Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Website

I have a new website up, and I would love for you to come and visit me. You can Yahoo (not Google) it at

My site is dedicated to helping people study and understand the Scriptures. It is titled "Loving And Learning The Bible."

Even though the content is copyrighted for my protection, you have my permission to use the information for personal or small group applications, but not for large scale or commercial use.

Contact me at my new email address (s underscore _)

Love In Christ,

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Milestone

THE MILESTONE-I've reached a milestone. When my youngest son suggested that I start a blog, I never expected to do so for a year, or to receive the response I've gotten from friends around the world. This has turned into a ministry that I didn't anticipate. I am grateful to God and the rest of you for the opportunity to touch lives and encourage others, as I have been encouraged.

That said, I have decided to close this blog, and move on to another project. My prayer is that new readers will continue to visit this site, and pass it on to others who might be helped. If it has been beneficial to you, perhaps it will be to others also. I will always enjoy answering emails from people that have specific comments or requests. I would suggest that new readers begin with my first blog entry, and read forward.

VISIT THE NEW WEBSITE-I will have a new website dedicated to hermeneutics. "How To Study and Understand The Bible" will be my focus. When I became a new Christian, I was handed a Bible and expected to teach myself. That is what I have done (with some eventual assistance from others), and hopefully I've learned a lot since then (30 years) that might be helpful to some of you.

I know now how important it is to have a logical method for studying the Bible. There are "short cuts" to knowledge, and there are ways to help you learn the truth of Scripture. "...God our Savior...desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3,4)." Jesus said to those Jews who had come to believe in Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:31,32)."

Serious Christians (are there any other kind?) listen closely to the words of the apostle Peter, "Like newborn babies, long for the milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation (1 Peter 2:2)." Good students of the Bible have a hunger for knowledge that isn't found in the casual approach to Bible study used by most people. If you will join me on my website, I believe that you will enjoy the things that I have to share.

If you are interested in being notified when the site is up and running, send me an email note.

SPECIAL NOTE-About two weeks ago, I received an email asking if I would like to serve as education minister for the Mount Vernon Church of Christ in Prescott, Arizona. After some resolving of a few "challenges," it is now a "done deal." This congregation knows of all my BPD issues, and are more than willing to work around any problems that I might have. You don't find people like that everyday. This is proof-positive that unexpected good things can happen to you, even if you have a depressive mood disorder. The transition that I will be making might create a delay in setting up the website, but I should be up and running no later than the first of January.

Thank you, my friends, for making the journey with me. I will remember you all with fond affection and appreciation. Remember that no matter how dark the days, God desires to be by your side, if you will only put your trust in Him.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Very Bad Day

One of my favorite booklets is Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. This picture book describes a very bad, absolutely terrible, obviously horrible, and without a doubt, no good day in the life of a little boy. At least that's the way that he sees it.

Alexander awakens to find gum in his hair, his teacher doesn't like his drawing of an invisible castle, he finds that there isn't any dessert in his lunch, his dentist tells him that he has a cavity which needs fixing, there is kissing on TV, and he has to wear his railroad pajamas which he hates.

Alexander's day is so terrible that he decides to move to Australia. His mother assures him that everyone has bad days, even people who live in Australia. That's what I've discovered also. Everyone has horrible, no good days, but not everyone is clinically depressed. Bad days begin with bad minutes and then bad hours. You add enough days together, and you have a terrible month. Twelve months become a year, and enough years become a very bad life.

Sometimes the "badness" of living comes as a result of who we are, and what character traits we have. It doesn't have anything to do with depression, it's a summary of how we think and behave. It's not dependent on what happens to us situationally, but rather how we respond to the circumstances of life. It's been said that happiness is largely determined by what happens to us, but joy is what happens in us. That's why the apostle Paul was able to reasonably admonish the Philippians to "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice (Php.4:4)." You may not always be able to rejoice in what you experience, but you can rejoice in who you are. That is, if you are a child of God, and find your joy in Him.

Look at the words below to discover how people who are constantly having "very bad days" actually think, live and respond to circumstances.

00-Abandoned-feeling alone without being cared for or supported

00-Ambivalent-having mixed, uncertain or conflicting feelings about something

00-Confused-unable to think or reason clearly or to act sensibly

00-Crushed-extremely upset, saddened or depressed

00-Despairing-feeling or showing loss of hope

00-Frazzled-exhausted and in a very confused or irritable state

00-Frustrated-feeling exasperated, discouraged, or unsatisfied

00-Homesick-feeling sadness and longing to be at home with family or friends

00-Intimidated-a feeling of fear, awe, or inadequacy

00-Maudlin-overly or tearfully sentimental

00-Panicked-fear or anxiety that comes on suddenly, is overwhelming, appears to be uncontrollable, and may seem to be unfounded

00-Pressured-to feel powerful and stressful demands on one's time, attention, and energy

00-Tentative-slow, hesitant and careful way that reveals a lack of confidence

00-Desperate-overwhelmed with urgency and anxiety, to the point of losing hope

00-Grieved-to experience great sadness over something such as death

00-Pessimistic-somebody who always expects the worst to happen

00-Apathetic-not taking any interest in anything, and not bothering to do anything

00-Negative-unhappy, discouraging, angry, or otherwise distracting from a happy situation

00-Rigid-unwilling to change or adapt behavior, opinions, or attitudes

00-Reserved-having a tendency to emotional restraint

00-Apprehensive-worried that something bad will happen

00-Sensitive-easily offended or annoyed

As you can see, there are often personality traits that are as "depressive" as any mood disorder. I believe that it's much easier to control depression than it is to modify thinking and behavior. The above list is certainly not comprehensive, but it is representative of the character traits that lead to people having Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Days, and quite probably having a very bad life.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Thursday, October 18, 2007

What's The Mood, Dude?

What's the mood, dude? Or is it dudette? For the person with Bipolar Disorder (BPD), and those around him, there is always some difficulty deciding if the present mood or personality characteristic is a normal (typical) one or not.

Everyone has both good days and bad days, so when someone with a depressive disorder has a good day, are they being hypo/hypermanic, or are they simply expressing the true positive characteristics of their personality? If they are depressed much of the time (BPD type 2), when their mood lifts, are we seeing the real person or are we seeing atypical attitudes and emotions that are to be interpreted as the manic side of their BPD cycle?

I know that at my house, this occasionally becomes a debatable issue. I sometimes feel that I'm not always being allowed to experience a good day without having to prove that I'm not going into a hypomanic phase of my BPD. That can be frustrating. I suppose, from my wife's point of view, that it's sometimes hard to remember what the non-depressed Stormy is like.

In the last twenty years, I have taken numerous personality characteristic tests, including the Keirsey Temperament Sorter and the Meyer-Briggs Personality Test, with almost exactly the same results each time. I took these tests many times when I was depressed, and yet the typology was closely similar to the times when I wasn't depressed. I believe that I can safely conclude that my true personality characteristics were emerging in spite of the masking of my bipolar disorder.

So what's the mood, dude? Is it hypomania or are you having a good day, week, or month? The following terms describe someone who could possibly be experiencing either. You will have to decide for yourself, or with a little help from your friends. Who's the true you?

Are You Sometimes?

