Sunday, March 11, 2007

Please Blunt My Isolation!!

One would like to demarcate clearly the boundary of the self. In fact, no essential self lies pure as a vein of gold under the chaos of experience and chemistry. The human organism is a sequence of selves that succumb to or choose one another. We are each the some of certain choices and circumstances; the self exists in the narrow space where the world and our choices come together… Would it be possible to go into a doctor’s office and have treatments and emerge capable of such generosity and love? Generosity and love demand great expenditure of energy and effort and will. Do we imagine that someday these qualities will be available for free, that we will be getting injections of character, to make each of us effortlessly into so many Gandhis and Mother Teresas? Do remarkable people have a right to their own splendour, or splendour too just a random chemical construction? (p. 432)

It is arguably the case that depressed people have more accurate view of the world around themselves than nondepressed people. Those who perceive themselves to be not much liked are probably closer to the mark than those who believe that they enjoy universal love. A depressive may have better judgment than a healthy person. Studies have shown that depressed and nondepressed people are equally good at answering abstract questions. When asked, however, about their control over an event, nondepressed people invariably believe themselves to have more control than they really have, and depressed people give an accurate assessment… (p. 433)


Major depression is far too stern a teacher: you needn’t go to the Sahara to avoid frostbite. Most of the psychological pain in the world is unnecessary; and certainly people with depression experience pain that would be better kept in check… To put an end to grief would be to licence monstrous behaviour: if we never regretted the consequences of our actions, we would soon destroy one another and the world… To give up the essential conflict between what we feel like doing and what we do, to end the dark moods that reflect that conflict and its difficulties – this is to give up what it is to be human, of what is good in being human. There are probably people who don’t have enough anxiety and sadness to keep them out of trouble, and it seems likely that they don’t do well. They are too cheerful, too fearless, and they are not kind. What need have such souls of kindness? (p. 434)

People who have been through a depression and are stabilized often have a heightened awareness of the joyfulness of everyday existence. They have a capacity for a kind of ready ecstasy and for an intense appreciation of all that is good in their life. If they are decent people in the first place, they may well have become remarkably generous… (p. 434)


Depression at its worst is the most horrifying loneliness, and from it I learned the value of intimacy… What can you do when you see someone else trapped in his mind? You cannot draw a depressed person out of his misery with love… Sometimes the way to be close is to be silent, or even distant. It is not up to you, from the outside, to decide; it is up to you to discern. Depression is lonely above all else, but it can breed the opposite of loneliness… So many people have asked me what to do for depressed friends and relatives, my answer is actually simple: blunt their isolation. Do it with cups of tea or with long talks or by sitting in a room nearby and staying silent or in whatever way suits the circumstances, but do that. And do it willingly. (pp. 436-437)

Maggie Robbins, who has had such struggles with manic-depressive illness, said, “… I started volunteering at an AIDS residence… I remember one day early on I sat down with some people and tried to kick off a conversation… [T]hey just weren’t keeping up their end of the conversation at all. I thought, this is not very friendly or helpful to them. And then it hit me: these guys aren’t going to make small talks… But they didn’t want me to leave. So I decided, I’m here with them and I’m going to be with them… The loving is that you are there, simply paying attention, unconditionally… (p. 437)

よくわかってほしい。ただでさえ話すことがつらいのに、大声で突き刺すように話しかけられたら黙り込んでしまうだけだ。自己の存在を疑問に思うほどなのに、くだらん話に関心が及ぶわけがない。ただ、話せば話すほど言い訳めいて聞こえはしないかと懸念が大きくなる。何度も言うけど、“Leave me alone but stay with me!”

When I had the third breakdown, the mini breakdown, I was in the late stage of writing this book. Since I could not cope with communication of any kind during that period, I put an auto-response message to my E-mail that said I was temporarily unreachable, and a similar message on my answering machine. Acquaintances who had suffered depression knew what to make of these outgoing messages. They wasted no time. I had dozens and dozens of calls from people offering whatever they could offer and doing is glowingly. “I will come to stay the minute you call,” wrote Laura Anderson, who also sent a wild profusion of orchids, “and I’ll stay as long as it takes you to get better. If you’d prefer, you are of course always welcome here; if you need to move in for a year, I’ll be here for you. I hope you know that I will always be here for you.” Claudia Weaver wrote with questions: “Is it better for you to have someone check in with you every day or are the messages too much of a burden? If they are a burden, you needn’t answer this one, but whatever you need – just call me, anytime, day or night.” Angel Starkey called often from the pay phone at her hospital to see if I was okay. “I don’t know what you need,” she said, “but I’m worrying about you all the time. Please take care of yourself. Come and see me if you’re feeling really bad, anytime. I’d really like to see you. If you need anything, I’ll try to get it for you. Promise me you won’t hurt yourself.” Frank Rusakoff wrote me a remarkable letter and reminded me about the precious quality of hope. “I long for news that you are well and off on another adventure,” he wrote, and signed the letter, “Your friend, Frank.” I had felt committed in many ways to all these people, but the spontaneous outpouring astounded me. Tina Sonego said she’d call in sick for work if I needed her – or that she’d buy me a ticket and take me to someplace relaxing. “I’m a good cook too,” she told me. Janet Benshoof dropped by the house with daffodils and optimistic lines from favourite poems written in her clear hand and a bag so that she could come and sleep on my sofa, just so I wouldn’t be alone. It was an astonishing responsiveness. (p. 438)

何と幸せな人か!!うつ病人口は多いはずなのに、心を分かち合える人に出会ったことがない。Where are they???

The opposite of depression is not happiness but vitality, and my life, as I write this, is vital, even when sad. I may wake up sometime next year without my mind again; it is not likely to stick around all the time. Meanwhile, however, I have discovered what I would have to a soul, a part of myself I could never have imagined until one day, seven years ago, when hell came to pay me a surprise visit. It’s a precious discovery. Almost every day I feel momentary flashes of hopelessness and wonder every time whether I am slipping. For a petrifying instant here and there, a lighting-quick flash, I want a car to run me over and I have to grit my teeth to stay on the pavement until the light turns green; or I imagine how easily I might cut my wrists; or I taste hungrily the metal tip of a gun in my mouth; or I picture going to sleep and never waking up again. I hate those feelings, but I know that they have driven me to look deeper at life, to find and cling to reasons for living. I cannot find it in me to regret entirely the course my life has taken. Every day, I choose, sometimes gamely and sometimes against the moment’s reason, to be alive. Is that not a rare joy? (p. 443)

“The Noonday Demon: An Anatomy of Depression” (Andrew Solomon, Vintage edition 2002, first published in 2001 by Chatto & Windus)


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