'The Virgin Suicides' Depicts Depression Surprisingly Well

'The Virgin Suicides' Depicts Depression Surprisingly Well

Suicide is never discussed until it's too late.
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As a P=psychology major and mental health advocate, it's only natural that I take interest in my Abnormal Psychology class. I absolutely LOVE learning about all types of disorders — from substance use to schizophrenia, and even depression.

Our most recent assignment was a movie critique. It was to analyze how mental health is depicted in movies. We were to identify when and if Hollywood distorts mental illness to their advantage. Of course, there are disorders (such as schizophrenia) that are weaved into the identities of some characters in order to boost horror movie sales and such; however, I believe that "The Virgin Suicides" did a good job depicting depression.

For those that haven't seen the movie, here's a summary. The first 15 minutes of the movie shows the aftermath of the attempted suicide of a 13-year-old girl. The neighborhood is buzzing with rumors and opinions. The young girl's caregiver suggests that her extremely strict, old-fashioned parents allow her to have friends of the opposite sex. In response, her family throws a party for her. During the party, she asks to be excused. A loud noise is heard and her lifeless body is found on the front lawn. Afterward, the movie follows her four sisters and parents in the aftermath of her suicide. It ends with all four of her sisters committing suicide on the same night.

There is not much of a backstory regarding the youngest girl's suicide. We see her wrists bandaged up and her attempts to hide them with bracelets, but that's the only physical evidence of her previous attempts. Her depression is very well-depicted, as she is very withdrawn from her peers and doesn't seem to respond to anyone at the party. Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure, is represented as she cannot seem to have fun at her own party. This kind of behavior is abnormal for a young girl. It causes social and functional impairment — depicting the correct diagnosis and accuracy of the disorder.

Depression is seen most clearly in the middle sister, Lux. Following her sister's suicide, she begins to rebel. She turns to unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to deal with the grief. This often happens in those with depression, as it's seen simultaneously with substance use disorder. Lux is only 14 and chain-smokes cigarettes in many scenes. S starts smoking marijuana and trying to convince her sisters to join her. At a school dance, she drinks alcohol that was smuggled into the event; this risk-taking behavior is often a sign of depression, as well.

The other sisters are much more subtle. They seem to become emotionless. Their parents isolate them from the dangers of the outside world by taking them out of school and not allowing them to leave the house. Social capital is extremely important for mental health, and when taken away, it can have a detrimental effect on humans. Unfortunately, this led to the girls' suicides in an attempt to escape their own minds.

There's a quote that reads, "Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem." Though it is a very uncomfortable subject to talk about, it's a scary reality. Mental health is seen to be taboo throughout the movie — the neighbors keep making up rumors and calling the girls "kooks" when they really just needed some help. "The Virgin Suicides" did not use Hollywood to make money, but to show the backstory of these depressed girls' lives.

Cover Image Credit: The Dissolve

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An Open Letter To The Meadville Medical Center And Its ER Staff

When did kindness become a deserved thing in the healthcare field; and only if you're not on drugs?
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Yes, that cover picture is me, coming off a ventilator...at Magee Women's Hospital in Pittsburgh, a two-hour drive from my house, not at Meadville Medical Center.

This is very difficult to write. We live in a small town, and you are the only hospital for over twenty miles. In fact, I live so close to you, that I can see your rooftop from my back garden. I can walk to you in about ten minutes if it’s not overly humid out. The Life Flights pass over my house as they arrive at and leave your facility, and my young daughter and I pray for every one of them.

My daughter had to call an ambulance on May 30th, as I had a sharp and horrible pain overtake me so suddenly, that I thought my neighbor (who I threatened to report for dealing drugs) had shot me through the dining room window at first. There was no blood to be seen, but the pain was so severe, that combined with the cold sweats and dizziness, I was genuinely afraid I was about to die.

I can’t express in words how proud I was of my girl as she explained to the 911 operator what was the matter and where we lived. She was brave and helpful as they took a blood sample, handled what I later learned was a seizure, and kindly got me into the ambulance from my difficult entryway. She called her Auntie and calmly told her to meet me at the ER. And while memories of the horrible experience I had in your ER twenty years ago still haunted me, the care and attention the ambulance drivers showed me encouraged me that I would be okay.

