Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Sandy Slaga: How Do You Move Beyond Blue?

posted by Beyond Blue

A few weeks ago, I launched my series “How Do You Move Beyond Blue?” with an interview with Gretchen Rubin, a fellow blogger who is working on the “Happiness Project.”

Now I bring to you the lovely and inspirational Sandy Slaga, who has become a friend of sorts because she is always posting very sweet notes on my comment boards. She makes me feel like what I’m doing here on Beyond Blue is a mission I should be proud of.

Because she likes what I have to say on the topics of depression and sanity–and writes a delicious blog herself–I figured that hers would be an appropriate brain to pick for this series. That and the fact that her kids are teenagers (so if she can survive that, she must have some great tools to share) and she’s been married 27 years (again, this must be one strong woman). Sandy writes with humor and grace, wit and wisdom, and has much to teach people like me whose brain is a battle field most of the time.

Sandy practiced law for ten years (thus perfecting her acerbic wit?). She left to work toward a healthier life balance, and to care for her terminally ill father. After he died, two years later, she decided to be a full-time mom for awhile before returning to law. She lives in Rockford, Illinois with her husband and now teenage children. She enjoys hanging out with Sadie and Gabbie (her two dogs), writing, teaching, and handing out unsolicited advice.

I’ve learned a great deal from her, and I’m thinking you will too!

Okay, Sandy, I have to start with this quote from your blog, because it totally cracked me up: “Three years of law school, two bar exams and almost ten years of practicing law ain’t got nothing on one eighteen-year-old boy’s skill at driving me into a close relationship with Jack Daniels.” Do you think parenting is probably the toughest challenge as a person who struggles with depression? (Because I think I do.)

I do think that parenting is the biggest challenge for people who battle depression. When children are very young, the physical demands of parenting can be exhausting. If a parent is struggling with depression, those demands can become overwhelming. When children are older, parent energy is sapped by the emotional roller coaster of the teenage years. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s gonna be a bumpy ride!

I love how you describe your current struggle with deciding whether or not to go back to practicing law–the image of this old crotchety lady inside of you with a bony finger poking your ribs. As I wrote in my post “Me Sans Career,” I feel like so much of my identity is wrapped up in being a writer and editor. How have you managed to separate the lawyer Sandy–the accomplished and professional person–from the Sandy who wants to feel like she is okay without any accolades? What do you do with the old crotchety lady when she says that Sandy is nobody without law? (Myself, I’d like to lock up the old lady.)

It’s still difficult to not define who I am by what I do for a living. Society perpetuates that identity trap. One of the first questions out of our mouths when meeting someone is, “So, what do you do?” No doubt this question is prompted by everyone’s crotchety old lady. My crotchety old lady has been my best friend and my worst enemy. Duct tape and a closet work well when she steps too far out of line.

Twenty-seven years of marriage, that’s wonderful! It gives me hope, because, as a depressive, I worry so much about how my moods affect my marriage. Eric will surely be beatified upon his death for sticking with me. Do you have any words of wisdoms for depressives struggling in their marriages? What was a marriage-saver for you guys?

Hands down the marriage saver for us has been twofold: our faith in God and our commitment to the marriage. Because we’re committed to our marriage, we do what it takes to make it work. Over the years that has included counseling, both individual and together. For depressives who are struggling in their marriages, I would say to do what it takes to stay healthy, and that includes counseling and education for both partners.


You mention in your bio that you cared for your aging father for two years before his death. Wow. Did you learn anything in that process that is helpful for your recovery from depression?

My father’s illness taught me to cherish each day, to never give up and to always look for the light in the darkness. He also taught me to put yourself out in the world every day, because there’s someone somewhere who needs your touch.


Your writing is filled with humor and wit. Is laughing a key component of your recovery? What are the staples of your program? What do you do on the mornings that you feel like you’re being sucked into the big black hole?

Laughing is a key not only to my recovery but to my life. Laughter energizes and soothes me. I’ll take a M*A*S*H rerun to the news any day.

My program is simple but rigid.

1. Exercise every day, even if it’s throwing in a CD and dancing in the dining room with the black Lab and the mini Dachshund.

2. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

3. Healthy eating. Most days.

4. My faith. One of my staples is the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.

5. Meditation.

6. Family and friends.

On mornings when I feel like I’m being sucked into the Black Hole, I grab my dad’s finger rosary from my nightstand drawer, pray like hell and act “as if” by kicking my butt out of bed and into the shower.



