Dear Evan Hansen: The Broadway Musical That Connects Us All

Congratulations to Dear Evan Hansen for its Tony Award nominations!  From the time I first heard Ben Platt sing “Waving Through A Window” weeks before the show even hit Broadway, I decided I had to see the show as soon as it came out.  So, see it I did during previews in November 2016.  AND IT WAS AMAZING!!!

And how a propos that the nomination occurred this past week during Mental Health Awareness Month, as the theme of the show is high school students struggling with social anxiety, drug addiction, depression and suicide.  Yes, it’s a pretty deep theme for a musical, but the cast, music and overall production are so amazing that the show has been sold out for weeks especially with the Tony Awards coming up on June 11th.  Thank you to the amazing cast, crew, director and producers for bringing such an important topic to the Broadway stage!

Ben Platt’s voice and acting were out-of-this-world-good.  No one else would be able to carry out the role of Evan the way he’s been carrying it out since the show hit the Broadway stage last November (oh, excuse me, since the show was first performed in Washington, DC from July 10, 2015-August 23, 2015 and then Off-Broadway from March 26, 2016-May 29, 2016).

It’s not surprising that Dear Evan Hansen has garnered 9 Tony nominations, and I would be extremely surprised–not to mention, disappointed–if it doesn’t win at least Best Actor in a Musical and Best Score for the amazing lyrics of Oscar-winning La La Land lyricists Benj Pasek and Justin Paul.  It was these lyrics in addition to the cast’s vocals that helped the musical’s cast recording to debut in the Billboard album chart’s top 10….the first time for a Broadway musical recording to do so since the 1960s.  Yes, you heard right!  Hamilton didn’t even debut in the Billboard album chart’s top 10 (it debuted at #12).  After the Dear Evan Hansen album was officially released on February 3, 2017,  it landed in the #8 spot on the Billboard 200 chart, and in so doing, it becomes the highest-charting musical since Lerner and Loewe’s Camelot debuted at #4 in 1961. Yes, you heard right!  It’s only one of 4 musicals to earn a top 10 Billboard spot in the past 50 years other than Hamilton, Book of Mormon, and the original 1969 production of Hair!

Here’s the video of the April 25, 2017 performance of “You Will Be Found” on the Today Show.  I cried from the moving lyrics while at the show, just as watching the intensity of the singers singing the emotional lyrics brings tears to my eyes each time I watch this video (I watched it about 5x in a row after I stumbled across it on the Internet this afternoon)…until I finally decided to write about this on my blog.  Here are the lyrics.

 

We need more shows like this (similar to Chicago Med) that show regular people–regular people like Evan or even like me (I had postpartum depression but most people around me didn’t know I even had the condition until I opened up months or even years later via my blog)–living around us that are struggling to cope with some sort of mental illness but you wouldn’t know it unless they shared that with you.  Mental illness is not just about some “nut” or “psycho” that’s dangerous to others…..nor is it something that you can control and “snap out of” at the blink of a finger or via spa treatment or buy buying yourself something nice.

We decrease stigma and shame by normalizing mental health issues. And why wouldn’t we?  After all, just to give you an example of how prevalent depression is, according to statistics, approximately 14.8 million adults–or 6.7% of Americans aged 18 and older–are affected by it in any given year.  Shows like Dear Evan Hansen brings much-needed awareness to mental health challenges that are very much a part of all too many people’s lives, people like Evan Hansen.  Like Evan, all too many people need help but go unnoticed.

Dear Evan Hansen connects us all.

If you live in the NY metro area, I recommend you see this show.  If you’re not in the NY metro area, I recommend you listen to the full Broadway recording on Youtube.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741

Here are some other important Suicide Prevention Resources:

All It Takes Is One Day

A few months ago I had somewhat of a falling out with a friend due to a meme that he posted on Facebook.  If it were just the meme, that would be one thing.  But it was my comment and his ensuing attacks on my comment that were biting (WHY????) and completely lacking in empathy that completely turned me off.  The meme had a “Just snap out of it” tone.  It implied that depression should not be used as a cop out or excuse to not succeed.  I can’t post that meme here to help illustrate why it elicited my perturbed and upset reaction, because I don’t recall what exactly the meme said and I wasn’t about to look through months of feeds of this person’s just to find it.  If it were just the one meme, then I might have just passed up on it.  But it’s a number of things that led up to it.  You see, there was history to this.

