Friday, April 24, 2009

Depression and Me


by Andrae L. Bridges

I originally had intentions to rewrite the article, Depression Is Learned From Parents from Psychology Today/ submitted by a prisoner in WSPF so that it might be easier to read and understand. However/ after reading the article and taking several notes/ I found myself so lost in my own thoughts and discoveries that my original intentions have disappeared. You see/ in reading the depression article my mind was opened to things I hadn't given much thought/ if any at all. Much of which centers around my mother/ grandmother/ and family as a whole. If you read my article entitled/ At The Hands Of His Mother then you're aware of the fact that my mother was very abusive towards me. Thus I eventually abused myself but more on that later.

The depression article has prompted me to look at my abusive past and personal bouts with depression from a different perspective. One that is outside of myself. As a result/ I've been able to connect quite a few dots with regards to depression and my family. That's just a small example of how eye-opening the depression article has been for me. All the more reason I'm unable to focus on editing it. However/ I do feel the need to share some of my personal discoveries which might provide good examples of what the writer of the depression article is trying to say. In that/ hopefully others will be able to go on and connect dots in their life as it relates to depression as well.

I often tell people that we (human beings) tend to learn just as much from one another through nonverbal communication than we do through verbal communication. Therefore it's very important that we be conscious of our actions and behavior. For someone is always watching and taking notes. I know that to be true as a direct result of the things I learned from my mother through nonverbal communication. As a child I watched and imitated just about everything my mother did. I wanted to be just like her. And why not? She was my everything and I tried to show her that through my actions. As it's said/ "Imitation is the greatest form of flattery!" Go figure!

Oddly enough/ after reading the depression article I didn't want to believe I learned depression from my mother because it hit me so late in life. Thus I felt as though the depression was something I brought on myself. But you know what/ at one point in my life I also felt as though I brought all the brutal beatings I received on myself as well. I firmly believe actions speak far louder than words. In consideration to that/ and taking a closer look at the relationship between my mother and I/ I have accepted that we do learn depression from our parents/ as with a lot of other things. In that/ I learned depression from my mother just like I learned to believe I was never good enough. To hear her actually say those words only confirmed what I learned as a direct result of the way she treated me. Make sense?

"We are born utterly dependent from the moment we pop out/ a social relationship becomes essential to living/ namely the relationship with our mother (as well as other family members). Through that dependency—for physical survival and mental/ social/ physical/ and sensory stimulation—we form connections with other people who become significant in shaping our view of ourselves and of
the world around us. That socialization process also structures the brain in important and enduring ways. Through the complex processes of socialization/ families can create in their members/ and especially in their children, either susceptibility [open] or resistance [able to stop] to depression that can last a lifetime.

The notion that depression can be spread strictly by social means as a social contagion [able to be spread] is supported by a great deal of evidence- For example/ there is now neurological [dealing with the nervous system] evidence that the apathy and withdrawal of mothers who have postpartum [shortly after child birth] depression show up in the baby's brain as an underdeveloped emotional region. Such mothers are constricted in their emotional displays and do not engage with the baby the way nondepressed mothers do—talking in a singsong voice/ playing games/ stimulating the baby. That deficit in the brain, along with other related risk factors/ dramatically increases the likelihood that the child/ too, will become depressed."

With all that being said/ in order to accept that I learned depression from my mother, I also have to accept that fact that she not only suffered from depression but learned it from my grandmother, who also suffered from it, and so on and so forth. This where my mind was opened to things I hadn't given much thought. I have never thought about my mother or any other family members suffering from depression or any other mental/emotional disorders for that matter—until now- Looking back/ there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that depression has tore through my family like a tornado/ and still does. When I think about postpartum depression I think about the pictures taken of my mother shortly after she gave birth to my youngest brother. In every picture she looked so sad, disconnected, and needless to say, depressed.

Although I don't have a lot of details about my mothers childhood, I do know she was subjected to lots of verbal abuse and emotional neglect at the hands of my grandmother. Granny simply wasn't there for my Momma. My mother is the middle child of my grandmother's seven children. Care for my mother and her three younger siblings was left up to the three oldest children. Who ultimately left everything up to my mother. Once the three oldest children started having children of their own, my mother was left to care for them as well. Momma loved her siblings and my grandmother dearly but there was some serious tension between all of them. Thus the moment they were able, they all moved away from one another- I thought families were supposed to stick together. As I got older I could never understand what it was that drove the wedge between my family. And we never talked about IT. IT was what IT was and we all accepted IT as that- Whatever IT was or is, mind you.

"Further evidence that moods spread through social interaction is found in the social lives of depressed people and their loved ones. The depressed have far more difficulty than the nondepressed in their social experiences. They have more family arguments and more marital arguments. They have less relationship satisfaction and are significantly unhappier. And they deplete everyone around them/ spreading social pain and further corroding social relationships in an ongoing vicious cycle."

It's really sad and disheartening to me how my family is so disconnected from one another. But a bit of light has been shed. The constant mood swings/ family arguments/ total lack of communication... It all makes perfectly good sense. Don't get me wrong/ I'm not basing all of my family's problems on depression but it's definitely something to consider. In and with that we have a start. In order to fix any problem you must first recognize that there is a problem/ then take the time to get to the root of that problem. As previously stated/ depression as a consideration is a start. Unfortunately/ nothing has been done in my family to examine and eventually break this ongoing vicious cycle. As a result the problem has continued to run its ugly course. Getting worse and worse as it is passed down from generation to generation.

"Long-term epidemiologic [cause/ distribution and control of] studies show that depression intensifies from one generation to the next. Today's parents represent the largest group of depression sufferers raising the fastest-growing group of depression sufferers. We are on average four times more depressed than our parents and ten times more than our grandparents. This is not just a reflection of greater awareness of the disorder.

Depression is a disorder with many facets. There is genetic vulnerability/ although it is turning out to be smaller than many scientist thought. The largest contribution comes from the ways we learn to regulate our own internal experience/ which includes our explanatory style (the meaning we attach to life experiences)/ our cognitive style (how we think and use information)/ our coping style (how we manage stress and diversity), our problem-solving style/ and our relational style.

All of these are acquired through socialization forces in the family/ the modeling transmission of enduring patterns of thinking/ feeling, and relating to others. We learn to think and to interpret and respond to events through the cumulative [as a whole] effect of our socialization—the kinds of parenting received/ the kinds of explanations offered/ the influence of family members/ the teachings of others.

There is a near-perfect correlation between a parent's explanatory style and a child's. Every time a child asks/ "Why/ Mommy?" or "Why Daddy?" the explanation provided invariably embodies a particular style of thinking and attributions of causality. Each question is a vehicle for the transmission of thinking that interprets events in a way that is congruent with external reality or that reflects more subjective [personal, emotional] or hyperemotional [over emotional] responses."

Now when applied to my family/ the above excerpt becomes very interesting and all too real. There's so much I can share in regards to that them/ but what victimizes us the most is telling ourselves what we can't do/ what we're inept at/ what we're not good enough to do—all those things by which we limit and even devalue ourselves.

Although it may seem to/ depression doesn't usually strike out of the blue. The average age at onset is in the mid-20's. (Not long ago/ it was mid-30's/ another factor pointing to social contagion.) But by the time a person becomes depressed/ the risk factors have typically been in place for years."

I had never heard of depression until I came to prison. As previously stated/ it hit me late in my life. It wasn't until maybe nine years or so into my bit that I really started to feel the hold depression had on me. It had long since had its long arms wrapped around me (and my family) but it wasn't until I was twenty-five or so that the depression started to literally squeeze the life out of me. And I had been doing so good in and with my personal growth. In fact/ that was around the time I made one of my greatest breakthroughs in regards to my abusive childhood and everything thereof. Thus/ shortly thereafter At The Hands Of His Mother was written. It's hard to believe I wrote that piece nearly seven years ago. But as I was saying/ it was like the more I grew on the inside/ the faster and harder depression slugged away at me. I went down fast. I didn't care about keeping my cell neat and clean/ I didn't want to socialize or participate in any group sessions. I didn't want to do anything but sleep and keep to myself. And then there were the suicidal thoughts which turned into promises and eventually attempts. I attempted suicide several times prior to coming to prison because I wanted out of this life. I didn't know that had anything to do with depression.

I'm quite the perfectionist. Depression prevented me from doing and being what I thought was perfect in my daily routines which ultimately made things worse. I felt so worthless and inapt. And yes/ my perfectionism was learned from my mother. She found reason to criticize everything I did/ be it good or bad/ right or wrong. Hence/ I was never good enough and could never measure up but that didn't stop me from trying. I developed obsessive compulsive disorders as a result. I still have a few but they don't control me. Once I regained control of my thoughts and life, I was able to continue addressing the personal issues that had crippled me. In all that I built up enough nerve to finally ask my mother/ WHY. "Momma, why did you abuse roe so?"

"Andrae/ I only did what I knew." she replied.

As you can see, her response was very short and seemed to me like an excuse/ which broke my heart into pieces. But I quickly got over that because I blamed myself for expecting more of her. Taking into consideration everything I've written here/ quoted and and everything I now know/ I GET IT! There's no doubt in my mind that my mother really did do what she knew. Perhaps the same thing can be said about my grandmother and the way she raised her children. It's all learned and rolled down from generation to generation like a snowball effect. Wow! I intend to stop the snowball in its tracks and thereby break that vicious cycle. I recognize there's a problem and I'm ready and willing to do what I can to fix it!

psychotherapy/ and an anti-depressant (Prozac) to get me on track. Or as I like to say/ see the light!

There was a period in my incarceration where I looked down on inmates who took psychotropic medications because in my ignorance I seen taking meds. as an easy way out. Never mind the fact that individuals taking meds. might really need them. But it was that kind of thinking that made it so hard for me to start taking Prozac. But I wanted and needed the help so I didn't fear what others would think and went on to put my ignorance and pride aside and tried it- Needless to say/ it helped. My emotions and overall thinking became stable enough for me to focus on other things/ namely goals and ways to accomplish them. Two years after getting on Prozac I was confident enough in myself to get off. I'm pleased to say that I to this day I stand even stronger. But don't get me wrong/ I still have my moments with depression. I don't think it ever completely goes away. It's just a matter of how we deal with it; I refuse to be it's victim. Besides/ I can't fix the problem if I'm a part of the problem by socially passing depression on to others. Feel me? If you're battling with depression I encourage you to get help! Put your pride aside and open yourself up to therapy/ support groups/ and even medication/ if needed. Then educate yourself. That's where your real defense comes from. Don't fear going deep to discover the source of your issues. Then and only then can you rise above them and be their master as oppose to the other way around-

"Despite the huge role that social factors play in depression/ the disorder tends to be addressed only one-dimension-ally—physiologically/ with medication. Antidepressants/ now the most widely prescribed drugs in America/ maybe part of the solution, but they are not the whole solution. No type or amount of medication will build you a support network or make you more socially skilled. Good relationships are essential to establishing/ maintaining/ and restoring mental health."

- Bridges Not Barriers! -

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