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.

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