Depression and Addiction--the Serious Article


Depression and Addiction--the Serious Article

pills_medicationThere are blog articles to come which show my mother when she was in mental health crises. I use humor because otherwise, I tend to get angry. That is something I do all too often. I mean, letting loose with a good yell is healthy. Swearing is okay, too, or like one friend put it, it's okay to have a pity party now and then, as long as you don't forget to flush. Just don't forget to flush.

I don't mean to downplay Mom's issues or make fun of someone who is suffering from mental illness. So, this is the serious article before you read the rest of them.

Mom was the youngest child in a large family. Her sisters doted on her and her brothers teased her. She was pretty, popular, and... um.. well built. I did not take after her. She often told me to enjoy my high school years because it was the best time of my life. I found that mildly depressing, even at the time, but it was a reflection of what she had experienced in her own high school years. Her popularity was a mixed blessing. At the age of 20, she was single and pregnant and her boyfriend's parents refused to give permission for them to marry.

Mom was pressured to give up her child for adoption. Another mixed blessing was that her brother and sister-in-law adopted her son. As with many of these situations, there was a veil of secrecy over her pregnancy. Not even all the family knew why she was sent away to live in the city for awhile. Though my half-brother was raised as my cousin, I never really knew him. They lived halfway across the country from us and stayed away.

The veil of secrecy included my sibs and me and I probably would never have known about my half brother, except a cousin of mine accidentally let it slip--just six years ago. That's a story in itself and too long for this post. My half-brother died at age 50 as a result of being addicted to alcohol.

What I did know, what we all knew, was Mom went through a lot of anxiety and depression. Now I recognize it as PTSD, a common result of being pressured to give up a baby. In this case, secrecy was like putting a bandaid on a pressure wound and pretending it's not there. When I was in junior high, Mom's doctor prescribed Valium. In his defense, there wasn't really much available for people who were truly suffering from depression and anxiety. She became addicted within weeks.

Anxiety and addiction runs in her family.

I remember Mom in tears, begging the pharmacist for a "few more pills" just to tide her over. There is something about these drugs that can leave one with deep feeling of discontent that is not easy to shake, even after the meds are stopped. It's the feeling that your life should be better than what it is. If, as in my mom's case, the meds are never stopped, the feeling can turn into entitlement. No only should your life be better than it is, but you deserve better - without doing any work towards a better life. Others should be providing it for you. It's a hell of a way to live, depressed and angry and powerless.

Eventually, the Valium wasn't enough to handle her anxiety and depression. By the time I discovered the extent of her hoarding--I'm never going to let anyone take anything away from me--she was not only on Valium, but her doc had added Zoloft, Ambien, and an antidepressant (not sure which one). These, combined with her meds for high blood pressure, potassium deficiency, thyroid problems, and who knows what else, created a drug induced dementia and, for some time, a dive into paranoid psychosis.

Growing up, it was like living with a severe alcoholic except it was condoned, encouraged by her doctors. I stayed away from home as much as possible. I have no idea why my dad stayed with her, though I'm truly grateful he did. I have to confess, I do not love my mother. I've tried. Maybe it's a strange sort of justice that I am the one to take care of her now. Maybe, eventually, I'll learn how to love her again.

And that's enough. Back to my regular writing.

"There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt." ~ Erma Bombeck

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Hi Goldie--I just love your blog posts.\n\nA few years ago, I connected with a counselor who works with older adults who hoard. She talked about the trauma that triggers hoarding, that hoarding doesn't just happen, it seems to be the reaction to a terrible trauma. And, so it is with your mom. I can't imagine her heartache.\n\nI also understand why it's so hard to love her. It's the reason we use the term \"caree\" rather than loved one. Sometimes you care for a family member who really isn't a loved one.\n\nDo you know if your mom ever spoke to your dad about your half-brother?


Goldie, I admire your candor and courage in relaying your story and your feelings about your mom. \n\nI am wondering, how old your mom is. Valium generally is contraindicated for depression but at one time (50s & 60s), it was so commonly prescribed for women's \"problems\". Mick Jagger even sings about \"mother's little helper\". Valium is highly addictive and if not properly decreased or managed with medical detox it can and will cause seizures. I've seen it personally when a client would \"forget\" to tell about their benzodiazepine usage when they came in for substance abuse treatment. You probably know this, but many don't. I add it here because many people do not understand the physical addiction and danger of withdrawal. In fact, withdrawal from this class of drugs and/or alcohol is far more life threatening than withdrawal from heroine or morphine.\n\nI'm glad you can look at your mom's history and understand how and why she ended up that way. But I do know from personal experience, that understanding doesn't make dealing with a such family member any easier. I have a sister with borderline personality disorder that quite frankly I could strangle at times and I do limit my contact with her. My other sisters and I vent about her, but when the anger toward her stops, it is often replaced with tears. Sometimes anger is just easier than crying.\n\nErma Bombeck is right. There are fine lines. When I was a substance abuse counselor, my team and I would be outrageously irreverent and joke about situations that others would think disrespectful. It was our way to relieve the stress of dealing with so many damaged and broken people. \n\nLooking forward to your humor!\n\n