Chapter 5 Lies of the Magpie

Maleah Warner

Ep 27 Bed Rest for an Overachiever

In August I had my first prenatal appointment with my new Arizona obstetrician.

The week leading up to the appointment I had started having contractions. I’d hoped the preterm labor I’d experienced with Danny was a fluke, a one-time thing. No such luck. It seemed my uterus was prone to contract more than a team of commissioned corporate lawyers.

“You’re twenty nine weeks and already dilated,” Dr. Magnuson said with a grim expression. “Was you last baby premature?”

“No. He was born at 37-weeks and was perfectly fine. No complications.” I didn’t like where this conversation was going. Dr. Magnuson sent me to Labor & Delivery for monitoring. After two hours they sent me home with a prescription for Brethine and instructions to limit my physical activity.

The next day I didn’t take Danny for our morning stroller walk. I didn’t push him in the playground swing. I didn’t vacuum or scrub bathrooms. We didn’t go to the library or the grocery store. We didn’t go swimming. At naptime I didn’t carry Danny up to bed, but knelt behind as he practiced crawling up the stairs on his own. 

This new routine of non-doing was okay for a solid three days before we were both stir crazy and ornery.

 

The next morning, as usual, Danny was wide awake at 6:00 a.m. Our ever predictable early bird. For convenience, and to not wake up Aaron, I did carry him downstairs where I changed his diaper, fixed him a bottle of formula, and parked him in front of the television feeling grateful that PBS started their children’s programming at 6:30 a.m. with Caillou (in my opinion the second-worst children’s show in the universe only beat out by Teletubbies) followed by an hour of Sesame Street at 7:00 a.m. I fell back asleep on the floral beast and woke to the strains of the Elmo’s World them song at 7:45 a.m. as Aaron quietly closed our front door behind him.

He left without kissing me goodbye.

Immediately I called Laiah. “I think Aaron’s mad or annoyed with me.” I told her. She hurried over and we had an extensive conversation. I couldn’t do much of anything else.

“You can hardly blame him,” she replied. “He’s outside all day every day burning his butt off making money while you sit here in this cushy apartment doing nothing.”

The broken springs on the couch poked into my back. There really was no comfortable position on that couch;  if the floral beast was anything, it wasn’t cushy. “I didn’t ask to sit in an apartment all day,” I argued my case to Laiah. “I didn’t ask to have preterm labor and to be put on limited activity. I would one hundred times rather wash dishes and run errands than be cooped up all day, doesn’t Aaron realize that?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Laiah said. “Aaron’s working hard. You have to suffer equally or your marriage won’t be equal. It’s not fair if Aaron is sweating in the sun while you’re at home relaxing.”

Chapter 3 Lies of the Magpie

postpartum depression

Ep. 24 The Story of My Journey Healing Through Postpartum Depression and Chronic Illness

Laiah was the first to see the flyer advertising the Miss Aspen Canyon Community College Pageant. “You should enter.” She ripped the flyer from its tack and handed it to me. “The winner gets a cash scholarship and a new computer.”

How would I compare in a line-up of accomplished young women? Growing up in a society where girls were not my comrades, but my competition, what would it mean to me if the judges scored me as the very best one? No friendships were at stake, my circle of girlfriends remained always the distance of my measuring stick. I filled out the pageant application, submitted a photo, and borrowed a dress.

The night of the pageant I was pacing backstage waiting for my turn in the talent competition when I heard a voice call to me. “Hey stranger,” Aaron walked towards me dressed in a sleek, black tuxedo, a ginormous grin covering his face.

“Well, you clean up pretty well,” I said taking in his aura. His hair was slicked with gel. He straightened his bow tie and winked at me, looking like a GQ model. I was already nervous, wringing my hands and pulling at my numb fingers. His presence filled me with electricity and I wobbled unevenly in my high-heeled shoes, fighting to stay balanced. The air in the dark back stage was frigid, but suddenly I felt an odd mix of hot and cold, as if my entire body had been placed in a furnace, except my arms, which were in a freezer.  I rubbed my shoulders, my wrists, my palms together and blew into them as if I were standing outside in a snowstorm. “What are you doing here?” I asked Aaron, trying to sound completely calm and in control.

