Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia...

The Shade Tree Choir: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia...: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival Insomnia and Depression “ Get up and come with me!” Dad said as he jabbe...

The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia & Depression

The Shade Tree Choir
Depression Survival

Insomnia and Depression

“ Get up and come with me!” Dad said as he jabbed his index finger into the left side of my chest.

He pulled the covers off, and I was startled when I realized it was morning. I also was embarrassed because of my erection. It’s perfectly normal for little boys to wake with an erection when they have to pee. I tried covering myself with my hands the best I could when he shoved me down the steps to the living room and past Ma who was sitting smoking. She had heard it all but neither said nor did anything to save me.

“Get down those God damn steps right now!”

“Please not another beating, please,” I thought to myself.

He shoved me to the second room of the 150-year-old basement lined with limestone. His right arm flung in the darkness and he found the chain for the 40-watt light bulb that provided more shadows than illumination. There, at the far end of the cellar, was the doorway hiding the steps that once led up to the backyard and was now entombed with the new patio cement.

“Get your ass in there and do not come out until I tell you to. Do you understand me?”

I nodded my head and entered the cramped space. The metal latch locked me in and quickly the shadows were replaced with total darkness. It was 7:30 in the morning.”

“The Shade Tree Choir”
David Nelson

I was eight years old when that event happened to me. I was locked in the space until 10 p.m. and then forced to return to my bed in the upstairs hallway. I had not eaten nor had any water in over thirty-six hours. Six decades later, I can close my eyes and feel his finger in my chest.

My entire life I have had difficulty sleeping. I don’t know if the psychiatrist who treated me a long time ago for PTSD and clinical depression was correct. Her theory was that maybe I have a deep fear of being awakened by something that might harm me. I don’t know if there is a genetic factor or other physiological cause of my insomnia. Scientists and behavioral clinicians have differing viewpoints about depression. Truth is, nobody knows for certain.

Another truth is that I have clinical depression, sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. According to the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, 40% of people with Restless Leg Syndrome suffer from depression. Nobody knows for certain if sleep deprivation can spark episodes of depression or the other way around. I can only tell you about my experiences with sleep loss and the relationship with my other diagnoses.

Exercise is an excellent method to combat depression. When I wake exhausted because of two to three hours sleep, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. I force myself to work out three or four times a week. My sleep pattern dictates the intensity level of the workout. I no longer snore and I enjoy those infrequent nights of eight hours sleep, thanks to my C-PAP machine. I had a sleep study years ago and have used my machine ever since. I control my restless leg syndrome with medications and no longer jump, hop and kick while sleeping. I try not to take naps during the day. I know that caffeine in the afternoon can hinder my sleep pattern, as does alcohol in the evening.

My physician treating me for sleep apnea refuses to give me sedating, anti-depressant medications. He says research shows there is potential to suppress breathing and worsen my condition. I did attempt medications for depression and stopped them. I gained some forty pounds and my personality changed where I experienced no emotion at all. I likened it to being flat-lined. I have lost twenty-two pounds on my way back to “recovery.”

I no longer go to the car wash in the middle of the night and then wax my truck under the floodlights in the driveway. I no longer take three-hour drives while the rest of the world sleeps. I smile to think I might be getting better. I know better. Instead, I work in my office. I experience some of the best creative moments writing or drawing between 1 a.m. and sunrise. I have always been that way and suspect it shall remain such.

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. The following is a list of the most common symptoms. Some depression patients have only one of these, while others may have some, most or all:
·       Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness
·       Thoughts of death or suicide
·       Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable
·       Concentration problems
·       Forgetfulness
·       Loss of libido
·       Changes in weight and appetite
·       Daytime sleepiness
·       Loss of energy
·       Insomnia

It’s one thing to read a list of symptoms. Here is a real account of what life can be like for someone with depression. I received this from a friend two days ago. He is a high-functioning member of society and successful. Depression knows no boundaries.

