Living with Depression Articles

Depression as fashion…not

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

I have a few questions about Urban Outfitters controversial “Depression” shirt – like who the heck would wear that?

You’ve got a cropped t-shirt (who even wears those anymore?) covered the word “depression” in a busy pattern of different size letters. In the t-shirt’s defense, “Depression” is the name of the clothing line. Really? Who names their clothing line after a mental illness? What’s next?

tshirtWell, I don’t know what’s next but I can tell what the last shirt that got Urban Outfitters in trouble. It’s the one that said “Eat Less” on an emaciated teenager. REALLY? I mean, REALLY? You tell me that there was a photo shoot at some studio and the stylists put an “Eat Less” t-shirt on an emaciated teenage model and SOMEONE in the studio didn’t say, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. This is not cool. We can’t do this!”

And there is some buyer at Urban Outfitters (who apparently didn’t get the memo about the Eat Less shirt) who saw the Depression t-shirt and thought, “Ooooo! We just have to carry that shirt!”

Don’t get me wrong. I like a lot of the stuff that Urban Outfitters sells. In fact, I just got a pair of tangerine Chuck Taylors for $10. Obviously, I don’t have much fashion sense but I love a good deal. But what little fashion sense – and common sense – I have were thoroughly insulted by the “Depression” t-shirt.


How’s that New Year’s resolution working for you?

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

I don’t do resolutions but apparently a lot of people do because the gym was packed this morning.

If something needs to change, I change it. Relying on a number on a calender has never worked for me. Trust me. I’ve tried it. You can ask any alcoholic and they will tell you they have set deadlines and then either missed them or got sober for a few weeks and then they’re back at it.

It’s the same with dieting. If you can go ON a diet, you can go OFF a diet. You want to lose weight or quit smoking or drinking, you just do it – not because it’s a certain day of the year. resolutionsBecause it needs to be done and every cell in your body is convinced of that truth. In the words of the philosophers at Nike: Just do it.

Of course if you are as hard headed as I am, it may take some time to convince yourself that you really need to make a change. In fact, I brain has concocted truly ridiculous arguments  to prove to myself that I didn’t need to quit drinking, take antidepressants or see a therapist.


Christmas takes aim at my depression

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

And I shall go forth into another holiday season with this mantra: Expectations are premeditated disappointments.

I shall also turn the frickin’ channel when a jewelry commercial comes on the television or that chipper song Feliz Navidad plays on the radio. I will do my damndest to avoid sugar, especially M&Ms. I will avoid the mall and its DMV-ish lines and battles for parking spots.shutterstock_820713

I’m not doing this because I am a bah-humbug kind of girl. I’m doing this because I know that my depression is smack in the middle of the bullseye this time of year. After umpteen years of therapy and medications, I  know that my expectations about Christmas – fueled by the American advertising industry – can push me over the edge.

So, I’m working on having a Charlie Brown kind of Christmas this year. I’m going to focus on putting a single bulb on a pathetic little tree – metaphorically speaking – and remember the nativity. I was raised Catholic, which likely explains a lot of other issues that we’re not going to go into right now, and taught that Christmas is about Christ’s birth.

Santa is supposed to be a side-dish, not the main course. I am going to focus instead on the lessons of the nativity, namely humility and giving.

And in that spirit, I give you this: a simple reminder of the simplicity of Christmas.

Pathetic Christmas tree image available from Shutterstock.


Vacation vs Depression

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

It is November 14 and I am on vacation. It is the first vacation I have taken this year and I will never – ever – go so long without a vacation again.

Normally I take a week in the spring, two or three weeks in the summer and a week in the fall or during the holidays. This year, I took a week off in the spring but it was no vacation. I felt myself slipping into a depression and took the time to deal with that. Throughout the year I have taken a day here or a day there when I wasn’t feeling well or needed a long weekend.

But that is not a vacation.shutterstock_140985469

I realized in September that working so much with so little time off was affecting my mental health. Some mornings I woke up and wondered what day it was. Sometimes I tried to figure it out but I got to the point where I was like, f- it – it really didn’t matter what day it was.

