The Great Depression of 1972
It has been called the black hole by William Styron, and the Black Dog, by Winston Churchill. More than one able statesperson has left the U.S Senate or the U.S> presidential race or public life on it’s account. My psychiatrist has a streaming video, beautifully designed, on a monitor in his waiting room, of the famous people who suffered at its visitations. In recent decades it has been found to have predictable chemical changes in the brain and body. Numerous pharmaceutical companies have made billions from partial remedies. Tomes have been written, and research grants abound. It is addressed regularly in the popular media. None of these facts are of the least help when depression hits. Few agonies are greater than a first episode. Few agonies are greater than succeeding episodes. Therapy cannot help until medications work. And they all take weeks or months. Often, medications cannot help until several have been tried. I know personally of two suicides that occurred in these interim machinations. Insurance companies still do not cover its’ distress at the same rates as “bodily” illnesses, flying in the face of current knowledge. Few lay people, or professionals, have welded the long-standing dichotomy between mental and physical illness. Persons of modest income and social class are more likely to fall prey to its’ tight clutches. My theory is that it is a stress-related disease. Psychiatrists and internists alike prescribe for it on a wing and a prayer.
Does this tell you why it is the worst thing in my life? I knew it did not, but I recoil from it on two accounts. Who wants to relive this gloom, and who wants anyone else to know. In spite of media coverage, it still has stigma. Also better to deal with it intellectually. Anything else is too appalling. The body wants to jump out of its’ skin. Any kind of escape is considered.
Appearing on a college campus, and accosting a faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences, on his way to class, asking that he find one’s husband immediately, is not a pretty sight. Winding up sobbing in an academic advisor’s office is likewise not graceful. Continuing to sob, when he is gentle and caring, is embarrassing. Being told at the campus counseling center that one is too dependent is uncomfortable. The concept of taking a pill when one’s entire life is falling apart seems stupidly, and hopelessly, inadequate. Driving the carpool and chatting with eight children is dicey. Inquiring of one’s adorable offspring, “How was your day, angel?” is disingenuous. Stopping the car under the shade of some trees in an orange grove in Florida’s summer, with not enough energy to continue, when the campers are awaiting pickup, is irresponsible. Later, they will tell me that, when that happened, they felt abandoned, and alone. Looking in the mirror to see a drawn and slimmer face, unkempt hair, and unmatched clothing is not a picnic. Oh, picnic! Forgot to make the birthday cupcakes!! Alone and abandoned. Making a pencil sketch on the telephone pad, of a person sitting cross-legged in a tent with only a slit of an opening to peer out, is telling. So I am telling, because you asked.
So, if you ever find yourself facing The Black Dog, I urge you to stare him down. Pick up a broom, mop, chef’s knife or whatever is handy, and stare that sucker down. Call the doctor, call the psychiatrist, call the therapist, and fill the prescriptions. In their own good time, they are nearly universally helpful. But stare that sucker down!!
No secrets! If you ever needed your family, friends, and cheerleaders, now is the time!! Get them to keep you company… even if you do not want company. Get them to check in frequently. Get them to stay in touch with each other, and with your physicians. Keep moving, and busy, and rested, as if your life depended on it. It does! Keep yourself happy in whatever ways, and to whatever degrees, are possible, short of the ones which create more problems than they solve. If meds do not make a difference in a month, know that life worth living again is seldom a straight shot. When it does not feel that way, remember that there is an 85% chance that you will, in four to six weeks. If it takes a month or a year, the day you wake up and look forward to its’ tasks, is worth what ever has gone before.
Jeanette isn’t sure if she’s a new writer, or a very old one. At 75, she has long been writing articles and reports in work and volunteer settings,labored over foot-noted papers for college courses and e-mails to family and friends, yet she is new to thinking of herself as a writer. She
lives in Peekskill, New York, has three beautiful daughters and six amazing grandchildren. She is co-chair of a sustainable living committee at
her Unitarian-Universalist church and a teacher of optimal interpersonal communication skills. Recently, she has taken a course at Sarah Lawrence College called Writing for the Digital Media, where e-Chook’s founder is the instructor, mother hen, and task
master. Jeanette relishes hearing from her readers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.