A Testimony of God’s Grace (Part II): “Background Check”

depression

In order to better understand what happened to me in 2012, some background information is needed. First, knowing the difference between “sadness” and “clinical depression” is important. Also, it is important to learn a little bit about my childhood and my life prior to 2012.

Googling is a beautiful thing. One may learn just about everything by googling on one‘s computer.

I googled: “What is the Difference Between Clinical Depression And Sadness? This is what I found:

confused

“Although depression is often thought of as being in an extreme state of sadness, there is a vast difference between clinical depression and sadness. Sadness is a part of being human, a natural reaction to painful circumstances. All of us will experience sadness at some point in our lives. Depression, however, is a physical illness with many more symptoms than an unhappy mood. The person with clinical depression finds that there is not a logical reason for his dark feelings. Exhortations from well-meaning friends and family for him to ‘snap out of it’ provide only frustration for he can no more ‘snap out of it’ than the diabetic can will his pancreas to produce more insulin. Sadness is a transient feeling that passes as a person comes to terms with his troubles. Depression can linger for weeks, months or even years. The sad person feels bad, but continues to cope with living. A person with clinical depression may feel overwhelmed and hopeless.”

depression vs. sadness

There have been times in my life when I have been sad. Just before entering graduate school I thought I met “The One,” but he turned out not to be “The One.” I was sad for awhile, but then realized how the Lord helped me “dodge a bullet.” After graduate school I found a job, but had to resign after three months. The job wasn’t a good fit for me. I was very sad and thought I failed at completing my lifetime goal of getting a job and living independently. I moved in with my friend Pam and another woman named Mildred and started to get my life back together again. Mildred was the one who told me about Hopetown in Carmel, N.Y. I applied and was accepted as a home missionary and worked as a teacher at a residential school for disabled children and adults. I later became a house dean supervisor and schedule coordinator. I was very happy at Hopetown. After six years, things were changing at the school and I felt God was calling me back home. I was sad to leave Hopetown, but I was also happy to be home. I lived with my friends the Dowlings for a year, then with my friend Tibby, until I got my own apartment in Northampton. I tried to start a ministry with people with disabilities at my church, but that never really got off the ground. Again, I felt that I failed to accomplish what God wanted me to do, BUT GOD helped me to excel as a deacon at my church for six years. After living in Northampton and being so free to come and go as I pleased [I could walk back then], my apartment building became unsafe for me [residents who had substance abuse problems would set fires in the building], so my sister Jane invited me to live in the downstairs apartment at her family’s house. I was sad to have to leave Northampton and all I was able to do there [I could walk or take the bus to wherever I wanted to go], but I was happy to be near Jane and her family and my new apartment was so much bigger and more beautiful than the one in Northampton and I could have kitties! These are examples of sad times in my life which did not last long, because I was never overwhelmed with sadness to the point of not being able to function in the “normal” activities of everyday life.

I googled the definition of “clinical depression”. Here is one definition I found:

clinical depression

“Although it’s not a formally recognized term, clinical depression describes a condition in which persistent low mood and related symptoms are severe enough to interfere with everyday life. Losing interest in activities, having trouble finding pleasure in things that you used to enjoy, deep sadness, and unexplained crying are just some of the possible symptoms of clinical depression. The word “clinical” implies that the symptoms are serious enough to require psychiatric [medical] treatment.”

Clinical depression can develop from traumatic experiences in one’s life; such as a death in the family, losing everything in a fire, losing one’s job, the “death” of a life-long dream or it can just happen out of the blue without anything out of the ordinary happening to trigger it. In some cases, clinical depression can creep into one’s life overnight or it can be insidious and slowly take over one’s life over time. Clinical depression can be genetic and “run in the family.”

twin towers

Everything changed for everyone on September 11, 2001. Just about a month prior to 9/11, everything changed for my family. On August 18, 2001, my dad suffered a severe stroke. My dad had been caring for his disabled wife, my mom, for many years. Because of my dad’s stroke, he and my mom came to live with me, so that Jane and I could take care of them. They both needed 24/7 care. Jane took care of their many physical needs and I supervised the personal care attendants who came when Jane was at work and oversaw the visiting nurses to make sure everyone was “on the same page.” When my parents needed something during the night, I had to call Jane for help. My dad passed away in March 2003 and my mom passed away in January 2010. Although the first nine years of the 21st century were physically, emotionally and spiritually grueling and painful for both of us, Jane and I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. Our parents took care of us. It was our turn to take care of them.

My Good Side

During the time of caring for my parents, especially my mom, I was slowly losing my ability to walk. I can still remember the happiest day of my life was when I started walking on my own at nine years old. Because of my cerebral palsy, it took that long for me to be able to get walking. I remember waking up one morning and saying to my mom, “I think I can walk.” I stood up and walked over to her. What a feeling of elation and pure joy! I had been getting stronger every year; having weekly physical therapy and having my dad hold me with a towel around my waist to help me walk. I also had a walker with a padded circle to slip up in with four steel “legs” with wheels to help me practice

eagle

walking. I pretended to be a giant spider when I used this strange “mobile device” to walk. I also had a “standing box,” with a door that shut me inside it, with a “desk“ to put my coloring book and crayons on. The thing looked like a pulpit [Now you see where my “preaching” comes from]. I would stand in my “pulpit” for an hour a day. I got to the point of being able to walk by holding onto counters, chairs and walls. At nine years old, I was finally able to walk BY MYSELF! It almost felt like I could fly; I was so excited and overjoyed! And now, in my fifties, I was losing the precious ability to walk. First, my right ankle “wore out,” then my left knee. Body parts do wear out with age, especially when they are used in the “wrong way” for half a century minus nine years. I walked with an awkward gait. Because my right side was weaker than my left, I had to compensate somehow.

World Series 04

[Mom in the middle, with me and my sister Jane after the RED SOX ’07 W.S. win.)

During the two years after my mom’s death, I thought I was handling things well with losing my mom and also my ability to walk. I invented my own walker and named it “Tessie.” It was a hemi-walker with wheels front legs and little “skis” on the back, so I could pushed it with my dominant left hand. I even had a basket on the front to keep things in. My friend Pam and I did “A Hot Dog Stand Survey” by eating our way across the Pioneer Valley and beyond, visiting hotdog stands and rating them with a list of criteria we made up. We even sent out our findings via email to members of our church and others. 2011 was a good year because my nephew’s high school football team [Eagles] won the championship, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup and other fun things were happening. During this time, my walking with “Tessie’s” help was becoming harder and harder to do and was not very efficient or safe anymore. Most of my coming and going was now done with a transport chair. Having to go places with my transport chair limited the people I could ask for rides to church and other places because not everyone was able to lift the chair into their trunks or back seat. From someone who used to speed-walk all over Northampton; to someone who had to stay home with her parents; to someone who now was free to come and go as she pleased, but now wasn’t physically able to do so, I guess that took a toll on me. I had time to think about what I had lost: my biggest fan and my treasured freedom to come and go as I pleased.

To be continued…

In His Grip,

IMG_1951

Lydia

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