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Monday, December 14, 2009

Max Cleland, depression, the cosmological constant and me

By Sean Cruz


Former U.S. Senator Max Cleland recently stated that his episodes with depression were more painful than when both of his legs and an arm were blown off during the U.S-Viet Nam war.

Quoted in his new book, he said: “…I go into a massive, deep, dark depression and I get to where I don’t want to live…When your brain is compromised, and your body is riding high with massive anxiety and you can’t shake it, it’s a terrible feeling. And you cannot concentrate. You cannot read.”

I know this part well.

By the time ten months had passed after my four children had disappeared into theocratic Utah, my depression had become so severe that I lost the ability to read.

Reading was my lifelong escape, my place to go in good times and bad and in every other spare moment, but the depression took that away. No escaping from this!

Reading (and writing) was also how I made my living at the time, working as a newspaper editor, and the depression took that away, too, by the end of 1996, ten months into this long nightmare.

The reading didn’t come back for more than a year, gradually, short pieces only, maybe a paragraph or two and then the heartache would take over again.

Loss of concentration, waves of stomach pain…hopelessness….

For any person, the loss of four children is a question of survival.

I had the honor of meeting Max Cleland in 2008, a quiet moment at Portland State University, where he was appearing in support of soon-to-be U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

I told him about my two sons, Aaron and Tyler, who I’d seen off to the war in Iraq, and how neither had come home, and he hugged me with his one arm….

The best part of many days has been escaping into sleep at night, even more important when reading is not an option.

But sleeping has its dangers, too…dreams of my missing children…they remain young forever…can’t quite find them…frantic, looking for them…heart pounding, high anxiety…starting to wake up…fighting that, I want to keep looking, keep looking…keep looking…try to rescue them…heart….

I wake up and the nightmare is real.

Every day, nearly 14 years now.

Sometimes the insomnia takes away the sleep and sometimes reading is difficult.

The only constant is the heartache, that never dims, infuses the universe like the cosmological constant….

My children remain out of reach….

Sleep beckons….