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Rose Carroll with husband Bill at their Falkville home. After 35 years of battling depression, Rose recovered about 12 years ago and is still doing well. She gives credit to God for healing her depression, and she said the country environment helps her stay happy.
Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.
Rose Carroll with husband Bill at their Falkville home. After 35 years of battling depression, Rose recovered about 12 years ago and is still doing well. She gives credit to God for healing her depression, and she said the country environment helps her stay happy.

Rose blossoms
from depression’s shadows after 35 years with support of faith, family and therapy

By Danielle Komis Palmer
dpalmer@decaturdaily.com · 340-2447

The Carroll family never actually saw the monster.

It lurked in the shadows of Rose Carroll’s brain, feeding on negative thoughts and repressed memories of a childhood full of abuse.

For 35 years, it ravaged the Falkville woman’s conscious and unconscious mind.

The beast delighted when it caused Rose to cry for hours, punch walls in frustration or engage in desperate screaming matches with her husband, Bill, who believed she should be able to “pull herself up by her bootstraps.”

Every few months, the monster receded into the shadows and Rose, Bill and their three children would let out a sigh of relief. But they never let out that last bit of breath.

They knew it would be back.

Today’s bright days

Rose Carroll says avoiding depress-ion won’t help. “You can’t run away from it,” she said. “It’s like a suitcase you carry with you.”
Rose Carroll says avoiding depress-ion won’t help. “You can’t run away from it,” she said. “It’s like a suitcase you carry with you.”
“I look like a butterfly!” 68-year-old Rose says after a reporter compliments her on the crepe blouse she is wearing on a recent sunny fall day. She flaps the flowy arms of the blouse to demonstrate, giggling.

At her and her husband’s small farm in Falkville, Rose joyfully points out their two miniature cows, three Babydoll sheep and a pen full of chicken and guinea hens. She holds out a box of cookies for the animals, chattering away about how the bull doesn’t like company but otherwise is usually nice.

“After I got healed, I became a motormouth,” she says. “It didn’t used to be this way.”

The couple’s simple lifestyle in the country helps Rose avoid the dark feelings that once trapped her. She became a different person once she conquered depression 12 years ago, and she and husband Bill are inseparable now. But Bill says he’ll never forget the stormy days when the monster preyed on Rose and the family.

“I didn’t used to want to come home,” he remembered. “It wasn’t that I didn’t love my family but I just didn’t want to go through that anymore.”

A dark time

A few years after Rose and Bill married in the early 1960s, the beast sneaked into their life.

There was little warning — no serious changes, no other trauma.

But there it was, and it sank its claws into Rose, who was now a stay-at-home mother of two young children.

As she later learned in therapy, years of repressed feelings of worthlessness, guilt and frustration were beginning to surface.

She had grown up in an abusive home, and had been subjected to verbal, physical and sexual abuse for years.

Rose cried often, while eating and sleeping little. Yet she kept up her roles in the community: Cub Scouts leader, faithful churchgoer, capable mother of three children. In the beginning, few people knew that anything was wrong.

Yet her depression got so serious that at one point, average-framed Rose was nearly skeletal at only 85 pounds. She remembers awakening to Bill standing with his head cocked over her mouth, checking to see if she was breathing.

“I was slowly dying,” she said.

Family pain

Rose Carroll feeds her sheep at her Falkville farm. The simple country lifestyle helps Rose avoid the dark feelings that once trapped her. She became a different person once she conquered depression 12 years ago.
Rose Carroll feeds her sheep at her Falkville farm. The simple country lifestyle helps Rose avoid the dark feelings that once trapped her. She became a different person once she conquered depression 12 years ago.
The monster hurt not only Rose, but also her family. The uncertainty of what mood her mother would be in when she came home from school kept Rose and Bill’s youngest daughter, Diane Richards, in a constant state of unease.

“She could do well for long periods of time,” said Diane, who lives next door to her parents now. “That’s what would get you off guard. It wasn’t every day living in hell. Everything could be normal and you’d come home one day and it would be crazy.”

Her mother’s depression and her parents’ troubled marriage led Diane to become withdrawn.

“I didn’t talk to the other kids because I wasn’t sure what to say. It was way back when everybody judged you on being the normal, middle-class family. You didn’t want to make Mother look like a bad person or Dad look like a bad person.”

But behind closed doors, the Carroll family was often in a state of chaos. Bill and Rose would fight and separate periodically, the children would argue with each over who upset Mom, and Bill was left to care for them when Rose was away for short-term stays at psychiatric hospitals.