00-EXUBERANT-full of happy high spirits and vitality
00-ZESTFUL-lively enjoyment and enthusiasm
00-ENTHUSIASTIC-showing passionate interest in something
00-GREGARIOUS-very friendly and sociable
00-OPTIMISTIC-tending to take a hopeful and positive view of future outcomes
00-SMILEY-often smiling
00-HOPEFUL-feeling fairly sure that something that is wanted will happen
00-CHEERFUL-happy and optimistic by nature
00-STIMULATED-interested in or excited about something
00-FRIENDLY-pleasant and welcoming
00-FUN LOVING-seeks and enjoys life's pleasures
00-HUMOROUS-witty or able to make people laugh
00-HAPPY-feeling or showing pleasure, contentment, or joy
00-ADVENTUROUS-willing or eager to participate in risky or exciting activities
00-DYNAMIC-full of energy, enthusiasm, and sense of purpose
00-GOOD-NATURED-having a pleasant or obliging disposition
00-INSPIRING-making somebody feel more enthusiastic, confident, or stimulated
00-LIKEABLE-pleasant and friendly, therefore easy to like
00-CHARMING-having the power to delight or attract people
00-PLAYFUL-fond of having fun and playing with others
00-PERSONABLE-having a pleasant personality and appearance
00-VIBRANT-full of liveliness and energy
00-LIGHTHEARTED-not weighed down with worries or troubles
00-WHIMSICAL-slightly odd or playfully humorous, especially in an endearing way
00-AMUSING-causing someone to smile or laugh or be amused, often in a subdued way

Maybe my wife and I can work out a compromise. I will agree to be "hypomanic" half of the time, if I can have "good days" the other half.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, October 12, 2007

And They Created

Would you call me creative? I created two sons. I built a horse barn. I wrote poems to my wife. I've been known to make up my own jokes. I wrote songs during the long lonely watches in Viet Nam (none were worth hearing). I lied "creatively" to my parents. And I'm sure that there must be some other things that might be described as "creative."

Yet, I would be reluctant to put myself in the same category as the people listed below.
01-Hans Christian Anderson-writer
02-Drew Carey-actor
03-Napoleon Bonaparte-emperor
04-Jim Carey-actor
05-Agatha Christie-author
06-Winston Churchill-Prime Minister
07-Francis Ford Coppola-director
08-Patricia Cornwell-writer
09-Emily Dickinson-writer
10-TS Elliot-poet
11-Ralph Waldo Emerson-essayist
12-Robert Frost-poet
13-Sigmund Freud-scientist
14-Marilyn Monroe-actor
16-Isaac Newton-scientist
17-Edgar Allen Poe-writer
18-Mark Twain-writer
19-Ted Turner-media giant
20-Vincent Van Gogh-artist
21-Abraham Lincoln-president
22-Axl Rose-singer
24-Ben Stiller-actor
25-Jane Pauley-news anchor

And the list goes on. All of the above are believed to be sufferers of Bipolar Disorder (BPD). For years, scientists have thought that there is a strong link between BPD and creativity. In recent times, Stanford University's researchers Connie Strong and Terence Ketter, MD, have made significant advances toward exploring this connection. They conducted a controlled study comparing both healthy, creative people and people from the general population. Their findings were that there was a disproportionate number of people with BPD in the creative group than was found among the general population. One of Strong's conclusions was that the "emotional range, having an emotional broadband, is the bipolar patient's advantage. It isn't the only thing going on, but something gives people with manic depression an edge, and I think it's emotional range." How mood influences the performance of artists and genius scientists will be further researched at Stanford.

There is also anecdotal evidence for a streak of creativity in BPD patients. The next time that you are at a support group meeting, ask your members if they have a creative way that they express themselves, something that might set them apart from their other acquaintances. In my case, my "creativity" is shown through my blog and my photography. I leave it up to you to decide how significant it is. This much I know. I have always had a yearning for a method to
express myself creatively. It has been an itch that I couldn't scratch, until this last year. So, for me, it is enough that I communicate my "artistic" side, however unremarkably. The only person who would be likely to see the genius in my life would be my mother, but I only need a fan club of one to be satisfied.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, October 05, 2007

Mona Lisa

What made Mona Lisa smile? Was she pregnant? Had she received some good news? Did Michelangelo tell her a joke? I guess we will never know. This will always be one of the enigmas of the art world.

Smiling can become a habit, and scientists say that it is one of the best habits we could develop. It can reduce the level of stress hormones and raise the level of important neurotransmitters, like Serotonin, which is desperately needed by those of us with chronic depression.

One of the theories of psychology is a hypothesis called "facial feedback." This theory states that there are "involuntary facial movements which provide sufficient peripheral information to drive emotional experience." In other words, just smiling may improve your mood. Psychologist Dr. David Lewis says, "Seeing a smile creates what is termed a 'halo' effect helping us to remember happy events more vividly, feel more optimistic, more positive and more motivated." The caveat to this is that a "fake" smile doesn't do anything good for anyone. Just think about how happy you are(n't) when you look at your driver's license.

There are also social benefits to smiling. When you give a smile, you nearly always get one back. This reciprocal effect is one of the reasons that I enjoy smiling. In fact, it has always puzzled me a little when I look at someone and they give me a warm and interesting smile. I asked a friend about this once, and he said that I always (mostly) walk around with a little grin on my face. When I meet another person, they respond to what they see. Try it. If people don't smile back, at least they will wonder what you've been up to.

You might be surprised at other findings by professional researchers. Hewlett Packard conducted a survey which concluded that seeing a smile is more pleasurable than having sex or eating chocolates, and a smile can even generate more stimuli than other things, including receiving money. Two thousand bars of chocolate or receiving $16,000 can only give you the same amount of pleasure a smile can emanate, avers the test. Just think of the pounds that can be saved by some one's smile.

NOW, there is a negative side. In support group meetings, I've learned that many people who are chronically depressed are still functioning smilers. The drawback to that is that your acquaintances may not take your depression seriously (or believe in it at all) if you have a grin on your face.

I don't know why I smile as much as I do. For some reason, it just comes naturally. No matter how depressed I am, if someone speaks to me, I respond with a smile. I've had people remark about my "face lift" all of my life. A cousin who I hadn't seen in thirty years once said, "If I had met you on the street, I wouldn't know who you were, but I would recognize that smile anywhere." For good or for evil, that's just the way I am. Sometimes, I just wish that I didn't give the false impression of being "happy go lucky."

Though I am more optimistic when I'm depressed than some people are when they aren't depressed, I just want my depression to be taken more seriously. There are some days when I wish that others could see the pain behind the smile. Who would have thought that a smile could be a handicap? I sometimes feel a kinship with Sir Walter Scott's bride in his poem Lochinvar. She had a " on her lips and a tear in her eye."

Still, I think Mark Stibich, Ph.D. has given us 10 good Reasons To Smile.

01-Smiling makes us attractive. We are drawn to people who smile. Frowns push them away.
02-Smiling changes our mood. Smiling can trick the body into helping you change your mood.
03-Smiling is contagious. It can light up the room and make others happier.
04-Smiling relieves stress.
05-Smiling boosts your immune system. Prevent the flu and colds by smiling.
06-Smiling lowers your blood pressure.
07-Smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers and Serotonin. Smiling is a natural drug.
08-Smiling lifts the face and makes you look younger.
09-Smiling makes you seem successful.
10-Smiling helps you stay positive. When we smile, we tell our self that life is good.

Even though I don't always feel like it, I'm giving my vote for the sweetest expression in the world. If you are one of those people who have been frowning for so long that your face has frozen, take advantage of Newton's Law of Gravity and stand on your head. What goes down might go up.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, September 28, 2007

I Don't Recall

If you were called to testify in a criminal or civil case, your attorney might counsel you to say, "I don't recall." It's a good tactic, if you want to avoid divulging potentially incriminating information, because no one can prove that you do indeed have memory of an event or conversation. Of course, if you do recall and it's proven, then you might find yourself subject to charges of perjury.

