The Other Me

The Other Me

‘Life’s Short Interruption: Part II’

When we’d first gotten together, Allie lamented she hadn’t been around when I’d suffered from depression and anxiety when I was younger, as she believed she would’ve helped me through it.

It was a romantic notion.

Allie’s own mother occasionally suffered from anxiety and depression. This should’ve given Allie some understanding of how debilitating the conditions can be, but often it’s the people closest to the sufferer who have the hardest time understanding it.

When her mother went through another episode, Allie’s initial attitude disgusted me. She’d ask, Why can’t she just get over it? I tried to explain that when this thing hit, it didn’t matter how strong you were, it would take you out. Allie insisted if she ever suffered from neurosis, she wouldn’t let it dominate her the way it did her mother – or me. I told her it wasn’t that easy. She didn’t believe me.

Her whole family had a similar attitude. They argued about how they’d proceed and help their mum. Obviously – and understandably – they were scared and confused, but I could imagine provincial attitudes and naivety pulling their mum apart. They seemed to equate her condition with the severity of a cold – something to be tolerated, and if you let it get you down, you weren’t very strong.

But maybe they were just reflective of general attitudes, that anxiety was no more than worrying, and it was something you could brave through; and that depression was just feeling down, and something you could pluck yourself out of.

Allie herself ranted about the inconvenience her mother caused her, which would’ve been true enough – Allie was a single mother with lots of responsibilities, and yet she was constantly driving her mother to one appointment or another. Allie was sympathetic, but not empathetic.

Often, she would ring me and quiz me about what her mother was going through, or what doctors were recommending, particularly in regards to medication. She said that her mother was surprised Allie had become such an expert in the field of anxiety. And there were times their decisions were based on information I offered. Allie rang me one Saturday evening when I was on a train coming home from the football, and said she was at a twenty-four hour clinic with her mum, and the doctor was suggesting Zoloft – what was it? I told her it was an antidepressant, like Aropax, that it would have to be taken daily, and would take a couple of weeks to get into her system before it had an effect. Allie and her family decided (at that time) they didn’t want to go down that route.

Allie marvelled at how much I knew from experience, how I wasn’t reliant on medication, and how I survived without it. I said I was a lot wiser, and the times I’d needed medication were because of troughs, as opposed to a general state of being. But in expressing her astonishment, I got the impression she thought I was always like this, that my stuff was always lurking there, threatening to disable me in everyday life.

Gradually, her attitude toward her mum improved. Allie looked into alternative treatments, drove her wherever she needed to go, and even to the emergency room several times when she had negative reactions to various antidepressants. She went through four of them, until a psychologist did put her on Zoloft. She then improved quickly, and with minimal initial side effects.

It was ultimately a good learning curve for Allie. Seeing somebody else go through this seemed to give neurosis a veracity Allie had previously struggled to comprehend, and it wasn’t something that was simplistically just black or white. I was ultimately with all the effort she put in, but for whatever reasons I could fault Allie, I couldn’t fault her heart – she would go out of her way to help somebody she was close to.

Maybe there was hope.

Or maybe that was just something I was hoping for.