“Nothing feels good, nothing sounds fun, nothing tastes good and I can't sleep but I never want to get out of bed. My teeth hurt from grinding them, my joints ache, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have randomly started crying about 7 times today. All I can think about is my failures, my losses and how any effort I've put into life has been for naught. My brain races through every disaster in my life and tells me that it's all my fault. It tells me I've failed my friends and family; I failed my mother; I've failed as an artist and musician. I've become the very thing I promised my youthful self I would never be. This is depression. I hide it well, but this is what consumes me and millions of others behind closed doors in the darkness of our imagination. When people ask me how I am, I usually lie and say I'm great, or good, or not bad. When really I'm thinking about horrible ways to end it. I didn't choose to be this way, but I will choose to fight it. Just remember, not everyone has the support system I do, or the education I have received. If you know someone with depression, bipolar or anxiety, please reach out to them today and join their fight. Much love to those who fight with me.”

Suggestions for your consideration:

·       If you experience ideations of suicide immediately call 911. You are not a weak person. You are someone who needs immediate medical help.
·       Demand a complete physical including a cardiac stress test. There is a correlation between heart disease, insomnia and depression.
·       If you snore or kick your legs while sleeping demand a referral for a sleep study. You too may have sleep apnea and/or restless leg syndrome that can be treated.
·       No caffeine past noon.
·       Limit alcohol to one ounce for women and two ounces for men before bedtime.
·       Hobbies that require deep concentration may help you sleep better. For many years, I created stained glass artwork and now have a new hobby. I am teaching myself to draw. When I get into the “creative zone”, I have no time for the pity-pot attitude that can hinder my sleep.
·       No matter how tired you are during the day try to get some exercise. Gretchen Reynolds with the NY Times reported on a study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario about the benefit of a one-minute all-out exercise. The article was written in the NY Times on 4-27-16. The study found a one-minute routine that is as effective as a forty-five minute workout of moderate exertion.  
·       Try purging negative thoughts before going to bed. For me, writing stories, poems or lists sometimes helps. Communicating with your spouse can be another method of release.
·       Write down all the positive things you did today. Try writing all the positive characteristics about yourself. Learn to love yourself. One of my other Blogs covers this topic. (4-23-16)
·       Try to manage stressors in your life. I have written other blogs on that topic that you can read. (5-19-13)
·       I mentioned in previous blogs about trying visualization, deep breathing exercises and playing CDs with sounds of nature or music you find relaxing to help you get to sleep.
·       Lastly, buy any of my books and read for a few minutes before going to sleep. I had to throw that in there and sit here with a smile. It’s good to find humor in life.

Be sure to visit my web page at

Watch the one- minute book trailer about The Shade Tree Choir.

Thanks for reading and sharing my Blog with others. 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Love Thyself

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Love Thyself: Depression Survival: Love Thyself “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” Mark Twain How can someo...

Depression Survival: Love Thyself

Depression Survival: Love Thyself

“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”
Mark Twain

How can someone not love himself? The Bible has passages that relate to loving oneself. Like in Mark 12:31 where it states to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

I’m not referring to arrogance, bragging or boastful behavior. Those characteristics are wrong. I am referring to the basic human understanding that we love ourselves and don’t want any harm to come to our minds, bodies or spirits.

Someone who has never lived with the disease of depression would have a difficult time understanding how a person could not love himself. Some people who have the disease actually hate themselves. Yes, there are times when the negative self-image roars to the surface and self-hatred is a dominant theme. It may last a few days or it could possibly last a lifetime.

Take eight-year Krame in my book, The Shade Tree Choir. During his formative years from that tender age until he escaped from his home, he hated himself. He was continuously told he was a bad person, a son-of-a-bitch and was no good. He believed it because his alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother told him so. After all, to a child, parents don’t lie. Parents set the belief system at a young age in their children. If they said it was true then it surely must have been. Children have no methods to understand what alcoholism does to the family. All they know is that physical beatings and constant verbal abuse reinforce what the parents have said.

