It has been just over a year since my last blog post, and… what a year it
has been. As 2014 truly qualified as a
turbulent "Z Cam" year, I'm not sure in which stellar category I could
possibly place 2015 — perhaps a series of Type II supernovae?
The short (!) story is that I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder
while in Grenoble, brought on by a number of factors, including the resumption
of choral singing and meeting someone who reminded me a lot of my late friend
Barbara. That person became very important to me. Unfortunately, the PTSD
had the effect of my becoming largely the same person I was 40 years ago — a
teenager, with all of the same kinds of obsessive behavior and
hyper-perfectionism and so on that the passage of time had tamped down (at
least to some degree). I was able to be "myself" again during those too-brief
intervals when I was able to go home to Berlin (and sometimes to Quinson, but
mostly whenever and wherever Mr Mo was)… and then I'd relapse shortly after
going back to Grenoble.
To say that this was upsetting and disorienting doesn't come close to
describing my inner turmoil. After many ups and downs (a.k.a. the Z Cam year),
things smoothed out emotionally for me during the first quarter of 2015; and
then, unhappy with my job agency's chronically late payments and refusal to
allow me to work from home even just one week per month, I accepted a different
job that would let me go home and pay me 25% more.
The new job started the beginning of May, and since I could do it
long-distance, and had invested so much time in the three French choirs I was
singing with, I decided to stay in Grenoble until the end of the choral season.
But pretty much from the moment I accepted the job (the end of March), I was
once again in the thrall of PTSD, and this time overcome by feelings of great
grief and loss. — I ended up reliving Barbara's death and all of the terrible
aftermath… and by the end of my time in Grenoble, and in no small measure due
to the intensity of my feelings, I lost my new friend.
It was a ghastly ending to my time in Grenoble, and I was completely
shattered as I drove home to Berlin for good in mid-July. It was only thanks to
the kind intervention of a mutual friend that I found out what had gone so
terribly awry, as I was entirely blind to my own emotionally-intense behavior,
and my friend never talked to me about what was wrong (and I could never ask
her). It took about another month (after being tested for hyperthyroidism in
Berlin) before I was able to accept a diagnosis of profound clinical
depression. My psychologist in Grenoble had suggested I was depressed (I
started seeing her at some point in May when I kept crying uncontrollably night
after night)… but I couldn't believe it. I was working! I was still enjoying
singing and playing piano! How could someone so active be depressed?
… It was exactly the same kind of behavior as I had experienced in
Pittsburgh 30+ years ago after Barbara's death, but I had forgotten. Further,
this time around, in a bizarre kind of emotional multi-tasking, I was
experiencing overwhelming feelings of gratitude. I didn't believe it was
possible to feel thankful and be in the throes of this insidious mental
illness/affective disorder at the same time. (It is.)
Anyway, I began treatment right after the diagnosis. I cannot now remember
if I had the same kind of problem with "neurological fog" 30 years ago as I did
this time around, but it took me until roughly this past December to be able to
see certain things with clarity in retrospect (which produced no little dismay
and not a few tears) and to feel as though I was starting to think/process
things normally again. The fog affected my ability to do certain parts of my
job. It was very distressing to have to read and reread instructions again and
again instead of remembering them as I normally would. (I grant that sometimes
the instructions were not wonderfully written and that the procedures
themselves were sometimes ludicrously complicated and not at all intuitive, but
Up until mid-December, I believed there was a remote possibility of
repairing the broken friendship. But then I heard again from the mutual friend,
who essentially said that there was no hope, that this friend had "turned the
page" on our friendship, and little wonder. It was so hard to accept that I was
persona non grata, that even sending a Christmas card would be viewed
as an intolerable intrusion. That hurt. Worse is having all avenues of
communication cut off. (It has been my happy fortune in this life to make and
generally keep friends fairly easily, so being in this position has been
largely rough and unknown terrain to me.)
