(The following is by Gambit guest blogger and New Orleans resident Leigh C., who maintains her own blog, Liprap’s Lament: The Line. You can read more of her writing there.)
I first had an inkling that something was wrong in grade school. I was too overly sensitive, took others’ slights much too seriously. It came to a head a few times, but the first time I knew deep down that I had to get help was when I was asked to get help by a former boss of mine. I began to be treated for the lack of serotonin in my brain and was able to do much better as a result.
I made a huge mistake, however, when I made the decision to go off the meds and discontinue the therapy when we moved up north. I wasn’t doing so because of my pregnancy – in fact, my doctor in New Orleans said that the particular drug I was taking was fine to continue using throughout the nine months. I was ending the treatment because it seemed like such a hassle, having to find another doctor, another therapist. Plus, telling my grandparents, my aunt, anybody who might be able to help in a new place was too much for me at the time. I had enough meds to continue taking them into my son’s first month, and then I’d be able to handle life without them. Right?
Wrong. Very, very wrong.
I know now that I am not only continuing my treatment from my own longtime depression coupled with a nasty post-partum depression for strictly my own sanity – it is also so that I don’t take it out on the ones I love the most, namely my husband and my son. These dark feelings I have on a regular basis are a fact of my life. It has taken me a while to accept this, but even with acceptance, my internal battles continue. Because, despite a greater than ever before cultural acceptance for depression, bipolar disorder, and other illnesses of a mental nature, my depression is not something that most people, even my own family, want to hear about, much less accept.
Which is sad, really. Acceptance of physical infirmities is easier to deal with, because in most cases, a physical problem can be seen. X-rays and MRIs can show one’s broken bones and any abnormalities in one’s organs. Test results can show if one has cancer or not – numbers and quantifiable readouts can’t be easily refuted. Depression, however, is something that can be sloughed off by most people, explained away with excuses, pooh-poohed as a myth, a state in which the one suffering from it is told that “this too shall pass.” Things will change.
Yes, things will change. Until then, don’t pass it all off as nothing…HELP!
I live in a city full of people screaming for help in one form or another. Each person can feel as though he/she is suffering alone – and the most extreme sufferers end up showing all their cards when it is much too late for them to get help. The most heartbreaking ones for me personally are the kids who are still feeling the effects of having their lives change so horribly three years after the events of 8-29 and after. The young girl who still trembles at the beginning of the school year, remembering that one day when she started school and then, the very next day, she couldn’t go back to that same school for a really long time. The child who returned to a completely different house not far from his old house – but the old house was not fit for his family to live in. The boy who had to endure the slow torture of having friends return only to hold their places in school while their parents made arrangements to move elsewhere at the end of the school year – among those who had had to move was the boy’s best friend. And these are the kids who evacuated with their families before the storm made landfall.
This doesn’t even cover the kids who rode out the storm with their families, saw much, much more suffering and pain than they ever should have, and now have to cope with a reality that is staggering for even adults to contemplate – that there is very, very little, in the end, that we can hold on to as a constant. Home can be washed away, and no one in a position to do something about it has exactly been running to bring it back. Children who grow up with this kind of knowledge are going to have a terrible time living, growing, and thriving without a good sense of stability.
And all of this at a time when our city’s health services are experiencing some serious supply and demand problems: loads of demand, with a dwindling supply.
As parents in this brave scary world of post-Federal Flood New Orleans, we owe it to our kids to be as healthy as we can be in order to provide them with this stability. We need to be positioned in such a way as to give them the best medical care we can get for them. We need to make informed decisions about their education and their overall well-being. I wish I could say that that is coming along nicely, but it’s harder now than it ever has been, in too many ways.
No more excuses, New Orleans. And don’t go running off, you other forty-nine states in this country, because this applies to you, too. Muster up that energy, take a good hard look at what is right in front of your noses, and start accepting it – the need for hospitals and greater mental health care, the idea that throwing more technology into our schools and commodifying our public education system is not the cure-all for decades of its ills, the culture in City Hall that allows scandals like the current one revolving around NOAH to happen, the need we have to diversify the tourist economy on which this city is too heavily based – it all needs some serious help. Like depression, most of the abovementioned issues are not all that easily quantifiable, but they have to be addressed and effectively dealt with in order for this city to stay alive and to thrive.
Take it from one crazy mother.