An Account of My Depression in Southern France
I am currently 59 years old. I started working at a semi-familiar company with international customers and wrote my first novel at age 23, and did some law and English linguistics. Then, after a series of heart strokes, I worked in computerized billing at a transport business. Thanks to that, I did a remunerated computer training for 8 months and undertook several jobs for a couple of years.
At one point, I held a job working for a newspaper in the French Pyrenees for six years. Once every week we would work one night in addition to the working day. I had a heart condition and for this reason only did 22 hours on end on such long working days. Eventually I got so exhausted I fainted and could no longer work.
In December 1991, I was diagnosed with depression and started taking antidepressants, tranquillizers and sleeping pills. I was put on a long sick leave for three years and during this time did an interesting psychotherapy based on several cycles of some sort of rebirth therapy, noticeably through the existential, living and social layers of psychic development. Some odd things happened in the meantime. I would be unable to lace my shoes. I dangerously burned myself with an electric heating pad, unaware that I was burning. It was as though I were in a vegetative state, and for a long year was unable to write simple letters. I struggled with agoraphobia, as well.
In 1994, I was declared disabled and settled in Toulouse. A sleeping disorder and vigilance specialist and a psychotherapist resumed my treatment, and have been doing so until now in mid 2013. In this process it appeared I didn’t have a reactive depression but a major depression. Besides my heart treatment, my psychotropic medical treatment consists of two Effexor and one Abilify in the mornings, Victan as a tranquilizer, and at night two Norset and a sleeping pill, Zopiclone.
In 1997, my former boss came to see me in Toulouse. He invited me to a restaurant and told me that I would be welcomed back at the newspaper again. He conveyed that he understood that none of what had happened to me was of my own making but to a great extent the result of the crazy hours the newspaper kept. But it was already too late, because my major depression had become awfully difficult to handle.
In the late 1990’s, I was able to live with a New York retiree here in Toulouse, take some trips, be more active, and indeed write. But in late 2000 we split up, and since then I've been living alone. In principle, given that retirement age for my generation is close to 62 years, I will become a retiree in late 2014.
Because I was a smoker, I developed lung cancer which required surgery. I had a successful left inferior lobectomy and haven’t needed chemotherapy or radiotherapy. I just wish major depression could be healed with the same efficiency. Sometimes, yes, I manage to go out with a few great friends or enjoy long stays with my mother, but this is a very treacherous illness and as soon as I am alone I go down the tubes. Since I live on a modest disability pension with rent relief and my mother’s help, I manage to get along economically, and I must be grateful I only have to send a form every three months, so I am not otherwise subject to inspections.
Not long ago, a non-profit had invited me to run a writing workshop, but I had to let it go because the ups and downs of my illness made it too difficult to handle. So I really can’t work, not even for my pleasure, and I keep being subject to agoraphobia so the shortest walk on my own becomes hell. I need to be in the company of a friend to enjoy a walk.
I have given up the hope that I will be able to know a true life in the company of a woman I would love. The only person who is ready to share my ordeal so far is my mother and I plan to live with her. I still hope to build a circle of friends thru which to enliven my relationships and enrich my own life.