If only.

There were so many people, and I was half delirious with pain and inexplicable symptoms. Thank God my sister in law, Sheri, was there to help me fight for my life. For the sake of our small town and six degrees of separation, I will call them Nurse A, B, C, and D, and Doctor H. Your staff literally, unapologetically bullied me within an inch of my life.

When I arrived, it was apparently Nurse A who triumphantly announced to everyone involved in my care that I was on drugs, case closed. Despite Sheri and I repeatedly telling them that I hadn’t taken any narcotics, and I won’t take anything stronger than Motrin 800, they persisted in asking what I took. At one point I heard Sheri saying, “She does everything naturally, you're wasting time.” No one cared.

When Nurse A informed me that they needed a urine test, I told her to straight cath me, as I couldn’t stand up. It was Nurse A who told Doctor H that I faked two seizures on the way from my house (I am still amazed by her mystical powers that she could surmise this), and insisted again that I was faking everything. With utter disgust Doctor H said, “She can stand, get her up.” At Sheri’s protest, Nurse A reiterated, “If she can move her legs she can stand.” My legs, which were almost involuntarily moving to find relief from the pain in my abdomen, gave out on me when she insisted I put myself on the bedside commode. I passed out again and urinated on her.

When I woke up to Sheri frantically calling my name, I was greeted by an absolutely disgusted Nurse A, who complained that she needed to go change her clothes, and rolled her eyes at my faking another seizure. She informed everyone who came in next that I was faking these symptoms, and four attempts to straight cath me failed. In that moment, I was sure I was going to die.

Everything after that came in blurry and fragmented vignettes, like an awful out of body experience. There were Nurses B through D or more, all repeatedly asking me what drugs I took. Everyone scowled and frowned, passing on the information that I was faking everything. There were four of these nurses when I woke up on the way to a scan, and all but one asking me what drugs I took, and telling me to stop faking as I hysterically screamed that I could not breathe when I lay flat. I was terrified, confused, out of my mind, and unable to breathe when I lay flat, and they reported that “she hyperventilated herself” in the scan lab.

All the while, Sheri valiantly insisted they would find no drugs in the blood work, and that I probably hadn’t been to a family doctor in years. I lay in your ER cubicle and reconciled myself to God, convinced that I was going to die and be labeled a drug addict.

At some point, something shifted, and suddenly I received the blanket I had asked for hours before. Apparently, my temperature had dropped so low, their fancy thermometers couldn’t read anything. I remember a young man trying to find a vein and saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen anything like this. I’m not trying again.” My head was elevated, and the panic of not being able to breathe alleviated somewhat.

Suddenly Doctor H was almost kind, and I heard him telling Sheri something about “a mass” and “blood in her abdomen” and how some other hospital was better equipped to help me. She told me she okay-ed it, and I recall telling her, “I trust you. Just get me out of here.”

In fact, knowing someone else would care for me gave me such peace, that I literally lay completely still as an older man inserted an IV line into my neck with no anesthesia.

We assume the blood work came back and the scan verified what we desperately tried to tell everyone from the beginning; I wasn’t on or seeking drugs. But there was no apology from Nurse A, her fellow nurses, or Doctor H. I may be corrected, but I spent five or six hours in your ER defending myself to the same people who should have been fighting for my life.

As I lay there, talking to Yeshuale, three people in what looked like tactical suits came alongside my bed. The first was a woman who looked like she was speaking into a walkie talkie. Behind her two men. I thought to myself “Oh, state cops. I guess I’m just going to die in prison.” I was so out of it, confused and weary of being asked what drugs I took, I believed your ER staff had called the police and they had come to take me away. All I could think of was what would become of my young daughter.

Thank God, I was mistaken. The blonde woman wasn’t a police officer, but part of the helicopter team, on the phone with Magee in Pittsburgh so she could begin administering blood to me. Blood. Something your staff considered less important than accusing me of using and seeking some weird drugs. Behind her, a tall, blonde man smiled at me and explained that he was taking me in a helicopter and I would be fine. It was like hearing from an angel, and I remember saying, “Todah, Yeshuale!” repeatedly in my head and in a whisper. “Thank You, Jesus!”