It took me some time to get to what I think is the final step in getting
over Grenoble, in getting over this lost friend, in getting much further along
in my recovery from this episode of PTSD and depression. I didn't plan it this
way, but I ended up posting a farewell letter to my lost friend on the 31st
anniversary of Barbara's death. I don't entertain much if any hope that she
will read what I wrote. I needed to write it, and I needed to send it — mostly
so I can tell myself that I did everything I could to try to apologize, to try
to explain, to try to fix things. I am sad that our relationship ended the way
it did. I am sad that some of the lessons I learned (listed below) came at the
cost of this friendship, and that I was not the only one who ended up paying
I do not need my lost friend to read the letter to provide closure, and I
think that conclusion will stand even if she sends it back unopened. (Update:
As she signed for it at the post office, I know she received it.) Of course I
hope she will read it, which would be miracle enough (a positive response would
herald the Second Coming). My mailing the letter was analogous to going through
the exit door of a theater: it's soundproof, so once outside, pounding on the
door and shouting does no good. There is no handle on the exterior of the door,
and quite honestly, were the door to open from the inside, there is little
appeal in going back into a dark place. The only healthy way forward is to let
the door close entirely on this part of my life.
I have learned many lessons from all of this. In no particular order, here
are a few:
• Love and appreciate the people who love and appreciate you. And do your
best to show it.
• It is important to cultivate gratitude. In some ways I think gratitude
saved me from the much darker and more quickly dangerous type of depression
that I went through 30 years ago.
• There are some wonderful people in this world. I owe so much not just to
Mr Mo, but also to a handful of very kind other people whom I love, and
especially to that helpful mutual friend who was willing to listen and to talk
to me frankly when I most needed it.
• Music is extremely powerful and evocative.
• Alcohol is not helpful.
• It is important to assess emotional risks along with everything else when
making major decisions. Feeling detached and uprooted contributed to becoming
depressed, and doubtless made me more vulnerable to PTSD.
• Forgive others. I thought about the few people in my life whom I hadn't
fully forgiven and hopefully have finally done so now. And I thought about how
little I know about what other people are going through that could explain
behavior that I might find hard to handle.
• I also thought about and forgave myself for the one particular instance in
which I had to cut off someone from my life. (I didn't have much choice — I was
only 14 years old, and my parents and bishop and other adults insisted that I
stop communicating with a very troubled girl who'd been my roommate at a BYU
summer program… but I still lived that as a huge personal failure for many
• If someone, such as a psychologist, suggests that you are depressed,
• Being too busy, as in workaholism, can be a masking behavior, a way to
avoid taking the time to truly look at what is happening (both inside and
• Stonewalling behavior is very, very damaging to both the one stonewalling
and the one being stonewalled.
• It is never too late to say you're sorry, at least for your own peace of
mind, even if the apology cannot fix things.
I may add to the list later on (I am sure there are other lessons I've
gotten from this), but I will end for now with this: About 34.5 years ago I
wrote a man a letter in which I apologized for my stonewalling behavior. Just
before I started dating him, I had gone through two heart-wrenching romances,
and the one with him seemed to have started in the same manner, with lots of
obvious mutual interest and attraction right away. I couldn't stand the thought
of being burned again — and this even though I'd had a very clear impression
that I would end up marrying him! But instead of talking things over, I started
avoiding the man, who ultimately got the message and went away.
Anyway, a year after I'd dumped him, I sent the letter to his last known
address. I had no idea where he was, and for all I knew, he could have already
been married — I was not writing to pursue him nor to try to renew the
relationship. I simply and very sincerely wanted to apologize for not
communicating and for having treated him so poorly.
He wrote back. It was and remains the greatest second chance that anyone
could have ever hoped or prayed for. (It was only recently that I realized that
he, too, must have wanted a second chance with me as well.) I remain grateful
that the person who is and ever will be the most important person in my life,
the one whom I love and appreciate more than my generally undemonstrative self
tends to say or show — he wrote back. I cannot ask for more.