I could truly not recall where I parked my car on Tuesday. When I came out of the library, I remembered that I had parked near the side door, but my car wasn't in the space I remembered. I walked up one row and down another and back up the third row. There were only three. I was sure that I had parked on the first row. Now I was beginning to worry that someone had stolen my car. I wondered, though, why anyone would be dumb enough to steal a 2002 Saturn. As I continued my search, I happened to look at my hand, and I saw then that I was holding the keys to my Nissan.

That's when I recalled that I had not driven the Saturn, but had instead driven the Nissan Versa. What a relief!! You say, "Why, everybody has done that." If that was the only problem that I had with my memory, then I wouldn't be concerned. The truth is, I frequently have problems remembering things, like my anniversary, to zip my pants, my supervisor's name. My short-term memory is awful, my intermediate is bad, and my long-term memory is best. I can easily recall how my wife used to serve me coffee in bed when we were newly-weds, even though I'm no longer pampered that way. I can't remember exactly when she stopped loving me, but it was probably within a month or so after we married. Now I have to make my own coffee.

One of the symptoms of depression is difficulty remembering things. You can't remember when your dentist appointment is, so you write it on the calendar, and then you forget to look at the calendar. Did you take your medicine or not? A pill box might help you to keep track of your medications, if only you could remember to put your pills in the box. You might forget to check to see what's in the pill container. You ask, "Did I pay those bills? Did I remember to write the check down in the check book? Did I put a stamp on the envelope?"

As I said, my long-term memory is actually pretty good. I not only remember faces, but I also remember the way people walk, even years later. I remember that I was in Gulfport, Mississippi in 1968 when I first heard Otis Redding sing "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay." I haven't forgotten the many stories that my Dad told me as a child. I can recall the teacher who gave me a spanking in the fifth grade. I can name all of the girls I've ever kissed. Both of them.

Sadly and embarrassingly, I forget names. It only takes me about 60 seconds. I do remember a preacher admitting to having the same problem. He might have been depressed. Unfortunately, when his elderly mother would bring him face-to-face with a former acquaintance, she would tell them, "He doesn't remember you." And of course he didn't, so he would stand there with a blazing red face.

The number of things that I forget would bog down Craig's List. Now I know why. According to an article by Daniel Pendick, "Depression leaves few corners of the mind unscathed. Among the more conspicuous of the casualties is memory. Memory is but one of a suite of higher or "executive" brain functions hobbled by depression. In addition to being forgetful, a person suffering from major depression may have trouble initiating tasks, making decisions, planning future actions, or organizing thoughts." To those of us who struggle with chronic depression, all of that sounds distinctly familiar.

Dr. Constantine Lyketsos, director of neuropsychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, explains that due to ongoing depression there is a "loss of coordination between working, short-term, and long-term memory." The forms of memory act as a series of bins. According to Lyketsos, the working memory bin keeps track of events (like eating a cookie) as they happen, but only for a very brief time. An exciting or more important event might be passed from the working memory into the short-term memory bin, where we store memories for minutes or hours. Over time, some items in that bin will be transferred on to the long-term memory, where they will reside for a lifetime.

Dr. Lyketsos states that a depressed person may be too inattentive and unfocused to file passing events into short-term memory. That explains my almost immediate loss of names. He believes that it isn't so much that the depressed person has forgotten, but that the memory was never stored in the first place. There is some scientific evidence, though, that treating depression with medication and/or therapy, can help reduce memory problems.

Therefore, we can safely conclude that a good treatment plan can address many of the difficulties we experience with depression, including poor memory function.

Through the years, my wife has frequently complained about my poor memory, especially when I forget what she said to me or don't remember to complete an important task. My only defense has been to say, "Honey, I just didn't recall."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, September 21, 2007

High And Low

Finding a good therapist is a little like finding a good pet. Sometimes, it's "dog-gone" hard. It would be nice if we could just tune in to Dr. Phil everyday, and he would counsel us through the T.V. in our living room, but finding someone that we can work with is just not that easy. Therapists are like auto mechanics, some are skilled and trustworthy, and some are not.

So, how can we find a qualified person to help us adapt to a life of depression? We might begin by understanding the types of therapists that are available.


01-Psychologists-Licensed practicing psychologists are specifically trained in the mind and behavior as well as diagnosis, assessment and treatment of mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders. The treatment provided is often called "talk therapy." **Not all psychologists believe that chronic depression is a result of a chemical imbalance, and they may attempt to persuade you to give up your medication. Ask them for their views on this issue.

02-Social Workers-C.S.W.s usually have earned at least a Master's Degree, and they also receive training in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the above-named disorders. Their goal is to maintain physical, psychological, and social functioning.

03-Psychiatrists prescribe medication. They have the background and experience to understand how the body and the mind as a whole react when psychiatric medication is used to affect brain chemistry. Psychiatrists, as a rule, do not engage in psychotherapy.

04-Marriage and Family Therapists-These counselors have at least a Masters Degree, and have specialized training in the area of family dynamics and therapy.

05-Other mental health professionals might include Certified Counselors, Religious Counselors, and Psychiatric Nurses or Nurse Practitioners.

Locating a good therapist is most likely accomplished (a) through word of mouth, (b) professional referral, (c) church counselors, (d) support groups, or (e) the Yellow Pages. The most reliable sources are friends, family or acquaintances who have actually worked with a particular therapist.

Questions To Ask
01-What is your professional training and degree?

02-How much experience have you had with my particular mood disorder?

03-What theoretical school of thought do you follow?

04-How long are the sessions, and what is the charge per session?

05-Will you accept my insurance? Do you have a payment plan? Are your fees based on a sliding scale?

06-Have you ever been in therapy yourself? For how long?

07-Is it possible to reach you after hours for an emergency?

08-What can I expect from you and what do you expect from me in counseling?

09-How long will I need to be in therapy?

10-Are there other types of treatments for my problem that you would recommend?

11-How do you decide when therapy is done? Are you goal-oriented?

12-Do you take the lead in a session, or do you expect the client to take the lead?

13-Do you tend to focus on what has happened in the past, or on what is happening in the present?

14-What should I do if I feel that therapy is not helping me?

15-Is there a charge for the initial "get-acquainted" counseling session?

Unfortunately, many of us are unable to pay for the type of therapeutic counseling that we need or desire. Personally, that has been a little frustrating to me. I'm sure that I would benefit from therapy, as do almost all people who have chronic mood disorders, but many of us don't have the funds or insurance to get the help we need. This is a frequent complaint among support group members.

If you are able, seek out a qualified therapist who can be another asset in the treatment of your mood disorder. Taking advantage of every resource available is the best approach to controlling and living with depression.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, September 14, 2007

Have Some Fun

I've been pretty depressed this week, so I think it's time to have some fun. The following is written by an unknown author, and is an example of my own personal brand of twisted humor.

NOTE: To those of you who are not from the United States, this article is a type of things that make Americans laugh. It is often described as "dry" wit. Its appeal is that it is so outrageous that it is funny. Do not take any of the statements as being meant seriously.

How To Get Ahead In Life

01-As I let go of my feelings of guilt, I am in touch with my inner sociopath.

02-I have the power to channel my imagination into ever-soaring levels of suspicion.

03-I assume full responsibility for my actions, except the ones that are someone else's fault.

04-I no longer need to punish, deceive or compromise myself, unless I want to stay employed.

05-In some cultures, what I do would be considered normal.