  • http://HASH(0xceb5d40) Debbie Blackwell

    Dear Therese, Everyday I look for Beyond Blue, always looking forward to what you have to say. No offense to everybody else, but if it’s not you, I click out. Over a year ago I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and although not diagnosed with depression, it was there. (Pretty obvious when a woman with five kids and the start of what could be a successful business spends her time watching Court TV and searching for Oprah) My drive, interest and spirit was lost. With the help of one of our pastors I decided to take the medication (Lexapro) and Xanex if needed, something I refused to do because I considered it a lack of faith. But the Lord provides all resources including medication and people like you who inspire, motivate and make us smile. Thank you for helping me to understand we are not alone and I am a functioning mental case because I had labeled myself a complete failure and completely insane. I am back to writing now and am now being led to find my purpose. Praise God because I can singlehandedly solve every crime on Court TV. And that my friend is pathetic.Yep, I’m long winded as usual, but once again… thank you, thank you. What you are doing is truly your calling and it is beautiful. Debbie

  • http://HASH(0xceb5ab8) SuzanneWA

    Oh, Therese! Your wonderful email arrived in my inbox on Saturday – and it made my day! I’m glad that you find my blogs to be uplifting and helpful to someone; I know if I ever (and I’m not planning to) get in a depression again, I’ll know where to turn (aside from the shrink and meds!) You are such an inspiration to the rest of us who have “walked in the mocassins,” and have motivated so many. I believe Sandy has the right attitude in facing her depression. I honestly don’t know how women with children AND work, do it during depressive episodes (much less WITHOUT depression). I was never blessed with children, but I did take in my Mother for four years while she suffered with Alzheimer’s. It became an ultimatum with my husband – “Either she goes – or I do!” The very next morning, I called the first nursing home in the Yellow Pages, and got her in that afternoon! It was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever had to do. After I got her signed in and went back to her assigned room, she looked at me with tears streaming down her face, and said, “You’ve put me in a nursing home!” I was devastated – but my marriage, and my sanity, were threatened, and I believe to this day, that I did the right thing. After only a month or two, I was just a “friendly face” to her – she was trapped in the forgetfulness of her disease. When she died, I went depressive, but not clinically so. I was watched carefully by professionals and staff at the local mental health clinic, and got through it with the help of my friends. I forgot to mention that shortly after I “put her away,” my husband died suddenly of a heart attack. My Mother never understood when I told her… Keep up the good work, Therese -we need you!

  • http://youtube.com/profile?user=woodlandpoet Carmen Esquivel

    Dear Therese,I have been reading your blog for a couple months now. You are an inspiration to me. I was dignosed with major depression with postpartum and posttramatic stress syndrome issues. That was shorltly after my son was born. He will be four in September. I wanted to thank you for this particular blog. The balance between work and family has been a battle for me. At the moment I feel I am winning. A couple months ago I had to quit a job I loved because it became a hostile work environment. I was working as a wilderness camp teacher, helping at-risk-youths (all boys) turn their lives around. I believe my boss had issues of her own but was not facing them. Ironically the job I had before that one was also a hostile work environment. I now have a job working as a on-line teacher at home. It has helped me so much because I was beginning to think I had become a bad teacher and that all of this was my fault. Which is sad because I have always identified my self as a Exceptional Children’s Teacher (A.K.A. Special Education teacher). With the help of my new job, sharing my thoughts,my story, and my poetry on youtube.com ( and ofcourse my computer and my webcam) I realize thier can be a balance. Please thank Sandy for interview. I hope this is not too long but I just wanted to share my gratitude with you. Thank-you, Carmen AKA the “woodlandpoet”