Krame thought he was bad. Each time he was kicked with steel-toed work boots, slapped across the face, whipped with both ends of a belt or locked away in a darkened closet, he just knew he was a bad person. Many children of alcoholic parents learn not to love themselves. They learn nothing is ever good enough and no matter what they do, they are destined to be “bad” people.

They may grow with a belief system of, “If my own parents don’t love me then how can anyone else ever love me?” That is why many have difficulty with personal relationships. Sometimes when they get emotionally attached and fall in love with another person, the old feelings of negative self-worth rise to the top and they sabotage the relationship. By destroying the relationship, they re-affirm what they were taught as children. “I am bad, therefore you must go away.”

This can add more fuel to the fire of depression. I have written about the physiological changes that occur with depression in my blog, “I’m In The Mood For Music” dated April 17, 2016. Is depression rooted only in our physical beings? Is depression rooted in learned behavior as children? I suspect it is both.

However, somewhere deep inside the spirit of a child lies the belief that he is not bad. This creates conflict. That inner belief of the child versus what abusive parents may say about the child can be total opposites. It requires tremendous energy to survive in such an environment.

His friends knew Krame as the Thinker. He analyzed every action to be certain he would never be caught and beaten again by his dad. There was no childhood for him. It was physical and emotional survival. Child abuse does that to a kid. It takes away childhood experiences and sets up a lifetime of conflict, trying to “love thyself.” Too often, however, even that adult fails and does not love himself.

The depressive person then goes into a familiar cycle of sadness, self-hatred and other negative thoughts. I wonder how many suicides have occurred because people were in that thought process. I also wonder how many suicide victims felt a sense of being exhausted trying to find answers and felt overwhelmed. I suspect many – if not most.

Krame struggled his entire life trying to counteract the ghosts of his past. He did become a high achiever like many others who suffer clinical depression. I read that my idol, Mark Twain suffered from severe depression and used to experience bouts of rage and melancholy. I understand. Why? Because I am Krame. The Shade Tree Choir is a book about my childhood. I too have moments of rage, severe melancholy and inability to function. I too sometimes have to withdraw inside myself to nurture that little boy in me. This is all part of the disease.

I have no idea if my disease comes from my genetic make-up, my childhood or other learned behaviors in my life. I suspect it is a combination. For me, what is important is to recognize when I’m about to be smacked again with an episode. It is then I have to reach inside my bag of survival tools and get to work.

Any depressive person who read Twain’s quote at the beginning of my blog would nod in agreement that, “The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.”

There are times I am that way. I pull in emotionally to heal and try to let it pass. I may sleep more, may become quiet and withdrawn and find an activity that requires significant concentration. I intentionally stop giving to others because I need all my energy for myself.

Many years ago I was a Board member for several groups. I was hit with a stressful situation and knew I needed to pull in to heal. I resigned that day from all the organizations and felt immediate relief knowing I had time to help myself.

Here are some survival tools I use. I hope you find one or two that may help you to love yourself.

·      I write. I either write poems or short stories. Sometimes my best creative juices flow the best when I am in a funk.
·      I sit alone and fish. Sometimes watching a bobber shuts down negative chatter.
·      I refuse to volunteer in my community and help others. I spend the time needed on me instead.
·      If depression isn’t severe, then I go to the gym. If it is severe I avoid exercises because I know as a retired physical therapist that injuries can occur if one isn’t focused. I don’t like walking, but it can be good for people who are in a negative state.
·      Sometimes I list the reasons that I am a good person. That exercise helps bring positive energy to me.
·      I apologize to those I may have harmed with my behavior.
·      I share my feelings. Like I have done here in this week’s blog.

Here are some links you may find helpful

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: I'm In The Mood For Music

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: I'm In The Mood For Music: I’m In The Mood For Music “Your brain lights up like a Christmas Tree when you listen to music.” Kimberly Sena Moore ...

