Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, March 1, 2010

One of my Favorites

Looking through some past posts, I rediscovered this one. It's one of my favorites, so here it is again.

The Closet--a love story.

He mentioned his life partner died a year ago. That caught her attention. It was her first clue. She assisted him as he limped into the hallway with his new walker. Purposefully she asked, "How long were you and your partner together?" It was only a slight variation from the routine question she usually asked. After all, most of her patients were elderly Midwesterners, and relationship longevity seemed to be their most common denominator.

She loved interacting with these long-term couples. The enduring love between them was endearingly transparent. Coming from a splintered family, a couple of foster homes, and her own dissolved relationship, this endearing love and commitment both touched and amazed her. She cherished their stories of first dates, old cars, tough times, successful kids, conquered challenges, fulfilled dreams, and world travels. Fifty, fifty-five, and sixty were common answers to her question.

"Fifty-three years," he said. "Pancreatic cancer, we only had six weeks..." his voice trailed off.
The therapist refocused his attention on the task at hand, which was learning to walk with his new hip. He was tall, fit and appeared younger than his 77 years.
He continued, "I didn't think I would make it. I still miss..." And then he said it, the pronoun the therapist hoped he'd feel free to share. It was the reason she followed his lead and used the term partner rather than wife. "...him," he said.
"I still miss him terribly, but I have to move on, right? That's why I'm here. I wanted to get this done and move on."
"I'm so sorry," responded the therapist. "Of course you miss him. Fifty three years...That's wonderful!"
"Yes, it was," he replied.

The therapist felt sad, not only for his loss but for the cautiousness he assumed when he revealed his love and loss. Fifty three years and he still took care before mentioning the person with whom he shared his entire adult life. Even one year after his partner's death, he felt her out before he let the therapist in. He had no idea she could feel his losses--the loss of his partner and his freedom--as if they were her own. As his therapist she couldn't reveal her background or history. He may have assumed, but the truth was likely more complicated than he figured. She couldn't share her deep understanding of his cautiousness or fear. She was like him. She was, but now she wasn't. It was confusing even to her. At least, she thought, her patient realized she was a safe person with whom he could share. She was glad for that.

When she treated him again, the patient shared more about his life. He was an artist, a lawyer, and a concert pianist. His partner practiced healthcare with some of the best. They met in the Army 55 years ago.
"The Army," she exclaimed! "That must have been tough!"
They knowingly chuckled together, and with a sly smile he simply said, "Yes."

As they continued walking he proudly filled in the details of their life together. The therapist was thrilled to listen and learn. Finally, self-consciously, he said, "I have a picture of him...if you'd like to see it."
"Oh, yes, I'd love to see him," she enthusiastically replied.

Back in his room she set the heavy briefcase beside him on the bed. She watched as he removed an object encased in bubble-wrap. She couldn't help but feel sad. It was a framed 5x7 of him and his partner. Two older, smartly dressed, smiling gentlemen stood arm in arm in front of one of the patient's paintings.
He apologized for the effects of aging and then said, "That was on his 72nd birthday. I wish I had known. That was the last picture we ever had taken. He didn't make it to seventy three."
Looking up from the picture she said, "I think you both look great. It's a really nice picture. I'm glad you've got it."
She handed the frame back, and he removed a tattered picture from his wallet. Smiling broadly he said, "This is what he looked like when we met."
The therapist eyed the black and white photo. It was a picture of a handsome, young, army man."I can see what you saw in him," she remarked. "He's quite handsome!"
He smiled the smile of a sophomore in love. "I've carried that picture for 55 years."
"Wow," was all she mustered in response.

He returned the tattered black and white to his wallet. Then, gently, he re-folded the bubble-wrap around the 5x7 frame. Closing the wallet, he stacked it atop the re-wrapped frame and placed them both inside the heavy briefcase. He closed the case, latched the latch, and locked the lock. His love, pride, and grief emanated as he handed the case back to the therapist.
"Thank you," she humbly murmured.
"Thank you," he replied, "for taking an interest and letting me share that with you."

For a moment they clasped hands. She felt honored and sad as she placed the briefcase, which encased the love and loss of his still-cautious life, back inside the closet.


Blog Angel a.k.a. Joella said...

Etta, what a lovely and touching story. Love and devotion knows no bounds and should not be limited by the stupid taboos of any given culture or society. Thank you for sharing that, it's very inspiring.

Thanks also about the heads up with regards to Article Embed on my site. I contacted their support people and they got it back up and running in no time.

Krystal said...

Wonderful story, Etta, thank you!

PeaceMan said...

cheers as i to have turned a negative into a positive as wouldn't be doing the wonderful work thta i am today if it wasnt for my illness- The Peaceman