Bernice Edwards and her husband, Les, of North Mankato, Minnesota, have known about disability for years. At first, the disabilities involved only Bernice.
In a telephone interview, 62-year-old Bernice said, “I was born prematurely and was exposed to oxygen in the incubator. The result was called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP).” The National Institutes of Health defines ROP as a “potentially blinding eye disorder primarily affecting premature infants weighing about 2.75 pounds or less that are born before 31 weeks gestation.”
She said “I was bullied in school because of it. The kids teased me because I had to wear glasses with very thick lenses. I was angry at other kids and at God for making me that way. A few years ago, I was told about my 40th high school reunion and that a couple guys wanted to apologize for (bullying) me years ago.”
The bullying probably “set off” her first experiences with major depressive disorder, she said. She wasn’t diagnosed until 1999, but had experienced depressive symptoms most her adult life. In 1999, for example, she was starving herself and was unable to care for her own needs, which led to her first hospitalization.
She said, “Since then, I’ve been taken to a hospital or crisis shelter more times than I can count. When going, I was usually feeling suicidal and my mood was way down. I’d either not taken my medication or taken too much. I isolated myself.” She said her condition has improved because of having supportive family members, who, she said, have been there for her, listened, and taken her when necessary to the hospital.
A few months ago, doctors diagnosed her husband with rheumatoid arthritis, which has affected his ability to open doors and jars, and write with a pen and type on a computer, for instance. He experiences pain. “I’m there for him and listen, too,” she said. “It’s scary for me in terms of not knowing if I’ll be able to take care of him. I’ve gone through the stages of denying this has happened. I guess now the tables have been turned. He used to be the one wondering (about my abilities). We both have to rely on our Christian faith.”
As for major depressive disorder, Bernice advised, “Take your medication, use your support team, and talk to others when you recognize your symptoms. I’ve learned to recognize symptoms so I can catch (the depression) in time.”