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 still.)
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 that price.
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. 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 years after.)
• If someone, such as a psychologist, suggests that you are depressed, believe her/him.
• 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 outside oneself).
• 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. I had just 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.