Four blocks away, my daughter and the friend she was staying with waved as we flew over my house.

To my surprise, I woke up two days later, attached to a ventilator, one of my sister friends sitting beside my bed. I learned that I’d had two masses in my uterus, which tore itself open and bled into my abdomen. I’d lost four liters of blood and had a transfusion in the Life Flight. When they took the vent out, (my friend took the picture above) I made a joke about being a tough Jersey girl as I signed to the ICU nurse, but inside I was an emotional wreck. Still, as the days went on, I determined to treat everyone with kindness, and was treated the same way at every turn.

Kindness. The one thing I never received from your staff.

What was so special about me that your staff felt interrogating me about my apparent drug use was more important than helping me? My address? Because for some reason all the drug dealers in town seem to want to take over my block? So, we’re all on drugs, then? Do you realize that half my neighbors brag about going to your ER to get pain pills, and how easy it is? I never asked for anything but a Tylenol, and that was on the Life Flight. So, again I ask, what made me so unique?

And, I must say, it’s not even that your staff didn’t believe me. They were mean, hateful even. Rolling their eyes, talking about me like I wasn’t there, saying everything I did was a ruse to get drugs. When did it become okay to treat anyone like that? How was it alright for your nurse to walk in and determine that I was on drugs? How was it alright for her to set the tone of disbelief, unkindness, and abuse? How was it alright for the doctor to allow this and roll with it?

Yes, I said abuse. When someone is screaming that they can’t breathe and you tell them to stop faking, that is abuse. When you berate someone, and accuse them of something to the point where they believe they’re being taken to jail to die, that’s abuse. When you refuse to give someone a blanket, hold them down to the point where they’re bruised, that’s abuse. When you waste time to the point where an ambulance won’t get to the next hospital fast enough… that’s abuse. Your staff verbally, emotionally, and physically abused me.

Not only were they abusive, but they were comfortable with it. Your staff was comfortable with it, and didn’t care what it would cost me or my family. All but one nurse, who Sheri now tells me insisted that there was something wrong with me and took me for the scan. That nurse saved my life. People are comfortable with abuse because they get away with it. Abusers get smug, arrogant and even careless, because those they abuse say nothing. Your staff was smug, rude and uncaring to the point that they displayed a sick sort of disgust for me that was completely obvious. My sister in law later confirmed to me that it wasn’t all in my head.

At what point did this behavior become acceptable? Is it because you’re the only hospital for a 30-minute drive?

And, so what if I had been seeking drugs or high on some unknown concoction? Would that have made it okay for your staff to treat me thusly? Would Nurse A have been justified in declaring my altered state and treating me like garbage? Would Doctor H have been justified in how he treated me? When did nursing and healing give anyone that sort of power? When did people cease to be worthy of kindness, quality health care and gentleness based upon their drug use, or the address they live at?

When did you decide who deserves to be treated with dignity and respect and who does not? When did your medical staff earn that right to decide also?

If we’re completely honest, most of the people I know who abuse pills go to your ER at least once bimonthly to get refills. Your ER physicians pass out opioid scripts like candy and then mistreat the people they’re supplying? Thanks to you, I must hide the pain medication I loathe to take now, because someone will surely break in to my home and steal them if they know I have them. You, and other hospitals like you, are feeding addicts and creating innocent bystander victims like me, but that’s another conversation.

This is difficult to write, because you have your hooks in all over this town. This is difficult to write, because the trauma of that night is still fresh in my mind, and I often cry when I think about it. This is difficult to write, because the reality that I have had to now teach my child to ask any ambulance we ever need to call again to take us to Erie shouldn’t be necessary. This is difficult to write, but it needs to be said, especially since I’ve been finding out that I’m not the only person this has happened to.

You need to address these issues. You need to stop handing out scripts like promotional coupons, and perhaps you won’t have nurses and doctors assuming everyone’s on drugs or seeking them. You need to discourage the abusive and toxic behavior of your staff, and hold them accountable when patients complain. Let me put this into perspective for you: I’m pretty sure Nurse A is the same age as my oldest daughter, and my child would eat mud before she treated anyone like that. Why? Because my kids were never allowed to behave that way in the first place, but to stay on topic, she grew up with consequences, and as an adult still recognizes their severity.