Depression Survival: I'm In The Mood For Music

I’m In The Mood For Music

“Your brain lights up like a Christmas Tree when you listen to music.”
Kimberly Sena Moore
Neurologic Music Therapist

There are three factors that differentiate depression from normal feelings of sadness or pessimism. They are the duration, severity and symptoms. If they last longer than two weeks one might want to consult with a physician. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 9.5% of Americans experience mood disorders like depression and bipolar moods. 18.1% experience anxiety.

I fall into both of those categories and have since a child. My book, “The Shade Tree Choir” tells a story of an eight-year old boy physically and emotionally abused by his alcoholic parents and mentally ill mother. The abuse continued until he left home at age seventeen. That child used to stop and vomit when he saw his dad’s car parked in front of the house when he ran home to make it into the door in time for supper. That boy lived in a constant state of readiness wondering when the next slap, kick or punch might come his way. That boy learned a raw definition of anxiety, stress, sadness and depression. I was that boy. I’ve been a high-functioning member of society despite being clinically depressed.

My childhood and subsequent training as a physical therapist give credence to my blog. For many years I taught professionals and the general community throughout Florida about stress management. The techniques I used were explained in my book, “Stress Management: Does Anyone in Chicago Know About it.” That book is now out of print, but I continue to follow my own advice given so long ago.

In my book I reported about a study performed by the U. of California that compared physiological changes that occur because of our moods. Clinicians divided drama students into two groups. Blood levels of “happy and sad” hormones were tested in each group prior to the activity. Each drama student was then told to go away and play a part. Some played the role of a “Happy Oh” and the other half played a “Sad Oh.” 

The “Happy Oh” exaggerated happiness. Arms were extended, smiles were stretched across their faces, posture was erect and the danced and played. The “Sad Oh” people had collapsed posture, withdrawn, rolled into a ball and frowned faces. All returned after a set time limit and blood was once again tested. The results were elevated dopamine and serotonin levels increased in the “Happy Oh” participants. These are known as “happy hormones.” The test was done several times to be certain of validity.

The result of the study was that the body reacts to the costume we wear. I say to you, if you are feeling down – fake it. Pretend to be happy. If you are feeling sad – fake it. Pretend to be in a good mood. Eventually your negative feelings will be replaced with positive ones. Did you know your mood is contagious? Yep, it is. Did you know that the older we get, the more we tend to accentuate the positive? One exercise you might try on the way to work is to pretend you are a “Happy Oh” and exaggerate your positive feelings. Your mood may change and co-workers might enjoy being around you. Change your costume.

Another exercise to try when you’re down is to sing. Yes, singing alone has been shown to increase another “happy hormone” called oxytocin. Singing in a group has proven to make people happier because vibrations are sent throughout the body that lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone) and increases endorphins (hormone that makes us feel content). Be sure to read my previous blog about the negative impact that cortisol has on the body.

As a footnote, I don’t think I would recommend listening and singing, “He Stopped Loving Her Today” by the great George Jones if you just broke up with someone. Pick a happy tune.

Listening to some music has been shown to lower the levels of cortisol, reduce pain and improve positive emotions. Listening to songs popular in your youth can be nostalgic and maybe bring back happier times for you and change your mood. Mozart has been a proven choice for me when I want to lighten my load.

Learning to play a musical instrument can sharpen memory and protect the mind from ravages of old age. You are never too old to learn new tricks and techniques. Several years ago I could not read music nor play an instrument. I took five lessons to play my alto sax. My passion led me to use this new activity to combat the blues of depression. One of my patients at the time was the Maestro for a local symphony. He told me to slow down the tempo and I could play any song I wanted and then gradually I would improve. It worked. There are now fewer dogs howling down the gravel road where I live when I play my sax. I guess I’m getting better.

Here is a link to a video on You Tube that will show you the benefit music has with a patient who has dementia. Please take six minutes to watch this jaw-dropping video.

Next time you are feeling depressed or anxious, try singing, listening to music or learn to play an instrument. Change your costume and you will change your mood.

Please like, share and comment on my blog.

“The Shade Tree Choir”


The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer