Silver lining


In the worst of my major depressive episodes, I experienced severe anhedonia, the reduced motivation and ability to experience pleasure. Nothing felt good, or sounded good, or looked good, or tasted good, and so nothing seemed worth pursuing. Getting through my days of travel and work and social obligations – even just brushing my teeth – was a sheer effort of will.

I’ve been on a medication protocol for the last year or so that has led to substantial improvements, and the last tweak came in late January. By mid-February I was feeling more stabilized and “normal” – running felt good, coffee tasted good, my husband’s laughter sounded good.

Then Covid-19 happened.

Quarantine of course magnifies mental health struggles, and I know that as the lockdowns continue, mental health issues across the board are becoming a larger part of the conversation. I’m glad that this topic has entered the broader public discourse, and in that I’m finding a small silver lining.

People who had never experienced the kind of anxiety and depression that have accompanied our isolation all of a sudden find themselves understanding, from a deeply personal perspective, what it must be like to live with those conditions year-in, year-out as many of us have. The more people personally experience mental health issues, a more profound understanding, from a societal perspective, is possible.

I bring this ups because in the last few weeks I’ve felt the anhedonia return, like a familiar fog. And in the past I would be resigned to the discomfort of that feeling, and do whatever I could to keep present and engaged despite it. These days, however, when I describe it to my friends who haven’t experienced mental health issues the past, they now respond with their own feelings of listlessness and the diminishment of joy.

They are now coming from a place of experience and understanding, because they have lived these feelings. And so I feel heard and understood in a way that previously didn’t feel possible; my friends find in me a lifetime of experience and the assurance that there is a way to work through it, to come out the other side intact.

I’ll take any bit of positivity these days, and the thought that we can come out of this mess with increased compassion for each other is sustaining me.

Have you found yourself looking at mental illness in a different light since quarantine began?

My task today: to start my blog post before 6 pm. Didn’t quite make it, so I’m going to make it my task tomorrow as well (not done!)

7 thoughts on “Silver lining

  1. Thanks for your honesty. As a writer, I spend a lot of time alone on a regular basis, which creates its own type of anxiety and even depression.In an odd sense, this time is easier because I know I’m not the only one with these feelings. I sort of dread going back to the old ways, because once again, I’ll be at home while everyone else is out socializing at the office. Strange, that.

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    1. Let me give an example of a clinical case. I’m following a patient (I’m gonna call him John) at home who is losing his short term memory. He’s a musician and is now about 77. His best friend lives in Woodstock (Ontario) and was the former keyboardist of a certain Janis Joplin. They (patient, his twin sister Wendy and his friend who lives in Ontario) lived in the 60’s in SF near the famous streets (Haight something-sorry for the blank) where was the hippie movement. John now lives with his twin sister Wendy.
      Wendy is suffering from schizophrenia since she is young but she is always a happy soul. She usually goes to a place called PAL (acronym) but it is now closed because of covid-19. She was also going to the public library but it is closed as well for now. I can see that she is still a happy soul but less than usually. Her brother was of course the first one to notice it. I know both of them since about 9 years.
      That being said I can say that I found myself looking at the mental illness in a different light since quarantine began. This is why I wanted to mention this case.
      Mental health issues have a broad spectrum. I appreciate Maestra your opening and the confidence you put in us by telling us about your mental health. I wished that the bâton you use as a conductor could be used as a magic wand. I would right away use it to heal you but it doesn’t work this way. I agree that Compassion to each other is a win-win output. When your are writing down your posts it does help me at the same time. I then at least try to be a better human being by trying to listen and to increase my awareness about mental health’s problems. I sincerely hope the protocol you are following will keep improving and help you as much as possible.

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      1. At the same time that I was writing this comment on your May 5th post blog I was listening radio host Pénélope McQuade on Radio-Canada (95.1FM from 9-11:30 EST Monday to Friday). She was interviewing Sophie Grégoire (wife of our prime minister of Canada Justin Trudeau). Sophie was talking about her recent covid-19 episode and her life long struggling with mental health problem (eating disorder like bulimia). Pénéloppe was then talking about her own depression problem since a long time. They were both exchanging about mental issues during this present covid-19 time. Interesting. It gives me another pov on the present quarantine & mental health issues’ broad spectrum.
        Personally me & my wife we chose to don’t have the cable anymore. It is a personal choice we (me & my tender half wife) have made since 3 years. We don’t have the time to watch all those shows on Netflix and/or the cable. We finally gave our 55 inches Samsung led tv to my brother-in-law. His in-laws mother and father arrived from Cambodia and live in the basement. He has 2 children (6 and 1 year old). That gesture help us to be compassionate about them. My wife is Buddhist too. We then rely more on the radio and internet. Compassion&Resilience are closely linked for the better. Keep up posted Sarah about your feelings. We’re all ears to at least try to help out without judging. Love toward each others as human beings is a very powerful tool. We collectively need it to cope and made sure we thrive for the best.

