Showing 341 - 350 of 428 annotations tagged with the keyword "Depression"

Lying: A Metaphorical Memoir

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Apr-13-2001
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The first chapter of this memoir consists of two words: "I exaggerate." The narrator then tells us the story of her childhood and early adult experiences as an epileptic. After having her first seizure, at the age of ten, she spends a month at a special Catholic school in Topeka, Kansas, where the nuns teach epileptic children to fall without hurting themselves. This falling may or may not be literal; it is certainly symbolically apt.

During adolescence, Lauren begins lying, stealing, and faking seizures to get attention. She reveals that she has developed Munchausen's Syndrome, whose sufferers are "makers of myths that are still somehow true, the illness a conduit to convey real pain" (88). A neurologist, Dr. Neu, performs surgery severing Lauren's corpus callosum, effectively dividing her brain in half and markedly alleviating the seizure disorder.

Later she attends a writer's workshop where she begins an affair with a married man, a writer much older than she. After it ends badly, she starts going to Alcoholics Anonymous (although she does not drink) and tells her story with such authenticity that when she later confesses that she is NOT an alcoholic, no-one believes her, dismissing her true story as denial. The memoir ends both with her recognition of the value of narrating and with a silent fall to the snowy ground, as the nuns taught her to do, in the knowledge that the sense of falling (rather than the material certainty of landing) is all that is finally, reliably, real.

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Summary:

This is the second anthology from Donley and Buckley derived after many years of teaching "What's Normal?"--a literature and medicine course at Hiram College where they explore the cultural and contextual influences upon the concept of normality. With the first anthology, The Tyranny of the Normal, the editors focused on physical abnormalities (see this database for annotation). In this second anthology, the focus is exclusively on mental and behavioral deviations from societal norms. With this edition, Donley and Buckley present their case that, as with physical abnormalities, there is a similar tyranny of the normal that "dominates those who do not fit within the culture's norms for mental ability, mental health and acceptable behavior (xi)".

The anthology is divided into two parts. Part I is a collection of essays that introduce various clinical and bioethical perspectives on the subject of mental illness. These essays bring philosophic and analytic voices to the topic. Stephen Jay Gould's terrific essay on Carrie Buck and the "eugenic" movement in the United States in the early part of the 20th century illustrates one of the major themes that can be found throughout the anthology.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the majority opinion in the 8-1 Supreme Court decision that sealed Buck's fate. Gould begins his essay reminding his readers of the often referenced Holmes quote, "three generations of imbeciles are enough." He then takes us on a fascinating historical adventure that uncovers a deeper and more complicated drama that led to this unfortunate period in American history, and the tragic incarceration and sterilization of Carrie Buck.

This essay, as with other stories, poems, and drama in the anthology, contemplates the relationship between societal values and mental illness, and illustrates how society through medicine can turn to the myth of "objective" diagnostic labels as a way to compartmentalize and control behavior and imaginations that are "abnormal." D. L. Rosenhan's essay from "On Being Sane in Insane Places" further illustrates the failure of the mental illness label. Irvin Yalom's story from Love's Executioner and Other Tales of Psychotherapy provides an example of what is possible when diagnostic labels are avoided, when health care professionals with power turn with humility, curiosity, and kindness toward others, substantiating that these qualities are far more powerful than statistical notions of "normal."

Part II is a collection of fiction, poetry and drama. Intended as a complement to part I, part II engages the reader in the lived experience of the narrators. It is divided into six sections. Section one considers children and adolescent experience of mental illness. Included are Conrad Aiken's "Silent Snow, Secret Snow," an excerpt from Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted (see annotation in this database), and an excerpt from Peter Shaffer's Equus (see annotation).

Section two includes stories that capture the world of mental disability and retardation. An excerpt from Of Mice and Men and Eudora Welty's short story Lilly Daw and the Three Ladies are included. Charlotte Perkins Gilman's The Yellow Wallpaper (annotated by Felice Aull; also annotated by Jack Coulehan) is in section three where women's experiences with mental disorders is the theme (these are annotated in this database).

Section four and five focus on men and mental illness. War experience is considered in the works of Toni Morrison and Virginia Woolf. Section six concludes the anthology. Alzheimer's disease and dementia are examined in Robert Davis's My Journey into Alzheimer's Disease, and in the story, "A Wonderful Party" by Jean Wood.

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The Shell Lady's Daughter

Adler, C. S.

