Irritable
Male
Syndrome
 

The Legacy of Depression: My Father’s Story Part II


In the preface to his book, Depression Decade, author Broadus Mitchell describes the historical period this way. “The years of our national economic life here described were crowded with emotion and event. They registered the crash from 1929 super-confidence and the descent into the depression—at first dismaying, then disheartening, then desperate.” These last words would be an accurate description of my father’s slide into the deep depression. Kay Redfield Jamison, an expert on mood disorders, uses an analogy from the animal kingdom to describe the difference ways men and women react to the stresses of life that leads to the Irritable Male Syndrome (IMS) and depression. "Young male elephants go out and they are quite solitary," she observed. "The only times males get together is during the breeding period in an adversarial role. They're not talking about anything, they're competing.

“Conversely, the female elephants are drawn together and are constantly communicating with each other. Female elephants have a system set up if one is in distress," she continues, "and they are more likely to be there to serve and help one another. Like male elephants in an adversarial role, human men have an ‘irritability’ that is ‘part and parcel’ of depression,” she says. “It's one of the diagnostic criteria for depression and mania, more common than not," she explained. "Emotions get so ratcheted up, it's often we see men with short-tempered fuses. It makes depression difficult for others to be around."

Here is a note from my father’s first journal, written when he was his old self, full of confidence and joy for life:

“A traveling troupe is putting on a show not far from us. I know them from earlier times when I first came to New York. They are gay and exciting and have an enchanting flavor of holiday. I look at Kath and marvel at her sweetness and beauty. You often forget how lovely feminine youth is. The cream-like texture of skin, a verve and a buoyancy. Henry is a perfect type of company manager. He has great big floppy ears, that inevitable cigar, and a certain softness. Charm is not the exclusive province of youth. Henry has it as well as Kath.

“Kath has that wonderful spirit of newness about her, that same wide-eyed wonder that a child has when he is seeing the circus for the first time. She sits at the feet of the elders who have been around the block and have makeup rubbed into their soles. She reminds me of my little boy [I was five at the time]. He has a wonderful impishness, a beautiful delightful growth about him. He has a suppleness of mind and body, a rapt attention as he looks for animals and calls to them.

“I feel full of confidence in my writing ability. I know for certain that someone will buy one of my radio shows. I know for certain that I will get a good part in a play. Last night I dreamt about candy. There was more candy than I could eat. Does it mean I’ll be rewarded for all my efforts? Has it anything to do with sex?”

Journal number ten was written three years later. The economic depression of the time and the depression going on within his mind had come together. His entries are more terse, staccato, and disheartening. I still get tears when I feel how much was lost in such a short time.

“June 4th:

Your flesh crawls, your scalp wrinkles when you look around and see good writers, established writers, writers with credits a block long, unable to sell, unable to find work, Yes, it's enough to make anyone, blanch, turn pale and sicken.

August 15th:

Faster, faster, faster, I walk. I plug away looking for work, anything to support my family. I try, try, try, try, try. I always try and never stop.

November 8th:

A hundred failures, an endless number of failures, until now, my confidence, my hope, my belief in myself, has run completely out. Middle aged, I stand and gaze ahead, numb, confused, and desperately worried. All around me I see the young in spirit, the young in heart, with ten times my confidence, twice my youth, ten times my fervor, twice my education.

I see them all, a whole army of them, battering at the same doors I'm battering, trying in the same field I'm trying. Yes, on a Sunday morning in early November, my hope and my life stream are both running desperately low, so low, so stagnant, that I hold my breath in fear, believing that the dark, blank curtain is about to descend.

Six days after his November 8th entry, my father tried to kill himself. Though he survived physically, emotionally he was never again the same. For nearly 40 years I've treated more and more men who are facing similar stresses to those my father experienced. The economic conditions and social dislocations that contributed to his feelings of shame and hopelessness continue to weigh heavily on men today.

©2010 Jed Diamond

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Wealth can't buy health, but health can buy wealth. - Henry David Thoreau

 

Jed Diamond is the internationally best-selling author of seven books including Male Menopause, now translated into 17 foreign languages and his latest book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. For over 38 years he has been a leader in the field of men's health. He is a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Men’s Health and has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network since its founding in 1992. His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the United States including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000 radio and T.V. programs including The View with Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth, Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did a nationally televised special on Male Menopause for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback. E-Mail. You can visit his website at www.menalive.com



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