Thursday, August 14, 2008

Ah, Hell

I don't know if that's "Ah! I look upon you, the glorious peaks and valleys of Hell" or if it's "Aw, dammit it all to Hell." Or maybe it's both.

I've just come back from escorting my son to New York City and back. Overall, it was a fine trip, including a jaunt to the Natural History Museum, a day at the Met, and a small explosion at Grandma's Gramercy Park apartment which involved a bite on my arm. We visited with family which he enjoyed when he usually doesn't, we went to Chinatown to get some cheap fans (where I spent the day waiting for a blow-up because he hates strong smells yet rotting fish smells wafting up from the gutter bothered him not at all), and we decided not to go to a movie after the ticket counter was determined to "smell like sour soap."

I can't figure out any more what normal is.

I keep getting asked by people, "How's Saul doing?" I'm not trying to be coy or pull people into a long dissertation of recent events, but I quite honestly don't know how to answer that question anymore. Mostly, people don't really care to know, truth be told. They just want to hear that he's dong better, and for the most part, the news is great. So I can honestly say, "He's doing great." Except then people move on from that question to further conversation where it's clear that they think that he's "all better" and the family has no more problems. Uh, not so much.

So I'm left with saying, "What's your definition of normal? Depending on what you think normal is, Saul is doing great. Better than normal." For me, a bite on the arm after one week of being away from home and traipsing through museums with no other explosions or runaways is a pretty good thing. A huge improvement. Yay!

On the other hand, I still really do not like being bitten. It gets me angry and depressed.

I keep bouncing back and forth between these two islands. Things Are Better and This Life Sucks. The worst place is when I'm standing on the bridge between the two thinking, "Things are better and STILL this life sucks."

I had a week of people watching in Manhattan. Weird thoughts kept flitting through my mind: I wonder how many books that man has read. I wonder how long that couple drinking Rob Roys has been married. I wonder how that mother with the Prada bag would react if her son attacked her. I wonder if that young girl is flattered when he stands so close to her in the door of subway, his back to the crowd, or is that annoyance at his presumption I see in that flick of her hair?

I'm doing a bit of people watching on myself, truth be told. I'm not sure how well I'm doing, but on the other hand, what's normal here? I have a friend who was abusing sleeping pills; I spent on weekend a few years ago trying to convince her to check herself into a psychiatric hospital. She kept coming back to her children not doing well, and I kept saying back to her, "That's normal. They're father left them for a younger woman. He got married and he wants them to never be angry at him. Of course they're stressed. They're in a stressful situation. So are you. It's normal to show signs of stress." That conversation keeps coming back to me, now that I'm on the other end of it, so to speak. What's normal here? What's expected?

Saul's therapist asked me a few weeks ago if I was depressed. I answered quickly, "Yup. Been depressed for a while, but I've been much more depressed than this." Last week he privately said that he was amazed that I had said "Yes" so easily to a question which most people stumbled across. "Come on now. Three months ago I was seriously considering putting my son in a psychiatric hospital for observation. I've been fighting this THING, whatever it is, for years. I keep running right into walls in his education. Wouldn't YOU be depressed? Isn't that a normal reaction? What if I had said "No"? Would you have believed me?"


"OK then."

People are constantly looking for any sign of depression. But what if you find it? Is finding it "bad"? Or is it a normal response to some very abnormal situations?

I don't quite know the answers to those yet.


Megan Frampton said...


I think depression is WAY more common than most people think. I think you'd have a lot more to worry about if you weren't depressed. Going through the kind of experience you have for the past whatever number of years is bound to have some sort of impact on you. Like post-traumatic stress disorder, only you're current-traumatic stress disorder.

I wish we could've hung out when you were in NYC (and I was in SF), but I understand why we didn't. I'm glad to hear the visit was as good as it was.

Suisan said...

Yeah, these visits are really short.

I think that's part of this too, come to think of it. I have friends in MA and CT who have horses -- they all invited me to come see the ponies while I was on that side of the country, but I couldn't. It would have been at least an overnight and that would have been dangerous/bad for Saul.

After a while, theres only so much suppression of the ego one can take.

Bev(BB) said...

I actually hate it when professionals ask that question. Makes me want to ask if they aren't the one with the medical degree.

Seriously, I guess what I mean is that people tend to toss the term around nowadays as if everyone knows what it means to be depressed and I'm not sure we do. I know that when I was caring for my father, there was a point when the simple exhaustion and stress reached the point where I don't think I would've been able to tell if I was depressed or simply completely drained of life so it does seem like a stupid question for a professional to be asking knowing the situation already. Seems somewhat like akin to asking a patient if they have a disease instead of looking at the symptoms themselves.

Suisan said...

Well, I guess what I think is weird about it is what are you going to do with the information?

For a healthy person in a "normal" situation long-term or chronic depression is a treatable disease that is often under-reported out of shame or misunderstanding. With counseling and meds, it's treatable. Ok. Great.

However, I'm not in that system right now. This is an over the top analogy, to be sure, but does treating a prisoner for depression really help the larger situation all that much? Maybe that prisoner is better able to cope with his/her surroundings, but, uh, you still gotta serve the time. (NOT trying to say that living with Saul is like being in prison. Please don't go there. Just saying that I'm thrust into a circumstance where I don't have control over all the pieces, walls, and doors.)

It feels like an offering of false hope somehow? I think? Like that person sitting across the room from me, whom I'll probably see individually maybe three more times during this next year, is able to lift my depression and shift an entire family/mental/chemical/educational system all on his own?

It comes back to not living in a "normal" universe. "Normal" rules don't seem to apply.

CindyS said...

Wow, the analogy above cemented it for me. Like a band-aid on a severed arm - there you go, all better.

And I think people do expect 'all better' to be the result of 'help'.

When you mentioned getting bitten I thought it was by one of your Mom's pets. I didn't realize it was Saul. I'm sorry you got bit. And from your post I can tell you are in a state of hyper awareness. Waiting for the shoe to drop. I don't blame you because you are so used to it happening. But like you said, getting bit is not what another person's 'normal' day entails.

And just my opinion but I think being under as much pressure and stress as you've been for as long as you've been would have to result in depression. Not because it's bad but because your body can only take so much of that 'zinging/alert/hyperaware' sensation before you become so physically drained crying is the only thing you can do. (and I mean only thing - me in bed crying for three weeks ugh)

And if medication is something that will help you cope then so be it. It won't fix the rest but if gets you out of bed for the day then that's one less thing to worry about.