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Tracy Thompson. The Ghost in the House: Motherhood, Raising Children and Struggling with Depression. (Harper Collins, 2006).

What a difficult book to read, and yet, it seems to have been helpful to me. Read more... )

Anyway, Thompson conducted both survey research and some in-depth interviews with mothers identifying as having depression (recruited from the readership of O: The Oprah Magazine and some newspapers. She incorporates with that her own experiences as the daughter of a woman with depression, a mother with depression herself, and the mother of a child with depression. Sometimes that's good; sometimes it's a bit Too Much. (For instance, her struggles with breastfeeding clearly tint her attitude towards breastfeeding in the depressed mother.)

There's a good deal of scary stuff here, about the long-term effects of depression in the mother genetically and behaviorally on the children. The stories of the pain, exhaustion and frustration of depressed moms would get Pollyanna herself a bit down.

But there's also hope here. "One of the many great things about children is that they can learn from your weaknesses as well as your strengths..." (What a great chapter title: "How your struggles with depression can make you a better mother.")The author matter-of-factly talks about tools that she and her interviewees have shared for dealing with being an appropriate parent while depressed. Unlike many books, this one touches on the tendency in depression to be exhaustedly super-irritable, as well as too exhausted to get out of bed, though there was less attention paid to the irritable side. For me, the emphasis on making sure to get appropriate care (at whatever level one considers appropriate), on the ways that mothers trying to tough it out can fail for both mother and child, was helpful also. The admission that most pop self-help 'optimism' peddled today is pretty fake and the experience of dealing with doctors can be incredibly frustrating was reassuring. [Thompson points out one of my pet peeves: the current emphasis on incredibly close child supervision and attachment parenting can make things harder for exhausted, irritable depressed moms to cope.]

In conclusion, this probably isn't the book to read if you're in the great trough of depression, unless you're so hungry for honesty on the subject that one more "cheer up" will cause you to beat someone's head in (except you're too tired). However, it is a helpful book for those who have chosen or are in the process of choosing to be a mother despite struggles with depression, and perhaps for those seeking to understand what it was like to be a depressed mother (though if you're still pissed at your mother, maybe not so much). It is also a helpful source for coping mechanisms-- though a shorter, more concise list of suggestions might be helpful when in the throes.
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
I've started a new Arts and Sciences Project.

I'm making a human being from documentably medieval materials via documentably medieval process.

Details )
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Yesterday, the kind plumbers came and replaced the sewage drainpipe, the vent, and the connector for the upstairs bathroom. They petted Angel (the psycho kitty) successfully, they dealt with the erratic houseguest who insisted on doing rubbings of the original wallpaper revealed when the wall was open and the downpipe removed, and they finally broke down and asked Juergen, "Um, which one of them are you married to?" They also cut a new piece of sub-subfloor and glued and screwed it down so the bunny-eating hole did not reappear. All this, and it only cost us money.

However, by the time I came home, it was clear that Rosie, our calico cat, was missing. We called for her outside, figuring she snuck out through a door or into the basement and through her patent invisible escape hatch... we looked for her in the attic, in the basement, in the crawl space, in the cupboards and closets and pantries and the washer and dryer and the larger dresser drawers.

No cat. No cat noises. Not a peep.

Exhausted, we sank down at the dining room table. Angel walked into the kitchen and I heard things-pinging sort of noises. Sarah went to investigate.
"Come down here, you naughty Rosie kitty!"
We raced in. Sarah pointed up.
Through the original hole in the ceiling under where the toilet once was and will be again, we could see... calico.
Yes. Rosie had hidden in the floorboards and not come out or objected when her escape route was blocked.

After a little lathe-breaking, much struggling and swearing and under Rosie's quite extreme protests, Juergen managed to extract the cat from the ceiling. While the rest of us tried not to completely freak her out by laughing hysterically. We have video of the last part of this process.

In other news, this morning we had more kitchen waterfalls, and the plumber has been back to replace the pipe from the tub drain to the drain. He was horrified to hear of Rosie's adventures (It's not as if it was HIS fault our cat is an idiot and we failed to lock her up properly!)
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
Overheard in the house:
"Someone's been naalbinding with the cell phone power cable."

Triumph!

Nov. 12th, 2007 11:29 am
bunnyjadwiga: (Default)
The window is fixed!

Ok, most of you had no idea that there was a Battle of the Window. But it's true. This weekend, a longstanding issue in our house has been resolved.
Read more... )
Epic Home repair, that's us!
bunnyjadwiga: (Bartleby)
Last week I finished reading Transcendental Wife: the life of Abigail May Alcott, by Cynthia H. Barton (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1996).

What I was most struck by was the combination of entitlement and almost co-dependence on Abby's part. She left her parents' home on bad terms with her father and stepfather, and eventually married a penniless educator; she stood by him and raised his children and supported him emotionally and sometimes financially for years. And yet-- she comes across as demanding, critical and whiny. Barton points out how hard it must have been for Abby to take charity from family and friends-- but she didn't just ask for it, she demanded it, perhaps because she couldn't bring herself to do it any other way.

She struggled with her husband's principles, and the financial ruin that brought them to repeatedly, but she stood up for him and believed that she and her children should live in poverty rather than ask him to compromise his principles. She seems to have been almost pathologically devoted to her nuclear family as a cohesive unit, and unable to tolerate outsiders, but she forced herself to endure (crankily and probably being very difficult to live with) con-sociate living arrangements and the taking in of boarding students time after time.

It sounds as if she struggled with what we would label depression, but I'm increasingly confused about what we wouldn't label depression any more. Still, the anger management issues combined with her mistrust of herself, and her own voice, seem to have loomed large in internal family life. By Barton's (and by Bronson Alcott's) standards, she seems to have adopted a somewhat attachment-parenting outlook to raising her girls. She said of her oldest as an infant: "I have no rules save one great one-- to do what she indicates to have done- and she is so reasonable that I find no difficulty." Later on, as Louisa suggested in Good Wives, she seems to have had more trouble, especially as Bronson required a serene house; Bronson took over some childcare over her objections.

Eventually Abby did rebell against being destitute, and took various jobs, including that of an early social worker, in order to feed her family. Sometimes her charity endangered her family (as when they contracted illness from a client), but at least there was money coming in and Abby was living according to her principles, while Bronson lived according to his. It doesn't appear that Bronson was lazy, putting a good deal of physical labor into various self-sufficiency exercises; but philosophy tempted him away and left work for Abby. Eventually, Bronson learned that he could make a living at 'giving conversations' (speechwriting?) and things were more comfortable.

But I agree that Abby's troubles do seem to have to do with struggling to find her own voice and come up with a way of life which accomodated her own needs and principles as well as those of her husband and family. I do think that Louisa very much admired her mother, even if she wasn't the kindly Marmee of Little Women, and I was interested to see what (roseified) elements from Abby's life that Louisa used in Good Wives, such as marrying the kind Professor, keeping a school, Fruitlands/Plumfield, and the struggle over childraising.

I also noticed how reading this volume brought to the forefront of my mind my struggles to live my life without asking other people to compromise their principles, especially when it affects my homelife and workload. Hopefully I am not quite as snippy as Abby was; but I have less to do than she did, and more individual voice.

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