Banish the Beast of Depression

Lincoln Journal Star Article (April 8, 1995)

Connie Backus-Yoder

Depression: an evil beast; ruining one’s sense of well-being, stealing confidence, hope, fulfillment and relationships. A person anguished by depression lives in undefinable darkness. Energy and love become melted masses of quiet or raging atomic anti-matter turned destructively inward. They become partners with the Destroyer to tear at your inward parts so that you become a condensed consume of grief.

People endure physical injuries with scars, constant pain, or permanent disability, with simple skills relearned to function again. Often, effects of injuries don’t show up for years, and people have to adjust by learning new coping skills. Sufferers are not faulted in trying and failing to recover. They are not told to grow new appendages or skin, to become individually responsible for their own healing, or to “be happy.”

Unfortunately though, uninformed people courageously say, “Just be happy, I can overcome and banish a depressed thought with a smile, you should, too.” They give advice to not dwell on the past, to leave hurts behind. “Just greet the morning with a smile, confess healing, get rid of sin and your demons, and then God can work His miracles”, is the call to wholeness in some circles.

Not unlike physical injuries, degrees of injury to the soul are just as destructive, leaving horrific scars, unseen by the naked eye. Some injuries do not show up until major stress brings it out of the fissure of the subconscious. People may not then be equipped to make a “normal” response of a “healthy” person to gain significant control of their emotions.

Those people are often considered unnormal because injuries manifest themselves in mental idiosyncrasies. They are constantly told to not let the daily grief affect their pleasure, life, and work. Unfortunately, that is similar to telling an Alzheimer’s sufferer to straighten up, start remembering things and overcome the disease!

But there is hope for depression and new medications available, especially if the depression is caused by chemical imbalances. An imbalance is not a plague, ready to infect the nearest passerby with the same toxic disease. It is more like an imbalance of thyroid, which is not considered an aberration. Yet, too often, society considers those suffering from depression aberrations of the norm. As one suffering from depression, I believed I was “peculiar”, a person to be avoided, suspect and “fair game” to the nearest insensitive person. More than once, as a child, I was violently chased home by an insensitive classmate, or, recently, considered bait by a professor who used to ridicule me in front of the others in my class. I am forever grateful to Liz who would reprimand the man for being so cruel.

After taking such medications, I felt “life”, joy, and “normality” for the first time. I could begin to have control again, of hopes, dreams, emotions, desires, and even relationships. Practicing for my senior recital became a positive experience instead of an empty void of daily failure. I even had energy to write down the music I hear. I could give myself Kudo’s, instead of waiting for an authority figure to validate my Self In fact, I could finally believe that my Self was something worthwhile, worth nurturing, and worth making right choices for. Because of that, the close presence of an authority figure no longer terrified me.

I also discovered that most people do not have the right tools for socialization with people afflicted by depression. Yes, I was avoided or suspect, only because I did not and could not respond to normal overtures of friendship, nor could I bond with people to have an effective relationship. Medication is helping to change that.

Before medication, I tried to remember meaningful people in my life to ease the pain of depression. Among the few pleasant memories of my childhood, the serene haunts of my imagination revel in the true memory of my neighbor sitting in her rocker with me snuggled safety in her lap, as though she were living the grace of all her future dreams, whispering confidence and assurance into my tiny ears. Mrs. Stewart was an artist generously weaving hugs and snuggles into the whispers. Her door to an immaculately clean home was always open, even if shut because of winter’s chill. The cozy, wrap around semi-screened porch, well painted with the a small-town white, helped me immediately submit to grace and gentleness, at least in my 6-year-old childhood memories. The light blue enamel covering the floor of the same porch was a colorful welcome to the refreshing spirit within. The comer steps, between the wrap around east and south porches, eight in number, were wide with mercy and welcome.

She would sow the teachings of life during my many visitations. One specific memory which likes to tug at the essence of my character is the lesson of the cut flowers. “Connie, you must always cut flower stems at an angle with a sharp knife or scissors and not tear them,” she would warn, “to lessen the pain of being cut. Don’t forget to sear the open wound on the hot burner, lightly. That will help them stay fresher longer.”

The memory of her would consistently help me live with Reality, the offspring of a 4- letter word, REAL, a most monstrous gift of life. Not congenial fantasies or pleasant childhood memories that another might have, but jagged mirrors which cut to the bone and marrow of my existence. Therein, another cause for depression. But as I said earlier, there is hope and effective treatment.