“Madame Pageant Director asked the senators to be your escorts this evening,” he spoke with an exaggerated, sophisticated accent. “I just wanted to tell you good luck. You’ll do great out there.” He rocked back and forth in his black dress shoes and I wondered if he was thinking about giving me a hug or a high five. Instead he performed a classic Aaron pivot, and chugged his arms getting his train ready to depart. Before leaving he flashed me his huge smile. Our eyes locked, briefly and in those seconds, all the electric waves surging through me collected as if pulled by a magnet and traveled on one current that connected Aaron’s gaze to me. “Break a leg,” he joked and walked back behind the curtain. A jolt knocked me backwards as the electric connection broke. I stood trying to catch my breath and find my composure before my name was announced for my performance in the talent competition.

After my piano solo, I bowed graciously to the judges, smiled at the crowd, walked off stage and went directly into the dressing room to change into an evening gown and pin up my hair. The temperature felt like a hundred degrees backstage.

Chapter 2 Lies of the Magpie

Postpartum Depression Memoir

Ch. 2 Lies of the Magpie

The story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic illness. 

The thing Aaron remembers most about me from college is my fast-paced walk around campus. His tennis class met at three o’clock at the courts across from my off-campus housing. For weeks he watched me leave my apartment, hurry across the road, rush past the tennis courts, short cut across the grass and disappear into the Humanities Building. His tennis partner noticed him staring and said, “Don’t waste your time. That is Maleah Day. She is the Academic Vice President. Ten bucks says you can’t get her to stop to talk to you. She walks that fast everywhere she goes.”

It was my sophomore year. I was ten years older than the straggly nine-year-old girl from Ms. Wickersham’s fourth grade class. My bean-pole figure had filled out in a few key places. Two years of orthodontic work and contact lenses had tamed my profile, but my ambition—if possible—was still as potent. I’d traded my dream of becoming a firefighter and astronaut to becoming an Airforce pilot and a foreign ambassador. I declared a Political Science major and carried an application for the Peace Corps in my backpack.

Still, I’d never forgotten my dream to become Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and have my own kitchen/chemistry lab. My scholarship covered full tuition and fees, regardless of number of credit hours, so in addition to my social science courses, I registered for a Biochemistry Series, Anatomy, Microbiology, and Physiology. These would cover all lab science prerequisites, just in case I changed my mind about Foreign Diplomacy and decided to apply to Medical School. It was a good plan, I thought, to keep both options open.

Play button above to hear the full chapter.

Listen to Chapter 1: https://maleahwarner.com/?p=1258&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=1269

Listen to the Introduction of Lies of the Magpie https://maleahwarner.com/new-summer-series/

 

Book Cover Art by:

Bethany Baker  of Midsummer Studios https://midsummerstudios.weebly.com/

What’s New On the Podcast This Summer?

New on the Podcast

New Summer Series

I have a confession. I am nervous. My brain is working overtime throwing out all the reasons why I shouldn’t do what I’m planning to do this summer. 

What is it?

I am podcasting my book!!!

Some of you are thinking, “Well, it’s about time.” Others, especially you who are new (welcome, by the way, so nice to have you here) are thinking, “What book?”

Over the past eight years I have been writing the story of my journey through postpartum depression, autoimmune disease, and chronic illness. The manuscript has taken many forms and gone through multiple titles. If you’ve been here since my blogging days, you know the title “Prozac and Prayer.” It has a new title (and it’s a very good title, if I do say so myself).  In today’s episode I’m giving some background on the writing process and why I am so nervous about reading this story, out loud, in my own voice.

Most importantly, I will be presenting the new title and reading the introduction. 

