Tag Archives: Depression

Mental Illness is Not an Excuse for Sexual Abuse

Mental illness and it’s various forms affect countless people around the world. But unlike physical illness and it’s many variations, mental illness does not get the respect it deserves.

Back in 2008, Malka Leifer was accused of sexually abusing several students at the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish school in Melbourne, Australia, where she worked as a teacher. But before she could be brought into the courtroom to face her accusers, Ms. Leifer left Australia for Israel. Twelve years later, she faces extradition back to Australia. Her lawyers and supporters claim that she is mentally ill.

I have a huge problem with this claim. The problem is that her claim (if it is not true) is not only foolish, but it could also have life-shattering consequences. Millions of us wake up every day with mental illness. I wake every day with depression hanging around my neck. Does that mean I will commit such a heinous crime as sexual assault on a minor?

No.

It’s hard enough to admit that one is living with mental illness and needs help. The last thing those of us who live with this disease need is for someone to use it as an excuse for moral failings.

Mental illness is NOT an excuse for sexual assault and never will be.

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Filed under International News, Mental Health, World News

Depression & Perfectionism: Failure is not an Option

Human beings make mistakes. It is a part of life, as much as we may hate it.

One of the harder aspects of depression (at least from my perspective) is perfectionism. In a nutshell, it is the ultimate desire to be perfect and the toll it takes to reach a goal that is forever unreachable. In my case (and I suspect in many others who suffer from mental illness), the unrealistic expectations create a negative emotional spiral, regardless of whether a mistake has actually happened.

It feels like failure is not an option and will never be an option. The only way to be is perfect, knowing full well that perfection is impossible. When a mistake is imagined, it could easily trigger an anxiety attack. When a mistake is real, it feels nothing short of life shattering. It’s as if we are unworthy of all the good things that life offers, unless we are perfect.

Perfect is one of the songs on Alanis Morissette’s ground breaking 1995 album, Jagged Little Pill. I can’t think of a better way to sum up the disease that is perfectionism.

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Filed under Mental Health, Music

What You Can Control: A Guide to Dealing With Mental Health in the Age of the Coronavirus

There is a lot in life that we can’t control. We can’t control the traffic on the way to work or school. We can’t control how long we will be waiting at our next doctors appointment.

But there are things that we can control.

In the age of the coronavirus, it feels like everything is out of control. Schools and work places are mostly closed and employees (if they are lucky) are able to work from home and still earn a paycheck. The number of sick, dead and dying rises every day. There is a spike in unemployment claims that has not been seen in decades, if not lifetimes.

But there are things that we can control . That is what I want to talk about today.

Over the past few weeks, I have found that knowing what I can and cannot control gives me peace of mind.

I cannot control the virus. But there are things that I can control.

I can control the fact that I still have a job (for which I thank G-d for every day) and I continue to work as hard as if I was in the office. I can control the number of hours that I am sleeping. I can control what I am eating. I can take advantage of the technology that allows me to keep in touch with family and friends. I can still write. I can still go out for fresh air, exercise and minimal errands. I can listen to the advice from the professionals and stay home.

Though I live with depression (as many of my regular readers know), it is ironic that it takes a pandemic to take a step in the right direction when it comes to my mental health.

To everyone out there, stay home, stay healthy (hopefully) and take it day by day. We will get through this.

Happy Sunday.

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Filed under Mental Health, National News

A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death Book Review

There are two things in life that are guaranteed: death and taxes. Everything else is up in the air.

While death itself is simply explained, everything else around is difficult. A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death, by BJ Miller and Shoshana Berger, takes away that difficulty. The book is a step by step process of dealing with death. From the legal and financial paperwork to dealing with the healthcare system, preparing for the funeral and the grief that follows, the book is the complete guide for dealing with death.

I originally picked up this book because as someone who lives with depression, I wanted to get another perspective on illness and death. What I got instead was a book that is tremendously helpful. As my generation gets older and our parents reach the age in which their health comes into question, we will need to deal with issues we have not dealt with before.

While this book cannot completely help with the emotional aspects of this topic, it can help with the legal, medical and logistical aspects that make illness and death just a little easier to cope with.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Mental Health

What I am Grateful For on This Thanksgiving

As many of us gather around the table this Thanksgiving, we often cite what we are thankful for.

This year, I am grateful for many things. When you live with depression, it is easy to get mired in a negative mindset. Today, I am determined to not let the depression get the best of me.

I am grateful for the breath in my lungs and my physical health.

I am grateful for the food on my plate and the clothes on my back.

I am grateful for the unending love and support of my family and friends.

I am grateful for the professional opportunities that have come and will continue to come my way.

I am grateful for the ability to write and the drive I have to succeed as a writer.

Most of all, I am grateful to be alive.

From me and my family, I hope you have a happy and wonderful Thanksgiving. May the upcoming holiday season and the New Year be a blessed one.

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Filed under Mental Health

Thoughts On the Mental Health Aspects of Tashlich and Yom Kippur

All faiths have a build in method for which the members of the faith confess and absolve themselves of their sins and their mistakes.

In Judaism, the High Holidays is not only the beginning of the Jewish New Year. It is a time to review what has has transpired in the past year, accept that we have made mistakes and make the promise to hopefully learn from those mistakes.

Regular readers of this blog know that I am not particularly religious. But as I have gotten older and I have grappled daily with depression, I have come to appreciate the mental health aspects of the High Holidays.

The Tashlich service is simpler than Rosh Hashanah, but in my mind, just as important. To make a long story short, it is a ceremony in which prayers are made and bread is thrown into a open body of water, simulating the throwing one sin’s away.

