Depression, Anger, and Destruction
Posted Aug 25, 2017
Depression beginning in anger plagues my life and leads to thoughts of self-destruction. I battle with these three issues everyday. Being bi-polar, depression is a common feeling. Over the past months, as I struggle with physical ailments, the sense of loss and meaningless often overwhelmed me. On August 9, 2017, I turned 73 years old. I never thought I would live this long. Too many years I spent in destructive behavior with one significant suicide attempt and, on many occasions, seriously considering killing myself, as well as years of drug addiction and high-risk activities. Now I am elderly and the grim slide through various physical ailments often preoccupies my thoughts, and I wonder if it is worth it to go on.
I get angry with a body that I have never loved. Throughout my life, I have been awkward. I never experienced a sense that I had much control over my physical reality: arms too long with an ungainly reach, legs too heavy to be able to run fast, a torso given to fatness, and a head where hearing is often garbled by dyslexia. The mental situation wasn’t much better. I knew I was intelligent in some ways, but very stupid in others. Math is nearly impossible for me, and the digital world of push-button access is a chasm of mistakes I fall into with extreme frustration. As I age, this hated body has become an even greater impediment. My balance is terrible; upon rising I stagger. Anger, always volcanic for me, has erupted numerous times, resulting in broken objects and fits of swearing.
There is a lot to be angry about today that extends way beyond personal dissatisfaction, a territory of experience I know well. My former psychologist once remarked that I practiced dissatisfaction very well. He was right. I have practiced unhappiness for a long time. It doesn’t take much for me to think negatively. And here is where I want to express some thoughts about the current situation regarding the mental health treatment for the poor, the drug addiction crisis, and the mounting despair in the United States. These issues make me irate. These issues cause me to confront, intellectually and emotionally, the three items that are the focus of this article: depression, anger, and destruction.
Public mental health care in America is a mess. I have been aware of this problem for a long time, but a recent small and unrecorded story and another national story demand that I speak out vehemently. I know of a young woman who is severely depressed and who has stopped taking her medications for not only her psychological problems, but her diabetes as well. She has gained an enormous amount of weight, now amounting to over 600 pounds. She is clearly attempting a slow suicide. Her small apartment became so filthy and her own appearance so disheveled, her friends got her admitted to a mental hospital. She had no clothes any longer. What she owned no longer fit or was too soiled to wear.
After three days of institutionalization the hospital turned her out because she did not express suicidal ideation. (Mental patients can be devious. Who wants to admit they are insane, which causes the person to lose all control over their life? I know—I was one). The woman was turned out in a hospital gown with one pair of pants my wife made for her and sent to a homeless shelter. The homeless shelter was so full—another sad American reality—that the woman was moved to a church, where she was given a thin mat to sleep on down on the floor. There she remains without psychiatric care. It takes her 10 minutes to rise from the floor. She is still young enough that she can rise. Her friends seek another place for her to receive treatment, which they can’t find. This is shameful, and her mental illness leads me to ruminate on an even more shameful issue, the new federal administration’s view toward opioid addiction.
In many states, like West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Ohio, addictive painkiller and heroin addiction are rampant. I believe this national emergency is a mental health problem. A New Yorker article in June 2017 described the opioid crisis in West Virginia. The state has an overdose death rate of 41.5 per 100 thousand, which is the highest in nation. In struggling small towns, where jobs that provide any sense of self-worth are
few, people, especially young people, fall into despair and seek relief through drug-induced sensations of satisfaction, opioids “are the ultimate escape drug.” This is the result of depression and self-medication. I am well acquainted with illegal drug self-medication that results in the ultimate destruction of self-respect. The proposed solutions to the emergency are the old solutions of “Just say no,” and longer, more severe jail penalties for use and distribution. Thus we criminalize a mental health problem and perpetuate the problem. Many more men and women will join the biggest incarcerated population in the world, where a huge percentage is the mentally ill. This disgusting situation makes me rage against the world.
In my rage, I realize two things. One, by there, but for the grace of God go I, for I was addicted once. Not to opioid or heroin, but to cocaine. If I had been caught and was really poor, I could have found myself in a prison and have totally ruined my life. Two, I always have to watch myself carefully and proceed cautiously, because anger leads to depression, which leads to despair and a death wish. And I am angry now, but what I do have, after help, medication, and significant improvement to myself awareness, is the knowledge that I need let the anger run its course and hang on to life. It shall pass. The depression will fade away for now. The destruction desire can be handled.
I must not dwell upon the negative. I do the things I feel compelled to do. I create. I drew my self-portrait (above) for 2016, with which I sought to find visual expression for the sensation of helplessness against the forces that seek my destruction, like the eagle in mythology that ate perpetually the liver of Prometheus, or Delilah’s betrayal that blinded Samson by the soldier’s spear. This outward manifestation silences the interior disquiet.
And I write. I write about what events irk me and how they could be resolved. I can resist the negative and seek the positive for what angers me. I find satisfaction in the physical skill of drawing and the mental agility to assess. The volcano rumbles and the smoke pours out, but for a moment peace prevails. I suggest anyone find the awareness to do likewise. Discover your path, follow it, and, as you can, avoid the hot rocks that rain down.