The rest of the summer (through mid-August) I’ll present one (or maybe two) chapters a week. They might be chronological or I might skip around. Likely all 40 chapters won’t fit into one summer. What will you do then? You’ll just have to read the book! (Yes! I’m working to get it published!) 

Thanks for joining me on this journey out of my comfort zone. I hope you enjoy selected chapters from the manuscript formerly titled “Prozac and Prayer.” 

mw

Summer Screen Time: Set It & Forget It

Ep. 20 Summer Screen Time: Set It & Forget It

Why NOT to Limit Summer Screen Time

should i limit my child's screen time?

Ep. 19 Why NOT to Limit Summer Screen Time

Has anybody else out there, like me, been fretting over the question: How am I going to control my kids’ screen time this summer? I know you are because it’s what we’re all talking about in our mom circles: How can I get little Johnnie to stop playing Minecraft? My Jaden is addicted to YouTube. How many hours of TV is too much for a 4 year old? I hear you. 

Summer is barely underway and I’m already seeing instagram photos of zombie children glued to ipads with the caption “Help!” Collectively, as mothers, we are posting questions on FB, “How many hours of Minecraft is too much for a 5 year old?” We are scrolling Pinterest for solutions searching everything from printable chore charts, to cheap summer adventures, and (my personal nemesis) ideas for homemade craft projects to keep kids busy and engaged during the LONG summer days. We have lengthy discussions with our sisters and moms friends about managing screen time. And where are we having these conversations? On Marco Polo.

We are in dire straits. We are in desperate need of advice, guidance, directions. Where do we turn for help? In our moments of crisis, when we need to know how to keep our children off their screens, we, their mothers, turn to our screens. In fact, at this very moment I type these words onto one screen while my children downstairs interact with at least two different screens, and my husband in our bedroom looks into yet another . . .you got it . . . screen.

I Dread Having to Be the Screen Police

I’ve been stewing over this media issue for a month now as summertime approaches. What bothers me about this question—How do I control my kids’ screen time?—is the nagging tug of obligation I feel in my gut that if my family is going to have a successful screen-free summer, it’s going to be up to ME. I’m the one that will have to plan the pinterest-worthy summer outings collecting a representation of local flora and insect life to paste on our poster board panorama. It will be ME spending hours on the computer designing personalized chore charts and graphs of practice and reading time and devising a captivating behavior-based award system with coinciding coinage.

Years ago, in an attempt to control the unscheduled hours of summertime, I devised a form of currency called Warner Bucks. This was money I designed and printed myself (the closest I’ve ever come to running a counterfeit cash operation) and featured faces of family members. The kiddos—all under age 7—could earn Warner Bucks for doing chores and demonstrating good behavior. Then they paid a Warner Buck for every 30 minutes of TV time. Brilliant, huh? It was a disaster. Essentially, I had created several full-time jobs for myself. I was running my own little company and I was in charge of payroll, human resources, management, job descriptions, job trainings, employee performance, and employee evaluations. I was spending all my time giving and collecting crinkled cash, all with the goal to limit screen time. Yet the television was blaring as loudly and for as many hours as ever before. It seemed that every conversation, every action, every motive in our house for that summer centered around buying more screen time.

Limits Increase Want

In her book  Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers,. Author and clinical psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino  says “Forbidden fruit is the tastiest. Completely banning screen time may simply double the desire of your kids to get online.”

Marketers use limitation and limited quantity as methods to increase demand. If screen time becomes a dangling carrot, then I actually  WANT MORE SCREEN TIME! But AHA! We’re onto their schemes and trickery and will not fall prey to their tactics. So our objective as parents isn’t to limit screen time, but to help our children discover what they want to do more than they want to stare at a screen. 

Instead of Limiting, Create a Family Plan

We most often default to doing something on a screen because we don’t know what else we would rather do instead. In the moment, making a decision or making plans requires too much effort. It’s easier to click on Candy Crush. So the best method to beat over-indulging in screens is to have plans made in advance. 