Have you ever had FB “friends” post things that pop up on your FB feed that grate on your nerves because they reflect just how disparate your ways of thinking really are?  Well, this person’s posts made me ponder how we could be friends if we had such different mindsets (e.g., extreme right versus moderate left, women’s reproductive rights, mental health).  After a while, I started noticing a trend from his occasional far-off-the-cliff remarks, which really made me think he was a troll (yes, that’s how bad it sometimes got).  His remarks showed just how unable he was to be empathic.   I have tried to explain on numerous occasions my viewpoint that is from a person who has experienced postpartum depression (PPD) to this person (just as I’ve had to explain to others with similar mindsets as this individual).  But it just was not sinking in.  There was no getting it.  It was like trying to get water out of a rock.  At some point, you just have to call it quits.  And so I did.

The friendship is still there.  I just can’t handle the posts anymore.  So, that person is no longer in my Close Friends feed, which I’ve had to resort to, as I’ve mentioned in prior posts.  I’m sure others have been in the same position.  We all have to pick and choose our battles….prioritize in order to get by each day.  There are some FB “friends” who have filtered my posts out since a couple years ago.  A couple years ago, I was posting things way more frequently than I am now, and they were about a variety of things (e.g., PPD, bullying, politics, rape, women’s reproductive rights)….essentially, negative news (that is REALITY…what happens out there in the real world that people have a hard time acknowledging) that people go out of their way on a daily basis to avoid because that is their self preservation tactic.  Hey, I get it.  After all, that’s what I’m doing now with this one individual.  I don’t have all of my FB “friends” in my Close Friends feed because they either never, ever post anything on FB or they never, ever interact with me (so what’s the point, right?).  Again, priorities.

With this experience, I understand the road before us to educate people on and de-stigmatize depression and other mental health-related matters is EXTREMELY DAUNTING.  While there is a very large number of individuals that are active on social media (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, etc.), speakers who travel the world, and book authors who try to take on this daunting task each day, we still need to make sure we reach everyone–whether they are fighting a battle with depression or other mood disorder, or whether they are like my hard-headed friend who just fails to get it.  Everyone is NOT getting the message.   IGNORANCE AND STIGMA are to blame for that.  The biggest challenge by far in terms of reaching everyone is the fact that there will always be people who hear about experiences and continue to be unable to get it…..either willfully or because they want to but are unable to.   The former group will NEVER change their mindsets because they think they know it all; that everyone has the ability to SNAP OUT OF IT; that depression is a choice when in reality it is far from a choice.  The latter group is because they have no idea what it’s like to be depressed (like I was before I had PPD) and would like to understand but fail to be able to.  I have many friends who fall in this latter category.

Well, this is why if I had the ability to wish something to happen and make it happen, I wish that everyone would experience what it’s like to be depressed (not blue or sad, but truly depressed) one day.  ALL IT TAKES IS ONE DAY. It is only then that everyone will truly get it.

Hey Doc, Ask Me Why

Happy New Year!  It’s been 17 days since my last post.  Christmas is my favorite holiday, but with Christmas comes a lot of preparation (e.g., shopping, decorating, having people over).  So much goes into preparation for a holiday that lasts as long as any other day.  And *poof* it’s over.  And then the new year comes around.  And I am NOT crazy about celebrating new years.  Nope, not at all.  It’s just another reminder that time is flying by at warp speed.  Speaking of warp speed, here’s a picture that popped up in my Facebook news feed from George Takei of Star Trek fame on New Year’s Day.  It says it all for me.

Well, anyway, I’ve been waiting for that one blog post / news article to inspire me to blog….and I finally found one today.  Today, my inspiration came up on my Facebook newsfeed from two individuals dedicated to the fight against bullying:  Jessica from My Kindness Counts and Mike Urry from His Name Was Steven.

