Creating My Odyssey

Quirky artist / writer / explorer / wild west, steampunk & ghost nut /renaissance soul / mental health & lifestyle blogger

Thursday, 27 June 2019

A WARTIME GENERATIONS' APPROACH TO MENTAL HEALTH


One matter I haven't touched upon in discussions here about mental health and/or depression is the fact that my parents - as with many parents of their generation - had attitudes that stemmed from their own backgrounds - wartime and earlier. Dad was born in 1921, mother in 1923. Depression 'did not exist', and the treatment of it, therefore, did not exist either. The research for treatment for depression didn't really begin in earnest until after 1952 - the year before I was born - when it was noticed that a drug, Isoniazid, introduced to treat tuberculosis, showed the side effect of reducing depression in patients. Unfortunately other, unwanted side effects restricted its use and it was taken off the market.

     My paternal granny suffered from depression, and dad would return from school and find her on the bed, crying. My aunt, his sister, was 'old worry-guts' and they'd tease her about it and say if she hadn't got anything to worry about, she'd worry.

     None of my immediate family suffered mentally, and mother was healthy as a horse. She didn't know what a headache felt like, and she'd never taken an Aspirin in her life. She suffered a little arthritis in her right hand fingers as she grew older, but otherwise, was fit as the proverbial fiddle right up to the age of eighty, when she and I took a brisk, two-mile walk and she asked me if I could manage to jump a ditch after she'd leapt nimbly over it.



















One day she pronounced to me that she'd blacked out and found herself on the kitchen floor. I told her to tell dad and go and see a doctor, but no - typical mother, she told me not to tell dad and on no account was she going to see a doctor! She hadn't seen one in her entire life. Sadly, shortly after this incident, severe dementia took her and the last ten years of her life were spent in a nursing home. I have a suspicion that a stroke had given her the black out, as I informed dad and my older brother, who looked after him, in later years. Mother died four years ago, a few days after dad died. Spooky, we thought. They were ninety-three and ninety-one. A good innings, as dad would say, except that their last ten years were not so good.

     So the parents and my two older brothers, had this 'pull yourself together' (like a pair of curtains - my words) 'get on with it' mentality and approached anything like depression with dark humour because they had no idea as to how to approach it otherwise. Mental health and depression was laughed at, joked about. Mother said: 'We didn't have time for depression.' of her own growing-up years.

     My life was punctuated with her vitriolic remarks towards me. When I was ten I had a tonsillitis  operation. I was in the womens' ward because the children's ward was being redecorated, and I hated the ward sister! I vividly remember her hairdo - a pudding basin style fanning from a spot in the middle of her skill and rolled up all around her head. She was impatient with her patient (me). I cried with relief when the parents arrived to take me home from hospital: Mother said: 'Stop crying or I'll leave you in here.' I was ten, for chrissakes! Other remarks when I'd reached adulthood consisted of:
'What do you want to do a thing like that for?' after Husband and I announced our engagement. (Dad got the sherry out!). 'You should have thought about that before.' when I told her I wanted a family but I was still at college doing an illustration course. 'The doctor must be fed up with seeing you!' (I'd told the parents that I'd been so see the doctor about my depression), 'I never took your jobs seriously anyway.' (I'd told her about a part-time job I was doing). And: 'You need a man to drag you around by the hair!' See where my depression stemmed from?! 😒

     Typical of the creative sort, I was sensitive and prone to moods and I don't think the family could cope with that, and they certainly didn't treat me with patience and kindness. I barely knew my brothers, hardly ever had a conversation with either of them and I was shy of them. I always felt like a single child.  

     Sufferers are  not born with depression, although sensitivities and moods are attributed to creative individuals. According to Mind, the mental health charity, years of constant negatives towards a person can alter the brain's chemistry, causing depression and anxiety. I maintain now that had my family been more sympathetic (not necessarily understanding, because if you've never suffered from depression and don't understand it, it's hardly a fault), I would possibly have recovered from post-natal depression much more quickly and not suffered mentally so much all these years afterwards. Maybe,

     Harsh that it sounds, it was a blessing that my parents died within days of one another a year after my miraculous treatment began (Christmas - Five Years Ago) because it meant that all familial obligations vanished, and I've grown better and better with each passing year. The entire absence of negatives via my brothers, and sarcasm from one wife and snobby dismissal from the other, ex-wife, has done its trick. My own family - fabulous soulmate husband, beautiful, funny, caring daughter and her family, and hilarious, caring son - have been nothing but amazing. And husband's family are fabulous, sympathetic and understanding. I've adopted all of them.

     It's all a miracle. I didn't know what it felt like to feel truly happy consistently, or how to beat a mental issue into submission. Now I wake up happy! That was a real novelty to begin with and continues to be. So, I say to all those of my age group who suffer from depression and anxiety - you were brought up by wartime generation parents. Don't expect too much from them, and if necessary, doing a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy may help enormously. It certainly helped me!

Just bear that in mind.


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3 comments:

  1. I really appreciate your sharing your mental health experiences. I wonder if our mothers' attitude was generational. I think Mother took it as a sign of weakness to say anything good about anyone, including her sister, and I KNOW she loved her. Not so sure how she felt about me. My brother Billy had psychotic episodes, and brother Randy is so paranoid, not even doctors will see him. I'll be on meds all my life, since starting to take them 40 years ago. Love you, my Brit friend!

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  2. Aw, Elaine... bless you. I think my mother's attitude was part generational, part her! Her father was the head of organisation for the 1948 London Olympics, so she was extremely practical and organised everyone and everything, and tried to organise me! Unfortunately my two older brothers are the same. Dad was a shy police officer and just wanted a peaceful life, so he was benignly negligent of me.

    I'll keep sharing, Elaine, because it does seem to help others.

    Jo x

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  3. So which meds are you on, Elaine, and how are you these days?

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