Friday, August 5, 2011

Alternate Realities

Life has been so terribly difficult and depressing. I never consider 'things can't get worse,' as invariably life then conspires to show me how yes, it truly can. I am almost to the point of going back to Mayberry: my fallback decompression mode for when life gets so suck as to be nonexistent --retreating into the simple pleasures of Andy Griffith tapes. (Blog post 'Back to Mayberry' was written 9/25/09. How do you make a link?).

People who know me well will be shocked to hear I am finally resorting to considering meds until I can regain a will to continue. I hate to take anything, and resist 'feel-good' drugs--it would be odd not to be depressed at this point - but it's time to pull out bigger guns...

Lately I have been reading even more than usual -- which is a lot, anyway. And the books I am grabbing off the shelf are true-life accounts of people who have lived through harrowing times. Reading of their hardship and perseverance and strength of spirit gives me some measure of strength and will power.

The first book I highly recommend is finally out in paperback: Empire of the Summer Moon. As related on the cover, it is about the rise and fall of the Commanche nation and also the account of Quanah Parker, who was the son of a white captive and a tribesman chief. Parker became the 'last' Commanche chief who never surrendered but acquiesced and became a leader in helping his people live and adapt once they moved to a reservation. The book is full of fascinating stories about Mexico and Texas from the 1600s on, the rise of the Plains Indians and the mustang, the beginnings of the frontier and the Texas Rangers, range wars and horrific battles between Indians pushed to the warpath, and white settlers trying to claim a stake...I think I highlighted every page and poured over the notes and bibliography for more books to read.

The second book is Unbroken. The true account of a poverty-stricken kid who was a real juvenile delinquent who was saved from no-doubt a criminal life when he discovered running, and became an Olympic athlete whose career was cut short by WWII. He was a bombardier whose plane ditched in the ocean and he and two other survivors broke a record of drifting 47 days in a life raft, fending off sharks with no food or water. When they were found by the Japanese and interred in a POW camp they missed the raft. He was imprisoned 2 1/2 years in conditions and treatment I don't know how he endured. The book has a happy ending - thus the title - but it's a heart-rending read.

I received Same Kind of Different as Me, about the relationship between a modern-day sharecropper slave turned homeless man and a millionaire and his wife, and it's also a diverting read.

I have tons of others stacked on the bedside. So many books, so little time. It helps me when I have no energy for anything else.

What are you enjoying reading?


Jane said...

I'm currently working through some mindless YA drivel given to me by a friend: the Gregor the Overlander series, which was written by Suzanne Collins, she of Hunger Games fame. (Which is also a good read, if you like YA fiction. Some people do; I like some of it. Gregor isn't that good; I'm reading it because I started it, and I'm nothing if not a complete-ist.)

I recently read Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking about her struggles after he husband died of a heart attack, which is a really interesting and intimate portrayal of both grief and marriage. You might like it.

I would recommend, if you haven't picked it up already, Anita Diamant's The Red Tent. It's a fictional account of the life of Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob (who, according to Biblical lore, sired 12 sons who went onto the become the patriarchs of the 12 Tribes of Israel). It's simultaneously beautiful, empowering, and heart-wrenching, and it's very pro-womanhood and all that that entails. I read it when I was about 18, and it was one of the only books that as soon as I finished the last sentence, I had an overwhelming desire to immediately read the entire book again.

I don't pretend to know what makes people feel better, even after years of trying to help my mother and sister battle with their respective forms of depression, but both of the latter two recommendations might be good ones for you.

Jane said...

And, btw, the recommendation of The Red Tent comes from someone who, if you haven't already seen that, is not terribly religious and certainly not in the least bit Christian. I just tend to enjoy Biblical fiction. The book is not preachy; it's more like a fictional tale that merely builds on the basis of stories already laid out in other books, regardless of the religious overtones of the original tales.

Just to clarify. :)

Tricia McWhorter said...

Sorry to hear you're in the dumps. I've been there before and I know it's not fun. I developed an allergy to antidepressants and take SAM-e now which is not perfect but helps. I can tell when I don't take it and I'm up to 5 pills a day, which is expensive, but it's natural and also helps joints.

I've been reading the Game of Thrones series by George R. R. Martin. The first was wonderful and the HBO series followed it faithfully and brilliantly. The following books in the series have grown progressively dark and I'm on the fourth which has become, for me, rather bogged down in all the endless battle scenes. The first two books, while gory, had interesting characters. Life was so cruel and violent then that my own life's problems seemed rather small in comparison.

