Showing 231 - 240 of 431 annotations tagged with the keyword "Depression"

The Year of Magical Thinking

Didion, Joan

Last Updated: Jan-30-2006
Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

Joan Didion has written a very personal, powerful, and clear-eyed account of her husband's sudden and unexpected death as it occurred during the time their unconscious, hospitalized daughter was suffering from septic shock and pneumonia.

Quintana, the couple's 24-year-old adopted child, has been the object of their mutual care and worry. That John Gregory Dunne, husband and father, writer and sometime collaborator, should collapse from a massive, fatal coronary on the night before New Year's Eve at the small dinner table in their New York City apartment just after their visit with Quintana can be regarded as an unspeakable event, beyond ordinary understanding and expression. "Life changes fast . . . in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends" (3).

As overwhelming as these two separate catastrophes are, the account provided by Didion evokes extraordinary descriptions of the emotional and physical disorientations experienced by this very lucid, but simultaneously stunned and confused wife, mother, writer dealing with the shock of change. Her writing conveys universal grief and loss; she spins a sticky filament around the reader who cannot separate him or herself from the yearlong story of difficult, ongoing adjustment.

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Self-Portrait

Van Gogh, Vincent

Last Updated: Jan-26-2006
Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Oil on canvas

Summary:

Vincent Van Gogh stares at the viewer from behind steely eyes, his face turned at a three-quarter view. His skin, pallid and yellowed, gives him a slightly jaundiced look. He wears a short red beard that rises to meet the red hair on his head. Intense brush strokes and slathered paint carve out his facial features; the strokes' fury subsides only within Van Gogh's eyes.

He wears a blue cape tied around his neck, the right side of which is painted as distinctly separate from a background of similar color. The other side of his cape more easily fades into the patterned blue background that swirls like a whirlpool around Van Gogh's head. A painter's palette dabbed with various paints occupies the foreground.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

When their young son dies from kidney failure, Stewart and Sharon Mackaney funnel their grief into a business--transporting donated organs for transplant patients. Sharon has put on weight and not cut her long hair since the death of her child, Matthew. The fortyish woman likes to read about vertebrate organs in a worn copy of Gray's Anatomy. She totes a red cooler on her trips crisscrossing the country. Inside of it is a precious organ--a kidney, liver, or pancreas.

Sharon spends lots of time in airplanes, hotels, and bars. Although they continue to share a house, she and her husband have been estranged since Matthew's death three years earlier. Stew suffers from irritable bowel syndrome and chronic flatulence that began at his son's funeral and has not improved a bit despite psychiatric treatment.

Stew and Sharon receive an award for their work as organ transporters. During a speech at the fundraising event, Sharon criticizes the audience for hoarding their kidneys. On returning home, she spends time in Matthew's bedroom and later has a variation of the recurrent nightmare that has plagued her since her son's death. Sharon dreams that her hair is gone, and she rises, unencumbered, until reaching the ozone layer where she is incinerated.

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The Sick Wife

Kenyon, Jane

Last Updated: Oct-04-2005
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Poet Jane Kenyon, very ill with leukemia (from which she died after a 15 month illness), describes what it is like to be so weakened by illness that she prefers to wait in the car while her husband buys the groceries. She is aware of how weak, helpless, and out of place she is--a middle aged woman, sitting in the car in a parking lot in the middle of the day--"she had learned what it's like / not to be able to button a button." She watches enviously as those around her--"even the old and relatively infirm"--scurry about "with such freedom" and drive off in their cars "so briskly . . . ."

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Homework

Livesey, Margot

Last Updated: Oct-03-2005
Annotated by:
Ratzan, Richard M.

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Celia Gilchrist is an editor in London who is in her thirties waiting for the right man. She meets Lewis, clearly (at least clearly to everyone else in the novel and the reader but not, typically, to Celia) a cad and a womanizer. About the time she realizes this, she receives and accepts a job offer in Edinburgh where she promptly meets Stephen, who is separated from his wife, Helen--a Helen as elusive and mysterious as the Helen of Troy, and also as powerful to affect the lives of others, especially men--and their nine-year-old child, Jenny. Despite Celia's valiant effort to get to know and accept Jenny, Celia and Jenny do not get along. From the very first chapter, which is a flash-forward, to the last page, Celia encounters accidents, lies, damage to her personal property, from dresses to sweaters to jewelry--all when Jenny is in the vicinity. The ending is cataclysmic.

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Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The narrator suffers from depression and a pain in the right side beneath his ribs. Surgery will be performed at his home by Dr. Haddon and Dr. Mowbray, but the narrator worries that he might die during the operation. During an afternoon nap on the day before surgery, he dreams of death and resurrection. Chloroform is administered prior to the operation, but the narrator continues to be aware of everything taking place.

He can see into the minds of the surgeons and learns that Dr. Haddon is afraid of inadvertently cutting a vein. Almost on cue, the vein is slashed and hemorrhaging occurs. The narrator has a near-death experience associated with an extraordinary clarity of perception. He senses movement upward - beyond his body, beyond the town, and beyond the world. He believes his soul is streaming through space past the solar system and nearby constellations.