Watch this (*** This video may be triggering if you are suffering from depression***):

The video shows several teens urging on doctors to ask “Why” a young individual is complaining of not being able to sleep and/or having chronic stomach aches and/or headaches and/or experiencing weight loss.  It’s because, as the video states,  “Sometimes what’s bothering your patients isn’t visible to the naked eye.”  Bullying is the cause of all too many missed days of school for kids/teens, both out of fear of being bullied and due to the oftentimes debilitating physical symptoms caused by anxiety and depression.  Doctors shouldn’t merely whip out their script pad and start scribbling out prescriptions for antidepressants and/or medications to relieve physical symptoms, like stomach aches and headaches.  They should ask “Why.  Why are you not able to sleep, have stomach aches and/or have headaches?  What’s going on?  How’s school?  If you feel the need to talk to someone about what is going on, I can recommend someone.  Sometimes, all it takes is for someone who understands what you are going through to help you see that you are not alone and you will get through this.”

All doctors who have young patients need to know the correlation of certain symptoms during certain times in a young person’s life might be tied to teenage angst/depression.  Here’s an excerpt in my book that speaks to all this:

[Depression] is misunderstood not just by the public at large, but by medical professionals as well, and largely because there is no singular cause. Though the word depression implies a mental condition that impacts a person’s thoughts and feelings, its symptoms—caused by a combination of biological and psychosocial factors—are physical, affecting the way a person eats, sleeps, and functions……..Before I experienced PPD, I…..thought feeling sad was the same thing as being depressed. But now I know better. I know that depression not only causes an individual to feel low and hopeless, it can also change sleep and eating patterns and cause a whole host of other physiological symptoms. I seriously think the difference should be taught in school at a young age so kids don’t grow into adults still confusing the two terms with each other. That would be one way to combat the stigma!

[Sleep] and appetite disturbances (including nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain) are physical symptoms of depression, while mood swings, sadness, and restlessness are emotional symptoms of depression.

Those who aren’t aware that these physical and emotional symptoms are due to depression and anxiety will, instead of seeking treatment for those mood disturbances, mistakenly think that the digestive system is to blame for the appetite disturbances, stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea. The diagnosis may turn out to be irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) that is usually caused by stress, with the goal of treating the irritable bowel, when the underlying cause, which is anxiety in this case, is not properly addressed.

And if you read the following excerpt from my book, you’ll see why this video got my attention so much.  It’s disturbing just how lacking in knowledge of mental health issues (or even teenage issues, in general) doctors were back when I was a teenager….and how it hasn’t changed much, apparently, three decades later.

With PPD, I suffered from lack of appetite and rapid weight loss. I never had that growing up. My teenage weight was always steady and under one hundred pounds. (Wow, those were the good ol’ days!) I was just prone to anxiety, which caused such physical symptoms as dry heaving, nausea, and stomachaches. You would think my doctor back then would have attributed those symptoms to anxiety, but it never came up. He never asked me questions to try to get to the bottom of it. Not much difference in the medical profession from the 1970s and now. What a shame! I can distinctly recall experiencing dry heaves each morning as I was getting ready for school, not having any appetite to eat breakfast but forcing it down anyway because my mother insisted I eat. Upset stomachs and a burning sensation in my gut were a regular occurrence…..ultimately my nervous stomach occurrences slowly but surely stopped after I graduated from high school. If you looked at my photos from my junior high and high school years, you’d see a shell of a person—all skinny, withdrawn, and unhappy looking.

So, are you hearing us, docs?  You go into the medical profession wanting to help others to stay healthy and to treat their health issues.  Well, I sincerely hope medical schools are ensuring that doctors-in-training recognize the symptoms of depression and treat their patients accordingly.  And for general practitioners who currently have young patients, I sincerely hope they are well aware of the issues that youths face and know when they should ask “Why.”

NOTE:  Please refer to my recent blog post for more links on previous posts relating to teen angst, depression, and bullying…and why I write about it so much on this postpartum depression (PPD) blog.

October is National Bullying Awareness Month

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from depression and are sensitive to negative news events ***

Boy, am I ever late in writing this blog post, with only 2-1/2 days left to October!   Things have been ever soooo busy in my neck of the woods!   While there are so many articles out there about bullying from not just this one month but in general, I wanted to focus on a few things right here, right now.  It took me a couple weeks to process the Amanda Todd story and feel ready to post my thoughts in a blog post.

