Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Monday, February 18, 2013

3 Years and 11 Months Later - Nothing Was the Same by Kay Jamison

After Josh's death, I read a number of bereavement books in an attempt to find answers and comfort from those who had suffered the same loss - see list.

While all have been helpful, I have found much food for thought in memoirs from celebrated authors who, having lost their spouses, penned their grief in literary prose.  See posts for more.
Kay Redfield Jamison will be added to this list.  Jamison is a Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins and co-authored the classic textbook on bipolar disorder called Manic-Depressive Illness (published 1990).  Five years later, at considerable risk to her reputation, she bravely published a memoir called An Unquiet Mind which chronicles her own struggle with this disease

In her second memoir, Nothing Was the Same, Jamison writes about the loss of her husband, Richard Wyatt.  What I found interesting and unique was her differentiation between the darkness felt in grief and that of depression.  I wrote a number of quotes in my journal.

About grief:
Grief conspires to ensure that it will in time wear itself out.  Unlike depression, it acts to preserve the self.
Mourning, as Freud made clear, is a natural part of life, not a pathological state. "Although grief involves grave departures from the normal attitude to life, it never occurs to us to regard it as a morbid condition and hand the mourner over to medical treatment.  We rest assured that after a lapse of time it will be overcome." 
Grief is not a disease, it is necessary. 
Grief gives much to the living, slows time that one might find a way to a different relationship with the dead.  It fractures time to bring into awareness what is being mourned and why. 
Grief, lashed as it is to death, instructs, it teaches that one must invent a way back to life.  Grief forces intimacy with death; it preserves the salient past and puts into relief our mortal states.  All die, teaches Grief.  
Grief is at the heart of the human condition.  Much is lost with death, but not everything.  Life is not let loose of lightly, nor is love.  There is grace in death.  There is life. 
Grief vs depression:
Grief, like depression is a journey one must take largely unattended....I had less energy but enough to see me through.  This is never so in depression.  Weariness pervades the marrow when one is depressed; it is what renders despair intolerable.  I bled out during my depressions.  This was not so after Richard died.  My heart broke, but it beat.  
Time alone in grief proved restorative.  Time alone when depressed was dangerous.  The thoughts I had of death after Richard's death were necessary and proportionate.  They were of his death, not my own.  When depressed, however, it was my own death I sought out.  In grief, death occasions the pain.  In depression, death is the solution to the pain.   
I read deeply, if fitfully, after Richard died. Such consolation was never possible for me during the times I was depressed.  When depressed, I could not concentrate well enough to read; little made sense to me and the written word left me cold.  When depressed, nothing could open my heart or give me courage.  I was too dulled, too incapable of receiving life; I was dead in all but pulse....Grief on the other hand, rendered me able to take solace from those who had written so well about loss and suffering. 
I found her thoughts about grief helpful - that to be human will mean, eventually and inevitably, that one will face the death of a loved one and will need to grieve.  It is unavoidable.  It is a part of living.  It is a part of one's journey.  And to grieve is absolutely necessary if one is to reconcile with death and find a "way back to life."

Her descriptions about depression are haunting.  They remind me of William Styron's thoughts in his powerful memoir, Darkness Visible.  Did Josh feel this?  If so, why and how did he hide this from us and his psychologist?

For those diagnosed with clinical depression, I have more empathy.  For those teens in our high schools who suffer from undiagnosed depression, it is imperative that they are educated enough to seek help.  This is our foundation's mission.  We must succeed so other lives may be saved.

RIP Josh