Managing Depression: A Personal Perspective
Terry Braverman and Company

Managing Depression: A Personal Perspective

I wanted to avoid the temptation of writing about this topic, given the voluminous media commentary in the aftermath of the Robin Williams tragedy. But the story I have to share is both personal and burning to get on the page. Please forgive me if I’m a little off point, but no doubt that we all know someone, whether family members, friends, or co-workers who are wrestling with depression or some form of mental illness.


The last few days has seen much written, discussed, and debated about the nature and effects of depression. My only brother (and sibling) suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, an illness that began to rear itself in his teen years and exacerbated during his terrible time in the military. While able to function on a day to day survival level, he is still incapable of holding a job due to the relentless distraction of the voices he hears between his ears.  For all of his adult life, he has taken numerous medications to quell the torturous chatter induced by his disease. Such is the distraction for him that I am called upon to help him read and understand documents of many kinds, since his concentration is impaired. And, occasionally act as a surrogate attorney at hearings for ongoing efforts to secure just compensation from the Veteran’s Administration. I also counsel him on various matters such as healthy diet and exercise (he has lost 50 lbs. over a years’ time) and encourage him to explore more of life, finding the joy in living as much as he can.


I used to believe that his condition could be transformed by realizing “it’s all a fantasy in your mind that can be changed with taking responsibility and mental discipline” until I read books, articles, and research pointing to a fundamental chemical imbalance. Clearly, a distinction has to be made between a person who is mentally ill or clinically depressed, and someone who is “feeling depressed”. 


A young teen who I knew well was feeling extremely depressed after a double dose of tragedy. This 13 year-old youth witnessed a murder at a synagogue Bar Mitzvah service, of all places, when the Rabbi was gunned down on the pulpit by a young man who proceeded to shoot himself. The assailant happened to be suffering from mental illness. Just four months later, the father of this young teen died after a lengthy nine year bout with cancer that included six major operations. Shortly after that, his mother moved the family from their moderate size city to the Big Apple, where some relatives lived but new friends had to be made in a new school, in a grittier neighborhood.


Adjusting to a strange, intense environment after two fatal calamities was much to cope with for this painfully shy kid, and he plunged into deep despair. When taken to a family wedding, he sat alone in a dark, vacant corner of the hall, contemplating suicide.


His Uncle Moe came over and asked him, “What’s the matter? You look like you want to die.”


“I do want to die. It’s just too much to deal with, my life. I want to walk out of here and kill myself.”


Uncle Moe pulled up a chair, sat closely next to him, and said, “I wouldn’t walk out just yet. I can get you tickets to see Jimi Hendrix in concert next week.”


Uncle Moe’s nephew was stupefied, his mind now contorted by this topical U-turn: “Huh…what…who? Jimi Hendrix?” (His favorite guitar player)


His Uncle nodded, “I can get two tickets.”


The kid’s eyes lit up: “Can you get four?”


Uncle Moe said, “OK, four it is. But promise me one thing. No matter how difficult life gets, you will never forget this moment.”     


I never did forget that moment. 



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