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When Depression Takes Its Toll

| Articles | February 14, 2014

Many writers have found the act of writing as a form of therapy. In writing, they have found a way to release their anger, frustration, and bitterness. With every stroke of the pen or line of sentence, many published authors and aspiring writers have found solace in their writings. Through self-expression, they have found a way to deal with their confusion and loneliness. At different times, writers have found the pen and paper, the typewriter, and the computer as faithful companions — inanimate yet effective replacements for human presence and interaction.

However, not all have experienced happiness and freedom in writing. Quite the opposite, they have found writing to be a means to temporarily escape their fears and struggles. But for all their prolific writing, they still failed to find meaning and hope in being “craftsmen of words.”

Ernest Miller Hemingway was one such writer. He is also one of the most famous people in history who committed suicide due to depression. In July 2, 1961, Hemingway pointed a shotgun to his head and pulled the trigger.

As a Nobel prize-winning author who wrote several bestselling books including the Old Man and the Sea and Farewell to Arms, Hemingway found fame and fortune through his literary style that was often characterized as crisp and understated. Despite his wealth and popularity, he struggled for many years with crippling melancholy and alcoholism. Throughout his life, Hemingway had encountered many physical injuries and diseases. He had five concussions, two plane crashes, four car accidents, and a motorcycle mishap. The famous writer also suffered from high blood pressure, a diseased liver, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. But perhaps the hardest situation that he had to face was the battle against severe sadness. Biographers have pointed to several possible causes for Hemingway’s depression. Some say that his horrendous experience as a medic during World War I had exposed him to death and destruction. Although undiagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a disease that was yet to be named during that time, many literary experts believe that Hemingway suffered from the said psychological problem.

Others believe that Hemingway’s unhappy relationship with his mother was one of the roots of his stress and anxiety. According to some accounts, Hemingway’s mother was a very domineering person who did not openly express love and affection for her son. In fact, Hemingway even received a pistol from his mother as a birthday gift. The said pistol was actually used by Hemingway’s father to kill himself — another tragic episode that could have triggered the severe sadness that hurt the famous author for most of his life. Many of his writings reflected the conflicts and so-called “destructive interactions” between male and female characters — perhaps mirroring his own life and relationships. Before he killed himself, Hemingway was actually undergoing Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT), a procedure that was supposed to make him feel better. Unfortunately, the ECT had allegedly worsened his psychological condition because the procedure caused Hemingway to experience memory loss. Hemingway had even blamed this form of therapy, in his words, for “putting him out of business.”

The latest research shows that Hemingway most likely suffered from manic depressive mood disorder. Other doctors claim that Hemingway’s family suffered from a genetic disorder called haemochromotosis, a condition characterized by an excess of iron in the blood. Overconcentration of iron in the blood stream damages the pancreas, which in turn, causes mood swings or depression. Aside from Hemingway’s father, two of his siblings and a grandaughter were said to have also committed suicide.

When he was still alive, Hemingway had already tried several treatments to deal with his psychological problems, in vain. Today, there are more effective depression treatment methods and strategies. Aside from anti-depression medications, people with depression can also receive counseling or obtain talk therapy. When self-expression such as writing do not provide relief from melancholy, people struggling with psychological problems should immediately consult doctors and other health professionals so that early interventions can be made. With medication and therapy, psychological disorders need not take deadly toll on human life.

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