But Rose quickly learned to mimic the actions of the patients getting released so she could get out, too, to be with her children.

Recovery

In 1994, Rose began to successfully work through her pain with the help of a therapist at Decatur General West. Slowly, they faced the monster that had tormented her for 35 years.

It was easier to do now that her children were grown and she no longer felt she was abandoning them when she was away.

After a year of therapy sessions, the beast gradually began to fade, but still lurked in the background. That is, until she ran to her church alter one Sunday and begged for healing.

“She was tore all to pieces when she went in,” Bill said. “A lot of folks at church stayed with her and prayed.” Afterward, she told him, “Bill, I’m healed.”

Since Rose recovered, she and Bill are so happy they are “just goofy,” daughter Diane said.

“Usually, Dad is talking your ears off and Mother is cutting up,” she said, laughing. “It’s not anywhere like it used to be.”

While Rose will always be vulnerable to depression, she knows now how to guard against it.

If she ever begins to feel the darkness pulling her down again, Rose goes outside to be in the garden or with Bill or her animals. She also likes to play gospel songs as loud as she can. Her favorite is an old one by Gloria and William Gaither called “Something Beautiful.”

“Oh, you probably wouldn’t know it. It’s old,” she says, waving her hand.

But the familiar verses are powerful for Rose. They wrap their arms around her, cradling and protecting her — staving off the monster that will always skulk somewhere in the shadows of her mind.

Something beautiful, something good;

All my confusion he understood.

All I had to offer him

Was brokenness and strife

But he made something beautiful of my life.

Mental Illness Awareness Week

Oct. 7-13 is National Mental Illness Awareness Week, and Thursday is National Depression Screening Day. The closest registered site this year for the free and confidential screening is at Oakwood College Blake Center Lobby, 7000 Adventist Blvd., Huntsville. The Thursday event is from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Call 726-7840 for more information.

You can also take the depression screening test online at www.mentalhealthscreening.org/screening/welcome.asp.

Depression Support Group

The Mental Health Association in Morgan County offers a depression and bipolar disorder support group for sufferers and their family members on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at 6:30 p.m. Meetings are at the MHA office at 207 Commerce Circle S.W. Call 353-1160.

Coping advice

The Carroll family’s advice to families going through similar battles?

Don’t try to fight depression alone and don’t deny what’s going on. Though Rose Carroll never attempted it, untreated depression can lead to suicide.

“I just thought that you had to work it out yourself and I didn’t believe in psychiatrists,” husband Bill Carroll said. “I thought black was black and white was white and there wasn’t any in between. I caused her (Rose) problems by doing that.”

The couple both recommend medication, at least until the worst of the depression is over.

Running away from depression or repressing it won’t help, Rose said.

“You can’t run away from it,” she said. “It’s like a suitcase you carry with you.”

Q&A: Depression

with Sandy Johnson, director of professional development at the Mental Health Center of North Central Alabama

Q: What are some
symptoms of depression?

A: I guess one of the issues is differentiating between what one might call the blues or just a down time, and what would be considered a major depressive episode. The major bells and whistles are persistent sad, anxious or empty moods that have been going on for at least a couple weeks, usually every day, all day long. Things don’t cheer you up. They’re fairly persistent regardless of circumstances. There are feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness or helplessness, and a loss of interest or pleasure in things that people used to enjoy.

Q: How long can depression last?

A: It can be forever. It is a disease that can last for years and some people experience ups and downs, ebbs and flows of mood disorders their entire years. Other people have incidents of it and don’t experience it again. If you’ve ever had a depressive episode, you’re more likely to have one than someone who’s never had one.

Q: What can make depression worse?

A: People tend to blame themselves, which is reinforced by well-meaning family and friends. They already feel guilty because they’re not able to respond to their family and friends like they’re accustomed to, or are not able to perform at work. Then, if people are not understanding or give the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” advice, it makes them feel even more guilty.

The other thing people tend to do when depressed is withdraw. They get out of routines that are helpful to them, like exercise. They begin to feel more sedentary, more lackadaisical, and more hopeless.

Q: How is depression
treated?

A: The gold standard for treatment (for moderate to severe depression) is really a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. Those things address both how you think and help you begin to identify the thought processes that reinforce the negative mood, the hopelessness and helplessness, and try to change those thinking patterns.

For people whose feelings are severely impairing functioning, you can use medications to try to change some brain chemistry, which obviously affects feelings and your cognitive ability.

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