Something we’ve done for a couple of summers that has worked (much better than Warner Bucks) has been to create a summer bucket list. We have a family meeting and everyone gets to say things they want to do for the summer. It’s fun and energizing. Suddenly all kinds of possibilities open. The local aquarium that is so awesome but we haven’t visited yet. The special hike to that awesome waterfall. Trying to relocate that secret swimming hole. Picnics at favorite parks. Puzzles. Board games. Outdoor movie nights. Family video game tournaments.

We don’t exclude screens from our summer bucket list. We plan screen time intentionally.  

This year we are creating family and personal summer bucket lists. Our meeting is next Sunday and we prepped our kids a few weeks ago to start brainstorming. Since my kids are older (ranging from age 10 to 19), their personal lists will include 1) Something to practice 2)  something new to learn 3) a daily physical activity and 4) a list of books to read.  My advice for families with young children is to go easy on goals. With younger children, set yourself up for success by scaling back what you think is possible. It’s better to achieve one goal successfully than fail to achieve five goals. Success breeds success.

On Sunday we will pull out colored markers to decorate our summer lists. Basically, we are creating a vision for our summer. Vision and energy are more powerful than limitation.  Instead of focussing on what we can’t do or what we shouldn’t spend too much time doing, we are going to empower ourselves, as a family, with vision, energy, and fun.

You can learn more about the energizing power of desire by listening to Episode 2 “What Do I Want?” It’s one of my most downloaded episodes, I think because so many of us don’t know what we really want or we don’t believe we can have it, so we don’t even try. The best method to get away from screens this summer is to KNOW, ahead of time, what we want more. This helps us to not sacrifice what we want long term for what is easiest right now.

Conclusion

Today we’ve explored the broad principles of why NOT to limit screen time: because limit increases want. And we’ve learned that a more powerful way to embrace summer adventure is to brainstorm, as a family, activities you want to do more than sitting in front of screens.

Next week we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of how to set up this empowered summer. We’ll talk everything from the words you choose in talking about screens to the power of boundaries. Any why boundaries are NOT the same as limits.  These tools help kids and parents feel their screen use is abundant and satisfying rather than feeling left wanting more.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning into Discomfort

Ep. 18 Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning in is a power principle with multiple applications. Today we’re discussing the power of leaning into discomfort in a specific area. I invite you to stay with me to the end and I have an invitation that I think you’ll accept, even if you never thought you would.

What Does it Mean to "Lean In"?

Have your ever heard the expression, “Lean into the wind?”  

Growing up, my brother and I walked to and from school no matter the weather. Which meant that sometimes we would push forward through fierce storms and arrive at the school building to learn that school was cancelled because buses couldn’t get through the snow. Anyone who has walked in strong wind know that in order to stand up straight in high wind, you can’t just stand up straight, you have to lean forward. You have to lean into the wind. Leaning into the wind means pressing forward in the direction opposite the way the wind blows.

Last summer I did a pioneer handcart reenactment in Wyoming. I don’t know if it has something to do with being near the Continental Divide, but that Wyoming prairie gets a LOT of wind—like blow your tent away in the middle of the night with you in it—kind of wind. And when we were walking and pulling our handcarts, if we wanted to move forward, we had to lean into the wind.

Traditionally lean in has been used in the context of sports to mean “to shift one’s body weight forward or toward someone or something.” In water and snow sports, you can lean into a wave, the wind, a slope, or a turn. You can lean in to a pitch or a throw. You can even lean in to a catch.

The first printed use of the term “leaning into”  comes from Hartley Burr Alexander’s 1906 Poetry and the Individual, where Alexander uses the phrase “leaning into the future” in reference to the power of poetry deriving from its “leaning into the future.” And Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, used “lean in” as the title of her 2013 book, a call for women to embrace challenge and risk in the work place and leadership. All uses of the term “lean in” point to the act of moving forward against an opposing force.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Why would we talk about leaning into discomfort? Why would a nice person like myself, ask you to lean into discomfort?

