Downside of advantage (2)
Archived Articles 02 Dec 2008 Eva VabasaluEWR
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Late in 1988 my first husband Brian and I purchased an expensive home at the height of the market, the very peak of it, then watched its value plummet. Added to our financial worries was the fact that we had not sold our former home forcing us into bridge-financing for a year. When the house was sold in 1997 the house had devalued at a rate of $72.00 per day over 8 1/2 years. If finances had been our only problem our marriage we would have weathered through it but it was just a taste of the misfortune to come.

Before the pictures were hung up in the new house, Brian slid into a massive clinical depression leaving him suicidal and unable to work. I could not understand what he had to be depressed about. Brian was a brilliant litigation barrister who had a reputation as a lawyers' lawyer. When he was in a room people gravitated to him. I had spent 17 years witnessing his beautiful mind in action through his joy of mental and physical work, his humour, his love of books, music and his family and many friends, so for these reasons I was sure this melancholy abyss was a temporary hitch.

The depression continued. Doctors at the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry plus a host of other therapists looked for a cure, all of which proved illusive. There were a few days when he felt better, almost seemed his old self, but then the wave of depression reclaimed him reducing him to lethargy and sleep. Months later he suffered a major heart attack which required heart surgery and convalescence. Brian's legal firm went bankrupt after a year and a half just when the house roof needed replacing and queued up was another major repair of many thousands of dollars. My eldest daughter ever-present in black had gained 75 lbs. and she too was a trifle despondent.

An appointment had been set up to see a bank manager for a line of credit in order for Brian to set up a sole practice hence safeguarding our financial survival. Things looked promising after spiralling downward for two very long years, but little did I know the plane was about to hit ground zero; another suicide attempt happened and he was placed in the psychiatric ward of a hospital under heavy sedation. At the last possible moment Brian did pull up his nose, secured the line of credit, and the worst of the worse did not happen. We separated the following year yet managed to stay on good terms spending all major holidays together as a family. He switched his focus from litigation to educational law, albeit troubles with depression and suicidal tendencies plagued him off and on for the rest of his life.

Looking back on that rough period I now realize how little I understood of what he was going through. As Aldous Huxley once said "The world of the healthy is very different from that of the sick". Depression accounts for about 90% of statistical suicides, and as we all know Estonia has a high suicide rate. It is a disorder affecting twice as many women as men. Suicide is ranked second as a leading cause of death among the young in North America, and sadly often symptoms are written off as adolescent moodiness. An excellent TV documentary was done by PBS entitled Depression: Out of the Shadows and information is available at the website

The film Magnus gives a glimpse into the dark jaws of depression, a disease which is frequently camouflaged by a mask of alcohol and drug addiction as its pain is so intense and ever-persuasive that one would do anything to escape its deep pit of sorrow. One expert explained it this way, think of the worst few hours of your life and imagine it to be your day-in-day out existence. Depression defies rationality. Months and months, and years and years of bleakness, anger, anxiety, and hopelessness is soul-destroying. Just how many years of that can anyone take? About 8 percent of the population suffers from depression and ninety percent of suicides are victims of depression. Suicide bereavement is also different and it is recommended that anyone affected by a completed suicide get survival support counselling.

I came away from Magnus astonished by the courage of Kadri Kõusaar and the lead actor, Mart Laisk. A powerful film hard to watch yet engrossing it illuminates the psychology of a suicidal person and vividly portrays what not to do although I certainly don't hold the misguided directly responsible for the end result. In my own circumstance I wish I could say I was the model of compassion and understanding. I wasn't. It's a parched existence for all involved.

Depression has many faces and degrees of severity and how much is physical and how much psychological is determined on a case per case basis. Early treatment is key but even here medication that works for one doesn't necessarily work for another. For milder depressions exercise raises the all important serotonin and dopamine levels. It is better understood now than 20 years ago thank goodness and most recently I heard that vitamins have cured some patients ringing a much needed and hopeful bell.
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