Last Updated: Feb-23-2001
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Kelly is torn between being "best friend" to her mother, who, though she is sprightly and lovely, seems to have withdrawn from adult relationships, and pursuing her own friendships and life at school. Her father, a pilot, is gone from home a lot of the time, so she and her mother live a fairly isolated life.

It is not until her mother is suddenly whisked off to the hospital at the end of one of the father's visits that Kelly learns there is something seriously wrong with her. No one, however, will tell her precisely what happened or what's wrong. She is sent to her grandmother's in Florida to wait out her mother's hospitalization, and for a time isn't even allowed to communicate with her mother by phone.

Eventually she learns that her mother is clinically depressed and has been suicidal. In the meantime she learns a great deal about coping with loneliness, uncertainty, and new adult relationships, with a strait-laced grandmother and a senile grandfather as well as a disabled young man, a neighbor in Florida, who takes her seriously and helps her find a new self-assurance in spite of--or perhaps in part because of--her difficult circumstances. Faced with a choice of boarding school or returning to a mother still in gradual recovery, Kelly firmly opts to live with her mother and learn about both the responsibilities and the limits of caring for a parent who needs love but not co-dependency.

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Nestus Gurley

Jarrell, Randall

Last Updated: Feb-07-2001
Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

Twice a day without fail, at dawn and in late afternoon, Nestus Gurley delivers the newspapers. The boy is a given in the narrator's life, inevitable, an almost mythic presence. While in the real world Nestus is simply an energetic lad ("He has four routes and makes a hundred dollars"), in the world of the narrator's imagination, "He delivers to me the Morning Star, the Evening Star."

One morning the boy makes a paper hat that reminds the narrator "of our days and institutions, weaving / Baskets, being bathed, receiving / Electric shocks . . . " Throughout the poem the boy's steps tap an incomplete musical motif, a motif that needs only another note or two to become a tune. But what is the tune? And why is the tune so important? Even when in his grave on the morning of Judgment Day the narrator will recognize that step and say, "'It is Nestus Gurley.'" [81 lines]

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Prozac Diary

Slater, Lauren

Last Updated: Dec-15-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

In 1988, having suffered for years from major depression and borderline personality disorder, and now also showing symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the twenty-six-year-old Lauren Slater is prescribed a new drug: Prozac. In this "diary," a series of meditations and progress reports on her experience, Slater traces ten years on Prozac, providing a remarkable before-and-after picture of the drug's effects.

She is "hobbled" by her illness: has dropped out of college, has been fired from most jobs, has been hospitalized five times. By the end of the book, she has received a doctorate from Harvard, has a successful career as writer, teacher, and psychologist, and is in a happy marriage.

Despite these unquestionable positives, Slater is ambivalent about the drug, describing the shock of becoming "normal," of being assaulted by health. She describes the sexual dysfunction, her anxiety about losing the need and ability to write the kind of poetry she had written before, and the terrifying moment when the drug suddenly stops working, and she must confront the possibility that it may not be a reliable and permanent solution.

She comes to fear that, healthy, she is no longer herself but something the drug has created. At the same time, though, it is only because of the drug that she is even able to ask these questions. Finally, she thanks her doctor for his ambiguous gift: she has become like a beautiful fish, her "skin all silver," her "mouth pierced" on Prozac, "this precious hook."

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Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

Mr. Lucas, an Englishman, is growing old. He has always wanted to visit Greece and has finally achieved this, accompanied by his unmarried daughter, Ethel, who will, it has been assumed, dedicate her life to taking care of him in his old age. In Greece, Mr. Lucas becomes restless and resistant to the idea of an expected passive, peaceful death from old age. He wants to "die fighting." Something mysterious happens: he finds a great old hollow tree from which a spring of water flows. He climbs into the tree and experiences an epiphany: he suddenly sees all things as "intelligible and good."

But when the rest of his party find him, he is oddly repelled by them. He does not feel that anyone can share the revelation he has experienced, and he becomes afraid that if he leaves the place he will lose the feeling himself. He decides not to leave, and says he plans to stay at an inn near the old tree, but the others are horrified, and force him to leave with them.

Back in England, some time later, Ethel is now about to be married. Mr. Lucas has become a perpetually disgruntled old man, complaining about everything (especially the sound of water in the plumbing--the mystical Greek spring has been reduced to this annoyance--he says, "there’s nothing I dislike more than running water"). His sister, Julia, whom he hates, is going to take care of him once Ethel is married.

