An Escape from Clinical Depression

I recovered in a single moment from a previously untreatable clinical depression. The following is the story of how I came to this cure--this new understanding of the causes of my clinical depression.
This is a photo of a marathon runner--a visual metaphor for an escape from clinical depression.  
I   Introduction
II  Insight into clinical depression
        Negative feedback control
III Summary of insight
IV Author

Links: a guide to clinical depression


As a result of my experiences during college and in those years immediately following--beginning in business on Park Avenue and ending with the award of a National Institute of Health fellowship--I came to two realizations. The first was that while I was held in very low regard by those in my family of origin (including myself), I was generally thought highly of by those outside the family. The second was the falseness of my belief that enough success would be a cure for the depression, anxiety, and sense of worthlessness that I felt. (The belief was not only false, it was the antithesis of what was true--the more successful I was, the more I suffered the symptoms of clinical depression.) This latter realization informed a motivational crisis—an impasse beyond which I could not travel without a solution.

With a quiet confidence born of having been out in the world and having had it not find me wanting, I returned to the family home to try and discover what had happened. Shortly after my arrival, a slowly escalating panic began to creep into the other family members--a desperation over the state of my mental health they said. (In retrospect, I suspect that the absence of my previous noisy hyper defensiveness had left their myth of who I was unattended, and that their anxiety was around what the loss of this lie might mean to each of them.)
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After several weeks, this increasing instability in my mother, father, and younger brother culminated in my being called to my mother's bedroom on a Sunday evening. There I found her propped up in bed where she was crying uncontrollably. As I sat silently across from her, she began to compose herself and tell me things I had never known. She said,
Jon, you were not an unwanted child. I wanted you more than any mother has ever wanted a child. I loved you more than any mother has ever loved a child, and I wanted you to love me. To show you how much I loved you:
I cut your nails.
I washed your hair.
I fed you all the best foods.
I dressed you in all the best clothes.
It was over as rapidly as it had begun. Amazingly, I uttered not a single word in response, nor did I have even a single thought. (Was this because my attention had been so completely given over to observing and listening? Or was it because those seminal bits of data on which my world was about to pivot had caused a hijacking, so to speak, of my normal consciousness by another cerebral function--subliminal problem solving? )
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Later that evening as I lay in bed, sleep would not come for in its place were …rising crowds of ideas… I could sense but not grasp. I … felt them collide… until pairs seemed to interlock as if forming stable combinations.1 I then knew that I was undergoing a spontaneous self psychoanalysis, but I could have in no way further described it.
1Jules Henri Poincarè (1854-1912) as paraphrased by Robert M Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values (New York: William Morrow & Company, Inc., 1974)264-268
The following day I decided it was a good time to give the family situation a much needed rest, and so late that afternoon I began the several hour drive to join friends vacationing along the shore. Before many miles had gone by, I could see that something was very different. Those rusting relics that littered either side of the rural road--signs promoting everything from Sinclair Motor Oil to Burma Shave--had become objets d'art in a world that appeared ablaze in the light from a setting sun. And when I stopped the car and stepped out into the darkness at the end of the road, I was surrounded by a rich, almost deafening undulating roar. It was as if I was hearing the ocean for the first time.

The next morning I was walking on the beach with my close friend from childhood when my mother's monologue replayed itself in my mind. I was immediately struck by its strangeness: I remembered with a great deal of pain all the things she had mentioned as proof of how much she loved me. I didn't try to solve the paradox; I just continued walking along and suddenly the solution—an insight into the causes of my clinical depression—exploded into my consciousness.
Yet still more shims for clinical depression. Return to top
Still another shim for help on this paper on clinical depression.
[ Introduction Insight into clinical depression | Summary of insight |  Author | Links ]

Last revision: May 19, 2003
Escape from Clinical Depression
This page © Copyright 2001, Jon Eden

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Photograph courtesy Philip Greenspun