Episode 12 The Power of Imbalance, has been the most downloaded episode to date. (If you haven’t listened, go there next.)  I think because it strikes a universal instinct in all of us. We don’t like to feel out of balance or out of control or out of our comfort zone. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable. But, as Shawn my personal trainer taught me, growth happens in the zone of imbalance, in the zone of discomfort. If  you never lean into discomfort, you can not grow.

In yoga there is an expression, “Breathe into the stretch.” Yoga instructors emphasize that you shouldn’t push your body to the point of pain, but you should take your body to the point of discomfort, then breathe into that discomfort. Yoga teaches that rather than resisting what feels uncomfortable to move towards it, and in this way your muscles grow. This is opposite our instinct. Our knee-jerk reaction is to move away, to back away, to shy away, or to straight out run away from any discomfort. But, someone the act of leaning into the discomfort, of breathing into it, lessens the discomfort. Keep this in mind as we move to our third point today.

Leaning In to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

Earlier I said I had an invitation that I thought you would accept, if you can stay with me to the end. I invite you (and me) to lean into our discomfort about discussing mental illness.  

When you hear the term “mental illness,” pause to observe your reaction. Do you feel a jolt of resistance? Maybe you really don’t want to hear about it or discuss it. Maybe you feel a strong urge to change the subject or leave the conversation. That’s okay. Whatever reaction you have is okay. I am NOT asking you to change your reaction. I am NOT judging your reaction or saying it is wrong or saying you need to have a different reaction. Not at all. I am simply inviting you to OBSERVE your reaction, your thoughts and feelings, and instead of resisting them, moving away, 0r running away, I am inviting you sit with your discomfort and see what you can learn about yourself. This is an invitation to lean into your emotions. And remember to breathe.

I am assuming that most, if not all of us, have what I would call an averse reaction to hearing the term mental illness. There might be some extremely enlightened yogis and gurus in the world who have no reaction, but most words aren’t neutral. Any word we come in contact with triggers some kind of thought in our brain, which triggers a related emotion. And most of you grew up in the same society I did, with the same social conditioning about mental illness.

And where did that conditioning come from? Movies, stories, experiences.

Did you know that the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and has been since 1949. Congratulations. We are celebrating 70 years of Mental Health Awareness, and you didn’t even know it. I didn’t until this year. Now, think about our social relationship with Mental Illness 70 years ago, 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, (that’s when I was seeing doctors and getting confusing, conflicting, and unsatisfactory explanations about what was going on in my brain), to this year 2019. Good news. There have been a lot of positive changes in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of mental illness, largely due to development in brain science.  I feel optimistic and excited that we will continue to progress forward, AS LONG AS and to the extent that we allow ourselves to LEAN INTO the discomfort of entering conversations and getting educated about Mental Illness.

Misdiagnosed Mental Illness

What if all mental illness was simply misunderstood and misdiagnosed physical illness?

In past years, mental asylums were filled with people merely suffering from asthma, hypoglycemia, or diabetes. One of the most compelling stories to prove the negative consequences of misdiagnosing a physical disease as a mental illness is the story of Susannah Cahalan retold in the book (and Netflix Movie) Brain on Fire. 

At age 21, Susannah worked as a writer for The New York Post. Out of the blue she began to experience hallucinations and hypersensitivity to annoying noises. Coworkers notice her strange behavior. Her parent take her to a doctor, who says that Susannah has probably been partying too much, working too hard and not getting enough sleep. Later, Susannah has a seizure and her parents take her to the emergency room where doctors prescribe anti-psychotic medication. While in the hospital, Susannah goes catatonic and doctors want to move her to a more permanent psychiatric unit where she will be treated for mental illness.