06-Having control over myself is almost as good as having control over others.

07-My intuition nearly makes up for my lack of self-judgment.

08-I honor my personality flaws, for without them I would have no personality at all.

09-I need not suffer in silence while I can moan, whimper and complain.

10-As I learn the innermost secrets of people around me, they reward me for my silence.

11-When someone hurts me, I know that a lawsuit is more gratifying than forgiveness.

12-The first step is to say nice things about myself. The second, to do nice things for myself. The third step is to find someone to buy nice things for me.

13-Blessed are the flexible, for they can tie themselves into knots.

14-Only a lack of imagination saves me from immobilizing myself with imaginary fears.

15-I honor and express all facets of my being, regardless of state and local laws.

16-Today I will gladly share my experience and advice, for there are no sweeter words than "I told you so."

17-Just for today, I will not sit in my living room all day in my underwear browsing the web. Instead, I will move my computer into my bedroom.

18-I am learning that criticism is not nearly as effective as sabotage.

19-Becoming aware of my character defects leads me naturally to the next step of blaming my parents.

20-I am willing to make the mistakes if someone else is willing to learn from them.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, September 07, 2007

What Comes Naturally

The natural approach to important aspects of their life is important to some people. On August 7, 2007, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar welcomed their 17th child into this world. The Duggars have become famous for their "natural" approach to birth control. As Irving Berlin might say, they are just doing "what comes naturally."

One of the complaints that some depressives make about treatment is that prescribed medication is just not natural. For a variety of reasons, they object to taking drugs to alleviate their Bipolar Disorder (BPD) or chronic depression symptoms. The argument often offered is that if they used medications created through the science of man, they might become addicted, but if they used "natural" medicants they would not. In their mind, the use of natural substances would be superior to the use of prescribed medications.

I believe that there are a couple of major flaws in that philosophy. First, it is not consistent with the way that most people actually live. When we get a headache, very few of us take Willow Root tea to ease the pain. We go to our medicine cabinet and grab an aspirin, or other "unnatural" pain reliever. Few of us think about natural treatments when we have a stomach ache, or bad cough, or other similar ailments. Even those who disparage man-made medications seldom rush to the health food store for help with their common illnesses.

Secondly, if we consider that God created every element in the world, then it surely follows that everything is "natural." These elements may have been formulated into a medication created by members of the scientific and medical communities, but the ingredients are still made up of substances which naturally occur. Obviously, you can't create something from nothing.

Now, having said that, I do believe that those of us who are depressives should take advantage of everything that might aid in treatment of our illness, including things that are considered to be more "natural." I have long been a fan of orthomolecular psychiatry (study further), which favors the use of nutritional approaches to the treatment of depressive disorders. This community of psychiatrists, though often criticized by other doctors in their field, believe that nutrients are the building blocks for sound physical and mental health. They contend that a natural treatment should be a complementary approach to healing that supports and nourishes the body and brain, helping to counteract the effects of neurotransmitter malfunction.

Deficiencies in diet often lead to needed supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acids(fish oil), Folate, B vitamins, Zinc, Selenium, vitamin C, Choline, Phenylalanine, 5-HTP and Manganese. A holistically trained physician may offer information about alternative treatments, and a nutritionist can be an important resource.

Personally, I'm willing to do whatever it takes to improve my mental health. I would stand on my head, if it would make me feel less depressed. I believe that those of us who have a mood disorder should take advantage of every thing that might possibly help in the treatment of our illness. I would suggest, though, that we always discuss this approach with our primary psychiatric professional. Even vitamins can be taken in toxic doses.

Naturally, I exercise caution in all medical matters.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

She's A Cheater

My wife is a cheater. She cheated me Tuesday. Again. In the three (+) decades we've been married, she's cheated many times. According to some researchers, women are far more likely to cheat than men.

It all started Tuesday morning. I got out of bed, ate breakfast, watched the news, showered, shaved, checked my email, and prepared for work. When it was time to leave, I picked up my briefcase, went downstairs, and dug in my pocket for my car keys. They weren't there. I went all over the house, looking for my keys. Upstairs, downstairs. Upstairs and downstairs again.

I was going to be late for work, and Teresa couldn't help me because she was on the phone. Finally, in desperation, I decided to look in the car. I thought that maybe I had left them in the ignition. When I opened the house door, there were my keys, hanging from the door knob. Quickly, I grabbed them, ran for the car and headed for work.

When I came home that afternoon, she asked me where I found my keys. I said, "Oh, they were downstairs." She shined her desk lamp into my eyes. "You found them in the door knob, didn't you?" I squirmed. "What makes you think that?" "Because I heard your keys jingling when you took them out of the lock." Then I said, "That's just cheating!! It's not fair that your hearing is so good." Yep! My wife is a cheater. I can't get away with anything.

We men have been put at an unfair disadvantage. God created women with superior hearing faculties. It has been scientifically proven. Women have better hearing than men. Some researchers say that it is four times better. Long before any research was done, I had already reached my own conclusions about this. Think about it. In your family, who is always hearing those noises that the car is making? Who hears the teenagers sneaking in? Who hears the refrigerator door opening? Who hears the pin drop?

I used to wonder why this was so. One day, as I was meditating on the greater questions of life, I realized why women hear so well. It's because that is the way that God intentionally designed them. When the hungry baby cries at night, someone has to get up. The child has to be fed. So, what sense does it make for the Daddy to hear the baby? He doesn't have any milk. Not naturally anyway. Ever since the beginning, Mommy was given the milk, so it's only reasonable to expect her to get up and feed the baby. That's why her hearing is so good. Unfortunately, Daddy sometimes has to pay the price for this plan. Occasionally, he is heard saying or doing something that would be safer left unheard.

So, what does all of this have to do with depression? Well, just because a person hears better than another (male or female), it doesn't necessarily follow that he/she will listen better. Listening is more difficult than hearing. We've all encountered people who were poor listeners, and we've been tempted to say, "Excuse me for talking while you're interrupting." If you are talking to someone who is depressed, and their input into the conversation is minimal, then you have to be an especially good listener, so that you will not only hear what they say, but also what they don't say.

Here are some Tips For Communication

01-People who are depressed don't talk much, so listen well. You must listen carefully so that you will be able to understand, comprehend and evaluate. As Job said, "Listen carefully to my words; let your ears take in what I say (Job 13:17)."

02-There are good times and bad times to talk, so be ready to take advantage of the best "mood times" to discuss things.

03-Make an offer to listen. "Whenever you feel like talking, I'll be ready to listen."

04-Don't complain about the lack of communication. Talk to family or friends who will meet your need for conversation.

05-Accept the fact that much of what you say will not be heard. Whatever part of the brain processes auditory sounds doesn't always engage when a person is depressed. They hear, but they don't hear. Sometimes, words heard don't really connect with understanding and retention.

06-Make an effort to improve your skills as a listener. These are skills that can be acquired, and great advice is found on the Internet. Listen twice before speaking once. "He who answers before listening, that is his folly and shame (Proverbs 18:13)."

07-Saying, "You never listen to me" will diminish the depressive's motivation for conversation.

08-Don't wait until you are upset to talk. If you are angry or irritated, allow some time to cool off, but don't stuff your anger and fail to communicate your feelings.

09-Be knowledgeable about depression, and understand that it is very difficult for people with a depressive mood disorder to listen back to what you are saying, and comprehend what you are trying to communicate.

10-Butter your tongue with love. Remember, during times of frustration, that you are not adversaries. You are simply two people connected at the heart, who are sometimes disconnected at the ear.

