by Cynthia Evans, ECNV Director of Community Services
Prompted by the passing of comedian Robin Williams, this is the 2nd of a two-part blog on the effects of depression on an ECNV employee, Cynthia Evans. Click here to read Part 1.
Humor is an effective weapon against depression and despair. It’s usually not obvious to me when I’m blowing things out of proportion or beating up on myself. I may be ruminating over an especially traumatic event from long ago. The emotions may be as raw as when the incident occurred and daily functioning stops. After explaining how this event has convinced me that I really should just end it all, again, the sage wisdom of friends come to the rescue.
Friend: So what I hear you saying is that the pain of __[the incident]__ is making you feel so _[the feelings]_ that life just doesn’t seem to worth living any more. It’s just too much. Is that right?
Me: Yes, I just don’t think I can handle another day.
Friend: Okay, well let’s look at this. This event happened in your 30s, right?
Me: Yes, 33.
Friend: So this event happened 10 years ago. Now, I’m not trying to downplay how devastating this was, because I was there. I remember what you went through. But let me ask you something. You weren’t this depressed just a couple of days ago over this incident. Why do you think it’s so present for you now, today?
Me: I don’t know…I guess I hadn’t really been thinking about it until today.
Friend: I see. So when you weren’t thinking about it, you were able to go on with life. But now that you’ve been spending time thinking about it, you feel emotionally paralyzed. Does that seem accurate?
Me: [cracking a smile because I know where this is leading]…well, I guess you’re right.
Friend: Okay then. Let’s see if we find some other thing for you to think about so that you can get to work and not lose your job, your house, and your car. Because I’m pretty sure if that happens, you really will be suicidal. Fair enough?
Me: [chuckling] Fair enough. I’m open to suggestions…
Sarcasm is not a medically advised treatment for clinical depression. I have found, however, that sometimes it takes a friend willing to “speak the truth in love” to help me focus on what’s important.
These and many other tools have kept me together for many years. I have been hospitalized for suicidal ideation and depression seven times. But not once since 1991. I was saddened to hear about the passing of Robin Williams and to learn that he also had depression. He was a celebrity. I didn’t know his situation and to presume to would be wrong. I just felt the need to bring attention to the dangers of self-talk. And to encourage those who struggle with it to seek the support of others. I wouldn’t be alive had I listened to the lies of my own mind and I’m extremely grateful for the tools I’ve learned over the years.
If you’re interested in developing such tools for yourself, consider talking to a therapist, good friend, peer counselor, or loved one. Also check out WRAP (Wellness Recovery and Action Plan). It’s described as “a personalized wellness and recovery system born out of and rooted in the principle of self-determination. WRAP® is a wellness and recovery approach that helps people to:
1) decrease and prevent intrusive or troubling feelings and behaviors;
2) increase personal empowerment;
3) improve quality of life; and
4) achieve their own life goals and dreams.”
They don’t always work — or, more accurately, I don’t always work them. But having them at my disposal has helped me out of many difficult times.
How about you? Even if you don’t have clinical depression, are there coping techniques that have helped you through difficult times? Please feel free to share anonymously if that would be more comfortable. We’d love to hear what’s working for you.
Thanks for reading…
To respond, please leave a reply in the comments section below.
ECNV’s blogs are the personal experiences of individual contributors and should not be seen as endorsing a specific program or service.
Like many, I was saddened by the recent death of Robin Williams. I won’t attempt to speak to what he experienced in his last days. But I felt the need to share some thoughts and what helps me manage my depression. Everyone’s experience is different.
Check out the pictures from the NCIL march and rally!
By Ed McEntee, ECNV Peer Mentor
Vacation time – for people with kids it usually happens between June and August, but really it could be any time. In either case, the prep work is the challenge. Here is what you need to know to plan your accessible vacation.