Then a gift arrives from a friend in Greece, wrapped in a Greek newspaper. In it Ethel reads the news that on the night they left, the old tree was blown down, and fell on the family who kept the inn nearby, killing them all. Ethel is upset, and says how lucky it was that they hadn’t stayed there that night, calling it a "marvellous deliverance," but Mr. Lucas dismisses the story without interest. He no longer cares.

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Come Lady Death

Beagle, Peter

Last Updated: Nov-29-2000
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

England in the 18th century. The wealthy Lady Neville finds that she has become sad and bored with life. So she arranges an elaborate ball and decides to invite Death as the guest of honor. To be invited, Death must first be found. After discussion about whether Death lives among the rich or the poor, Lady Neville remembers that her hairdresser’s child is dying, so she gives him the invitation to pass on when death arrives.

Two days later the heartbroken hairdresser arrives with a note of acceptance. All agree that Death’s handwriting looks feminine, but when the hairdresser will not describe the source of the note, Lady Neville has him whipped and thrown out.

At the ball, the guests become increasingly fearful until Death arrives, late, in the form of a beautiful young woman. Everyone falls in love with her. When she says she has to leave, they beg her to stay, and she says she will, if they’re sure. They are, so she says that she must now choose someone to take her place as immortal Death.

After a careful (and revealing) process of selection, Death chooses Lady Neville herself, concluding that one who could treat her hairdresser so heartlessly would take on the role well, since it is clear that only she knows "how meaningless it is to be alive." The story ends as Death kisses Lady Neville--and they, presumably, change roles.

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Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Journal

Summary:

This memoir of a clinical psychologist (also a professor of psychology) chronicles her own depression over a period of a year and a half, from early symptoms, through near despair, electroconvulsive therapy, and hospitalization to recovery. The journey is detailed, not only in its treatment of her emotional states, but of her struggle to maintain family and professional life, keep her house and office organized, and attend to a dying friend.

As her bouts of panic and disorientation grow more apparent, first to herself and finally to others, she seeks refuge in spiritual retreats and in conversation with colleagues, ultimately submitting to treatment. She names the emotional "undercurrents" suggested in the book's title with moving precision: panic over sudden disorientation, anxiety about what to keep secret, frustration with her own unreliability, dread of small duties and ordinary appointments, heartache over her faltering efforts to be a good and present mother.

The consent to hospitalization costs a great deal in humility, in risking a controversial treatment, and in letting go of a professional persona she doesn't know whether she'll be able to retrieve. But clearly the book is written by a woman whose clarity is a testimony to regained mental health and exceptional intellectual clarity. It is not a professional record, but an intensely personal memoir of what was both an encounter with serious mental illness and a spiritual journey.

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So Much to Tell You

Marsden, John

Last Updated: Nov-08-2000
Annotated by:
McEntyre, Marilyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel for Young Adults

Summary:

Marina, a fourteen-year-old recently transferred from a mental hospital to a boarding school, can't speak. Her muteness is a reaction to trauma; in a moment of fury at her mother, her father threw photographic acid in the car window and, instead of hitting his wife, hit his daughter's face. Severely scarred, both inside and outside, resentful of her mother and bewildered by her father's pain, anger, and now imprisonment for assault, she records her daily life tentatively in a journal assigned, but not read by, a favorite English teacher at her new school.

The girls in her dorm have been apprised of her problem and treat her mostly with respect, but only one of them is fully able to keep making the moves that open a door to friendship. Despite Marina's silence, even in sessions with the school counselor, she begins to heal as she makes her journal (the text of the story) a safe place, allows herself to be included in the family lives of her teacher and friend, and finally summons the courage to visit her father, with whom she retrieves the language she needs, finding, as the title suggests, she has "so much to tell him."

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Annotated by:
Bertman, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Criticism

Summary:

Peppered with a plethora of black and white stills, this book is a compilation of a physician's film reviews and reflections on how movies have mirrored the changes in medical care and in society's attitudes towards doctors and medicine over the last sixty years. Ten chapters blend a chronological approach with a thematic perspective: Hollywood Goes to Medical School; The Kindly Savior:

From Doctor Bull to Doc Hollywood; Benevolent Institutions; The Temple of Science; "Where are All the Women Doctors?"; Blacks, the Invisible Doctors; The Dark Side of Doctors; The Institutions Turn Evil; The Temple of Healing; More Good Movie Doctors and Other Personal Favorites.

The appendices (my favorite) briefly note recurring medical themes and stereotypes ("You have two months to live," "Boil the Water!"). Formatted as a filmography, the appendices reference the chapter number in which the film is discussed, the sources of the photographs, and a limited index.

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