As the events of that night become clearer to me, and I continue my peaceful, miraculous recovery at home, I am determined not to hold on to bitterness about what happened to me at your ER. I am determined to make the most of the second chance at life I’ve been given, and leave your abusive staff in the past. I’ll probably pass some of them in the super market, or sit behind them in church, our town is so small. And while you and your toxic staff will cease to haunt my future, I will surely haunt yours. Nurse A, Doctor H, and Nurses B through whatever… will never forget the night the woman with the blue hair nearly died because they were too busy wrongly judging to actually care.

I am determined to walk out the rest of my life in kindness, the very discussion I had in a blackout with God while your nurse accused me of faking a seizure. I will pray, hoping with all hope that kindness will once again be requisite for employment in your ER and every area of your corporation. Believe me, it’s possible and good for profits. The entire time I spent in Pittsburgh at Magee I never encountered a single unkind staff member from the surgeons to the housekeepers.

I know you can do it.

Cover Image Credit: Heidi Owens

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Dealing With Anxiety And Depression In College Is Hard, But You're Never By Yourself

My struggles only made me stronger, and God is preparing me for something much bigger.

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Anxiety and depression are two things I've struggled with all of my life, but they were also two things I could never put a name to. In middle school, I believed my mannerisms were something everyone else around me was going through as well.

High school was okay because I was constantly surrounded by people I loved, but as soon as I got to college, it was as if I transformed into this completely different person. My grades dropped, I was losing weight, I was constantly sick, and it felt as if no one around me knew what I was going through or even really cared.

But I'm here to tell you that that's definitely not the case.

Before I could fix myself, I had to name what I was going through, and I think that was the hardest part. I was ashamed to say I faced anxiety and depression because I didn't want to come off as broken. I'd always been known as that "bright and smart" girl, someone who was always smiling and optimistic about whatever she was facing. Someone who always loved everyone else and had no time to worry about herself because she was constantly putting others first.

I was so afraid to label myself as these negative things because I've always been taught the more you label yourself, the more you're limiting yourself from reaching your full potential. But when I was labeled as optimistic, I felt I had no right to be down about things. When I was labeled as smart, anytime I didn't reach the highest level of success, I felt like a failure. When I was labeled as selfless, I felt as though I had no right to worry about myself or my own wellbeing.

The sooner I accepted the feelings I was facing and that I wasn't the only one facing them, the sooner I was able to heal.

The sooner I realized it was all in my head, the easier it was to get rid of those feelings. I began to learn that the trials I was facing weren't normal like my middle school self had convinced me they were, but after being able to name what I was going through, I was able to accept it as it was and push myself to heal. And by push, I mean literally push. I stopped calling my family during breakdowns and instead listened to music that distracted me. I stopped canceling plans with my friends and forced myself to go out because I knew I would have a good time if I just went. I stopped skipping meals just so I wouldn't have to walk across the quad, and my body is thanking me for it every day.

I realized it was okay to feel sorry for myself, but feeling sorry for myself didn't have to include moping around all day. Instead, I started treating myself to getting my nails done, splurging on those new boots, or small things such as buying ice cream with the spare change in my glove compartment. Feeling sorry for myself meant going above and beyond to make myself smile, worshipping more to heal my heart, and spending more time with the people I love to feel whole again.

Now I'm healing, but it's still something I still struggle with to this day. I still think about skipping meals, my anxiety attempting to convince me not to take the short walk across the quad. I still think about bailing out on hanging out with friends. I still think about skipping class. I still struggle with seeing the positive things about waking up in the mornings, wanting nothing more but to curl into a ball and cry until I fall asleep again.

I still struggle with naming the things that I'm feeling, and where they come from, but I'm also learning.

I'm learning not to be ashamed of who I am. I'm learning to find joy in the little things, such as a warmer day than the one before, or a free coffee from the little breakfast shop. I'm learning that what I'm going through doesn't make me weak. I'm learning that I'm not a burden, and the faster you can accept what you're feeling, the faster you'll be able to heal, too.

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