The Link Between Child Abuse, Depression, & Mental Health

 

depression, mental health, mental illness
Photo by Ben Maguire on Unsplash

Another wealthy and famous person is dead from suicide. How much depression or Kate Spade’s mental health played a part is speculative until those closest to her decide whether and how much they want to discuss it. And how much they knew. Someone with depression can be an expert at appearing fine.

She was Emeritus Chair on the Board of Directors for the New York Center for Children, which is devoted to the treatment and prevention of child abuse. I don’t know what her connection was to that issue, whether it was an invitation from a friend, because she was a mother, or out of her experience or that of someone close to her.

The connection between child abuse and mental health is something I’ve spent the past few years thinking about and exploring. Those of us who were abused as children experience depression and C-PTSD. I still startle easily, struggle with sleep and hypervigilance, and have flashbacks. It’s why I’ve written about it and will continue to do so. I’m putting together an outline for my own recovery that I hope will help others. It’s part of why nearly all of my writing, including my novels, are roadmaps to emotional recovery.

“Having it all” doesn’t inoculate you from depression. The most maddening tweets I’ve read in the past couple of hours since the news of Kate Spade’s suicide broke are the ones who declare that she was “selfish.” She was not selfish; she was in pain. If you want to remember her, consider donating to a charity with a mission to treat and prevent child abuse or suicide.

If you’re dealing with the fallout from child abuse, there’s help available. Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD and its workbook, and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score are a good start. There are groups such as Survivors of Incest Anonymous and RAINN. There are trauma therapists who can use various modalities. Check out the medical side with a compassionate psychiatrist. Do your due diligence about therapists, doctors, and groups. Just as pedophiles seek work around children, emotional predators find ways to access abuse survivors.

If I can heal, so can you.

Please send this on if you know of anyone suffering from the fallout of child abuse. Thank you.

The Link Between Child Abuse, Depression, & Mental Health

 

depression, mental health, mental illness
Photo by Ben Maguire on Unsplash

Another wealthy and famous person is dead from suicide. How much depression or Kate Spade’s mental health played a part is speculative until those closest to her decide whether and how much they want to discuss it. And how much they knew. Someone with depression can be an expert at appearing fine.

She was Emeritus Chair on the Board of Directors for the New York Center for Children, which is devoted to the treatment and prevention of child abuse. I don’t know what her connection was to that issue, whether it was an invitation from a friend, because she was a mother, or out of her experience or that of someone close to her.

The connection between child abuse and mental health is something I’ve spent the past few years thinking about and exploring. Those of us who were abused as children experience depression and C-PTSD. I still startle easily, struggle with sleep and hypervigilance, and have flashbacks. It’s why I’ve written about it and will continue to do so. I’m putting together an outline for my own recovery that I hope will help others. It’s part of why nearly all of my writing, including my novels, are roadmaps to emotional recovery.

“Having it all” doesn’t inoculate you from depression. The most maddening tweets I’ve read in the past couple of hours since the news of Kate Spade’s suicide broke are the ones who declare that she was “selfish.” She was not selfish; she was in pain. If you want to remember her, consider donating to a charity with a mission to treat and prevent child abuse or suicide.

If you’re dealing with the fallout from child abuse, there’s help available. Pete Walker’s book Complex PTSD and its workbook, and Bessel van der Kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score are a good start. There are groups such as Survivors of Incest Anonymous and RAINN. There are trauma therapists who can use various modalities. Check out the medical side with a compassionate psychiatrist. Do your due diligence about therapists, doctors, and groups. Just as pedophiles seek work around children, emotional predators find ways to access abuse survivors.

If I can heal, so can you.

Please send this on if you know of anyone suffering from the fallout of child abuse. Thank you.

What I’ve been up to

Sorry, it’s been too long since I’ve posted. Been consumed with pre-production and crowdfunding for The Green Bench. Here’s our video on why we care. Huge thanks to the family members willing to talk on camera as well as Sharon Dunas, former head of NAMI Westside and Dr. Stephen Marder, a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia.

Please watch, share, donate. Thank you. All of us working on the film are passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness.

What I've been up to

Sorry, it’s been too long since I’ve posted. Been consumed with pre-production and crowdfunding for The Green Bench. Here’s our video on why we care. Huge thanks to the family members willing to talk on camera as well as Sharon Dunas, former head of NAMI Westside and Dr. Stephen Marder, a psychiatrist who specializes in schizophrenia.

Please watch, share, donate. Thank you. All of us working on the film are passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness.

The Green Bench Film

The Green BenchI wouldn’t write the flash fiction the same way today.