Dr. Souhel Najjar is asked to help investigate her case. Najjar has Susannah draw a clock. She draws it with all of the numbers (1–12) on the right side of the clock, leading Dr. Najjar to believe that the right hemisphere of her brain is swollen and inflamed. Najjar has her undergo a brain biopsy in order to take cells from her brain for diagnosis. It is found that Susannah has anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, an autoimmune disease where swelling is caused by antibodies.  Dr. Najjar describes it to her parents  as her “brain is on fire.” Dr. Najjar prescribes her a treatment, which leads to a slow, but full recovery of her cognitive abilities.

Here is an example of a regular girl nearly locked away for life in a psychiatric ward to be medicated with anti-psychotics that would only make her worse because they wouldn’t treat the root issue.  Thankfully, one doctor stepped in. One doctor leaned in and fought for her.

So, what if all cases of “mental illness” are really physical issues we don’t yet understand or haven’t correctly diagnosed?

A person acting strangely does not mean they are mentally ill. What is the WHY? behind the strange behavior?  What is happening in the body and brain to cause the unusual behavior? I’m excited for more progress to be made in brain scan technology for these neuro-diagnostic tools to become more available. This is why I want to change the term from mental illness to brain illness in order to emphasize the physical brain issue rather than the stigma of character weakness.

Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Mental Illness

In coming months, we will have increased opportunities to lean into discussions about mental health. This is why I extend the invitation to resist shying away from these important conversations and to lean into our socially-programmed  discomfort. A lot of people and organizations are working to shorten the distance between current misdiagnosis and misunderstanding and future effective diagnosis and treatment. In fact Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry have teamed up to release a docuseries on mental health.  In April CNN reported that the multi-part documentary series, which will air on the Apple TV platform in 2020, was co-created and produced by the Duke of Sussex and Winfrey.

Prince Harry said,  “I truly believe that good mental health—mental fitness—is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self.” 

Winfrey added, “Our hope is that it will have an impact on reducing the stigma and allowing people to know that they are not alone, allowing people to speak up about it and being able to identify it for themselves and in their friends. We want to blow the stigma out of the water.”

Conclusion

What do you think? Are you willing to take on today’s invitation? The invitation is simply this: when you someone mention “mental illness” or “mental health,” pause and observe your initial reaction. Notice if your instinct is to move away, to shut down, to change the channel. Notice if you instinctually want to move away because you feel uncomfortable. Then, instead of moving away, I invite you to LEAN INTO DISCOMFORT.  Listen to the conversation, stay on the channel, keep engaged. Breathe.  discomfort. Open your heart and mind and be willing to learn and to see a new perspective. 

Ep. 15 Rally for Healthy Mothers

Vibrant Motherhood

Below is a list of resources and opportunities to Rally for Healthy Moms during the month of May. 

World Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day May 1, 2019

Please sign the petition calling on the World Health Assembly and the UN World Health Organization to officially recognize World Maternal Mental Health Day (WMMH Day), to be commemorated annually on the first Wednesday of May. The next day will be Wednesday, May 1, 2019.

Maternal mental health advocates, researchers, academics, clinicians, and people with lived experiences are committed to improving the mental health support for women during and after pregnancy throughout the world.

https://www.change.org/p/world-maternal-mental-health-day

The Emily Effect

Founded in February 2016, theemilyeffect.org is dedicated to support and provide resources for women and families during and after childbirth. After her death from complications of Postpartum Depression/Anxiety, Emily Cook Dyches’ family and friends started TheEmilyEffect as a way to expand the conversation about and end the stigma surrounding Perinatal Mood Disorders. The Letters of Light section is a library of real women’s stories about journeying through Postpartum Illness. Women also share their stories through Videos of Light on TheEmilyEffect YouTube Channel

On today’s podcast episode, I share my story about the twists and turns of life that led me to volunteering with TheEmilyEffect. 

You can read my own Letter of Light herehttps://theemilyeffect.org/project/maleah/

Or watch my Video of Light here: [not yet published]

Climb Out of Darkness

These hikes are the world’s largest fundraising events to support the mental health of new families. Organized through Postpartum Support International (PSI), these local hikes bring women and families together to symbolically climb out of the darkness.