Wishing you all the best!

Brian said...

I know it doesn't help much, but I send you many purrs and hugs. Please do what you need to so you can take care of yourself...please!

The Vegetable Assassin said...

I hope you have a nice upswing of fortune and feel better soon. I think we all have our "Mayberry" whatever it may be and it's reassuring, at least it is to me. Sorry I have no current reading recommendations. I need to find time to read again! Aagh! All the best!

Traci said...

I just started reading fiction again last out of the need, as a getaway, (after about 10 years of not reading hardly any fiction.) I've been trying to read a balance of books from classics, true life books, and easy reads like the Sookie Stackhouse books. The SS books helped to get me through my husband being in the hospital because they're fun, full of fantasy and the characters are so easy to love.

I also love books that help me to see a different side to life so I will definitely check out the ones you suggested, especially Empire of the summer moon. Right now I'm reading Howard's End and Wicked Bugs (which I guess you can consider a science type book.)

I hope you start to feel better. I commend you on finding ways to keep your chin up, it's not the easiest thing anyone tried to do. Even though it's not the answer just know that you have people who really care about you, in the real world and the cyber-world, like me. ;-)

e said...

I just read a memoir by Emily White called Lonely that was highly informative as well as very readable...I am sorry to hear about your situation. I hope medication helps if that is what you decide to do.

Sharon Morris said...

Hi, Amy. I'm sorry to hear you're not feeling well. I've been a bit "down in the dumps" myself lately - too much stress at work, tired of the heat, etc.

The last book I read was "Oscar - the Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Cat". It's the true story about a resident cat in a nursing home in Rhode Island, written by one of the doctors there. Oscar "predicts" the death of residents there so accurately that they call in the family when Oscar "says" it's time.

Great cat book - but even a better resource for dealing with (and understanding) people with dementia or Alzheimer's. Gave me some new insight into dealing with David's mom, who just happened to turn 90 yesterday! She has severe short term memory issues, but her long term memory is great.

Feel better soon!

Jane said...

Amy, have you read Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close? Told from the first-person POV of a nine-year-old boy whose dad died in the WTC Towers, who becomes obsessed with a "puzzle" he thinks his father has left for him (he finds a key in the man's desk, and becomes fixated on finding what it unlocks, as he thinks his father deliberately left it there for him). It's really incredible, watching the way the kid deals with grief and interacts with the wacky characters he meets along the way.

Peruby said...

I know in this day it is hard, but if you have health insurance please see your doctor. Did you by any chance get bitten by a tick when you had your bug problem?

With the slow economy and the irregular heat wave the number of people feeling depression is at an all-time high. Please be kind to yourself and understand that there is nothing wrong with you - it could be a physical problem or a chemical misfiring of the brain.

I love that you listed the books. I wrote them down and also the ones suggested in the comments. They all sound like wonderful reads.

Good luck and just pour out your feelings here. I find blogging very therapeutic.

Retired English Teacher said...

I am so sorry you are not feeling well. I hope you get the medication or whatever you need to get you over the hump.

I have been reading "The Journal Keeper" by Phyllis Theroux. You might really enjoy that.

I also recently re-read "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion. I needed to read it to get myself through a rough spot in the grieving for my daughter. I made me feel less alone.

It seems I've been trying to get through "The Greater Journey" all summer.

Finally, I read "The Heartache No One Sees" by Shelia Walsh. It is interesting because she talks about her struggle with depression.

It seems so hollow to say, "I wish you better days ahead" when I know how much you must suffer with your illness, but I am hoping you find whatever it takes to give you the will to go on. God Bless You.

Ms. A said...

I know all too well about depression and hope you find some relief. (The meds are a whole other issue of frightening side effects, at least for me)

Chris said...

I've been reading books by Christopher Moore. You would hate them. He's silly and fantastic and practically anti-literary. Not unlike Tom Robbins.

injaynesworld said...

First of all, my friend, don't feel the least bit badly about going on some meds to get through this difficult time. Hell, I've been on them for years. My view is there are two types of people, those on meds and those who should be. I'd vote to put them in the water supply. I think people would be far nicer to each other that way. As for books, get ye a comedy! Kathy Griffith's memoirs is pretty darn funny. Or anything by Nora Ephron. "I Feel Badly About My Neck" cracks me up over and over.

Big hugs...