I know the title of this letter is misleading. It might make you think I am at the DEPTHS right now. I am not at this moment at the depths, thankfully. I just came in from walking our sweet dog and I just kissed our sweet oldest boy iMac on the head as he talked about college REALLY happening. He went to orientation earlier this week and registered for classes and got his Student ID. I dropped Butter off this morning at National Youth Leadership Training outside Atlanta, where he is actually one of the trainers this year. The last hour of the six hour drive was beautiful, hilly, rural, tree lined. It reminded me very much of upper Montgomery County where I grew up before the DC suburbs exploded and took over our farms and woods. Georgia of course has more pines. The pines then led me to think of a favorite song, Tall Trees in Georgia as sung by the late Eva Cassidy. She succumbed to your same malady many years before you. We did miss you last night. Butter of course forgot to pack many items. As we neared our destination his Senior Patrol Leader sent a list of additional items to bring, so we detoured to Walmart. I was cozy in bed in my pajamas when Butter announced “Um Mom, you know the health forms you asked me to scan and email on Tuesday? I forgot to attach them to the email.”
I also told him to photograph the forms so he would have a copy of them on his phone. That didn’t happen either. Then I could bonk myself over the head for thinking my 15 year old didn’t need a little confirmation and follow up on these tasks from Mom.
Butter said “Hey Mom what do you think Dad would be doing right now?” I replied,”Sleeping!!!!” You would have handed the baton over to me at this point definitely. We contacted iMac back at the homestead. Imac was able to scan and email the forms to us from home, so that snafu was resolved by 10:45. I fell fast asleep only to be awoken every 5 minutes by Butter with announcements of his latest backpack organization ideas until about 11:30 pm when he ran out of giddiness. He did help keep me alert on the drive. I am so conditioned to be a sleeping passenger while you drive on long car rides.
I digress. So this week in celebrity news, Kate Spade, a fashion designer that you wouldn’t know and Anthony Bourdain, who’s memoir you read, both committed suicide. All the columnists and broadcasters are abuzz about what could have/should have been done, the whys, the where does this come from. It’s a good thing I think in the long run to create some awareness around depression and suicide. Really too big of a topic for a news clip or a sound bite.
You knew my story and you loved me anyway. Looking back I tend to think I was just born this way. Certainly there were events in my life that were triggers, but fundamentally I think I came with a lot of smarts, intuition and creativity. The depression is just part of the package, like value added. NOW with DEPRESSION added at NO extra cost. The intuition has been almost like an extra sense. It’s hard to turn it off. Antennae with a 500 mile radius sensing the moods of the people and the zeitgeist of the world around me, a gift and a curse. Periods of sadness came and went over the years. I remember it as early as my first memories around 3 years old. In my immediate circle, “Oh that’s just Sarah.” The sadness accelerated and gained more power between 18 and 20, until one day the constant crying was so noticeable that my anti-psychiatry father gave my mother the go ahead to find a psychiatrist for me and convince me to go. These were the days before Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors. So it was talk therapy for me, twice a week. I didn’t even seem to realize that was really VERY often, that most people don’t need to go twice a week. I think there were weeks I went three times. They were also the days when insurance paid for talk therapy. It saved me. I was able to finish college on time because of it. I didn’t even ask what I was being treated for, I just went because it made things better. I was in therapy for 5 years before I heard the word depression and understood that what was wrong with me had a name. Learning that coincided with the FDA approving the first SSRI for use in the United States, Prozac. It took me about 6 months to be willing to take it after my psychiatrist suggested it. I still felt obligated to pull on those bootstraps. I quit Prozac three times over 25 years, just to see, you know, if I was better. Within 6 weeks I was back at the bottom of the pit each time. People have had lots of suggestions, most of which amount to “Try harder!!!! To be happy!!! Your life is good!” Cognitively I knew it was good, and I tried lots of things, meditation, yoga, nutritional changes, acupuncture, job changes, church, bible study, smoothies, running, allergy shots, sleeping, reading.
The Prozac helped. I could get out of bed without thinking “Now how long will it be until bedtime again?” Still through the years I fell back in to the pit, most notably for about 18 months after iMac and Butters births. I got good at feigning normalcy and then retreating when that was too hard.
During your illness the Prozac wasn’t cutting it anymore, as anxiety was ever present and the fakery of normalcy between your medical crises depleted my reserves. The heinous and horrible headaches were coming now monthly, then weekly. I changed to Cymbalta and relief came, pressure was lifting.
Then you died. Along came grief. I retreated a lot, because people wanted to know this or pretended to want to know: “How ARE you????” You can’t just tell people the answer to that question because they will want to have you committed. So more fakery. I knew I was just where I was supposed to be… in the hardest, most tormenting and painful place, akin to having my head held underwater by a tight grip on the back of my head, holding my breath, telling myself I CAN DO THIS, reminding me of what I am capable of and not knowing when it would let up. But the grief intermingles with the depression and that can be tricky. I recently went for my refill check up with my current psychiatrist. That’s also when they try to sort out what part is grief and what part is depression. I don’t worry about this detail much anymore. Ah how things have changed, 15 minutes every 6 months @ $150/visit to determine if I should get a refill, am on appropriate treatment etc etc. It’s a cheap imitation, but I’ll take it. Something interesting came out of this 15 minute session. The psychiatrist said these words, “Recent studies show that your type of depression may be caused by inflammation in the brain.” That is the sweetest thing to say! I thought, what a nice fellow, letting me off the hook like that. While I can’t speak for other sufferers I am always looking for what I did wrong, what I need to do differently, trying to fix, correct, remediate this condition with will power. Now maybe there is more to this than just my personal effort.
I’ve been running this fall as you know. I hit a major obstacle 3 months in, with allergies and the resultant wheezing/coughing/asthma. The running felt great, and horrible too. But overall great, like an exponent for every positive thing I was doing to feel better and get better. So when the asthma kicked in, I missed the running desperately and went back to my old friend CARBOHYDRATES, who disappointed me once again. I will never learn. Then I discovered that I can get the same result if I really seriously use a stationary bike and without the wheezing and coughing. So I am taking virtual spinning classes in the living room on my iPad.
There were times in our marriage when you saw the depression and times when you had no idea or maybe you just felt like “why is this happening again?” Truthfully that’s what I think to myself too. Again, really, aren’t we done with this?” I think the depression scared you too because it defied logic and perhaps you thought it was your fault as I often think it is mine.
So why did Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain commit suicide? I don’t know. I just know a little something about where they’ve been.
The strangest feeling I had after you died was that I shouldn’t be here and that part of me had already left, like you were pulling on me or a bit of my sweater got caught up and I was being pulled very very hard away from my life on earth. The feeling lessens. The lights don’t flicker when I enter our room anymore. I think you might be at peace. Do know this, that I am determined to stay, that I am planning to be here for the graduations from high school and college, for their first jobs and first loves, and maybe marriages, and hopefully grandchildren. I want to travel again. To see dear sweet Fiona, maybe when she is in London. Fiona and I had planned years ago to go to St. Petersburg. You and I planned to take the kids to Egypt. Such another life it was and it still can be for me. Maybe another trip to New York with Molly. It would be amazing to go back to Baku to see Farkhad and Liana and Sabina.