- Deciding On Your Destination. This should be an easy thing to do, but having a disability can make it more complicated. While many hotels say they are accessible, you have to do a little investigation before committing yourself. Some hotels call themselves “accessible” if you can get a wheelchair in the front door, but there may be steps inside the building. Likewise, there are hotels that identify themselves as accessible if they have grab bars in the bath, but do not have enough space for a wheelchair to fit through the door to access those assistive devices. You should always call the hotel and make sure they comply with your definition of accessible. I find that national chains are usually good with accessibility and can provide satisfaction. In the United States the American Automobile Association (AAA) has useful information about accessible travel. As a member, you can get access to mapping services and guide books that have valuable information (by state) for hotel accommodations and accessibility. They feature hotel addresses, phone numbers, and interesting tourist sites to visit. Go to www.aaa.com for membership information.
- Support Services. A person with physical disabilities might need Personal Assistant Care services, while a person with low vision might need magnified reading devices. Deaf persons might need access to devices that would help to interpret speech. To find support services you can do a computer search for a nearby Center for Independent Living (CIL), State Department of Rehabilitation Services, or service providers having national recognition.
- Traveling. Airplanes and trains are often the go-to modes of transportation for traveling long distances quickly. But sometimes driving can be the easiest way to travel, especially if you have a disability. Having your own accessible van can be very costly, so you may want to consider a rental. While this is not necessarily cheap ($1,000 -$1,300 weekly with unlimited mileage), it may be cheaper than plane tickets for two and you have fabulous mobility in and around your vacation area. One of the national companies providing great service and support is Wheelchair Getaways (www.wheelchairgetaways.com). For a fee, they will drop the vehicle off at an airport or any other destination you provide and pick it up at any place you decide. In my experience, the vans are clean, well-maintained, and accessible with an automatically-retracting ramp. Another wheelchair van rental company I have had success with is Mobility Works (www.mobilityworks.com). There are quite a few options, so do some research and find the company that works best for you.
- Accessible Cruises. My sole experience on a cruise ship was with Royal Caribbean, Adventure of the Seas (http://www.royalcaribbean.com). Each deck had at least two cabins accessible to people with physical disabilities. My cabin had a balcony (paid extra for that), a queen-sized bed, and a fully accessible bath with a fully accessible shower. I had no problems getting throughout the ship since it had been retrofitted with ramps and automatic door openers on every deck. The only place on the ship that was inaccessible was a chapel at the very top of the ship. However, not all things are perfect in paradise. Prior to sailing, I attempted to see if their tours around the islands were accessible. Unfortunately, their version of accessible was not quite fit for wheelchair users. I was quite disappointed, especially when I found that the ship was deserted during the day when everyone else went out on tours. There are many cruise lines with different accessibility features, so once again, it is important to do your research. Princess Cruises (www.princess.com) boasts an “award winning program” for accessibility on their website, and Celebrity Cruises (www.celebritycruises.com) also lists many accessibility features on their website. Always do your research and ask questions before you book!
Although challenges are inevitable, planning ahead can make traveling a whole lot easier. Once you’re relaxing by the pool or exploring a new city with your family, the extra planning becomes worth it.
ECNV’s blogs are the personal experiences of individual contributors and should not be seen as endorsing a specific brand. We encourage people to conduct their own research and use their best judgment.
During the six years I served as AARP’s disability community liaison, I enjoyed the opportunity to serve on the American Association of People with Disabilities Leadership Awards Gala Steering Committee. I was mightily impressed by the team that annually worked to raise six – and then seven – figures in donations that became the core of the national nonprofit group’s annual operating budget. The event itself has always been the leading cross-disability event in the DC region. I’ve heard it called the “Oscars of the disability world” and that’s a fair summary. Lots of the big names in our field attend, and the host venue always has a swanky aura. The awards are central to the event and the winners are always impressive.