His impression of absolute serenity is eventually replaced by a sensation of loneliness. All matter becomes condensed into a single point of light, then a fuzzy glow, and finally the image of a colossal hand clenching a rod. A faint sound punctures the silence followed by a voice proclaiming, "There will be no more pain" (63). He awakens and sees the surgeon standing next to the rail of the bed. The narrator has not only survived the operation, but his pain and melancholy are vanquished.

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Your Sightless Days

Monette, Paul

Last Updated: Aug-26-2005
Annotated by:
Shafer, Audrey

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Paul Monette wrote about his partner's life and death with AIDS in both prose (Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, see this database) and poetry. This poem, a lyric elegy to Roger Horwitz, concerns Roger's loss of sight despite treatments for cytomegalovirus infection. It is a love poem; Monette's devotion to Roger is unbounded. If Roger cannot see, then the poet wishes not to see--this is empathy to the fullest degree.

When, in the up and down course of the visual problems, Roger can suddenly, temporarily see, then Monette gleefully cries, "I toss my blinders and drink the world like water." The poem contains numerous references to sight, light, and eyes, such as "blacked out windows / like an air raid," "peer impish intent as a hawk," and "I'm shut tight Oedipus-old."

This constant stream of images and the unpunctuated, no-place-to- relax-and-catch-your-breath rhythm of the poem leads the reader through the suffering and uncertainties and into the final lines--the mourning for Roger. Grief is loneliness; it is the desperate ache of MISSING someone. Monette feels isolated from "the sighted fools"--he yearns for Roger, who, through it all and despite feeling like Job, could "hoot on the phone / and wrestle the dog so the summer was still / the summer."

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Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Anthology (Poems)

Summary:

This anthology of "healing poems" is designed, according to the editors, "to find readers who might not usually read poetry." They say it should also be read "by those sitting in waiting rooms in surgeries and outpatients' clinics." These are definitely large tasks to expect this small collection of poems to accomplish, but in a different world (for example, a world in which people believed in the power of poetry to heal), this particular anthology would have a good shot at becoming a standard waiting room fixture.

The therapeutic intervention is well thought out. The editors have arranged the book into eight sections, each containing poems that exemplify a different theme, or situation, or style of treatment. The sections include: Admissions, Poems to Make You Feel Better, What It Feels Like, For Those We Love, The Language of Pain, Healing Rhythms, Body Parts, and Talking to the Dead. There is considerable overlap among these categories, because good poems speak several languages and can't be pinned down to a single feature. However, the classification does serve a heuristic purpose. It is another way to hook the reader, by choosing a topic he or she likes; once inside the covers, the reader may explore at will without regard to categories.

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The Mental Status Exam

Campo, Rafael

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
Henderson, Schuyler

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Sonnet

Summary:

One of Campo's projects has been to interrogate the methods used by physicians to understand patients. These methods can be expertly employed to hone in on certain diseases and pathologies, but can also come with a price, most notably a blindness to that patient's experience and personhood. Campo's message might be, It's hard to see the big picture through a microscope.

In this sonnet, he turns to the mental status exam. The inadequacy of a dualist perspective of mind and brain and the reductionism of simple interpretations are the starting point. Campo then turns to several questions from the Feinstein mental status exam (remembering three objects, interpreting a phrase, etc.). Ever attuned to the life of being a physician, Campo has captured the embarrassed way in which many of the (very simple) questions are asked ("Just two more silly questions").

He does grant the divergence of mental experience, with the reminder that the mind is "timeless, dizzy, unscrupulous" as well as "sometimes only dimly lit," and acknowledges the limits of the mental status exam, one in which a certain type of memory is tested (three objects) but not another (that the patient might sing).

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Jordan's End

Glasgow, Ellen

Last Updated: Aug-15-2005
Annotated by:
Miksanek, Tony

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

The physician-narrator recounts two unsettling house calls made three decades earlier when he began his medical practice in a remote part of Virginia. The doctor is asked to see Alan Jordan at the request of his wife, Judith. They live with their son and three elderly female relatives in a deteriorating house on a secluded estate known as Jordan's End. The Jordan clan is notorious for marrying their own relatives, but Alan wedded someone outside the family.

Judith is beautiful, and in the doctor's eyes, ethereal. Alan's infirmity began 3 years ago with brooding and melancholy but has now progressed to episodes of withdrawal alternating with agitation. A renowned psychiatrist from Baltimore evaluates Alan, deems his condition incurable, and recommends institutionalization.

Mental illness and insanity--the result of heredity and inbreeding--seem to affect all the Jordan men. Alan's grandfather and two uncles are in an asylum. His father died in one. After the narrator examines Alan, he gives Judith a bottle of opiate medication to help ease her husband's restlessness.

The doctor is soon called back to Jordan's End. He finds Alan's dead body in bed covered by a linen sheet and notices that the full bottle of medicine he left only two nights previously is now empty. The doctor cannot decide whether or not Judith has killed her husband nor does he really want to know.

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