Here goes…

1.  The frequency of bullying is increasing.

2.  Parents and other adults are crucial in role modeling and raising the younger generation to be empathetic.

3.  Twitter and Facebook must find a way to help monitor activity for suicidal warnings.  There must be a way for these 2 extremely popular and key social media sites to partner with an organization like National Suicide Prevention to intervene when there is a clear risk for suicide in a tweet/post.  Either that, or it’s simply a matter of parents and/or other loved ones who also use these sites to “friend” their kids on Facebook  and open a Twitter account to “follow” them (plenty of people use pseudonyms).

4.  Parents need to be engaged and aware of their children’s activities, especially their online activities (including blocking inappropriate sites that are a breeding ground for disaster when it comes to their own children’s well-being and–should their children be the ones tormenting someone else’s children online–the well-being of other children).

5.  Bystanders–be it other students, people online (if this relates to cyber-bullying), and/or teachers–should speak up when they witness any bullying incidents.  If everyone maintains the attitude that it’s “Not my concern,” we will stay in this rut that we find ourselves in, with children feeling unnecessarily alone, desperate, and hopeless….and feeling like they have no other options to help them escape their torment and pain but to end their own lives.

The Amanda Todd case raises awareness of how relentless cyber-bullying can be and how vicious people (kids, teens, adults) can behave when it comes to someone whom they DON’T EVEN KNOW.  Her case is an example of how a misunderstood teenage girl felt so alone in her suffering, was unfortunate enough (and to this day I don’t even know how this got as far as it did….where were the parents in all this?) to have encountered what was likely a pedophile (the police are still investigating and I truly hope they find this scumbag) who stalked her–and whose actions of taking advantage of a young girl online–started her off on a road of torment, harassment, and constant school moves to try to escape the kids who made fun of her and even beat her up.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON who contributed to Amanda’s torment must be held accountable and receive punishment befitting their involvement.  Their actions led to the death of someone.  In my book, it’s equivalent to a gang of bullies physically beating someone to death with their bare hands.  And the countless hate pages that went up after she died?  Instead of letting her spirit rest in peace, they are hell bent on tormenting it even after death.  These people are so rotten, so malicious, and so vile.  The pure evil and hate that exists out there is horrific.  How these people can stand to behave like this and feel good about themselves is beyond me!  Let’s just say that if justice doesn’t prevail with the police knocking on their doors, then I pray that KARMA will!

Rant over….

You may wonder how all this has anything to do with postpartum depression (PPD).  It’s important to remember that many cases of depression surface during the teenage years and follow you throughout life.  One of the primary risk factors of PPD is a history of depression. I delve into relevant statistics and risk factors in my book.

  1. Nature Versus Nurture in Relation to PPD
  2. PMS versus PMDD

And you may be interested in checking out my prior posts relating to teenage years, some of which do specifically address bullying as an epidemic in this society (scroll down to see my links to Anti-Bullying/Teen Resources on the right side of my blog, along with all my other links):

  1. Bullying and Suicide…Teen Angst and Depression
  2. The Mental Cost Behind a Nomadic Childhood Experience
  3. Depression and Teen Suicides…It Will Get Better
  4. You are Perfect to Me, Says the Parent to the Child
  5. Empathy Makes the World Go Round
  6. New Jersey Leads the Way Yet Again
  7. Disturbing Teenage Trend…Hey Stranger, Do You Think I’m Ugly or Pretty?
  8. 121Help.Me – A 24/7 Youth Helpline
  9. I Am Titanium
  10. Join the Anti-Bullying Movement

I’m going to end this post with the following food for thought:
All of us have the power to make a difference.  We just have to work together to effect positive change.  Please.  Let’s stop this horrible epidemic.  Now.

PMS + Recent News = One Unhappy Mama

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

 A few days ago, I felt the way I hadn’t felt in a long, long time.  Thanks to PMS (I still do get it even though I’m missing my uterus), I felt so down in the dumps emotionally that I almost feared I was going to relapse into depression, which I haven’t experienced since my dark days of PPD.  I’ve posted about PMS before (and how it should not be confused with PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder).

