May 12, 2014

When I received my first diary at age thirteen, I was enthralled I would have a place to hide interior me from prying eyes. I carried the tiny key to that little baby-blue leather book everywhere I went and hid the book in a special place in my bedroom where I was assured it would be safe. And it was. The lock was never broken; the leather strap which easily could have been cut with scissors, never was.

I knew I would call my dairy by a specific name; I knew too that the name would be a code name for “G-D”. I thought it pointless to write to anyone but G-D, because I knew at that budding teen-age year that G-D knew my thoughts before I thought them and my needs before I needed them. Writing to G-D kept me clear, focused, open and avoided exaggeration or fabrication.

ANNE FRANK was the impetus for my wanting a diary of my own. I read her little volume over and over beginning at age ten. To me she was luminous, heroic and my young mind inhaled her wisdom and words as treasured gems. I found her voice to be so fresh and lucid. Her thoughts like living things. Her plight so hideous. Her demise so small and unsung. But it was this young song-bird, in the midst of tyranny and torture whose voice will not be stilled. I’ve always LOVED that. I love that she won …. that hers are the thoughts and hers are the words that linger. Hatred ravaged lives. Innocent love was translated into over sixty languages.

My diary was my closest friend; every silent secret of my life found its way onto dairy or journal pages and eventually onto monitor screens. G-D became my best friend.

* * * * * * *

No human escapes suffering or the challenges that life inevitably brings. My life has been no different. At age fifteen, I was struck numb and hollow by my first crippling bout with neuro-chemical depression. Only those of you whose depressions have been severe enough to be classified as mental illness, can personally relate to this diagnosis.

BECAUSE:

I’m not talking about savage sadness or the grief that accompanies loss. I’m touching on the kind of pain that renders someone useless. And when a person has lost the use of his or her brain-organ, there is no self-help available. We cannot theorize, strategize or develop a plan to tackle our monster illness. The organ we would use to attempt these tasks lies in critical condition in an ICU. Our minds are in a type of agony that words cannot capture. I’ve tried. But words only create a pastel version of the depth of despair we depressives tumble into with the speed of a down-hill skier.

When I was first taken to a psychiatrist in the early 1960’s, depression was still enigmatic. There weren’t many drugs on the market and many of us found ourselves shuffling through the halls of institutions. We were not a forgotten population, but we were often misdiagnosed or simply thought by the lay public to be “crazy.”

Mental illness in every form is still deadly and dreadfully hard to control. Ask any of us who have experienced mental illness AND severe physical illness, which one we’d choose if we had the chance to choose. I’m betting physical illness would be the land-slide winner. I’ve had both, and there simply is no contest.

I am healed now. Really and truly healed. It’s not that I don’t have periods filled with near crushing heart-break. It’s not that I don’t cry myself to sleep some nights. It’s not that the degree of aloneness that is my life doesn’t render me withdrawn or reticent. But it has been decades since I’ve experienced anything that remotely resembles mental illness.

When I was nearing thirty-two, I realized the medical world had nothing to offer me that I had not tried. My parents were bereft, because they too knew we had left no boulder or blockade unturned or untried; there was nothing and no one left to offer the tiniest sun-lit ray of light or hope.

It was now 1979. I planned my suicide. I was too exhausted from the disease, too frightened to face a life-time of this degree of despair, too familiar with medical help that didn’t help … to consider being an unfathomable burden to my parents, friends and myself for more endless decades. It was time to exit stage left. I had all the pills I needed.