September 30, 2002

A Taste of my Own Medicine

I should really be more careful of what I ask for.

It started out innocently enough, my browsing the most recent topics for the Random Acts of Journaling project.
Finally, I had it narrowed down to two choices:

One was a commentary on this photograph:

tree. duh.

I know it's a tree (duh) but looking at it a little longer, it seems to become a lung.
Upside down.
The structure is amazingly parallel: the trunk corresponds to the bronchi, which keep dividing into smaller and smaller branches, ending not in leaves but in alveoli, the tiny air sacs where oxygen transfers directly into blood capillaries and carbon dioxide goes the opposite way.

And then there's the respiration thing, where a tree (or any plant) really does the breathing for Mother Earth.

I was probably going to write about that.

The other possibility was this random passage from a book:

There are two types of mates. There are the new friends you make later in life, when you're older. People you've got something in common with. People whose company you enjoy. It's fresh and exciting, you can meet them for a cappuccino, have them over for meals. You like them. And you can really talk to them, about feelings and all that.

And there are the old friends, the ones you were brought up with, who go further back than you remember, who've been there since the beginning. You didn't choose them they're like family. Like blood. You never see them anymore because they've all moved off in different directions, gone their separate ways, but you'd still walk under a bus for them, willingly, if they asked. You don't make friends like that again. It's just that one time the time before you remember or it's never at all.
-Simon Armitage, Little Green Man

I disagree with this. I think it's possible to make walking-under-a-bus friends at any point in life.
Furthermore, my friendships from before-I-can-remember are pretty much forgotten.
I would walk under a bus for Annie, whom I've written about occasionally; Esther, who understands my antisocial ways and doesn't take it personally; and of course Stephanie.

Which brings me back to the topic of this entry.

When I came across the "Exercise", (below) it looked like something Stephanie and I had discussed numerous times in email, but here she'd have to play both roles.
So being the wonderful friend that I am, I emailed her suggesting that she try it.
At first she gracefully declined so imagine my surprise when her entry turned up the very next day!
Especially since nobody (hardly ever) takes my advice.

Then the awful truth became apparent.

If she did it - I had to as well.

So here I am.
I'll try to keep it short. (I know, it's already too late for that!)

This entry is my contribution for September to the Random Acts of Journaling Webring/Collab.

Topic: Exercise

Put yourself on trial. You are your own persecutor (sic) and defender. Pick one (or more) things about which you feel guilty, and present your cases.

There's really not a whole lot I feel guilty about. Not because I'm perfect (!) but because I don't believe in guilt. It's a tremendous waste of energy and I have little enough of that to spare after fighting depression and inertia.

I especially don't believe in parental guilt but that's a whole other tangent towards which I really shouldn't go now or this entry will never get done!

(Of course my own mother is the exception to that rule. Yes, I know, no tangents.)

I'm reminded of a conversation I had with my stepmother, years ago, in regard to her feelings about bringing up her daughters as a young widow after her first husband died of a viral disease.
She kept saying things like, "I gave them this or that because I felt bad that they had no father."
After awhile I became exasperated and asked her, "WHY did you feel bad? Did you murder him?"

You can imagine the look I got for that one.

OK OK back to me...

There is only one possible issue for me to write about here, and that is the circumstances surrounding my leaving graduate school in 1975.
And that's not even anything I did to anyone else, unless you count my parents who were fit to be tied.
My father got over it (I think) but I don't know if my mother ever did.
I was afraid to ask.

I dropped out only months before graduation because of what I now know was a significant depressive episode.
I simply could not continue.
I was non-functional.
Every time I went to school I would sit there and cry.
I felt trapped and frustrated and overwhelmed and incompetent and terrified.

The powers-that-were shipped me right over to the Health Service, where a psychiatrist put me on anti-depressants.
I didn't think I was depressed - depression to me meant sadness and I was everything BUT sad.
Still, I took the pills and took some time off to decide my future.

I knew I wasn't going back.
I didn't enjoy the course, never did. It never felt right.
It wasn't where I belonged.
I should have bailed out early but didn't want to be a "quitter".

My mother handled it according to her gut instinct.
She tried to bribe me to go back.
That is probably the biggest thing I can't forgive her for, her total lack of even trying to understand what I was going through.
After offering me a car if I graduated didn't work, she tried guilt.
That worked a bit better. It didn't achieve the desired result but the guilt stuck with me.
She said I'd feel like a loser all my life.
She said (or implied) I was damaged goods.
I believed her and lived accordingly for the next 25 years or so.

I dropped out, got a nice non-challenging job in a hospital lab and thought my then-boyfriend was doing me a big favour by marrying me.
We never discussed it but we had an understanding not to tell the kids about this part of my life.
I could not explain to anyone, much less myself, why I dropped out. I guess I figured it was a character flaw or something, until I learned more about depression.
To this day the kids don't know.
(Unless they or their friends read this. Duh again.)
Very few people whom I've met since 1975 know, but Annie and Stephanie do.

I realize this doesn't strictly fit the format of the "exercise" but all the elements are here. The "persecutor" (a more apt term than prosecutor, really!) would say that I am a self-destructive loser, unworthy of anyone's respect, who quit on a whim, probably to get back at my parents and ruined my life in the process.
Pretty much what my mother said.
The defense is covered above.

Since I don't have the advantage of Judge Judy on my team, as Stephanie does, a jury will have to decide the verdict, and the jury is still out.

There is only one dissenting vote to their not-guilty verdict:


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