what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Black Dog

The trip to Zarnesti is always a pleasure – down the spectacular road on the narrow ridge which separates Moiecu and Pestera villages on either side below (with the mountain ranges behind them); through Bran and then left at the old village of Tohani with its saxon houses; then the short run in open country with the side of the Piatra Craiului range towering on the left. The trip this time was for dental purposes – my partner’s not mine – and I was able to use the time to visit the amazing 16th century Gothic church in the centre (opposite the municipality) which has stunning mural paintings – from 1515! I have to confess that I have neglected this aspect of the country’s painting heritage and could immediately sense the difference in colour tints – clearly coming from the Catholic west rather than the Byzantine church whose painting style alienates me. 
My daughter, at the same time, was visiting the area further north and brought back beautiful shots from the village museum in Sibiu.

So when, on Monday, I came across a book on Gothic Mural Paintings of Transylvania by Dana Jenei – as well as one on the Wooden Churches of Salaj (North-west of Cluj) by Ana Barga, I had no hesitation in buying copies, both being in English.

The Humanitas bookshop (next door to the English Bookshop) also had an intriguing-looking 2001 book called The Noonday Demon – an anatomy of depression by Andrew Solomon which had received rave reviews – not least one from Joyce CarolOates

Like most achievers, I have known depression – fortunately only for a few years in the last half of the 1980s. In my case the causes were external/contextual rather than chemical/genetic – strong elements of manic depression – I worked myself very hard. So I was able (slowly) to identify the root causes and even have a stab at understanding the trigger events and therefore be in a better position to deal with it when it next reared its head.
It didn’t help that I was living in dark, damp Scotland! I would basically hibernate for the winter months – during 3-4 years.
I tried therapy - but was too good with words for that really to be much help - and fairly quickly gave up lithium. 

What I did was to make a fundamental change to my life – I left my family, my job and my country! That was 24 years ago – and only in 2010 suffered again – for about 6 months when 2 projects were really screwing me up – one in Beijing. Since the experience, I think I have a different attitude to life – I have become more grateful for my blessings…

So it’s a condition for which I have a lot of sympathy. And am always pleased when a prominent person (like Stephen Fry) comes out strongly about his experience.
In my days (almost 30 years ago) there wasn’t all that much to read – although I do remember the anguish of Philip Toynbee’s diaries 

Solomon’s book is a big one (more than 500 pages) which mixes harrowing tales of his own case with those of others and extensive research (the bibliography and notes account for the last 100 pages) But is a real page-turner (I’ve almost finished it in 2 days).
In the extent to which it peeled back lives,  I was reminded of the way Theodore Zeldin dealt with individuals in his marvellous Intimate History of Humanity

The Black Dog is how (manic-depressive) Winston Churchill referred to his condition. Sadly that did not seem to help advance the need for its proper recognition let alone treatment.

No comments:

Post a Comment