Bethanne Patrick reveals regrets and a midlife diagnosis "Life B: Overcoming Double Depression."

Bethanne Patrick reveals regrets and a midlife diagnosis in Life B: Overcoming Double Depression.


(Michelle Lindsay McAfee/Michelle Lindsay Photography)



Life B: Overcoming Double Depression

By Bethanne Patrick
Counterpoint: 208 pages, $26

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There were many moments Betanne Patrickmemory, B life: Overcoming double depression, when I wanted to grab its authoress by the shoulders and shake her. Don’t you dare turn down that publishing job to move to Germany with your military officer husband. Don’t you dare have that second child when what you really want is a PhD!

So it’s no mean feat when, in the book’s opening scene, Patrick states his needs clearly and succinctly. While her husband accompanies her to psychiatric hospital at her request, he says: You know you don’t need to, don’t you, Beth? We can only go home. (This is the same husband who, when Patrick found a psychiatrist she liked, raged over the monthly bill.) Thanks, Patrick says from the back seat of the car. But I need to go.

Life B expertly captures the nefarious ways depression it makes us lose sight of the most important thing in life: ourselves. Patrick has spent years feeling flawed, broken, weak, fragile, lazy. He beats himself for not being there for his daughters, for being a depressed mother. He regrets the decisions he made because he believed he couldn’t lead life on his own. Life B asks, terrifyingly, what it’s like to be sick and not know it?

There are some misleading statements in the memoir, like this one about Patrick’s childhood: For me, the combination of a genetic tendency towards depression combined with a family expectation of excellence might as well have been a regular beating. Initially, I wondered why this couldn’t be a personal essay rather than a memoir. But the more I read, the more I realize how important Patrick’s message is that we should take clinical depression seriously not just as a society but as individuals, in our own lives.

The pressures on women to subsume their ambitions under patriarchal expectations are more familiar than the particular condition that drove Patrick to bow to them. As his doctor explains, double depression is a form of bipolar syndrome, but instead of bouncing between depression and mania, the person starts out as depressed and becomes. . . more depressed.

Life B is the life Patrick lives now, following a diagnosis later in life and a regimen of medications. Had she been diagnosed sooner, she might have always been Vita B as clear, sharp, outlined as the perfect lens chosen in an optometrist’s office. That clarity might have allowed Patrick to express to her husband, and more importantly herself, what she wanted: I was following life’s instructions for overachievers, attempting to get a gold star as a parent even if what I wanted it was actually the floppy cap of a freshly minted doctorate.

Patrick, a Times contributor, writes with frightening honesty about the horrors of living a life that’s not yours. I was losing my identity before I even figured out who I was. She tells us she’s gained eighty pounds since her wedding day in 1985: every single pound I’ve gained over the past thirty-five years equals an idea I haven’t pursued, pages I haven’t written, hours I haven’t devoted to my creative work. and therefore resented. with all my heart. At this point, I didn’t want to shake Patrick as much as I wanted to hug her.

Here’s how she justifies herself by placing her husband’s needs (to whom she gives a pseudonym) at the top of the family: Adams’ work will always be the most important, the one that sustained our family, the one that still sustains me now that our daughters they are adults with their own job and health insurance. Adam’s job involves health insurance that allows me to get my medications at a very reasonable cost, which gives me the freedom to work as a writer, because while I have a career, I don’t make a living. Why wouldn’t I want to disappear?

More depression bear the stigma not to be a real disease, and Patrick is a woman, a wife and a mother. Shouldn’t a mother be the most important person in a child’s life? The most important parent in a child’s life? The answer is that both parents are important to a child’s life. But depression makes her a failure because she’s trying to fulfill someone else’s idea of ​​how she should be a mother.

Patrick writes about emerging from a depressive cycle as an experience similar to getting sober: When you suddenly can see things clearly after years of blurriness and astigmatism, you may love some details, and other details may make you nervous. He adds, however, that she still loves her husband deeply and is talking to her daughters about reframing their childhoods with an awareness of her illness.

Life B is obviously a huge part of Patrick’s healing process, which ultimately makes this memoir compelling reading not because her illness is so unusual, but because her experience, her struggle to get back to herself and her longings, it’s so frustratingly common, particularly for middle-aged women who have spent their lives putting others first.

In living her life B is creating something new of herself, one intentional decision at a time: let’s go out to dinner! Also, let’s cook dinner, it will be fun. Yes, I can do it. Also, no, sorry, it doesn’t work for me. Again and again I was making choices that were new to me. Call it mental rehabilitation. These thoughts might seem like baby steps, but they represent a giant leap.

Suicide prevention and crisis counseling resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, seek professional help and call 9-8-8. The US’s first three-digit national mental health crisis hotline 988 will connect callers with qualified mental health counselors. Text HOME to 741741 in the US and Canada to reach the Crisis Text Line.

Ferri is the owner of Womb House Books and the author, most recently, of Silent Cities San Francisco.

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