Longform

A Jolt to the System

Page 6 of 6

She finally told her mother about the abuse when she was an adult, and the answer was swift: "We don't talk about our secrets. Not to strangers."

Her husband simply told her that the past should remain the past. They're now divorced.

This woman, who holds a steady, professional job, hides her depression well. From her clean-cut appearance, her firm handshake, no one at work would know what she does: that she's tried nearly every anti-depressant there is, that there's not a day that goes by, not even today, when she doesn't wish for death, that on weekends, she finds refuge in 18 hours of sleep at a time. And there was that time, several years ago now, when she downed a batch of anti-depressants and showed up at her therapist's office on the verge of an overdose, only to be taken away by ambulance.

Whether her depression is triggered by life events, she can't say. All she knows is: "After a while, depression becomes its own illness."

"I look at death as peace from torment," she says. But now she knows that she won't do it, can't, she says, because she doesn't want her grown children and grandchildren to bear the pain. They're her only "saving grace."

Almost two years ago now, she turned on the evening news and heard of the pilot study at UT Southwestern. A participant, a grandmother like herself, spoke of not finding pleasure in life. "That struck a chord," she says. "There are fleeting moments of happiness, but they're always short-lived.

"When I look at flowers," she says softly, tears just beneath the surface on this gray, rainy day, "I think, 'How long will they live?'"

The next day, after that show, she called UT Southwestern and soon sent them her medical records. For nearly a year, she didn't hear back. The wait, she says, was pure hell. And then, one day, she got the letter. She was in.

"I look at it as a chance, a piece of hope," she says. She's silent a moment. "But I do remind myself every day that it may not work."

But what of those childhood memories?

"I don't expect the device to take away the memories," she says defensively, looking out the window and pointing to a nearby skeleton of a tree.

"I want to see that tree out there," she says, her eyes narrowing, "and not see it bare and dead in the wintertime but that in two months it will have leaves on it.

"I don't have any hopes that it [the device] will make me forget," she adds. "That's impossible, but it might give me enough of a chemical boost to give me a different perspective."

Days later, she calls, mentions that her surgery is scheduled for early March. She sighs. "I'm still trying to hold on for that."

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Lisa Singh
Contact: Lisa Singh