doors as I went from one area to another.  I remember the students who worked hard and who appreciated the opportunity to continue their education.  A couple of years later, I learned of a job opening for a full-time teacher with the GDC and applied.  I became a full-time teacher for GDC for 5 years, teaching at Hancock State Prison, Davisboro Women’s Prison, Frank Scott State Prison, and Bostick State Prison.  I remember those days well.

I was teaching at Bostick when Gov. Zell Miller decided that inmates no longer needed to be educated and fired all teachers in the Georgia Department of Education on Dec. 30, 1997. During the month between the announcement of our firings and the time we left, Human Resources so graciously met with all teachers to give us information on how to find a new job and how to apply for welfare and food stamps. Mighty kind of them, huh? I remember that during that month, I had sent hundreds of letters and faxes to newspapers, tv stations, and to every governmental official in Atlanta. I remember being called into my Deputy Warden’s office to be told that I was not to speak to another tv reporter about our “situation”.  When I asked what would happen if I did, I was told that a decision had not been made yet, but that I probably wouldn’t like the results.  Hmmmm…… I was on Channel 13 news that night explaining why we needed teachers in the prison system.  I got several dirty looks the next day at work from the administration, but nothing happened.  At least not that day, anyway.  I also remember a group of us going to Atlanta to meet with the legislators and then trying to see the Governor. His aide told us no, that the Governor was too busy to meet with “you people”.  One of the group told the aide that we had some really important information that we’d like to say to the Governor. The aide then looked at the gentleman and said, “Sir, do you happen to know a Betty O’Steen?” Gulp, I was standing right there. I must admit that at that moment I wasn’t sure that all those letters and faxes had been a smart thing.  Our spokesman said, “Yes, sir, I certainly do know her.” The aide then said, “Well, sir, if you know her, you must also know that there is nothing that any of you can say to the Governor that Ms. O’Steen has not already said.” At that point, he turned around and walked off, leaving us standing there and leaving me extremely happy that my letters had indeed evidently reached the Governor’s desk. But, we still got fired.  Oh, yeah,  I found out what the Deputy Warden had been talking about if I spoke to any more reporters.  As I was leaving work on the very last day, I was stopped at the gate and was surrounded by several correctional officers and the administrative staff.  My belongings were searched and I was accused of stealing state property.  Little stacks of items were placed to the side as the search continued.  I was accused of stealing things like eight paper clips (that happened to be in a personally owned container that still had the Walmart sticker on it), paper that had been used to make worksheets for my students (all in my own handwriting, but yes, the paper had belonged to the state), and several other items.  After being held outside for about 45 minutes, the DW who had warned me not to talk to anyone and who was leading the search, looked at me and said, “See?  I told you.  But, we’re going to let you go and you can take all your goodies with you.”  He then walked off and told them to open the gate for me.  And people think that the inmates are the bad ones in the prison system?  I beg to differ.

I must say that my absolute best memories of all my years of teaching were of my students in the Georgia Prison System. I have memories of Mr. George who will always be with me, with an inmate who spent two solid months learning the letters of the alphabet and how to write his first and last name so that the letters were in the proper places, the 76-year old female who, for the life of her, could not master my last name, no matter how hard she tried and how many times I said it to her, it always came out as Ms. Oppersteen. Memories of two students, one at Frank Scott and one in Davisboro, who I had originally taught at Coffee High School in Douglas, GA, only to run back into them again while incarcerated. Memories of the day that I fell on those highly-waxed floors at Hancock SP and the educational aide rushed over to help me to my feet, only to be yelled at by the CO and my falling again when he let go of my arm.  Dang, those floors were slick as glass.

My one and only really scary moment was the day that a student walked up to my desk and towered above me (he was about 6’6″ and weighed a ton) and asked me what I’d do if he reached down and slapped the s*it out of me.  He  was upset because as I had walked by his desk, I had reached over and had taken a picture he was drawing when he was supposed to have been working.  Of course, when he asked me that,  I froze and had to do some quick thinking. I had noticed that a couple of students had turned to look at us, so I loudly said to the student standing in front of me, “Excuse me, what did you just say to me?” That got all of my students’ attention and they were all watching us at that point. The upset student stood there, quite mad and repeated his original question, “What would you do if I reached down and slapped the s*it out of you?” At that point, every single student sitting at their desks, rose and came toward my desk. The all got between me and the upset inmate. One student left the classroom to go get the guard and they did not let the student get close to me. After he had been taken out, I thanked them for helping and one of them said, “Ms. O, there’s no way we were going to let him do that to you. We need you here for us.” My heart filled with thankfulness at that moment for those inmates, who society had thrown away, but who had just taught me once again that there was good in their hearts.

Then, more memories of being called into the Warden’s office at one of the prisons because an inmate had written a complaint saying that I had “never written up a white guy in any of my classes”.  The Warden asked if that was true and I had to admit that it was most definitely true; I had not written a Disciplinary Report for any white students. After being yelled at and being told that I was a racist by the Warden, my Ed Supervisor pulled out my class rolls to show the warden that although it was true that I had never written up a white guy in my classes, it was also true that there were absolutely NO WHITE GUYS IN ANY OF MY CLASSES. — I was the only white person in there.  I still chuckle over that one.

And my best memories were those times when I could actually “SEE that light bulb go off” over my students’ heads when they finally understood fractions or some other concept. Oh, the joy that we both felt when that happened! Remember Mr. George I mentioned? Well, I will never forget the day that he brought me a letter he had received from his wife in which she said how proud of him she was because she had just received the first letter in 17 years that he had actually written to her in his own handwriting (he normally had others in the dorms write his letters home for him because he didn’t know how to write). She told him that after she had taken his letter to church to show off, she had had it framed and had it hanging on her living room wall.

Folks, that’s what teaching is all about and I’ll always treasure my moments in those dark and dingy halls inside the Georgia Department of Corrections Educational Departments.