Wednesday, October 10, 2007

My Mom's Sneaking Depression

I call my mom every few weeks. She always sounds so happy to hear from me and is so appreciative of my calls.

She rarely calls me though. And, she has forgotten my birthday for the last couple of years.
I'm not that into birthday celebrations, so it's not what she sends that ever has mattered. It's more that she used to feel more like a participant in my life.

These days, she seems to be a bit lost in time and a bit lost from my life too.

Days come and go with her animals (four cats and three dogs - the horses are gone now) on her two acres in Loxahatchee, Florida.

My mom taught special education for 30 years, retiring at 70, well beyond the time when most teachers have either burned out or gone on to tamer gigs. She had taught in inner city Los Angeles, where the street-smart kids, who loved her, gullible ways and all, insisted, "You're not white, you're just light."

My mom worked with kids with all sorts of learning disabilities, ADD, oppositional defiant disorder and so forth.

One student was blind because his mother's boyfriend had thrown acid at her while she was holding him as a baby, and she involntarily flinched, putting her child's eyes in the full spray of acid.

Traumatized kids, who longed to be seen and to have a chance, populated her classes, especially at the end of her career, when she worked with teenage boys who could not make it in the regular schools' special ed programs.

At 5'1", my mom has never been physically imposing. She used to have to take mandatory self-defense classes, where instructors pinned her and made her roll through different moves to protect herself. However, she never needed to use those skills.

The kids tested her, for sure, but they seemed to get how much she cared, and the worst that happened were the occasional pilferings from her room.

It always broke her heart when yet another one would go to jail or turn to violence, as many of the kids at her last school did.

It's hard to believe now, as my mom seems so isolated and even a bit afraid of venturing into the world much anymore.

Stephen and I have been trying to get her in to see an orthopedic surgeon about her bad knee for several years. She cancelled appointments and said she just didn't have the energy to go and would withdraw to sleep it all off.

It sounded like more than avoidance, more like depression sneaking up on our mother.

I read an article in The Economist this morning about how depressed people move in "mathematically different" ways from other people. According to the article:

"Depressed people experience longer resting periods more frequently and shorter ones less frequently than healthy people do."

While this is not surprising, the conclusion of the article was interesting, given my interest in all things cellular these days.

Apparently, the same movement pattern as depressed people was seen in the electrical activity of "nerve cells isolated in a Petri dish and unable to contact their neighbors." The intelligence compressed into our tiny cells is always astonishing to me, and the lives of cells aren't so very different from our own.

Alas, my mom is isolated. Her movement patterns are those of long rest (withdrawal) periods and lack of interest in most things. It looks like depression has snuck in

The good news is that our mother allows us to help her. She is trying to be better about her supplements and is open to giving SAM-e a try, which could help her aching joints as well as her moods.

Meanwhile, I will be checking in on my mom a whole lot more often, as will Stephen.


scoggins said...

Dear Cindy,

You might also suggst vitamin D3 supplements for your mother. Winter months, less sunshine, less vitamin D, it can seriously affect one's mood.

All the best,

Tom Scoggins

Cindy Marteney, CEO, Our Health Co-op said...

Thanks Tom...I've upped my own vitamin D3 and find myself extolling the virtues of the sunshine vitamin all the time, including with my mom. Good reminder to all. Thanks for writing!