Mental Illness, Cycling, Responsibility

February 23, 2009 at 1:52 PM (Uncategorized) (, )

I’ve been looking back over the past three years or so…

It’s fairly clear that the windows of effectiveness for new meds or strategies to handle what I percieve to be an anxiety disorder are shortening.

It’s not that they aren’t efficacious initially, it’s that the time between “Yes, this is helpful,” and “Ok, this isn’t working, lets look at other combinations….” is decreasing. I have meds now, they’re holding me above water, but situationally, the head’s in a bad way.

I’ve seen family members on both sides be left without recourse, mentally speaking, when the bottom fell out, either by denying anything was wrong, or delaying help, or in one case outright abandonment.

I have a great aunt I was very fond of…

When I think of my connection with medications that help, or my present search for help *before* I get into a situation….

I’m very grateful that I’m not that great aunt in 1935.

When my father died I recieved a box of his personal effects.

In it were a small amount of correspondence, a young man’s picture and a wedding announcement concerning my great aunt.

I’ll call her Jeanette and him Bill.

He was a handsome young man per the small picture. My great grandmother seems to have had reservations about him for her daughter, but was never explicit about what they were in the correspondence I read.

Jeanette and Bill were married in 1935. Jeanette may or may not have had diagnosed depression at anytime prior to the wedding. The newlyweds either lived nearby or with Bill’s mother.

He left when war came.

And, when the war ended, he did not permanently return. I don’t know if he came back for a short time and left again. What I do read in the letters is that apparently without benefit of divorce, he abandoned my great aunt, went to New York City and found a second partner, and he was listed as working somewhere in the Empire State Building in 1948. He also ceased to communicate with his mother. Whether or not my great aunt’s depression was present, and part of what influenced part or all of his decision to leave, it manifested in an extreme way in the years after they ‘rediscovered’ where he was.

She sends him lucid letters at first gracious even, a gentle bewilderment couched in educated language, pleading on behalf of his mother and herself, asking for an explanation, a reason, any construct that would let her understand why he left.

There is no answering correspondence from him.

(I assume he’s dead now. If I ever had hope of finding that guy, before he died, his new family would have been embarrassed beyond belief, and he would have been the worse for wear.)

Two years later, letters show a sharp drop in the physical ability to print or handwrite neatly (the style of handwriting looks worse than mine when I was eight, and my cerebral palsy affects that.)

Then, there are discussions my great grandmother wrote to medical persons about the state of my great aunt’s mental health….my great aunt lived with my great grandmother as of at least 1950. My great grandmother did what she had to do to support my great aunt, but clearly indicated in correspondence to her (it’s telling that they couldn’t talk about these things but had to write them out….) that it was time that Jeanette became self supporting.

Jeanette became my great grandmother’s primary caregiver, while holding down a job at a steel company….(an office post of some sort)

My great grandmother, as I’ve written before, was a dominating, strong, intense personality. It had to be emotionally draining, to accept over time that Jeanette’s job (s) in life were a ‘job’ not a career, getting intimate with a typewriter and then caregiving on the evenings and weekends. There were no children.

Jeanette did take a stand about two things, though and I think, along with treatment or meds (I don’t have details on those. ) there were two avocations largely responsible for her long stretches of ‘acceptable’ mental health during the next thirty years.

Birdwatching, and extensive travel on her own.

Once she was working and handling her share of expenses, I imagine either she put some funds away for this or was helped to do so by her mother…who didn’t strike me as so self-absorbed that she wouldn’t see the lonesomeness or diffiulties of her daughter’s postition.

It is my understanding she had a relapse in 1965. I never saw her during those times….by 1967, she didn’t mind being one of several famillial baby sitters that saw me perhaps once a week….

She saw Asia, the Phillipines, Easter Island and other places on her own…and loved to show pictures or tell stories about these places to friends at the nearby Presybyterian church, or to me….

I think she wished my eyesight were sharper, because she could detail a species of bird at a moment’s notice and by the time I could track toward the tree, the bird would often have ‘dissapeared’ or moved.

When my great grandmother died in 1979, or 1980….

Jeanette fell into an extreme depression from which she did not recover….

This type of depression is quite prevalent on *both* sides of the family tree.

My alcoholic father became trustee of Jeanette’s estate….which he partially looted. (His moral nadir.)

She had to be placed in a skilled nursing facility, where she died in 1991.

I’m trying not to be any of those people, or others who even under care, actually grew violent in their old age… I’m trying to adress these issues proactively, so I don’t see that level of destruction in my cognition, now or later.

She deserved better, damnit.

We all do.

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