As I completed Tashlich yesterday. I felt a sense of relief. My least favorite (if there is one to be had) aspect of depression is the constant reminder and regurgitation of past mistakes. Though I will never be free of these mistakes, Tashlich provided the opportunity for the emotional release of the errors from the past year, if only temporarily.

On Tuesday, Yom Kippur begins. It is an intense 25 hours of prayer and fasting. To say that it is not easy is an understatement. At a certain point in the day, it is mind over matter. But it is worth it. The emotional freedom that comes with completing Yom Kippur is akin to a weight being lifted off one shoulders. For a moment, it is as if my depression does not exist. But I know that the moment will pass and my depression will come back as it always does.

For those who celebrate, have an easy fast and may you be written in the book of life for the coming year.

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Filed under Mental Health, Thoughts On....

I Have a Mental Illness, I Didn’t Shoot Anyone Yesterday

This past weekend, as we all know, was one of the bloodiest in American history. Two mass shootings killed 31 people (as of Tuesday) and injured many more. One of the first questions that many ask is why this happened.

Some may state that the accused shooter was mentally ill.

I, like millions of others around the world am mentally ill. It has been my unwanted companion for far too long. I have yet to (and it is unlikely that I ever will) purchase a gun for the sole purpose of killing innocent people.

I wish our leaders would stop pointing fingers and ask the hard questions. At this point, as a nation, experienced too many mass shootings to point fingers at outside influences. That is taking the easy way out.

Video games are not the cause of mass shootings. Neither are the Internet or mental illness. It is our lax gun laws that cause mass shootings. It is the NRA and the gun lobby who have some of our politicians in their back pocket.

We need the red flag law and the universal background checks installed and enforced as national law now. We needed to tighten up our gun laws yesterday.

I feel like right now, this nation is at a turning point. We can continue on the same path that we have been going on and lose more innocent lives. Or, we can finally take a stand and ensure that this generation does not become the generation that is killed by mass shootings.

Only then will this madness finally stop.

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Filed under Mental Health, National News

RIP Saoirse Kennedy Hill

Depression kills. Like any disease, it has the potential to destroy life. But unlike other diseases, it does not receive the recognition that it should.

Last week, depression took another life. It’s victim was twenty two year old Saoirse Kennedy Hill, whose grandfather was the late Robert F. Kennedy. According reports, depression had been her unwanted friend for years. While in high school, she wrote a column in her school newspaper about her battle with depression.

One of the hardest things about depression is sometimes the simple act of getting up in the morning. It may seem trivial, but getting up in the morning is a sign of life. Depression does not want us to live, it wants us to stay in it’s cold and dark cocoon and eventually die.

I am glad that I woke up this morning. It took a good amount of energy, but I did.

Saoirse Kennedy Hill was young, only twenty two with what was hopefully a full life ahead of her. Unfortunately, depression took that life away before she had the chance to truly live.

Z”L. May her memory be a blessing.

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The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty Book Review

When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, the late former First Lady Barbara Bush looked like a grandmother straight out of Hollywood central casting. Her white hair was cut short, she was known for her pearls and matronly clothing and she was the matriarch of a large family. But there is so much more to her than the image.

Susan Page’s new biography, The Matriarch: Barbara Bush and the Making of an American Dynasty, tells the story of Mrs. Bush from her perspective. Born in 1925 to a wealthy family whose roots went back to the founding of America, she was the third of four children. Equally belittled and ignored by her mother about her weight, the future First Lady never got over the comments she received as a child.

In her late teens, she married the future President George H.W. Bush. Married for seven decades, she brought six children into the world. Her oldest son, George W. Bush, followed in his father’s footsteps. Her oldest daughter, Robin, died of Leukemia at age three, leaving her mother with an emotional scar that never healed. Later as an adult, she battled depression and aided both her husband and son during their time in the White House.

Containing interviews with Mrs. Bush, President Bush, her family, political aides, press clippings, diary entries and other details, this books is the complete story of one of America’s most respected First Ladies.

One of the things that I was surprised about was how emotionally strong and outspoken Mrs. Bush was. Like many women of her generation, her adult life focused on her home and her family. But unlike the Donna Reed-like ideal of the 1950’s and 1960’s, Mrs. Bush was not the yes-woman to her husband nor was she the picture of motherly perfection. She was bold, she was outspoken and not above providing unsolicited advice. She may not have been a traditional feminist, but she is the definition of a strong, intelligent and capable woman.

This book is a must read, especially if one is a political junkie. It sheds light not just on the public side of Mrs. Bush, but also the private that only a few were privileged to see.

I recommend it.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Feminism, History, Mental Health, Politics

Life after Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort and Community after Unthinkable Loss Book Review

When a loved one dies of a physical health issue or a random accident, the common response for the deceased loved ones is sympathy. When a loved one dies from suicide due to mental illness, the common response is not always sympathy.

In 2017, Dr. Jennifer Ashton thought that she had it all: two happy and healthy children, a career as a respected physician and an amicable relationship with her ex-husband. Then her ex-husband committed suicide.

In her new memoir, Life after Suicide: Finding Courage, Comfort and Community after Unthinkable Loss, Dr. Ashton writes about the unexpected death of her ex-husband and how it changed her life. In this deeply personal memoir, Dr. Ashton takes the reader through the bumpy road from grief to acceptance. She also includes the stories of other women who have lost loved ones to suicide and how they learned to cope with their new reality.

I found this book to be one of the best books on mental illness that I have read in a long time. When we talk about suicide, we often talk about the person who took their own life, forgetting that their loved ones are dealing with an unimaginable loss and questions with answers that are not so black and white.

I recommend this book not just for those who are suffering from mental illness, but for those who love them. If nothing else, it will hopefully open the door to a conversation and perhaps save a few lives.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Mental Health