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  2. Wayne Zelenak says:

    Sarah, as a writer you have a great way of expressing yourself in a clear and concise way. Your journey through to fog of mental illness has similar ringtones I’m familiar with. Most people I know are not as comfortable with discussing their feelings unless in private with a trusted psychologist. The videos of Musical Mystery are deceiving because of your ability to hide your inner feelings, which are constant and only you know their depth and when you’re most vulnerable.

    I am finding that being quarantined, my friends are being more compassionate and finding time to make contact in different ways. One friend whom I haven’t spoken with for some time sent me a beautiful postcard with an eloquent quote about nature, one of my favorite passions. She and her children are making face masks for all their friends and relatives and mailing them. She has made over 100 masks with her children, which is her way of showing kindness and compassion. She sent me two of them for my wife and myself.

    I heard a story on the news, of a part of the country where a lot of Amish live, many of the quarantined who have lost their jobs recently are now working as a community to make protective clothing available for medical staff in hospitals who are having difficulty getting proper protection against COVID19. Helping their community has always been a virtue for the Amish.

    Uncertainty about the future and self-worth has increased dramatically in these trying times resulting in a bevy of mental illness and anxiety issues. One of my greatest passions is listening to my music on my earbuds while texting or blogging. The music takes me to another realm where feelings are spoken in notes, melodies, and tones. Most of my friends don’t share the depth of joy music brings me. Early morning for me, is when things become crystal clear introspectively. I wish you safety and relief from your bouts with anhedonia and as always I hope my comments are helpful from a virtual friend who listens and understands in a profound way.
    W

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  3. Sarah to finish I’ve got some more little big ideas.
    I’ll write them on this post blog. If these ideas make a fool of myself then it is no problemo. If it helps a little bit to get you out of your present anhedonia then I would be more than happy. I wrote these ideas on a tiny piece of paper last Sunday. I’m off today. Here we go:
    . We have a GP here (Dre Marie-Ève Morin) who is a DJ over the week-end as a side line. She is not doing it right now because of the covid-19. Does it exist a DJ Maestra? I’m serious, Sarah. It could be a mixture of classical musics and/or movies’ music scores and maybe even more hybridization of some type. Could it be recorded in a studio without audience and then sell them on a platform or other kind of platforms? Never forget that Maestro Ennio Morricone was a professional trumpet player at the beginning of his long career before becoming almost by accident the iconic music scores’ composer for films we’ve been knowing for years.
    . We have a show here at Radio-Canada called ‘Ahjourd’hui l’Histoire or Today’s History’. It lasts 30 minutes and sometimes 60 minutes from Monday to Friday. They talked about anything in regard of History (The Callas, Cleopatra, the American revolution, Mozart, Beethoven, 49ers in football, baseball, hockey, …). The host is receiving 1 or 2 persons who know a lot about the topic. Sometimes it is even a historian or a specialist. That radio show won roughly 2 months ago a prestigious prize in New York, New York for the francophilie audience in America. The concept could be bought & then adapted on radio for the USA market. I’ll send you and interesting episode of +- 20-30 minutes (.in a pm on Messenger. Don’t stress about going there. You take the time you need. No rush. Pleasure only, Sarah). ‘Aujourd’hui l’Histoire’ made a fascinating episode about an iconic couple of Jewish Russian musicians who founded “i Musici” in Montréal and the concept is today worldwide. Catherine Perrin (the professional clavecinist and radio host and sometimes tv host that I told you about was the guess artist to talk about these two great musicians she knew personally and worked with. They indeed were a key part of her professional success at the beginning of her career).
    . I treated a Nippon lady last September and her husband was from Seoul. They have a girl who is about 13-15. She was reading a comics book about sushi called ‘L’art du sushi’. She said it was pretty well done and everyone can learn from it even Japanese. There was even receipes at the end of the book. I’ve then gone on the French web site (www.planetebd.com) from Angoulême in France. They rate comics (bandes dessinées in French. It is not only about Batman, Tintin,… which is ok but there is much more like one called “Mozart in Paris”. It is far from being childish. No, no, no.). I had a look about ‘L’art du sushi’. They rate the scenario, sketches/colours and then give a final rating. I think it could be possible, Sarah, to develop it for the classical music, music scores for movies and/or even more stuff that you like and/or think people would love. Sky’s the limit and this idea could be a spark to even develop other concept.s You might need an illustrator. As a master class teacher at the prestigious Curtis Institute, you might even have fresh new ideas to develop in collaboration with them.
    -> We must be creative. It is a corollary of the resilience. They both work likes 2 best friends would do.
    . In collaboration with Curtis you could also develop some 5-10 min. videos on the history of music (classical, movies,…) and other neat concept and sell them on platforms and/or cd, usb,…
    . To finish what about tutorials about music (classical, movie, history of music,…) and sell them on Youtube, Apple,…
    -30- for now.

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