I was already “blue” from my ol’ buddy PMS, so the news from last week….the deplorable words uttered by Todd Akin (holy smokes, how anyone today can utter Middle Ages crap the way he did and supposedly be an educated person acting in Congressional capacity is beyond me)–so ignorant that ACOG had to issue a statement to point out how misinformed he was and dangerously so; the Latch on NYC campaign and other similar campaigns that will only succeed in making mothers feel more guilt-ridden than ever if they can’t for whatever reason breastfeed successfully; the GOP no-exceptions stance on abortion (i.e., even in cases of rape and incest); the increasing gender gap in the political race; bullying incidents; shootings; and so on.  No wonder the depression rates are so high.  We are living in a society of people who lack empathy.  Society is heading down a slippery slope because we are focusing less and less about each other and more and more about who is superior, wealthier, more powerful.  What about education of our future generations?  What about mental healthcare of our mothers suffering from perinatal mood disorders and returning troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and in need of help in transitioning back to their lives back home?  The list goes on….boy, are our priorities all screwed up!

I seriously need to unplug.  And yet I can’t.  So I can only blame myself if I continue to let news and subsequent emotions drag me down.  But at least I will know immediately if I get to the point of being depressed.  I’ve been there before.  It’s not a “mind over matter thing” as is the narrow-minded and ignorant conviction of depression naysayers–most if not all of whom have never been depressed before…..which brings to mind the narrow-minded, completely lacking in empathy, callous and narcissistic view of breastfeeding nazi’s who have the gall to come out and say things like “there’s absolutely no reason why a new mother can’t breastfeed; nope, none at all.”  Depression is a serious health issue that needs professional attention.

The common denominator of these examples is a holier-than-thou, completely narcissistic/egomanical attitude of the ones holding the power (or believing they hold the power because they are just that high on themselves).   The feeling that there is utter lack of control over all the events occurring around me made me look at my own personal situation and feel the same way–about work, my house, and the people in my life–and prompted me to say the following last Wednesday on Facebook:

Feeling pretty disillusioned by a lot of things lately. Work, neighbors, people you think that are your friends, what comes out of the mouths of people (govt level and general population) that are narrow-minded and sometimes even hateful. I’m tired, folks, really tired of it all……
[These] are all separate issues (one has nothing to do w/the other) that have been bugging me and making me question my relationships w/people…..
Sometimes I just want to up and move but I know we should stay put for [my daughter’s] sake. She needs the kind of stability I never had while growing up…..
It sucks to feel so “stuck” in a situation you want to desperately have more control over…..  
I’ve had moments of doubt but never this bad. I really feel like I’ve had it with everything.  I need a change. A new house and ‘hood ( same town) would be a great start. I also need to unplug for a while. We’ll see….
I’ve been letting the news get me down. Seems like there is more bad news than ever before. I need to unplug for just a couple of days….but find it nearly impossible. That’s affecting my attitude in general, so as a result, my feelings about work and everything else is getting dragged down.

Fortunately, after a night’s rest with SIX hours of sleep (I had gotten between 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep the 3 nights prior to that), I felt a tad better….and I have no doubt that the improvement was mostly due to my PMS packing up and leaving me alone for the next month.  I was able to go to work and feel like my ol’ self….thankfully.  But during those 2-1/2 days, I was scared I might be depressed again.  This time, I was prepared to seek cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which I admit wouldn’t hurt because I have a feeling that my proclivity to think negatively could use a serious makeover.  I need to know how to redirect my negative thinking, which just might improve all aspects of my life.  No more being overly defensive even with my own husband, which causes arguments.  No more thinking that my family and I are not welcome in our ‘hood; hence, my desire to move but realizing we need to stick it out until my daughter goes off to college.  No more feeling like I’m going to beat my head against the wall due to the thankless environment in which I’m stuck at work.  No more feeling like I’m growing farther and farther apart from the friends I’ve had for years.

All these thoughts were weighing down on me, and it didn’t help that I had an awful headache for the whole 2-1/2 days that I felt blue.  The sweet responses from my friends helped a lot.

Now, if only I can stay away from those dreadful articles…….there is yet another one waiting for me to read before I shut down my PC for the night.   I have a feeling it’s going to be a doozy, thanks to the title of the link that showed up in my Facebook news feed a little while ago.  Even if a new President were to be elected, the bad news is going to continue unabated.   I may sound like a pessimist, but I’m not.  I’m a realist merely pointing out how things are.  It’s not pretty out there.