Yes, my wife is a cheater, but at least there is one person in this family who can hear the phone ring, and take time to listen to her "Ding-A-Ling."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, August 24, 2007

Born To Be Wild

My wife tells me that I have been in rebellion. According to her, I've been resisting her efforts to bring my life into order and rational response to her advice. It all started over my taking my sleeping medication twice, because I couldn't remember taking it once. Consequently, I missed a day of work due to being too sleepy to walk, much less drive.

Her plan was for me to put my meds in a pill box, so I would always know when to take them. The plan met my approval, so I did as advised. The problem began when I had gone through a weeks worth of meds, and then didn't feel like filling up the box again. I just didn't feel like it. I wasn't in the mood to organize my medications. I probably would have, in a few days, but at that specific time,!

Then the order came down. "Fill up that pill box or else!!" Well, it wasn't put exactly that way, but that's the way I heard it. Sometimes things are said like that, and sometimes that is just the way that I hear them.

I'll admit that I have always had a problem with authority. Perhaps it's just that I resist dominance. I mean, I've never (with one exception) clashed with a police officer. I, for the most part, got along with my superior officers in the military. I obeyed my parents, until I left home. I only got one spanking at school. So, in my mind, there is really not an issue with authority, but I am resistant to any form of control.

By definition, I can't be, as my wife thinks, in rebellion. According to Webster, "rebellion is open opposition to a person or thing in a position of authority or dominance." So, it follows that she would have to have some authority over me, in order for me to rebel against it. No authority, no rebellion. Simple, isn't it?

Here's the real issue. When you have Bipolar Disorder, you yearn for self-determination. More than anything else, you want to be in control of your own destiny and your own decisions. Even regarding something as insignificant as taking your medications. It may seem juvenile to some, but I don't want someone else (not even my wife) telling me what to do. I am highly resistant to any perceived form of control. I respond well to asking, and I listen to persuasion, but I'm deaf to "telling." And I don't want to be told, asked, or persuaded, over and over again. An occasional, softly spoken reminder (pretty please, with sugar on top), might be acceptable. I don't know. It would largely depend on what kind of "mood" I'm in, I suppose.

For some reason, I've always felt a kinship with the little boy who had a conflict with his mother. He had been misbehaving (in her mind), and so she sat him down in a chair in the corner. In a moment, he was up and playing. She took him by the arm, and put in in the chair again. He stood up. Finally, she marched him back to the corner, and told him very firmly that he was to sit in that chair and not get up until she gave him permission. After a minute or so of silence, he said, "Mama, I might be sitting down on the outside, but I'm standing up on the inside."

It's really an issue of Physics. Newton's Third Law is that "for every action (control), there is an equal (or greater) and opposite reaction (rebellion)." Hmmm. Let me rethink this.

Oh, about the meds. I have faithfully taken them, without benefit of the pill box, but in a day or so I will refill the box. After I see if my wife is ready to submit to my authority.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, August 17, 2007

Oh, My Aching Head!!

It could have happened any time. It might have first happened when I was 10. My Dad was always in a hurry, which meant that I was always in a hurry. When I was about 10 years old, I became interested in building an airplane or rocket. By then, I had given up the idea of flying like Superman, and had turned to more rational methods of flight. One day, I was in the backyard building a plane from crate boxes, and my Dad yelled, "If you are going with me to town, you had better hurry." So, I quickly ran to the tool shed, opened the door, threw the hammer up on the work bench, and slammed the door. That's when the pain body. You see, in my haste I had slammed the door on my head.

It might have happened because my Mom finger-thumped me on the head for misbehaving. Maybe it was when I rolled my car, or when I had a pool stick broken on my noggin. It might have occurred when my fiance (now my wife) saw a horse throw me head first into a hard oak fence.

I guess the genesis of my problem doesn't matter, but the truth is, I have difficulty with thinking. Yesterday, I couldn't perform simple math functions required by my job. When I was about 30, I had some tests done to find out why I was having so many migraine headaches. One test indicated that I had some impairment in my left frontal lobe. A Cat scan showed an abnormality in the same area. A second test revealed nothing. Finally, I was sent to a clinical psychologist who told me, "Stormy, I believe that you have had some minor brain damage at some point in your life." This confirmed what some smart alecks used to say about me being "one card short of a full deck."

While even minor head trauma can cause some cognitive impairment (do some research), my problem probably originated with my teenage onset of Bipolar Disorder (BPD). In a recent Reuters News Service report, researchers at Dalhousie University have concluded that teenagers with depression may have abnormal brain structure. Imaging studies showed that adolescents with major depression tend to have a small hippocampus. This is the part of the brain associated with motivation, emotion and memory formation. Major stress and trauma, both depression triggers, can also cause the shrinkage.

Another study reported on July 20, 2007, announced that researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that BPD is associated with a reduction in brain tissue and proves that the changes get progressively worse with each relapse. They discovered that the loss of grey matter tissue is concentrated in areas of the brain which control memory, face recognition and coordination. The researchers learned that the amount of brain tissue that's lost is greater in people who have had multiple episodes of illness and is associated with a decline in some areas of mental ability.

The above information had already been suggested by other studies. That is the reason that this writer has concluded that it is extremely important to bring depression under control, and by any and all means to reduce or stop the repetitive episodes of chronic clinical depression. One might say that the cognitive dysfunction that I have experienced might have been caused by minor brain trauma, but my belief is that it is most likely a result of many years of cycling into and out of depression.

Then again, it might be a result of too much "finger-thumping."

Benita Chick, of Hong Kong, has asked that I inform others of her site for fell0w-sufferers in that country. Her address is

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Monday, August 13, 2007

Lie Like A Dog

In my life, I've had more dogs, than dogs have fleas. I'm sure I'm forgetting some, but the breeds I can remember are: Rat Terrier, Pit Bull, Beagle, Blue Tick Hound, Black and Tan Hound, Newfoundland, Bloodhound, Boston Terrier, Schnauzer, English Sheep Dog, Saint Bernard, Chihuahua, Australian Shepherd, as well as various and sundry Mutts.

Maybe that's why I'm well acquainted with the saying, "You lie like a dog," which is a type of a pun. "You lie (tell an untruth) like a dog (lies down)." I know that I told everyone that I would be posting a new blog every Friday, but I didn't. I was halfway to Tulsa to meet my son, when I remembered that I hadn't written a blog. I did tell an untruth, but I didn't lie.

According to the Bible, "pseudos (lie)" is an intentional and deliberate falsehood, spoken to deceive another. Therefore, my legal expert (me) holds that I did not technically tell a lie. I fully intended to do what I promised, but I just plain forgot. I have discovered some new information about the problems that people who have Bipolar Disorder have with memory.

I will share that with you on Friday, if I don't forget "like a dog."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Friday, August 03, 2007

Depressed To Death

Most Christians spend their whole life getting ready to die. Death is one appointment that we all have to keep. To the rest of the world, Christianity takes an illogical and scary position on this subject. Non-Christians can not understand why we are able to face death without fear.
Listen to the apostle Paul, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.....having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better (Philippians 1:21, 23)." Living for Christ prepares us to be with Christ. I've always like the story about the old Scotsman, who on his death-bed said, "If I die, I will be with Jesus, and if I live, Jesus will be with me." This is the attitude that enables us to face depression in this life, and to be ready for heaven in the next life.

While I'm not afraid of death, I am concerned about dying. There's a distinction between the two. Death is the point at which I will step out of this world, and step into the arms of Jesus. Death lasts less than 1/1,000,000 of a millisecond. Dying is the process that precedes death. It can last a day, a week, a month, a year or longer. If prolonged, dying can be as ugly as Hell, literally.

