A Man
Overboard

 

 

 

An interview with Jed Diamond


Suffering from manic-depression, Morris Diamond first attempted suicide in 1949 when his son, Jed, was only six-years-old. This traumatic event was an impetus for the boy to one day become an expert in dealing with male depression.

Jed Diamond has been actively involved in men's work for more than 24 years and written a number of books including Surviving Male Menopause and The Whole Man Program.. The Irritable Male Syndrome will be published next year by Rodale Press.

He is currently on the board of advisors for the Men's Health Network, on the Scientific Advisory Board of The World Congress, plus he works with The International Society of Aging Males.

He has a Masters degree in social work and is currently working on his Ph.D. in International Health - a new discipline that studies health practices around the world. His dissertation is on male depression.

His father's story is a troubling and poignant tale of a man who was put in a state mental hospital and treated for schizophrenia, including Electro-shock therapy. Unfortunately, Morris was misdiagnosed. He was manic-depressive.

"After seven years in there, he escaped one night after a visit with my uncle," Jed recalled. "After that he changed his name and never came back."

Before this incident, Morris had been a struggling writer and actor in New York City.

"He met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship period," Jed noted. "When all the money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show with readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry or short stories. The price of admission was a can of food."

Most of what Jed knew of his father's early years was derived from reading journal entries. Morris wrote this about his son, Jed:

"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."

Morris described his exalting highs and depressing lows.

"I feel full 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?"

Then later he writes:

"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."

On a Sunday morning in early November Morris was feeling particularly depressed.

"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 later he tried to kill himself. Because of his manic-depressive illness and lack of adequate treatment, Jed said his father was "never able to actualize his potential to flower and flourish."

Through his sickness, however, his creative juices, continued to flow.

"My father couldn't go back into the arts [in New York] because people were looking for him after he escaped from what he described as a 'prison,'" Jed continued. "So he became a street puppeteer in California.

For 40 years he worked putting on puppet shows at gatherings on University campuses.

"He showed up at my college graduation in Santa Barbara," Jed said. "It was scary to see him out there and then he disappeared like some dramatic film screen moment."

Jed tried for many years to find his father through his relatives in Florida.

"I was back in the Bay area one day," Jed recounted. "I'm waiting for a bus in San Francisco to go across the bay to Marin County and as I'm standing there day dreaming, thinking about my visit to Florida, I missed my bus. I waited and got on the next one. As I'm sitting there, my father gets on at the next stop. "

"You're the Puppet Man."

"There he is, I say to myself. My God, that's him. Should I talk to him.? I'm afraid if I do I'll get disowned again. I was going through a lot of ups and downs. It's about a 20 minute ride to where I was going. I finally got up and sat down beside him. He didn't seem to recognize me. My heart was pounding. Finally I said, "you're the 'Puppet Man.'" He nodded.

Thirty seconds go by in silence. He doesn't say anything. Another 30 seconds goes by and I said 'I'd really like to connect with you again. How about we grab a cup of coffee?' He was still sitting there, silent. I told him I'd gotten married and I had kids since I saw him last. I pulled out my wallet and showed him their pictures. He nodded 'Okay' to me. So we got off the bus. I was meeting a friend and so I crossed the street to tell him my father and I were getting together. As I turn back around, I saw my father go toward the coffee shop but he just kept on walking. I realized then how tired I was of reaching out to him. He walked on down two blocks then turned around and came back, and went into the coffee shop with me. We spent a really nice afternoon together."

"What kind of son are you?!"

When I got home later that day, there was a message on my telephone machine from him. He started in 'You never did anything for your father! What kind of son are you?!' Well, I was pretty angry and hung up on him, then called him back and I told him 'if you keep pushing me away you'll end up a lonely old man.' I thought he'd hang up on me. Then he said, 'nobody's ever talked to me that way ever, you know, you're right. I've spent my whole life blaming other people.' Since then we kept the connection and I saw him regularly for the next 15 years."

Morris Diamond passed away five years ago.

"Every time he disowned me, I would be crushed," Jed continued. "Then I got to a point where I could tell him the truth and know that whatever he said wouldn't hurt me. I wasn't afraid to tell him the truth anymore. And, I could do it in a way that wasn't aggressive or angry."

The son was finally able to tell the father "I'm not to blame for your unhappiness."

Jed Diamond offered this advice to men - more specifically directed at the man doing the interview.

"I'd erase that notion that your dad is out to destroy you," he said. "In his pain your father's doing things that are hurtful and destructive. That's the only way he knows how to deal with his pain in life. If he knew a better way to do it, he would do it. If you see him out to destroy you it puts you in a fearful position where you don't have much chance of reconciliation."

"It was a great mistake my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish ..." --- Eugene O'Neill."

Father/son relationships can be more difficult when there are artistic temperaments involved. Diamond referenced Kay Redfield Jamison's book Touched With Fire: Manic Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament which lists a number of creative writers who suffered with manic-depression, including Hans Christian Anderson, Mark Twain, Emily Dickenson, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Eugene O'Neill.

Diamond said he identified with a quote from O'Neill: "It was a great mistake my being born a man, I would have been much more successful as a seagull or a fish, as it is I will always be a stranger who never feels at home, who does not really want and is not really wanted, who can never belong and who must always be a little in love with death."

"Normal people" have "harder filters," Diamond continued.

"The same hyper-sensitivity that allows an artist to be creative, to pick up on nuances and different ways things are connected, with the different levels of reality ... if it goes too far and you live it too hard, it can get inside and hurt you."

Feeling too much pain of the world can be disabling, he added.

"There's a sensitivity to a degree where we can lose track of who we are," Diamond said. "We can be overwhelmed and lose track of our boundaries."

Initially, Diamond acknowledged he was in denial about his own depression for many years. Now he is an advocate of recognizing and treating depression with therapy and proper medication.

"I insisted that even though my father and other relatives were depressed, it couldn't be affecting me," he declared. "But I knew I was TOO creative - up and down too much. It was hard to stay focused."

"Too many men take out their depression in anger, drugs, work or sexual behavior."

The author has been on medication now for the past six years.

"What I found was that medication made a world of difference in my emotions," he explained. "I could feel connected in a creative way and also be centered enough to write."

However, finding that right balance may take time and effort.

"Redfield talks about how difficult it is for men to take medication because they think it will make them less manly or blunt their emotional sensitivity," Diamond said. "Yoo many men take out their depression in anger, drugs, work or sexual behavior. Plus, we sometimes end up killing ourselves."

Diamond's wounds has a child have helped him shape his mission as an adult, authoring Surviving Male Menopause and The Whole Man Program.

"My purpose is to help men live long and well," said Jed Diamond. "That mission has directed my activity for many years."

For more information contact Jed at www.menalive.com

© 2005 Reid Baer

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The fame you earn has a different taste from the fame that is forced upon you. - Gloria Vanderbilt

Reid Baer, an award-winning playwright for “A Lyon’s Tale” is also a newspaper journalist, a poet with more than 100 poems in magazines world wide, and a novelist with his first book released this month entitled Kill The Story. Baer has been a member of The ManKind Project since 1995 and currently edits The New Warrior Journal for The ManKind Project www.mkp.org . He resides in Reidsville, N.C. with his wife Patricia. He can be reached at E-Mail.



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