I had to work – either at the newspaper or in the yard or on my 85-year-old house, which seems to be falling down around me. I felt that the only thing saving me from falling into my black hole was the floor beneath me – my medications. And I was flat on my ass on that floor.

The last two months have been hellish. As  journalist for 30 years I’ve seen a lot of nasty stuff. However, September and November brought two new cases that raised the depravity and brutality bar. I won’t go into details but both involved mothers who ended up dead – one without a head – and orphaned or dead kids.


The Intersection Between Violence, Depravity, Depression and My Career

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

I am a newspaper reporter. In the 30 years I’ve been doing it, I’ve seen some horrific stuff – crimes and atrocities that grab headlines and break hearts. Last week I covered a case that knocked the emotional wind out of me.

I am hoping that my editors don’t read this. If they do, I’m afraid they will say I’m too weak to cover these kinds of stories – which I am not. Just the opposite.

Anyone who is regularly exposed to grisly violence and depravity and tells you it doesn’t affect them is either a liar or a sociopath. Yes, you can train yourself to disregard emotions and focus on your responsibilities – your job. You can wear emotional oven mitts when you have to reach in and touch the searing reality of what has happened.shutterstock_143295919

But you cannot stuff your feelings or bury them forever. They are there, waiting to be acknowledged. If you ignore and deny them long enough, they will haunt you and stalk you until you either give in or become a mean, nasty, sarcastic and heartless son-of-a bitch.

It’s your choice – and it is a choice. I learned that lesson the hard way. Some people will drink or take drugs to take the edge off what they have seen or heard or smelled or touched. Some will become violent themselves. Many will become depressed.

I covered criminal courts for 12 years, which meant I hunted down the by-product of rage, terror and inexplicable tragedy every day. I trolled the hallways of the courthouse every morning in search of the saddest, most horrific, bizarre and violent stories on display that day.

In south Florida, where I have worked for most of my career, that’s saying something.

My mother, who lived her life in the midwest, would read my stories and say, “Things like this just don’t happen in Grand Rapids.” In my head I responded, “No shit.”


What 15-years of Sobriety has Taught Me

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Fifteen years ago tonight I got very, very drunk. I don’t remember much of that night and what I do remember sickens me. I really hope that if my life flashes before me as I’m dying, this night is left out. I don’t really want to know what else happened that night.

Nothing has been the same since that night, August 27, 1998. It was simultaneously the worst and best night of my life. I hit bottom. I surrendered and started a new life- without drugs or alcohol. That night the firstshutterstock_136834292 domino fell and since then I have learned that alcoholism is not my only mental illness. I also have hypomania – a kind of bipolar disorder with less dramatic and violent mood swings that bipolar I but my tendency is towards depression.

Getting sober was the beginning of my life making sense to me. If you do not have a mental illness, you may not understand how important it is for your  life to make sense. Your life has probably always made sense to you.

My life was a disaster. I wasn’t even 40-years-old and I had already been through two marriages. I was a bitch. I had a lot of anger and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. Removing the alcohol made life even more raw – like someone had taken a potato peeler to my soul. I not only had to learn how to live without alcohol, I had to learn to live. Period.

Having grown up in an alcoholic household and starting my own drinking/drugging career at 14, my social skills were a little lacking. I had to learn how to play well with others instead of conquering others. I had to learn to do things like apologize and mean it, tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and learn how to dance without a dozen Coronas in me.


How My Alcoholism Revealed My Depression

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Fourteen years ago today I took my last drink. I’m not sure exactly what it was because much of that night remains a blur – in and out of a blackout. I remember going to a party where there were massive martini glasses on each table filled with goldfish. I was determined to SAVE THE GOLDFISH! when the clean-up crew started flushing them down the toilet. Ah, the joys of being the last one at the party.