I spent the last two weeks of my Dad's life at his bedside. I got to see, up close and personal, the ugliness of dying. The heritage of Satan. Prior to becoming a Christian, my father spent years drinking alcohol and smoking tobacco. You may not know it, but there is a synergistic effect when you combine the two. Synergism occurs when the total effect is greater than the sum of the individual effects. One plus (+) one =three. Your body is destroyed at a more rapid rate when you combine the elements of alcohol and tobacco. My Dad died of cancer of the lungs and brain.

When my Dad passed away, I found that I was left with a phobia of dying. I feared that I would one day find myself dying with the loss of dignity that I saw in my father. Pain I can endure, but pity and embarrassment would break my heart. It has continued to be an occasional, but earnest, prayer that I would be allowed to die with dignity. Perhaps as a reward for a life of depression.

More like my mother's experience. Mom had always had good health. Even in her eighties, she was mobile, lively and happy. On the day prior to her death, I had taken her to her doctor, and he gave her the results of some tests that had been made. He said that she had cancer markers in her blood.

I knew what she was thinking. She and I both remembered how awful my father's dying had been. She wanted to avoid that, as did I. I will never forget our conversation. Mom said, "Stormy, I don't want to die with cancer. I wish I could just go to bed and never wake up." I replied, "Mama, that's the way that all of us want to go, but that just doesn't happen very often." "I know," she said, "but I don't want to die like your Dad did."

Since my mother lived in an apartment a few blocks from me, I usually called her every day to see how she was doing. Sometimes I would just drop by to talk. The day after her doctor's appointment, I received a call from my aunt Dofa. She said that she had called Mama several times and didn't get an answer.

I drove the four blocks to my mother's home, and walked inside. I called out, but heard nothing. I walked through the house, and looked out into her backyard, but I couldn't find her. I thought that maybe she was visiting with her neighbor. Finally, I went into her bedroom, and I found her lying on the floor. She was dead, but she had the most peaceful smile on her face. Really!! Evidently, Mama got her wish. I thought, "I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish she got tonight."

As you see, my parents had distinctly different manners of dying. But now, in death, they both fully understand the meaning of Paul when he wrote, "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord--for we walk by faith, not by sight--we are of good courage,I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8)."

So what does all of this have to do with depression? Just this. Heaven is a place prepared for people who are prepared for heaven. Like the Scotsman, we should be able to say, "If I die, I will be with Jesus, and if I live ( in depression), Jesus will be with me."

Even depressed Christians are radical thinkers, at least as viewed by the rest of the world. "Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 5:16)." While we struggle with depression and our personal phobias, we are still a prepared people preparing ourselves for heaven. "Therefore, we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him (2 Cor.5:9)."

While we may be always depressed, we can still be confident that our manner of dying and the day of our death, are two things that are firmly and gently in the hands of God. "The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:5-7)."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


From this date forward, I will be posting a blog on each Friday. That way, you will know the exact day (mostly) that you can expect an update. I appreciate so much the encouragement that I have received from you, and I hope to continue to hear from you.

My primary reason for the new schedule is that my mood is generally better toward the end of the week. I'm sure that you will understand. That's what this site is all about. Providing an environment where we can encourage, strengthen, show understanding, and support one another through our difficult times.

I love and appreciate you all. Keep your eyes on Jesus.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Yada Yada

They do it. All the time. You've probably seen them do it. I know I have. Even at church they do it, and they have no shame whatsoever. Now, some people claim that they are no worse than the males of the species, but my experience tells me otherwise. In fact, when I was a teenager and moved to a small town, one of them wanted to do it with me all of the time, and wouldn't take No!" for an answer.

It happens so often, that their behavior has become a joke. "A teen aged girl had been talking on the phone for 1/2 hour, and then she hung up. 'Wow,' said her father, 'That was really short. You usually talk for 2 hours. What happened?' 'Wrong number,' said the girl."

Teen aged girls and even preteens spend a lot of time talking. They talk at school, they talk on the phone, they text-message each other, and now, they use social networking to stay in touch. What a boy can say with "Yeah," a girl can say with 30 additional words. Boys don't pass notes, girls do. Boys don't win text-messaging contests, girls do. They get a lot of practice. "Yada, yada." That's why girls and women complain that we males don't talk much. By comparison, we are strong silent types for sure.

An article by Jennifer Warner and reported by CBS News, made this statement. "Teen aged girls who bond over gripe sessions and sharing each other's problems may be doing more harm than good emotionally. A new study shows that friendships based on complaining about each other's problems may raise anxiety levels among teen girls and potentially increase the risk of depression."

Amanda J. Rose, PhD, associate professor of psychology at the University of Missouri Columbia says, "These findings are interesting because girls' intentions when discussing problems may be to give and seek positive support. However, these conversations appear to contribute to increased depression."

Researchers say the study shows talking excessively with another person about struggles, such as rehashing and dwelling on negative feelings associated with them, can have both benefits and risks for people dealing with difficult issues. But boys of the same age didn't seem to suffer the same negative emotional effects of letting it all out. Probably because their disclosures consisted of an exchange of "Bummer" and "Yeah."

If you have a teenager in your household, you might want to track the amount of time spent communicating with her best friends. As already mentioned, time spent is higher than ever before. Teen girls are talking all of the time. In ways never dreamed of in the days of their mothers. When you consider all of the time talking at home, at school, at the mall, on the cell phone, through text-messages, and on their sites at YouTube, MySpace, FaceBook, MyYearbook, Piczo, Imeem, Bebo, and Tagged, it would probably astound the average parent or even teacher. And then, you have to consider the blogs, forums and chat rooms.

Juvenile depression is a reality. Now, parents and school counselors and medical professionals have to take into consideration this new dynamic. In addition to the negative exposure that teens find on the Internet, you have to factor in what could be negative exposure to friends. Technology is creating new addictions, and baring your soul may soon become one of them. I'm going to coin a new phrase. "Yada Yada Depression."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Head Bone Connects To The Body Bone

Do you remember the chorus to the children's song, "Dem Bones?" "The foot bone connected to the leg bone, The leg bone connected to the knee bone, The knee bone connected to the thigh bone, The thigh bone connected to the back bone, The back bone connected to the neck bone, The neck bone connected to the head bone, Oh, hear the word of the Lord!"

For me, bones and pain have been intricately connected. My broken bones include toes, ankle, ribs, sternum, fingers, thumb, wrist, elbow, nose and hip. Dem bones gonna hurt, when dey broke!! Add to that, three major operations (elbow, back and hip), several scars over 4 inches, twenty years worth of migraine headaches, and you can see that pain has long been a companion of mine. Like depression. In my particular case, though, I don't believe that there was always a direct connection. Perhaps some times, but mostly not.

The medical community has pretty much accepted the fact of a connection between the "head bone" and chronic pain. The discussion of this phenomena has caused a division of psychiatrists and pain management professionals into "egg" and "chicken" parties. There seem to be people from both professions in both groups. The major question is, "What comes first? Depression or pain?" The answer appears to be, "Yes."

The more open minded doctors and researchers see that, depending on the particular patient, either pain and depression can be a result of the other. In some cases, chronic pain (lasting more than 3 months) can cause depression to develop in the patient. Makes sense to me. I know that one year when I had daily migraines (5 out of 7 days), the pain alone was depressing. Severe pain that can't be escaped or alleviated just naturally causes a person to become depressed.

