Death, Depression and Demographics
I had the depressing thought, watching and listening to one of the bereaved parents of Sandy Hook plead for a better society on the news the other night – at least they have each other.
Their murdered children were all that age, too, when we love each other back and forth the most. That’s how I remember it, anyway. My friend calls anywhere between 4 and 8, 9, maybe even 10, the golden years, when children are out of the toddler stage but not yet pre-teens.
I’m sticking with pre-teens because I’m suspicious of tweens as a pharmaceutical marketing gimmick, like Generation X and depression medication, and soon that age will be the reason for this drug.
I read an article the other day that claimed we don’t actually understand cause and effect when it comes to pharmaceuticals and depression. I’m not a psychiatrist so I picture serotonin uptake inhibitors as simply delaying depression, like that SCTV skit when Andrea Martin takes a pill to delay her headache so she can go to the party first.
Then her headache hits and it’s brutal.
But I’m a people person, not a private person at all, and when I’m upset I ask around. Years ago I stopped trying to believe in god because I get everything I need from other people. This realization came after a scary episode during my second pregnancy (later I realized it was the second trimester, to a day) when I couldn’t shake the belief that life was meaningless, that we’re all going to die, there’s nothing we can do about it, and what was the point.
My ex had rented Exorcist III, and the old people skittering across the ceiling had really freaked me out. When I returned the movie (to a little video store on College, near Ossington) the owner shrieked, “You watched this?! Omigawd! You’re pregnant! You don’t watch this devil shit when you’re pregnant!”
He was from Guyana and went on to say that he would never have rented it to my ex if he’d known he was my ex. He just assumed he was some single guy renting a video.
Anyway, he was pretty shaken up, and I was pretty shaken up, and I went home and phoned my astral traveling friend who was trying to start a little crystals business on Queen Street West for help and she said she thought those sorts of movies carry their own evil and I would need to meditate and get lots of fresh air to shake off the devil.
I was frantic with the need to talk it out. Talk is reassuring to me. It’s the ongoing conversation that works and people really do offer up incredible insights. Nowadays, with the internet, I can get a lot of what I need by reading articles about how people are coping with this and that. Also, I’m older, and the older I get, the older my children get, the less I have to care about me, specifically, and it makes life lighter.
I’d say more bearable, but that makes it sound like I’m in pain and I’m not. I’m anxious. But I’ve always been anxious. My mother called me a worry wart and couldn’t understand why I was always so worried when she went out that she wouldn’t come back.
I guess she thought I was worried something bad would happen to her, but I really just didn’t trust her to come back. She did give the impression that we were in good hands with Gram (our grandmother), but Gram, who baked a lot, seemed pretty indifferent to us.
She was on thyroid medication and I realize I should save that story for my book, so I will, but I’ll say here that the only time Gram was ever emotional was when she stopped taking it for one very brief, very alarming, spell.
Anyway, the other day, writing one of my entries for this blog, I really did have a revelation as to why I’m anxious, because my father got cancer and died in quite short order when I was four. And he died at Princess Margaret in Toronto, not at the Plummer in Sault Ste. Marie. We used to line up to talk to him on the phone on Sunday night. I have a memory of hanging up the phone after my turn but before my grandmother (not Gram, she didn’t live with us yet) had hers.
Cancer is everywhere these days, isn’t it. I had a committee meeting last night (I’m president of our housing association if you can believe it – short straw) and one of our number just found out he has cancer. He drives me crazy with anxiety, this guy, all the possible problems we can run into, but he’s coping well with having cancer, doing the treatment. He was complaining about a reaction to the medication he’s on and another of our number said, oh yeah well that’s gonna happen I had breast cancer a couple of years ago and quit taking tammy too toxic and so on and so forth went their cancer conversation, a conversation we all hear more of the older we get, I suppose.
Heh – both still smoking, too, Ottawa Public Health Officer.
When the depression, or whatever it was, lifted, I was at my in-laws. I woke up and instead of feeling the way I had, I was filled with relief? gratitude? hope?
I thought it was a religious experience, that I was experiencing god, but eventually I did the math and realized it was outgoing and incoming hormones directly related to gestation. I had recurring bouts of what I’d come to term existentialism (is depression unmitigated existentialism?) and sometimes I could bring myself around by going into my daughters’ room and watching them sleep. The one I had the depression with, interestingly, possessed an unshakeable belief that life is all good.
But, of course, it wasn’t tested, either, not until much later when her dad and I would separate, when I would leave home.
And there it is. But I’m going to keep typing because I kept on being a mother, made a new home, and eventually everyone grew up. Alice Munro wrote a short story about a woman who falls in love with an actor passing through town and leaves her two little daughters with their father while she goes off to be with her new love. We don’t find out until the end of the story (short, of course) that she only stayed with him for three weeks, but she still didn’t return home. The girls seek her out in adulthood and they’re mad but they get over it and the main character says, “If they weren’t mad at me for that, they’d be mad at me for something else”.
Which is certainly true enough.
The mother of one of the murdered children has been talking about his bullet-ridden body, how important she thinks it is that Americans visualize it. I’d go further and suggest the parents post pictures of the bullet-ridden bodies of their children above the NRA ads that are running right now.
I didn’t feel the Sandy Hook tragedy. Is that just age? When 9/11 happened, I was traumatized. But out walking the dog later in the afternoon, I ran into a couple of older gentlemen I would often talk to and they were standing outside talking about their african violets and I said, “Isn’t it awful?!”
And, I kid you not, at first, they thought something had happened. Something that wasn’t 9/11, I mean. When they clued in and realized how upset I was they agreed, shaking their heads, looking down, “Yes, terrible. Terrible.”
But they were doing it for me. Really, they just wanted to get back to discussing their african violets. And who can blame them?
I realized yesterday that you could line up all the American sitcoms we grew up watching and you’d have no idea of the nihilism that dwells at the heart of the home of the brave and the land of the free.
Watching that father (is he still?) grasp about for meaning, I wondered if that scene will be in the movie.
Meanwhile, in my own quest, I read an article this morning that claims people will stop having children, that it won’t be long before ten billion of us on the planet becomes five billion of us on the planet. The theory is that as women are increasing educated, birthrates everywhere will drop.
Americans, I guess, will have to factor millions of gun owners and depression into their demographic future.