Depression creeps up quietly, often abruptly and frequently without cause or reason. It cares nothing for age, income or education level; and it leaves its victims debilitated and sometimes with thoughts of suicide or without hope for the future. Unlike other medical disorders, mental illness often comes with a stigma leaving many too embarrassed to seek treatment. Local author and speaker Laurie Jueneman hopes to change that. Her recent novel, “Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression,” is a memoir detailing her own journey through depression, and it bears witness that there is hope for better days ahead.
In “Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression,” Jueneman shares her journey in poignant and painful detail. Like so many other victims of mental illness, Jueneman was embarrassed by the stigma associated with diagnosis and was initially resistant to sharing her concerns with those who could help her most. As a result, she became an expert at hiding her symptoms. “People think that if you look okay, you are okay,” she stated. “We get very good at putting on masks every day. In order to survive and get going, I had to pretend.”
By the time she finally sought treatment, Jueneman’s life had become decidedly altered. “I found myself having sleep problems, appetite problems [and] was feeling anxious for no reason.” After two years of treatment with various medications, she was referred to the world-renowned Menninger Clinic. There she resided for 10 months and underwent Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), which finally allowed her relief from the worst of her symptoms.
EMPOWERING OTHERS TO SEEK HELP
Now at a stable place in her treatment, Jueneman hopes her story will empower others to seek help for their symptoms in the same way they would for any other ache or pain causing medical concern.
Today, Jueneman is doing well. She emphasizes, however, that those with mental illness sometimes never completely overcome their illness. She hopes people will seek the treatments and programs available to help and sees her memoir as one tool to help readers find hope. “I don’t feel cured,” she cautions, “but I feel like I’ve learned how to live with the illness.”
According to a 2010 report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) State Advocacy Committee, nearly 168,000 adults and 56,000 children in Minnesota live with mental illness. That’s nearly one fourth of Minnesota’s estimated 5.2 million residents. Jueneman credits NAMI Southeast Minnesota chapter with providing her much-needed support during some of her more difficult times. It was through the encouragement from a group at NAMI that the idea for her memoir
After 12 years, Jueneman took the first steps toward writing her memoir by reviewing old journals and requesting the medical records of her treatment. The end result is a “how-to guide” where she shares the tools and skills she’s adopted over the years that have allowed her to implement coping mechanisms into her daily life.
Rochester Women is pleased to host Laurie Jueneman and her memoir, “Climbing the Mount Everest of Depression” at Post Town Winery on Tuesday, March 15 at 7 p.m. For more information on Jueneman’s memoir go to lauriejueneman.com.
Catherine H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Rochester for 23 years. Writing under the pen name of C.H. Armstrong, she is the author of “The Edge of Nowhere,” a work of historical fiction based in Oklahoma during the 1930s Dust Bowl. For more information visit charmstrongbooks.com