Hope and Resiliency: Creating Your New Normal
At a recent community lecture, a hospital volunteer was welcoming guests and handing out information for another upcoming event, “Do you have diabetes? Take this flyer. You’ll want to come to this,” she said. No one was offended by her question or acted embarrassed to take the paper. But, what if it was a flyer on depression? Would she ask the question in the same casual way? Would people still take it without hesitation?
Despite mainstream acceptance of depression as an illness with physiological, genetic, hormonal and environmental causes, it still holds a stigma not associated with other medical ailments like diabetes or heart disease. In Utah, one in five adults has been diagnosed with depression, and suicide is the leading cause of death among teenagers. This level of prevalence has likely impacted each of us personally, yet depression is still not a topic for casual conversation.
“If you broke your leg, you wouldn’t go into hiding. You wouldn’t feel like your leg defined who you are,” says Kristi Shaw, Dixie Regional Medical Center’s Family Care Coordinator for Women’s and Children’s Services. “Depression or mental illness doesn’t deserve any more shame or embarrassment than any other illness. One idea I try to emphasize is a single challenge in our lives is not the total sum of who we are.”
Shaw’s overall message for her patients is hope and resiliency. “We, as humans, are remarkably resilient and often we just need a little bit of light that things will get better. The darkness you’re in now is not a life sentence.”
For Adrianna Murri that darkness was an unwanted, frequent guest. As a young mother expecting twins, she lost one baby at eight weeks but was able to carry the other baby full term. She and her husband, Trever, welcomed daughter, Emma, with great happiness, but severe post-partum depression robbed Adrianna of her ideal motherhood. “I didn’t want to talk about it because it had gotten so bad I was afraid that I would be institutionalized. I don’t remember the first year of Emma’s life.”
Time and medication brought relief and allowed the couple to face pregnancy again. “I was terrified of going back to that dark place, so both of us were much more aware of where I was—physically and mentally,” she shares. “I was still learning that to be a care taker, I needed to take care of myself, but I was a lot better about managing my expectations, and letting other people’s expectations go by the wayside.”
Adrianna would face a first trimester miscarriage before the successful birth of daughter, Lily, in 2009. She would endure two more miscarriages before the birth of daughter, Molly, in 2013. Then the Murris suffered the heartbreak of losing a baby at 36 weeks. Their daughter, Aspen, was born stillborn on June 23, 2014 due to a cord complication. The couple felt strongly that this painful chapter wasn’t how they wanted to end their family story, so in August 2015 they welcomed a son, Spencer.
These experiences didn’t happen in a vacuum, and, like all of us, Adrianna’s challenges were not isolated to just one area of her life. During this time she also dealt with marriage and family difficulties, and working through childhood trauma and loss that was a culprit in her depression. “It was loss after loss. I wasn’t looking for the good anymore, and I hated being in this place where I was just sad and crying every day. I was on autopilot, and I didn’t want that for my kids. But, I was also afraid that if I wasn’t hurting I was forgetting Aspen.”
During her pregnancy with Spencer, she met and worked with Rose Niedzwicki-Rehnborg, a social worker, then at Dixie Regional, who Adrianna called “her saving grace.” She also attended a support group and became active with southwestern Utah’s Angel Moms. “These women are the best friends I’ve ever had. There’s so much heart in this group, and so much love and acceptance,” said Adrianna.
These resources have brought her to the realization that taking care of herself isn’t selfish, and the best thing she can do as a mom and wife is be healthy for her family. Feeling “normal” isn’t the same for her as it was ten years ago, but in most ways her new normal is wiser, healthier and kinder. “I’m learning about myself. I can have sadness, and feel it, let it wash over me, and then bounce back and be OK. It can even help me feel lighter and happier.”
She is now using her own healing experience to help others. “When a new mom joins our group, I want them to know there’s hope in their heartache. I look at all the good that has come from Aspen’s life, even though she never took a single breath. I know that she would want me to be happy. I give back in her honor, and in that way I know she won’t be forgotten.”
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