What is less obvious, though, is the manner in which depression might cause someone to develop (or feel) chronic pain. In a Newsweek article (10/27/07), James Bakalar writes that "depressed people suffer three times their share of chronic pain (and people in pain are at high risk for depression). Some studies suggest that if physicians tested all pain patients for mood problems, they might discover 60 percent of all undiagnosed depression. If you're struggling with either problem, there's a good chance you're suffering from both of them."

The connection between sensory pain and emotional pain is rooted in the nervous system. Both are governed by the same neurotransmitters (serotonin, norepinephrine, and substance P), and both are processed in the same parts of the brain. When the circuitry is working properly, pain and depression are self-limiting.

Treating chronic pain can often help reduce depression, and treating depression can, to some degree, reduce the magnitude or incidence of pain. The administration of antidepressants can sometimes reduce the pain felt. This is why the medical community is beginning to consider both problems in developing a successful treatment regimen. Dr. Matthew Bair, formerly of the Regenstrief Institute, says, "We believe that a treatment model that incorporates assessment and treatment of both depression and pain is desirable."

That makes sense to me. Even children know that the Head Bone is connected to the Body Bones.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Good Web Sites

There are many great web sites with a wealth of information about depression and bipolar disorder. Here are a few of my favorites. If you have some good ones, email me. (ratings or reviews of drugs by patients)

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Get A Job!!!

"Get A Job!!" Do you remember that old song by the Silhouettes? "Get a job. Sha na na na, sha na na na na. Every morning about this time, she gets me out of my bed, a-crying, 'Get a job.' After breakfast, everyday, she throws the want ads my way, and never fails to say, 'Get a job.' Sha na na na, sha na na na na."

But what if you can't get a job, or if you get a job, you can't keep it? How can people who are successfully employed understand the difficulty that having chronic depression or bipolar disorder creates for a job-seeker. How can they understand the embarrassment of having to answer that killer question, "Why did you leave your last job? And the one before that? And the one before that?" Over and over.

You can't help but wonder at what point the prospective employer will begin to think that there is a problem. Red flags waving. Knowing that he is formulating a plan to turn you away without letting you know that he will never hire you. No way. You can't really blame him. If you were the employer, in all honesty, you would see red flags too. The only difference is, you know what colored the flag red.

We live in a society where the most likely introductory question will be, "What do you do?" That's a question that I most hate to hear. I know that it's coming, and I get all stressed out while I'm waiting for it to come. I've tried to think of something safe and strategic to say. "I do mostly what I want to do." "Nothing that I can get out of." "Oh, this and that." "I read and walk and shop and fish and sleep and eat and watch TV and..." No matter what you say, the interrogators will never let you off the hook. They persist, "No, I mean what do you do for a living?" You can't even satisfy their relentless questioning by saying, "Well, I'm a mostly retired preacher."

"Mostly-retired" is a euphemism for mostly unemployed and mostly depressed and mostly feeling helpless. The reason that job seekers are advised to diligently look for employment is that counselors know that they will eventually begin to feel worthless, if they don't find a job pretty soon. For most of us, self-esteem is tied into our ranking in the employment hierarchy. If we are not a fully functioning member of the club, then we lose our self-respect. Even if we know that we would choose to work, if we only could.
You have no idea how hopeless and helpless a person feels when he can no longer use his education, his skills and his experience to benefit society and care for his family. It's frustrating and heart-breaking to say good-bye to your dreams, and to the self-fulfillment that comes with full time employment.

In a Newsweek article on men and depression, Dr. James Siepmann is described as a example of the disappointments faced by people struggling with chronic depression or BPD. "Siepmann, a family physician and father of five, gave up his medical practice in 2000 when his depression got so bad he couldn't bring himself to get dressed in the morning. Despite numerous types of treatment, he spends most of his days at home and can only muster the energy to shave once a week."

I wonder how many times he's heard his mind saying, "Physician, heal thyself." I can easily understand the disappointment he must feel. All of his education, skills and experience are no longer utilized to do what he is driven to do.

I got a late start on my formal education. Ten days after I graduated from high school, I entered the military. After spending a year and a half in Viet Nam, and over three years in the Seabees, I was discharged and returned to the Oklahoma workforce. I was twenty-one. In the next four years, I hopped from job to job, town to town, and state to state. Finally, following a divorce, I decided to start taking some college courses while I worked a full-time job. An hour here and an hour there.

I took my first undergraduate course when I was twenty-five, and my last undergrad course when I was forty-five. Twenty years of hard work, sacrifice and expense, so that I would be able to say, "I'm a college graduate!!"' I jokingly tell people that I was a slow learner, but I have had a healthy measure of pride in my accomplishment.

What I have in common with Dr. Siepmann and with others who struggle with mental illness, is the inability to use what I've learned to do, to accomplish what I've been trained to do. He can't serve as a physician, and I can't serve as a preacher. Both of us are miserable, I'm sure. It's not easy to become reconciled with the probability that you will never again be the person that you once were. I was a skilled teacher and preacher. It was something that I loved to do. I envisioned my entire life being spent as a preacher, but now that flame has been doused.

Those of you who don't wrestle with this problem, thank God that you have been blessed with employment. Really. Please try to understand the grief that the rest of us have to deal with. In my opinion, it's easier to recover from grieving over the loss of a loved one than it is to stop grieving over the loss of a dream and the loss of your self-esteem.

None of us who are unemployed or partly employed want pity, but we do need understanding, support and respect. A dream would be good, also. We just want to ...Get A Job.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


As I say, "I'm lower than a snake's belly." (awful depressed)

A Funny

Some aspiring psychiatrists were attending their first class on emotional extremes. "Just to establish some parameters," said the professor to the student from Arkansas, "what is the opposite of joy?" "Sadness," said the student.

"And the opposite of depression?" he asked of the young lady from Oklahoma. "Elation," she replied.

"And you sir," he said to the student from Texas, "how about the opposite of woe?"
The Texan responded, "Sir, I believe that would be giddy-up."

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Many of us can remember growing up in an era when disrespect was not tolerated. My parents wouldn't allow it in the home, among friends, at school or in the community. Disrespect had direct and immediate consequences. Learning to treat others with dignity and respect was a part of the good etiquette program learned at my home. In fact, my parents often said, "If you see someone being picked on, ridiculed or shunned, then go and make a friend of that person." This is an ideal that I've tried to live up to my entire life.

Stigma is a type of disrespect that many people who are mentally ill (like me) have to deal with on a frequent basis. It comes in many forms, both subtle and overt, but it usually is manifested by prejudice, discrimination, fear, distrust, and stereotyping. Many people might avoid socializing, working, and living near to or with someone who has a mental disorder. Stigma is primarily about disrespect. Unfortunately, everyone who is guilty of it can't be spanked.

The Language of Stigma

When I began my research about this problem, I was amazed to learn how stigma has been incorporated into much of our common language. The following is a list of words and phrases frequently used to ridicule those persons who are mentally ill. Those of us who have a mood disorder may have used these words ourselves.

(1) Around the bend; going bananas; batty; bonkers; certifiable; cracked; crazy; cuckoo; delusional; demented; deranged; disturbed; harebrained; haywire; his elevator doesn't go all of the way to the top; insane; irrational; loco.

(2) Loony; lunatic, mad; madness; maniac; men in little white coats; put you in a straight-jacket; he's mental; nuts; nutty; off your rocker; of unsound mind; he's paranoid; psycho; psychotic; schizo; raving mad; retard; screwy; screw loose; he's touched; wacko.

If you circled all of the above that you were familiar with, how many would it be? Society and we have become so used to these words that we don't even consider how hurtful and disrespectful they are.