For more info on joining or organizing a hike in your area, visit: https://www.postpartum.net/join-us/climbout/

The Utah Valley Climb Out of Darkness Event will be Saturday, May 11th at 9:30 a.m. at the Battle Creek Falls Trail in Pleasant Grove Utah. The hike is one hour round-trip with a fair amount of incline leading to a beautiful waterfall. The short hike is kid-friendly. Bring your spouse, children, parents, best friend, or a new mom you want to support. 

For details or to donate click here .

Be Your Own Best Advocate

It is up to us as mothers to promote change in postpartum diagnosis and care. No one will solve the problem for us. Speak up. Use your voice. Be clear to doctors and health care providers about what you are experiencing. Demand satisfactory answers. Question diagnoses and treatments that don’t feel right. Ask clinicians to look beyond the “mood disorder” to find, explain, and treat the physical malfunction that is causing the emotional symptoms. 

Ways to Speak Up and Get Involved:

Share Your Story:

 https://wmmhday.postpartum.net/blog/

theemilyeffect/lettersoflight

 

Share Your Story

Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 13 The Power of Naming

The process of naming the animals demonstrated dominion over the earth.

Power of Naming

Have you ever had that feeling? Something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on what it is? Something is wrong with your child. Something is going on at work. Something is bothering your spouse. It’s there, but you feel powerless to fix it until you can name what it is. 

Naming is a power principle because naming the problem is the first step to solving the problem. My sister has always said, “I can handle anything as long as I know what it is.” She speaks truth. We are strong, intelligent, resourceful. It’s the unknown that gets us.

Science of Naming

Why is naming so powerful?

Scientists have long studied the power of words on the human brain. The brain receives thousands of  data impulses every second. These data impulses are processed as thought words or thought images.

What’s in a Name?

A name is simply a word—a combination of letters—assigned to a specific person or thing. In order to make its job a little easier, the brain names data and groups it together with similar data through categorization. It assigns words to data in order to know where to “file” the information.  Anything the brain isn’t able to name ends up in the dark abyss of  uncategorized info. The brain can’t do anything with this stuff until it’s identified. 

Examples of Naming Found in Literature

We intuitively sense the power of names. There are examples in stories of the power that can come from naming.

  1.  Adam & Eve  In the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve power to name the animals. From the moment they chose the word elephant, the process of naming demonstrated their dominion and stewardship over the earth and all living things.
  2. Rumpelstiltskin The classic Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tale tells of strange man who convinces a young woman to promise him her first-born child in exchange for spinning her straw into gold. At the birth of the child, the woman begs for a way out of the deal. The strange man agrees that if she can correctly guess him name in 3 days, he will relinquish his claim on the child. The ability to identify his true name is what frees the woman from his hold.
  3.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane  this Neil Gaiman story recounts the havoc worked by an evil entity disguised as a nanny named Ursula Monkton. The Hempstock women are unable to rid their town of the creature until they can successfully discover its true name. Once Lettie Hemstock learns that Ursula is really Skarthach of the Keep she chases Skarthach to the end of the lane where it cries, shrinks, and disappears. The power to remove the vexing thing came in calling it by its true name.

Naming Our Troubles

Sometimes the only thing we need in order to solve a problem is to be able to name it. This is why talking things is so helpful. The process of talking is the process of putting those ambiguous bothers into words. Meeting with therapists, doctors, coaches, or church leaders is helpful because they can offer words for what is troubling us. I might know I have a head ache and a sore throat, but don’t know how to remedy it. Once I know it is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, I know to take an antibiotic.  

Naming our emotions is powerful. Most of the time we sweep our emotions under the rug without acknowledging what they are trying to tell us. Emotions are messengers. When we take time to say: This is sadness or This is frustration we are more effective at working through the emotions.