A few years ago, The Green Bench was one of those rare writing events that arrived whole. Adapted into a short film, it’s a different story. The first draft I wrote was a literal adaptation – too one note, too depressing. The blessing and (if you’re not with the right people, the curse) of screenwriting is that it’s a collaborative process. Fortunately, I’m with the right people and they’ve been invaluable in shaping the film. If you’d told me even 6 months ago, I’d be writing, producing and acting in my own short film…well, beware of being coached by Craig Archibald. You may find yourself stretching into new territory.

For the short, I did more research and we had the great, good fortune to connect with Dr. Stephen Marder, an expert in schizophrenia (you’ll see him in our promo reel, coming soon). As a result, my language is changing. For example, like most of us, I don’t say “diabetics” or “arthritics” when referring to people with those diseases, so I’ve started paying attention to not using “schizophrenics” or ‘bipolars” etc. to categorize people either. Am taking far more notice in the script of the illness as it most often presents itself and not what we see on the streets – that’s a tiny percentage of the most severely ill. Despite what many movies and TV shows depict, visual hallucinations are rare. Most people with mental illness can function and many do very well. There are many high functioning CEOs, physicians, attorneys and so on with schizophrenia and other illnesses. But the stigma keeps the success stories in the shadows and this time around, I paid far more attention to the stigma and humanizing the person with the illness. Because it is an illness and should be regarded in the same way as diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis or other physical illnesses. Thanks to the collaborative process, the film version takes the audience along with the main character through the onset of her son’s symptoms.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still proud of the flash fiction and it was loosely inspired by a real-life incident I’d heard of some years back, but for film, especially with its additional visual impact, I like the step back to the beginning, to the onset, to hope, to empathy.

We start crowdfunding soon on IndieGoGo for a shoot early next year, intending to go to the festival circuit. I want you to contribute to our budget (and you can be sure I will let you know our launch date!) We need to do everything we can to diminish the stigma and let families know that others share their journey.

when the demons win…

Robin WilliamsA lot has already been written about Robin Williams. His exuberant talent and kindness – our grief and shock. And about our misperceptions about depression and suicide.

When I was in grad school, Marcos McPeek Villatoro gave an amazing lecture on mental illness and creativity that I wish had been recorded. He’s talked about his own diagnosis on NPR. The room filled and soon overflowed and that was the moment I discovered that most of the people around me either had a mental illness or a family member with it. Quiet, hard-working creative people coping with various storms in their brains or those of a parent, sibling, child, or partner. My mother suffered from depression and, while I was a teenager, Valium addiction. I grew up with her threats of suicide, was the one who attended the family support group at the “pain center” (back then, a euphemism for rehab) that my father would not. When my then-boyfriend’s mother asked how she was, he later chastised my honesty in answering her, for drifting away from euphemisms and mentioning Valium addiction. Shame is the real killer. My grad school mentor, Rob Roberge, has written a brilliant essay on that subject.

We owe much of the arts and sciences to the mentally ill. Sir Isaac Newton was bipolar and one of the most influential scientists ever in the fields of physics, math and philosophy and yet said of himself: “I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

It’s not news that people write stupid things in social media. “How could Robin Williams be sad with all that money and fame?” We need to be better than that. “I can’t imagine the pain…” Well, lucky you, but you have no excuse. William Styron and others have written about it. And please stop with the gloved blame – would you blame someone who had a stroke or heart attack? Just as either of those are not entirely a matter of diet and exercise (see Jim Fixx), Williams’ (apparent) suicide was not entirely an act of will – this was a storm of brain chemistry. This was not sadness, but an abyss. Williams stated repeatedly that he battled his demons in large part for the sake of his children. He fought for decades while maintaining a career in the public eye AND being uncommonly kind. He left us some 35 years of performances of astonishing range and did it with grace, courtesy, and humility. He treated people very well, no matter who they were. That is a rare and beautiful thing. He encouraged actors, comedians and improvisers – including friends of mine. He showed up at hospitals to visit patients without publicity. He entertained the troops in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. And he could have said the very same words as Newton, that he was just playing at the shore, but we know they both plumbed the depths in their own very different ways. Very different!

Robin-Williams-Good-Will-Hunting.2
as Dr. Sean Maguire

Creativity is often accompanied by some form of mental illness. There are valiant battles waged daily that we never hear about. Robin Williams’ ultimate gift, the reason he was so loved, is that he was willing to share the struggle, his vulnerability, his humanity. Watch Good Will Hunting again and look in his eyes – that’s not only the pain of a character who’s lost his wife. He let his own pain shine through and touch us.

If you struggle with depression, with a mental illness, with an addiction, please seek help. Know you are not alone. Know also that we value you and your creativity. We know it comes at a cost. And let’s do better by those who wander our streets – that should not be part of a compassionate society. There is enough challenge in treating and living with these illnesses without fighting shame as well. Fighting demons is hard enough. And sometimes, God help us all, they win.

I like this clip because it not only shows his talent, but his regard for the troops and at the very end, his kindness