  • Anonymous

    Dear Therese, I just wanted to let you know that you’re doing a wonderful job. You’re touching women’s lives. Even just a little bit. It is worth it. Because I’m the same way. I want to make a difference to make their life easier. Even if its just a smile. Because then it gives them a good start for that day. It will put them in a different mood. I too, completely understand what it is like to be a mother of young children. And not have the support there. I had nobody to fall back on. So I could have sometime to myself. At the time I felt so alone and my kids were my life jacket. I’ve had to deal with depression since I was 13 yrs. old. It really affected my marriage. Not only that but because I was sexually molested by my father when I was only 13. My husband did not really understand how much of affect it would have on our marriage. To this day. He does’nt have a clue. But, he’s clueless about most things about matters of the heart. Despite all my efforts to save my marriage. And loving him was not enough because he was’nt committed to saving our marriage. By taking whatever it took. He is also dealing with depression. But again, he is denial. Won’t admit that he needs help. But despite everything. I do wish him the best. That he has learned something from this tragedy. That he will find someone and that he will treat her a lot better than me. Myself, I’ve seeked couseling for the past but also my marriage. Which has been beneficial to a degree. My biggest help was a very good friend that helped me to deal with everything. That I have done everything in my power plus God’s power. That I don’t have any regrets of taking the steps of divorcing my husband. Would have been 21 yrs. this yr. I come to the realization that God would’nt want me to be in that damaging relationship. I just wished that I would have realized it lot sooner. Because I see the effect it has especially on my boys. Because, unfortunaely they are just like their Dad. They think it is normal to treat the opposite sex that way. But, at the time. I thought that If I love him enough or bear another child of his that he would start loving me again. That everything would work out. All it did was delayed the envitiable. The only thing I can say about what I have endured since I was 13. It has made me stronger and more compassionate. But the time I left I had to start over with everything. I had no self-esteem. What self-esteem I had. He torn that down. When I finally got a chance to fulfil one of my dreams. He made every effort to see that I would fail. Made me feel guilty by telling me that I was neglecting my children. Now. I have to deal with working and trying to be a parent. Which is a struggle especially with my boys. They had the hardest time dealing with everything. Of course, my boys blame me. It’s my fault that I left their dad. They are coming around but it is really going to take quite some time. But the problem is that they were having problems before the shit hit the fan. I have tried to get their Dad to have counseling. My oldest did see a counselor for awhile.But it was’nt really working. So now I don’t think my oldest is seeing no one. I really worry about their future. The only thing I can do is that God will intervene. I think that is their only salvation. Otherwise, they will have problems with the cops. It is really a struggle with me to have to work full time and nothing to show for. And not being able to spend time with my children. It has really been heart wrenching. My oldest asked when I was going to have them stay the three weeks with me. I told him it was’nt that I did’nt want them to come over. But there has to be an adult with them at all times. And because of that I’m not able to have them over that long. Because I have to work all the time. But good news! I’m determined to change my situation. I’m being the aggressor. Going out on a limb. I’m taking a risk for once in my life and accepting a job that I absolutely know nothing about. I have to do something before its too late. I’m unable to trust my boys to be alone for very long before there is some kind of mischief. My daughter on the otherhand. Is a pretty good kid and I have no problems with her. I can trust her. Not saying I don’t have problems with her. But at least she’s workable. Stubborn but she is starting her teenagers’ yrs. I still have a constant battle with myself. I just constantly have to give myself a pep-talk. That yes you can. You’re not a loser or a bad mother. That I’m a wonderful person. Ect,ect. But it still is a battle in my mind. But it is getting better. I have really grown the last 4 yrs. for the better. And I’m always trying to learn as much as possible still. I want to make more improvements. I don’t want to make the same mistakes in the future. But I have changed dramatically. I’m always kidding around that I probably always had it in me the potential. But it was just squashed in my marriage. Kidding around that I was just a very,very late bloomer. Anyway, keep up the good work. Sincerely, Robin Hoselton

  • Normi

    Dear Therese
    I have taken an interest in your blog and all of your readers always have an inspirational story. Which, leads me to share my story. I am a divorce mother of two children ages 9 and 12. Being alone not getting too much support from the father for the last seven years has been a struggle. I am full time mom and hold up a full time job. Running around with my daughter to Girl Scouts and to Basketball practice and games. I find myself exhausted by 10:00pm. Struggling to make ends meet, I worry everyday how I can get thru the day on how I can manage work and kids I spent sleepless nights when they get sick and late nights with projects. It is not easy doing this by myself infact it is exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. But I do not give up because, I know that my kids need me and I also need them. I pray and thank god everyday for what I have it might not be much, but if I can provide a roof over our head, clothes to our back, food to our table and a smile at the end of the evening before going to bed. It is enough for me to thank god they are home and safe with me.

  • PoeticTri Smith

    This is beautiful and as well relieving to know that I am not alone and I thought I was going bonkers. I was diagnosed with GAD at age 16 but I withheld pertinent information which now I know that holding all these feeelings in trying to protect the fears of others I realize to speak and make others aware of having mental disorders doesnt make you the crazy one i believe that if you dont talk about traumatic experiences it will eat at you. im probably babbling but to make a long story short I was sexually abused as a child, teenager, and mentally abused as well emotionally and psychologically abuse but I tried to repress all these bad memories til finally I start having episodes of night terrrors, I became mute so whatever the pyschologists thought was wrong withme I thought they couldn’t help me but I kinda of did a self-evaluation on how much these culprits had caused me pain that I never took the time to realize that it wasn’t my fault and im not responsible for what others do I can only be accountable for me but I realized that doing some motivational speaking and writing poetry to express some of life experiences has not only been cathartic for me but helpful to other women who may have kept the peace but ” had no peace in their spirits” Ladies if you have had any traumatic experiences please dont tell yourself everything will be alright. ” Don’t lie to yourself and go into denial”, get some help the only pyschos are the ones who dont get it. There are many sources of help:support groups, family therapy, and or medications, church family to get your anxiety or anger under control because I am alive and well at 30 with an amazing three year old and one year old it with the help of a loving a spouse who empathizes with me, a supportive mother who I feared if i told she would take care of my culprit, and a since of burdens release just by being honest with myself and coping with these challeges head on. Live ,love , and laugh its good medicine for the soul!!!! THere is no amount of money that can replace a sound mind, but we are the first step to our own recovery……….

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