Bottom line…..I think we all need to learn how to care about/empathize with each other more.  Empathy needs to be engrained in our youth starting from a young age.   Parents and other adults in a child’s life need to model empathy.   After all, children mimic their parents’ behavior.  Schools need to establish empathy programs to help reduce bullying incidents.  Empathy is the key to improving the state of the world we live in.  Otherwise, we are going to continue to raise children to be just like all the narcissistic/egomaniacal, narrow-minded, greedy, uncaring and callous individuals I keep reading about in the news lately.  Not saying all of you that are reading this blog post are going to raise children that way….just saying that unless we open our eyes and realize the difference empathy can make for us all, things are going to get uglier and uglier out there.  Here’s a site worth checking out: Start Empathy.

Wow, Didn’t Realize My Join the Anti-Bullying Movement Post Comes Up First in Searches!

I’m surprised to say that, and I only realized this a couple of days ago, that the 1st link that comes up under the term “Join the Anti-Bullying Movement” on Yahoo and Google is mine!  It’s not as if I coined the phrase, and it’s not a new concept, so not sure why…especially since my blog is dedicated primarily to postpartum depression/maternal mental health issues and awareness.  But I’ll take it!  🙂

This is an important issue, and it is so disheartening when you hear, just today that another child, this time a 14 year old in Iowa, has become another victim of bullycide (the term used for children who commit suicide as a consequence of bullying).   Bullying must stop!  The only way that’s going to happen, though, is for students, school staff, and parents to band together and prevent further tragedies from occurring.  No child should have to feel so victimized that they succumb to depression, low self esteem, cutting, etc.  I guest posted a few days ago over at the blog My Kindness Counts about my reflections on the movie “Bully” that was recently released.  My post includes things we can all do to to try to put an end to bullying. My Kindness Counts is written by a young girl named Jessica, whose mission is to encourage young people from around the nation to work together to come up with more positive ways to address bullying in our communities.   I applaud her efforts, as well as the efforts of a growing number of other young folks in this country, to try to help fellow teens get through what I refer to as some of the most challenging years of their lives.

The roots of depression most often stem from early childhood through teenage years.  Early bonding experiences with parents, stability of living conditions, quality friendships and an environment in which the parents serve as positive role models and are nurturing are key to minimizing self esteem issues that seem to be what so many youth struggle with.  Verbal, emotional and physical abuse, a parent(s) that is depressed and/or an alcoholic, and bullying in school all take a tremendous toll on a child’s sense of security and self esteem.  The result of low self esteem include eating disorders, cutting, doing drugs, drinking, and depression. It doesn’t help that the teenage years are a time in which physical and behavioral changes occur that challenge self confidence levels and a sense of identity (in which a sense of belonging is important) as well.  The way a young person reacts to adversity, like bullying for example, depends on his/her overall emotional health and level of self confidence.

Our youth represent our future.  Let’s help make sure their teenage years are positive experiences.  Let’s help make sure depression rates don’t continue to climb.  Let’s build a culture of empathy.  Let’s speak up about mental health issues and keep the attitudes about these issues going in a positive direction via the daily dialogues we have, rather than continuing to sweep them under the rug with a See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, there’s nothing wrong, they’ll get over it, attitude….and an attitude that perpetuates the stigma and ignorance that has kept us in the dark, all blind, deaf, and mute for far too long.  The statistics indicate that each and every one of us knows someone who is struggling with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, or some other mental illness.  We need to get a grip on reality, smell the coffee…whatever!  You get the picture….or do you?  I surely hope so!

Empathy Makes the World Go Round

“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy.
— Dean Koontz
 
And here’s another quote on empathy.  This one’s from Meryl Streep:  “The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy.”   I’d like to finish the thought off with “But empathy, like all other gifts a human being may have, is wasted if you don’t put it to use.”
 
What, you may ask, does empathy have anything to do with postpartum depression, the topic to which I’ve devoted my blog?  Postpartum depression (PPD), like depression and any other mental health disorder, is widely misunderstood in large part due to the fact that those who’ve never experienced it will never know what it’s like and will never be able to understand or even empathize with a PPD sufferer—unless of course, they experience it themselves.  Not being able to understand or empathize with someone who has PPD, depression or any other mental health disorder serves to increase a feeling of isolation for those who are suffering and hence keep these individuals from speaking up due to feelings of shame.   In general, those things that people don’t understand cause people to judge, label, criticize and keep away.   But that’s the last thing a mom with PPD needs.  We see a mom who looks down and needs help, we should offer her support without being judgmental. 
 