This year’s winners included International Ally Award winner Sweden, and Corporate Leaders Procter & Gamble and Google, Inc. The prestigious Paul G. Hearne Leadership Awards were presented to Claudia Gordon, from the White House Office of Public Engagement; HEARD founder Talila Lewis, who has focused on the rights of prisoners who are deaf; and AXS Lab Founder Jason DaSilva. Jenni Gold, producer of the new film Cinemability, received the AAPD Image Award.
Another joy each year at AAPD is the chance to catch up with old friends in this glamorous setting. I enjoyed seeing my former National Organization on Disability colleague Ginny Thornburgh, and her husband Dick, the one-time U.S. Attorney General and Pennsylvania Governor. AAPD Board Member Cheryl Sensenbrenner kept remarking on how my look had changed – maybe she just isn’t used to seeing me in a suit. I also was glad to pass my new business card to ADA author and former California Congressman Tony Coelho; years before I had the chance to work with Tony in person, he was a role model to me. He was diagnosed with epilepsy at the same age I was, faced many roadblocks as a result, but never stopped pursuing opportunities to be a leader and support the rights of other people with disabilities. And it was good to catch up with Curt Decker, the National Disability Rights Network head who attended the same tiny upstate New York college I did (albeit a couple of decades ahead of me). As usual, the ushers were “ushing” us out long before I had a chance to say hi to everyone I would have liked.
I was proud to attend this year’s gala along with eight ECNV colleagues and three members of our Board of Directors. We were among the best-represented organizations there. And we were all taking notes, since AAPD’s Gala gives us inspiration as we prepare for ECNV’s own upcoming fundraiser, which will be held June 11 at the Clarendon Ballroom in Arlington. We are fortunate to have several veterans of the AAPD Gala beyond myself, including our Board member Helena Berger who was the longtime AAPD Chief Operating Officer and consultants Jason Mida and Zach Baldwin of Mida & Associates, helping us build our event. AAPD knows what they’re doing and they do it mighty well.
Apply now to be a Member of the Board
Hurry! Applications are open until April 15 but screening will begin before then; appointments are made by the Governor. Candidates must submit a resume and complete the online application through the Secretary of the Commonwealth at https://solutions.virginia.gov/OASYS.
Or you can click “apply to be a board member” under the site tools at www.VaBoard.org and be sure to check out the categories under the 2014 Appointment Openings…candidates must complete all vetting questions, as well as provide background information, a resume, and explain why they are applying for a specific seat on a board. For more information about Gubernatorial appointments, visit
https://commonwealth.virginia.gov/applications/gubernatorial-appointments/. It would be helpful if you could also send us a copy of your application and resume so that we can follow up. You can send them to Michal Ketner at Michal.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Arlington Transit is proposing to increase ART bus fares and the STAR Zone 1 fare. If approved, the fare increases would go into effect on Tuesday, July 1, 2014. This would be the first time that ART has increased bus fares and the STAR Zone 1 fare since 2010.
ART BUS FARE INCREASE
Arlington Transit is proposing to increase the ART base fare from $1.50 to $1.75. The ART discounted fare for seniors, middle and high school students, and people with disabilities would increase from $0.75 to $0.85. The additional revenue generated from the increased fares would help offset increased contractual costs for operation and maintenance and the cost of additional ART bus services.
STAR ZONE 1 FARE INCREASE
Arlington Transit is also proposing that the STAR Zone 1 fare increase from $3.00 to $3.50 per trip. The additional revenue generated from the increased fare would partially cover higher expenses from contractors supplying STAR services. STAR Zone 2 and 3 fares would not increase.
YOU HAVE THREE OPPORTUNITIES TO COMMENT
1) A community meeting on this issue will be held at Central Library on Monday, March 10, from 7–8:30 p.m.
2) A public hearing will be held on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in the County Board Room located on the third floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd, Arlington VA, 22201. Visit Arlingtontransit.com/CBMProcedures to sign up to speak at the hearing or to comment online. You may also call the County Board Office at 703-228-3130.