Nov/Dec
2016

Sparkles from Ruthie: One Woman's Journey Through Depression

Written by Terri Allred Photography by Fagan Studios
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The concept is so simple, even a child can do it. Every time you see a sparkly object, take a moment to do a self-assessment. Ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?” Ruth Braun Tibesar hopes that this daily prompt and reflection will become a regular practice for all of us.

RUTH'S JOURNEY

Ruth is a survivor of depression and is a mental health wellness speaker who shares her story in the hope that she can make a difference for someone else. Ruth’s journey began about seven years ago when she was making weekly trips to Mankato to take care of her ill mother. Despite having a loving husband and supportive coworkers and family, she shouldered much of the burden of managing her mother’s care. She was working full time as a laboratory technologist at Mayo Clinic during the week and acting as her mother’s full-time caregiver on the weekends.

It wasn’t until her mother died that she realized she had been “getting chipped away.”  She was losing bits and pieces of herself. Ruth explains, “I had lost my sparkle. There was nothing left of me anymore. I was flat: no laughter, no joy.”

That was when she began to isolate herself. Once gregarious and outgoing, Ruth ate lunch alone at work and closed her door when she was home with her husband. She understands now that isolation was one of the early symptoms of her depression. She also recalls having insomnia and, ultimately, suicidal thoughts.  

TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION

Ruth initially went to her doctor complaining of physical ailments. When he suggested that she was depressed and needed treatment for it, she recalls getting very angry and telling him that he was wrong. However, eventually she realized that some of the physical symptoms she was having were caused by depression.

She tried traditional methods of treatment including medication and therapy, but to no avail. Eventually, her doctors decided she was a good candidate for electroconvulsive therapy, better known as ECT. The procedure, done under general anesthesia, sends small electrical currents through the brain triggering seizures that can often provide relief for people who suffer from severe depression.

COMMITMENT TO HELP OTHERS

As soon as Ruth started feeling better, she began to think about how she could help others who are suffering from depression and those who are at risk. She believes that if she had known more about depression—its signs and symptoms and what to do—she may have realized sooner what was happening to her.

Ruth has begun telling her story to anyone who will listen. Ruth wants to take the “boo” out of the “taboo” subject of mental illness. By telling her own story and encouraging others to do a daily assessment of their mental health, she hopes to get people talking about this previously taboo issue.

SPARKLES FROM RUTHIE

One day while Ruth was recovering in the hospital after a particularly difficult round of ECT, she received a visit from her niece, Lynn Ellen Braun. Her niece was her sparkle throughout treatment, providing the impetus to continue to fight to get well. Ruth realized that every time she saw something sparkle—a medical instrument, the sunshine reflecting from a car, or someone’s glittery glasses—she thought of her niece.

“Sparkles are everywhere,” Ruth observes. That is one of the reasons that they are such a good trigger for daily mental health assessment. When you see a sparkle, use that as a prompt to think about how you are feeling today. If you don’t feel great emotionally, then what kind of action are you going to take? Will you call a friend? Or do you need professional help?  Then take a moment to give yourself credit for checking in that day. 

Terri Allred is the owner of Third Eye Tribal Dance Studio and Business Consulting. She lives in Rochester with her husband and has two sons.

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