After almost two years, my arbitration remains unresolved, but I’m going ahead with the healing process. I shift my perspective. The practice of shifting perspective on my history of depression and anxiety puts me at ease.
The first time I saw my depression recognized, it was on an 8 ½ by 11 piece of paper that had arrived in a business envelope. I was living in Fort Worth, Texas, and preparing to resume an M.Div. program at Brite Theological Seminary. A routine evaluation indicated a significant drop in my “energy level” compared to 2 ½ years before, when I had left for Argentina. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)) would pay for psychotherapy.
I was scared—not of the depression, which, like an old couch, was easy to sink into, but scared that someone cared enough to see it named and remedied. I was also curious.
I looked at the tall stack of theology books I’d bought for my Fall classes. I did not want to read a single one of them.
The therapist suggested I take Effexor, to jumpstart my mood, she said–to take the edge off. Effexor made me feel even edgier, as if I couldn’t respond to gravity. Plus, it interfered with sleep.
The therapist cut out an ad for an M.A. in Women’s Studies.
I loved Sarah Lawrence College and New York City, but my depression didn’t disappear. A therapist in the SLC counseling center prescribed Prozac. I hated it. The therapist said I was healthy enough for psychoanalysis and told me how I could do it affordably.
For five years, I lay on the analyst’s couch 4 days a week. When I taught K-12 Spanish, I met her at her office in White Plains at 6:00 am. Like a gentle voice in my head, she sat behind me.
While in psychoanalysis, I functioned well enough—I got married and taught Spanish. I maintained steady progress towards my PhD while I grieved my brother’s death.
With my psychoanalyst, I finally talked about the depression and anorexia I endured as an adolescent: an asshole in the hallway had grabbed my crotch, hard, while I was trying to get to math class. Before, talking about it was not a possibility. There was no language for that–no #MeToo. Shame was the only language, and I didn’t want anyone to discover my shame.
What saved me during those years—8th to 11th grades—was my grand piano.
Thank god my teacher assigned me a powerful Grieg concerto in G minor. I didn’t master the concerto, but I could hit the right notes, and my unacknowledged anger flowed into those giant chords. I hammered my Young Chang for four hours a day. My right shoulder ached. My parents made sacrifices to buy the Young Chang, but none of us knew it would save me.
When we direct anger inward, it makes us depressed, and that can kill us. But feminine anger, outwardly expressed, is not lady like, not nice, not professional. Boys learn to direct their anger outwardly (boys will be boys). Men have a right to anger. Our society punishes displays of feminine anger, and I didn’t need punishment.
My current piano teacher says for a small lady, I have a heavy touch. She is teaching me to play lightly.
I’m learning a gentle Baroque Sarabande in G Major. It is from Bach’s 5th French Suite. Murray Perahia (whom I saw perform in Western Illinois University’s Grand Ball Room in the 80s) says G Major is the “tender” key. Practicing the Sarabande (link to Perahia’s recording), I feel that all shall be well.