What we need is a culture of empathy, rather than a culture of me, me, me and who cares what’s going on around me with other people.  What we have now is people who–and this is one of many reasons why I’m blogging about this topic right now–don’t give a you-know-what about the pain and suffering of other individuals.  And it’s all because they just know what they know and there is no other way of thinking and behaving than how they think and behave.  Which means that they know that all mothers are supposed to be glowing and happy, and if they’re not, then they’re bad mothers.  Snap out of it.  There’s no such thing as depression.  It’s mind over matter.  Yeah, whatever. 
 
Here’s another example of our general lack of empathy.  The number of people trashing Amy Winehouse and their disdainful, self righteous, disrespectful, and nasty comments pissed me off, and the thought of blogging about that has been brewing within me ever since the day I, along with many others, was shocked and dismayed to learn of her death.  I don’t think I need to say it, but it’s very disrespectful to criticize a person after they’ve passed on, especially when they haven’t the foggiest idea what sort of demons this person was truly having to deal with.   People were saying things like she had it coming to her because she chose to continue drinking and doing drugs, refusing to go to rehab.  How do they know that she refused to get help?  And for that matter, how do they know what was tormenting her and how bad she really felt?  People were saying she decided to not go to rehab and obviously didn’t care and neither should anyone else, for that matter.  These same cold-hearted critics shook virtual fingers and heads at people writing or voicing their sympathy, saying things like “alcoholism and drug addiction aren’t illnesses, that’s plain bullshit.”    Yeah, okay, then.  You know everything.  Whatever. 
 
Well, there is a correlation between alcoholism and drug addiction with mood disorders in that drinking and drugs may be a means for self medication for some who are suffering from depression and who many not know it.  They may not know the right way of getting help.  Or there is a horrendously long lead time (like there is in the U.S.) of several months to even get an appointment with a therapist…which is ridiculous and something I wold love to blog about later.  What innocently starts at one drink can go to two to three drinks and more in order to help forget the pain that one is feeling….or one pain med or mixture of pain meds to try to rid themselves of their mental pain….and before you know it, they are addicted….or even worse, accidentally overdose.  Sounds like Heath Ledger, one of my favorite actors, and some other actors/musicians we know…
 
Not everyone drinks or takes drugs to ease mental pain.  I mentioned in previous posts that I spent the first 35 or so years of my life unhappy, and yet I didn’t drink until I was 21, I never picked up a cigarette, and I never touched drugs.  I didn’t have any form of counseling, though it probably would have helped ease the pain I was going through.  I didn’t have anyone empathetic to turn to, period.  No friends, parents or others in my life to turn to.  Sad, but if it weren’t for my experience then and my experience with PPD, I would not be able to empathize with others in a similar situation.  I would not “get it” like I “get it” today.  My eyes wouldn’t be wide open.   My lids would be drawn, all dark and clueless. 
 
I’ve seen friends debate on Facebook whether one is born with empathy or it is learned.   I’ve seen many articles written on the topic as a consequence of the recent bullying incidents.  I’ve blogged about empathy in the past, and here I am again.  After all, it’s empathy–in addition to kindness– that makes the world go round.   But then again, so would world peace and look where we are with that.  Anyway, there is so much untapped potential if parents and schools all did their part and taught our children empathy.  Yes, I do believe empathy can be learned.  I believe empathy is a component of behavior, and behavior is driven in part by genetics and the environment in which one is raised.  I also believe that some people are born with the ability to be more empathetic than others. 
 
Forget prejudism, judging, criticizing, back stabbing, gossiping, bullying, and other sorts of hateful behavior.  Let’s raise our children to care and to be kind…..kind of like children are–friendly with everyone– until between the ages of 6-8 when they start forming cliques, opinions, and atittudes.  Click here for a recent article titled “Teaching Empathy to the ‘Me’ Generation” by Eric Leake. 
 
After all, the fate of our world’s future lies in our children’s hands.