Things I Cannot Say – Understanding Differences Between Depression And Grieving That Are Sometimes Misidentified
The above artwork by Dorothea Tanning is titled “Birthday.”
(Philadelphia Museum of Art).
Dorothea created the above self-portrait for her thirtieth birthday in 1942. It is one of my favorite paintings. Alyce Mahon wrote in her book “Eroticism and Art (Oxford History of Art)” this amazing information about the painting:
“this self-portrait portrays the power of dreams and the night, notably through the fantastic creature at her feet and her fine dress whose ripples comprise anthropomorphic forms. When the Surrealist artist Max Ernst saw the painting in Tanning’s New York studio in the Winter of 1942 he found it had no title and promptly christened it. A week later they were lovers. In <Dorothea Tanning’s> memoirs, Between Lives (2001), Tanning recounts how one day, when a collector expressed an interest in buying the painting, Ernst stated it was not for sale, proclaiming ‘I love Dorothea. I want to spend the rest of my life with her. The picture is part of that life.’ “
Photographs of Dorothea Tanning and Max Ernst:
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Some of my thoughts today:
I write things online that I cannot say.
You see, I am a problem.
I’m prohibited from communicating with or being close to someone I love. Probably because I love them too much. Probably not because I’m a bad person.
And this blog, my 43Things, and my reviews are a collection of the conversations I cannot have with the person I’m not allowed to communicate with. My writings are as active, explanatory, straight-forward, and comprehensive as I am allowed to be.
Because I am a problem.
I was watching the 60 Minutes interview with Dennis Quaid last night. He was discussing the medical errors that were made that almost led to the death of his infant twins. He was thankful his infant twins survived, against great odds, after other infants had died from similar overdoses of the blood thinning drug Heparin.
“You’re lucky,” the 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft said to Dennis Quaid.
Dennis replied, “Yeah. Extremely lucky. And not a day goes by since then that um . . . I don’t take a day . . . That’s what’s changed for me . . . is that I don’t take a day for granted anymore, because um . . . if they hadn’t made it, there never woulda been another happy day, really.”
I don’t know whether to take Dennis’ words literally. Would he really never have had another happy day in his life? Or should he be interpreted to mean that despite all the other happy things that would have likely happened to him thereafter, there would not be another day in his life where he did not also experience an overbearing weight of sadness?
I suspect he was communicating something closer to the latter, but he could have meant the former. Either way, part of my work on these websites is to help people distinguish between a) depression caused by physical conditions & cognitive thinking errors and b) grief caused by losing connection with loved ones.
Depression and grief are often related and intertwined. But treating depression is sometimes distinctly different from treating grief.
Depression can sometimes be treated by balancing medications, sleep, food, and other physical steps. Depression can sometimes be treated by helping someone learn to think more clearly and accurately. Teaching a depressed person how to better interpret the world around them can diminish their depressive interpretations, patterns, moods, and intensities. It is never that simple, but those are often key components of effective (and affective) therapies for helping someone manage their physical and cognitive sources of depression.
But grief sometimes cannot be treated using the same methods that are effective for treating depression.
Grief, when it involves losing someone you loved very much, is not necessarily a condition that is diminished by helping someone reason more clearly and interpret the world more accurately. Sometimes, more clear reasoning and interpretation can lead someone to increased feelings of grief, as they realize more and more the weights of all they lost when they lost connection with someone they loved.
I think many people are misdiagnosed as suffering from depression when the root cause of their dysfunction is more dominantly from genuine and unaddressed grief.
And despite the cliche of “the pain of grief will lessen over time,” the passing of time does not always diminish feelings of grief. As a person becomes older and more time passes, they can become more educated about what they lost when they lost connection with a person they loved. Their feelings of grief can sometimes understandably and rightfully increase.
When my grandmother lost her husband of 40+ years, she experienced both depression and grief. In her case, unfortunately I don’t think either was ever treated capably, diligently, or effectively. But even if we could have helped her out of her depression (which shut her down on many fronts for many years for the rest of her life), I’m not sure we could have ever capably diminished her grief.
I’m not sure it’s good to try to take away someone’s grief. And I’m fairly certain it’s unhealthy to hide your grief or to pretend it does not exist. I think it’s generally unhealthy to ask others to hide their grief or to ask others to pretend their grief does not exist. Grief may be a very good and healthy part of being honest with ourselves.
I agree with Dennis Quaid that we should never take a day for granted.
So, I try to live each day not taking life for granted. And what I cannot say to the person I am not allowed to communicate with, I say to the world instead, because it is the most good I can think of to do.
I adore you.
And my desires to receive your insightful and rewarding feedbacks have not gone away.
I don’t know how to apologize for not falling out of love with you. How does a person do that if it is not how they honestly feel and think? Should a person do that if it is not how they honestly feel? On that issue, I am flawed, and maybe dysfunctional.
I don’t know how to deal with the circumstances that are dealt to me.
So to cope the best way I know how, I communicate with the world regularly about the things I wish I could communicate with you.
I’m a moron. I must be stupid.
I’m a problem.
I’m to blame.
But if anything good has come to anyone from reading this blog or the 43Things or the reviews, it has come in part from publicizing my objections to silences.
It has come from the conversations that trigger up in my head every day, conversations I could choose to only have in my head. But instead, I share them with anyone out there who might be comforted or helped by knowing there are other semi-sane people who deal hopelessly with similar struggles every day.
It’s not a depression. For me, it’s better described as unforgettable and undeniable grief.
For me, it’s not unaddressed regrets or unaddressed grief. I regularly work to address my regrets and my grief. But grief still persists.
At the same time, I’m a very happy person. I’ve never met anyone luckier, more fortunate, or better cared for than me.
Still, life is incredibly complex, and every day I still suffer from losing the persistently expanding and growing number of good, concrete, measurable, and helpful things that clearly have come from my interactions with you.
If you knew this blog existed and if you read this, you might say you think you are still doing the best you should do.
And if I learned anything from my experiences with you, it is to doubt me. I should always second guess my positions in conflict with your positions. So, I sincerely can’t assert with assuredness that you are wrong. You have better access to information than me. You have very often known much more than me. You have consistently been wiser than me on many essential and important matters.
But I still believe people should state their best ideas. So, I try to explain the many reasons for my conscientious objections on these issues.
Is anyone better off for me writing things I cannot say?
I don’t know.
But I hope so.
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Side notes: Thank you to over 10,000 of you who stopped by this blog yesterday. Jaime Hernandez’ artistry is irreplaceable and to be treasured. I enjoy it so much on so many levels. The older I get, the more I admire his inking, his compositions, his characters, their expressions, and his content. I encourage you to look for and buy his books. The pictures alone are worth more than the price of admission.
On an editorial note, for those of you who have left comments and wondered, “Why was my comment not posted?” here are some of my editorial considerations:
1) If your comment is inconsiderate, crass, or mean-spirited toward an artist or their artworks, your comment is probably not going to be posted.
2) If your comment clearly shows you didn’t read the post, but only looked at the pictures, your comment is probably not going to be posted.
3) If your comment appears more intent on driving attention to you, your website, or your email address rather than on giving positive feedback or constructive criticism to the artist or artworks, then your comment is probably not going to be posted.
On this blog, kindness matters.
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Artwork by Frank Bramley, titled “A Hopeless Dawn” (detail):
The same painting, full aspect:
Artworks like Bramley’s painting above remind me of the importance of art.
Maybe your arts aren’t science.
Maybe your arts aren’t provable.
Maybe your arts aren’t scholarly.
But that doesn’t mean your arts don’t matter.
Your arts matter.
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