I have a few other snippets of drunken debauchery from that night but I clearly remember waking up and my neighbor coming over and asking if I was okay because my front door was wide open when he went out to get his paper that morning and some of my clothes — the kind of clothing that neighbors usually aren’t privy to seeing — were strewn about my front yard.

I stumbled into a 12-Step meeting later that day, sat in the back and realized I was in the right place — even though I thought it was insane that these people could be laughing at stories like mine from the night before! How dare they take this so lightly! Can’t they see how much pain I am in? What is wrong with these people?


Suicide, Guns and Free Speech

Monday, August 6th, 2012

I live in Florida. Land of the profoundly weird and frequently stupid. Like the guy charged with illegally feeding an alligator after the gator bit off his hand. Or an image of the Virgin Mary appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich. We have wild pythons big enough to eat deer and a wanna-be plastic surgeon who injected women’s derrieres with Fix-a-Flat (Don’t try this at home.)

On July 30, we learned that the Florida Department of Health – with the blessing of Gov. Rick Scott – would appeal a federal judge’s recent ruling that blocked the implementation of a new law that barred physicians from asking their patients about guns. With this appeal, Florida has set the gold standard for government-sanctioned waste and stupidity.

Why would a doctor ask a patient about guns, you ask? There are a lot of reasons. Maybe a doctor wants to know if there are guns in a patient’s home because 2,793 children and teens were killed by firearms in 2009. About one third of those deaths – 938 – were accidental or suicide. Maybe the doctor wants to know if the guns in a child’s home are trigger-locked or safely stored in a gun safe.

Maybe a doctor stitching the busted lip of a woman abused by her husband wants to know if there are weapons in the home. Or maybe a patient has depression and the doctor knows that about half of the 36,000 people who commit suicide every year do so with a gun and most of those people have a mental illness. There are many good reasons for a doctor would ask these questions.


A Dual-Diagnosed, Sober Alcoholic’s Take on a “Sober Pill”

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Being a recovered alcoholic and boozeless for nearly 14 years, you can imagine how wide my eyes opened when I read recent headlines about research on lomazenil.

Sober Pill Might Prevent People From Getting Drunk

Could New Drunk Antidote Help Drinkers Drive?

A Pill to Stay Sober????

New Pill Let’s You Drink Without Getting Drunk

The commotion began when some zealous journalists got loosey-goosey with the facts – claiming that researchers at Yale University had released results of a preliminary study showing that the drug lomazenil, when taken before drinking, weakens the effect of alcohol.

Well, turns out that is not exactly true. According to folks at Yale, there has been no study at Yale about lomazenil’s ability to thwart the effects of alcohol. Yale is NOT developing a “sober pill.”


April 25, 2006: The Day My Depression Ate Me

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

There are three dates I commemorate every year: December 18 – my birthday; August 27 – my sobriety date; and today April 25, – the date I slipped into my last – and hopefully final – major depression.

April 25 is the day the lights went out. That’s how I describe it. Game over. Done. I had tried to keep it together but on the morning of April 25, 2006 but I bonked. The woman who had run marathons and triathlons, restored her 80-year-old house and raised her daughter as a single-working mom could go no further.

I got up early that morning feeling spiritually and emotionally bankrupt. Crying but numb. I dragged my ass to the gym, thinking the endorphins from a spin class might help. I closed my eyes and pedaled so hard that my cheeks flapped like a racehorse and foam formed in the corners of my mouth.

When I finally got off the bike, my legs wobbled and I waited for the endorphin rush but there was none. Just failure, exhaustion and brutal anxiety


 
Hoping for a Happy Ending
Check out Christine's book!
Hope for a Happy Ending: A Journalist's
Story of Depression, Bipolar and Alcoholism
Christine Stapleton

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Recent Comments
  • Michelle: Wow! I thought I was the only person in the world like this! And I associated it with being a trauma/abuse...
  • Rampant reader: Hi Christine, Another holiday orphan here. My parents are from other countries. They met and married...
  • David: Thank you for your compassion. People so flippantly try to claim that you can think your way out of depression...
  • Christine Stapleton: Great idea!
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