I am a widowed 63 year old, living independentally despite health problems and the hard work I must do to remain free of depression and bipolar II. My first depressive episode began at age 16, around Thanksgiving of 1965. I recall telling my mother "This doesn't feel happy like Thanksgiving always has. I feel sad and tired and jumpy". She told me I needed to stay busier. Instead I retired to my bedroom for most of the next year and a half, coming out for school, meals, Mass and when forced to be with my family, Mom, Dad, 2 brothers, 2 sisters.

My stay-at-home Mom was a good, moral person, kind person but not expressive or warm. She was, however, very much fun when my Dad was away on bsuiness, then the child in her, the happy, flexible Mom came out to play. Once Dad was back she flipped back into the "perfect wife" and distant Mom.

"I love you" was first heard on my 1968 wedding day and lastly right before she died of colon cancer. All 5 sibling have a little folding picture frame with a button when pushed, that leaves a special message to each of us and ends with a very profound "I love you". I play that once a week.

The dysfunction in my family ranged from intense physical abuse by my father and directed at us all. I only saw him hit my mother once when I was 4. The mental and psychological abuse (name calling, cursing, absolute control over every aspect of our lives) and unless he was drunk, in which case he'd threaten to kill Mom, cut her into pieces. So far I am the only one admitting he sexually abused me, but he also attempted to molest one beautiful granddaughter, his niece, his cleaning lady and God knows who else. Shockingly, while making a brief visit to him after Mom passed away, he attempted many times to molest and sexually abuse me. I pushed him away, said "Dad, this is not how to rear your daughter" and chalked it all up to increasing dementia.

Then one day, after packing up to move 3 doors down to get away from him and stay with my sister, I was sitting in the living room reading, trying to ignore him until I could get out of there. He casually asked if I was having a good time. "Yes," I answered. "I'm enjoying relaxing". (Just something to say) His reply? "Well, you didn't act so relaxed when I was attacking you"………I almost threw up. I left immediately and sat on my sisters' patio til she arrived home.

He was a functional drunk, rising to an international vice president position with a major company, a mean, abusive, controlling husband and father skilled at showing the world a false face. He was a pedophile.

I begged my Mom, the parish priest and counselors for help. Once my parents got wind that I had visited the priest, they lost it and punished me, but he never touched me sexually again until the visit described above.

The bipolar part of my illness reared its ugly head many times over the next 45 years, but from 1998 until 2005 I experienced a very dangerous deep depression, spending most of those years in bed, not working and suffering from newly diagnose fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic pain and rapidly degenerating disc disease.

I had remarried in 1993 and we were together for 15 years before he died of stage 4 lung cancer. With my husband and parents gone, for the very first time in my life, I lived alone.

Luckily in 2005 doctors finally found a cocktail of meds which brought me out of the depression within 6 weeks and also helped control my 30 year bout with pneumonia.

I take 400 mgrs Wellbutril, 30 mg. Buspar (anti-anxiety agent) 100 mg. Lamictal (helps control mood swings, 10 mg. ambien at bedtime, plus meds for HBP and high cholestrol.

During 2010 and early 2011, however, depression broke through and I ignored the signs and lost 15 months of the good life as I'd come to know it.

I had major oral surgery 3/14/11, too much at once, and on my 10th day of home recovery, 95% of it in bed and not eating correctly because of no teeth and masses of stitches, I had to call 911 and spent the next 10 days in the hospital with "walking" pneumonia deep in my lungs, anemia, high sugar and potassium and bloodwork sompletely out of whack, accompanied by a blood saturation level of 83-85………close to checking out.

I was then transferred to a skilled nursing facility that wanted me to stay a month. Within 48 hours I did a non-approved check-out, came back to my lovely little apartment and vowed never again to let myself get that ill again. I had no support structure set up prior to this, no family in town and without my friends from church I would have been totally alone.

By not recognizing my depression, I contributed to my illness and almost lost my freedom for good. Since getting home I have organized my support structure, made plans to see a counselor faithfully for at least 6 months, elevate my activity level and PAY ATTENTION to my mental health!!


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