On the bright side, on April 29th, 2002, President Bush created the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health, and declared, "Our country must make a commitment. Americans with mental illness deserve our understanding and they deserve excellent care." In addition to this commission, there is a Mental Health National Anti-Stigma Campaign sponsored by the government agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. This campaign is focused on motivating "a societal change towards social acceptance and decreasing the negative attitudes that surround mental illness."

In my opinion, stigma is a result of several factors. It is due to ignorance (lack of knowledge), fear, embarrassment, a sense of superiority, pride and disrespect. One of my personal goals is to provide encouragement, opportunities, and direction that will enable us and others to gain the knowledge necessary to understand depression and bipolar disorder. A lack of knowledge produces a lack of understanding. It has been demonstrated over and over again that a failure to understand something will often result in fear and disrespect.

Even when I've talked to church groups, I have often been approached by people who are embarrassed and reluctant to discuss the subject of mental health, especially if it is related to someone close to them. Embarrassment might even cause them to become angry and deny the reality of mental illness.

As I mentioned above, disrespect is now a national problem. We see it demonstrated by the interaction of adults, children in school, employers, and the community's attitude toward law enforcement officials and government representatives. I believe that our media makes a major contribution to these attitudes in their portrayal of parents, presidents and police persons. This all carries over into how the general public treats those of us who have some form of mental illness.

The Product of Stigma

We are not able to measure the harm that stigma causes, but in talking with others and measuring my own response, I have found that it results in (1) feelings of shame, (2) hurt, (3) fear, (4) isolation, (5) a feeling of being misunderstood, (6) loneliness and (7) secrecy. Of all of these things, I believe that we are most often self-stigmatized by secrecy. As long as we feel that mental illness is something shameful, and we make every effort to hide it from our acquaintances, we will continue to be subject to the painful effects of stigma.

How To Combat Stigma

Would you be surprised to learn that while this problem is discussed even on the Presidential level, little is written about what to do about it. Nationally, the solution is to educate (I agree) the general public, protect our rights through legislation, and force insurance companies to treat mental health problems in the same way that they would treat physical health problems. All of this is good, but what can we do about stigma?

I would suggest the following: (1) educate everyone who will listen to you. Education produces understanding, and hopefully, compassion. (2) Be assertive. There is no reason why we have to allow others to ridicule us publicly or treat us with disrespect. Assertiveness is not easy to learn. It has taken me many years, but there are some good books that will advise you on how to develop this in your life. (3) Get rid of shame, through counseling, if necessary. We have nothing to be ashamed of. We acquired this health problem through no fault of our own. (4) Do not hide your struggles. Secrecy is not the solution to stigma. The more you hide, the more disrespect you earn. Life is miserable when you have to keep a secret.

Ultimately, stigma creates a barrier to a happier life for millions of people. One in five people will have a serious struggle with depression or bipolar disorder at some time in their life. Unfortunately, of that group, only one in four will seek treatment. That is primarily because of stigma. I believe that the battle we face is not just for ourselves, but also for these others who are not living as happily and productively as they might, if they would only get the help available to them.

My friends, in my opinion, the better that we understand stigma and how to fight it, the better the rest of the world will come to understand us.

On a personal note, I have been deeply depressed for the last week. I'm using this mornings "window of opportunity" to write this blog. When I get behind, please don't give up on me, I will always return as quickly as possible.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another Place

The first time it happened, I was about four years old. My parents were on a drive, and I was standing up in the back seat. My Dad told me several times to sit down, but I wouldn't listen. Finally, in order to teach me a lesson, he slowed down and tapped the brakes. Predictably, I fell in the floorboard of the car. Boy, was I mad. I said, "Stop this car and let me out!" Well, he did and I started walking down the side of the road. It was dark. I became scared. Finally, I told my parents that I would sit down, if they would let me back in the car. This was the first time that I ran away from home.

The second time occurred when I was nine. My mother was going to give me a spanking (surely for no reason), and I objected. I had decided that I was too big to get spankings, so I ran out into the backyard. At the time, we had a little guest house where Mom kept her canned goods. I went out to the house, packed up several jars of goodies (fruit) in a burlap feed sack, and headed for our neighbor's woods. It was the middle of the day, summertime, and all was well until I had eaten everything in the jars. About sundown, I started to get hungry and began to wonder what I was going to do with my life, now that I was on my own. I couldn't come up with any good plans. Home started to look more appealing, so finally I gave up on my plan to run away. That decision came with consequences. When I went back home, all of the doors were locked. I wanted to come in, but I couldn't get in because of my mean old mother. I beat on the back door. My mother said, "What do you want?" "I want to come in." "If you are ready to come home, you will have to take your spanking." I was faced with a tough mother and tough decision. I decided to wait until I was a little older to run away.

I was fourteen, when I ran away for the third time. My Dad and I had a bad argument. He was bossing me around and I didn't like it. I was too old to be bossed around. So, I decided to run away from home. I packed some clothes, grabbed my money and started walking. We lived about ten miles from the nearest town, so I cut across several pastures to save distance. When I reached the highway, I hitched my way to town. When I arrived, my Dad was sitting at the grocery store in his pickup. After talking for awhile, we decided to agree to disagree, and I went back home.

The fourth time I left home, I was a senior in high school and was eighteen. My Dad and I again had a really serious confrontation. We almost came to blows. I owned my own car then, so I told my Mom that I was leaving before we got into a fight. By this age, I was already beginning to exhibit signs and characteristics of Type One Bipolar Disorder. This time, my plan to run away was successful. I had money in the bank, got a part-time job and rented a teeny tiny apartment. I lived there for several months, until I enlisted in the Navy (again, running away) and graduated from high school (barely).

This pattern has pretty much existed throughout my life. One of the characteristics of Bipolar Disorder is a strong desire to run away from problems, and sometimes, people. We also run away from pain. We'll go anywhere, but usually we are drawn to some place that we've dreamed of living. Another place is always a better place.

I am the world's best armchair adventurer and traveler. My favorite section of the library is in the 917 section. That's where all of the books about interesting places are located. I love to read about Australia, or China, or Borneo, or Africa, or the Southwest, or...well, any place other than the place where I presently am. I get a bad "itch" to be somewhere else. Some place more intriguing and exciting and mysterious.

As I've mentioned before, 90% of all "bipolar" marriages end in divorce. Over the years, the closest that Teresa and I have come to divorce, was when I was experiencing mental anguish and just wanted to be someplace else. I wasn't wanting to leave her as much as I was wanting to get away from my pain of the moment. Perhaps I felt that she didn't really love me (how silly), and that she would be better off without me, so I began dreaming of a better place. Somewhere in the world where I could go off by myself, live like a hermit, avoid responsibility, hide out from society, and live until I die or the pain goes away.

Today, I know that "another place" doesn't exist. I understand my mental illness better, and I know that when I am feeling pain, it's because of my bipolar disorder, not because of any person(my wife) or any perceived problem. My "running away" fantasies are a clue to my mental state. These thoughts are only controlled by my greatest effort. I know theoretically that I'm beginning to fall prey to "stinkin' thinkin,' but my mind continually whispers that life is safer, happier, more exciting and less painful in another place. My wife, bless her heart, also understands and is sensitive to my moods, so she warns me and advises me and helps me to keep my head on straight.

Today, I know that running away is not an option. The place I'm in, is the place I need to be. With my wife, surrounded by friends and supported by a church family who loves me. For the moment, I don't want to be in "another place." This place is just fine. For today.

["I'm so low, I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]