Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I hid my depression until I was 45 years old. I was in relationship for 18 years, from my mid-twenties, & the woman I lived with pretty much dedicated herself to helping me hide it. Her mother had done much the same for her father. Only a very few close friends who got inside that protective shield could have had any idea how debilitating it was. Because there was little else, really, that could explain how I was, my behavior, the strange combination of achievement & failure, of public persona & a reclusiveness that was almost anti-social.

If you observed me at social occasions of more than six or seven people, you'd notice that I wandered around a lot, rarely talked in groups, & if I sat in one place I hardly spoke at all unless spoken to. It's often been remarked of me how quiet I am. But if you're speaking just with me, you might think me too talkative.

Of course, I hid the depression from my family - siblings. Hid it just as I hid the poems & prose & the radio show that helped me cope with it.

The first mental health professional I spoke with, in 1996 at a Catholic agency, knew I had at least one alcoholic parent before I had even mentioned it. She asked me. I had all the characteristics of an ACOA, even being both super-responsible & super-irresponsible.* My three siblings have some of them. She referred me to a therapist in Scotch Plains NJ - my private insurance at the time covered it, & he was helpful. I don't know how but I felt better. Then he decided to move to Israel, anyway my insurance was running out. I sought therapy because I'd taken a big risk changing jobs, really disliked the new one, had decided to tough it out, but then was laid off in Clinton's budget cuts. After I switched jobs, a relationship I was in & had enjoyed unraveled (the 18 year one had ended few years earlier). It came undone for a number of reasons, including my periods of depression, but the woman could not accept the effect the new job had on me, in hours, in responsibilities, & that it was completely unconnected to the arts. In my former job, the retail store pay was depressingly inadequate but I generally liked the work. My girlfriend was subsidizing me with her reliable car, & stocking my fridge. In the new job, the work itself was depressing, & instead of being surrounded by colorful art supply store characters, I was in a bureaucratic beehive. & then suddenly had no job or girlfriend.

* I had a long run at WFMU not because I was an exceptional DJ - all WFMU DJs are exceptional, most more than me - but because I was so reliable, a trustworthy pilot. At Pearl Arts I became one of the few floor employees who was almost entirely unsupervised. I was well aware of my limitations, & functioned well by staying within them. Smart bosses understand & appreciate this & reward you with flexibility rather than heavier responsibilities, & in return they get loyality & creativity. But I was lousy wage earner, unemployed for long periods, didn't make a good impression in job interviews, ridden with anxieties, & convinced I couldn't succeed at anything, even menial work. Whatever I succeeded at doing was despite myself, maybe just too good to fully fail. So I minimized even what I did well.

Bob, I admire your candor here. I have written and erased that sentence numerous times - it sounds trite compared to what your life is and has been.

You are not alone, you do know that. Yet, those words ring empty when the depression closes in. I recall days when I felt like I was walking around with a tunnel or a tube around me. I could essentially hear and see the world around me and even interact with it, but the whir of my own despair was a constant hum that created some distance.

My depression was lived out in an entirely highly functional life; I was an executive at a big company.

My heart is with you Bob, I am moved by all of your revelations. That takes courage and more substance than I think you ever give yourself credit for.
Thanks Fran. SOmetimes I sign on to AOL very late,. & there's a few people over there I know who also struggle with depression, & they know they can IM me & I'll always chat for awhile even if it means putting off going to bed, because they've done that for me.
You are a good man Bob.
Bob, Fran said it best, "You are a good man, Bob." I, fortunately do not, (or should I say have not, since no one knows what the future holds), suffer from depression. I have lived with depression, since as I told you before, my sister is bipolar. She wrote a book detailing her life with the illness, it's called "I'm not Waving, I'm Drowning". I know you enjoy reading, so if you come accross it you may want to read it. Her name is Salvina Cappello. Stay strong my cyber friend.
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