Oh Cousin, My Cousin
One night the woman and her husband went to a comedy club near them, paid the two drink minimum to get in, sat down, watched a few comedians, laughed when appropriate, and didn't notice the hidden camera at the table in front of them, pointed backwards, and recording every smile, every chuckle, and every belly laugh this woman dispensed. That was all the ammunition the loyyers needed to prove fraud.
It stands to reason. Right? If she had depression, what business does she have laughing? If you can laugh you can't be depressed. Depression means crying. Ergo: fraud. They even showed the woman laughing. The woman's disability was taken away, she was charged with criminal fraud, convicted, sentenced to prison and forced to reimburse all her disability income for the years she'd received it. This was hailed by the hosts of the TV news magazine on how the system works to prevent fraud like hers.
I was livid.
I'd been diagnosed with depression myself just a year or so before. Yet I laugh. I've always laughed and, looking back, I'd pretty much always had depression. What does laughing have to do with having depression?
Nothing. It's irrelevant.
I was diagnosed with depression after one of several conferences with my divorce loyyer in 1998 and 1999. One day out of the blue, she said, "Y'know, I'm not an expert, but I grew up with a psychiatrist in the family. Have you ever spoken to a doctor to see if you're depressive?" I cracked a joke that I thought was quite funny; she didn't laugh. I made an appointment with a doctor and while sitting there talking with him — between making jokes and having my voice crack in near tears — he informed me that yes, indeed, I displayed the characteristics of a depressive during an episode.
And why not? I had endured five-plus years of quasi-marriage by that time to a woman — of sorts — who didn't want a husband so much as she needed a wholly-owned subsidiary which could improve the bottom-line for the parent company without requiring too much in the way of capital infusion … time, attention, affection, or anything else that would qualify as marital capital. That wife was [and still is] a corporate climber; a bossy, imperious, self-important manipulator of others for self-gratification and self-congratulation. My duty was to do what I was told without being told, to make her ten-hour days possible by cooking, cleaning, doing the yardwork, and taking care of the kids — two of ours at that point, plus one of my own from a prior marriage. …plus having my own full time job with which to pay for our home and family.
When I injured my back the summer after our first daughter was born and couldn't stand, let alone sit, lay or do anything else the Parent Company required I do to remain a viable merger not needing to be spun off, she dropped all pretense to being an actual wife. The Corporate CEO took me to the various doctors I needed to see, and while we were actually in the presence of the neurosurgeon, or neurologist, or MRI tech, she was outwardly supportive and asked most of the right questions. But when we were in the car on the way to the doctor, or on the way home afterward, she let it be known in no uncertain terms that I was simply being selfish for demanding her time and attention from really important matters. The Parent Company had better things to do than find out why her personal acquisition had no feeling at all in his right leg unless it was screaming, tearing pain from mid-butt cheek down the back of the leg to the pinky toe. What a self-centered brat I was being!
When the doctors finally convinced the insurance company that conservative treatment was making me an invalid and I got my surgery scheduled, could the Home Office manage to take me to the hospital? Sure, she could do that. Could she stick around and wait for me to come out of surgery? No … she had to get to work.
Her own mother bawled her out for treating me like this; my mother-in-law had come over early one Saturday to watch the kids so my wife could spend the day with me. This was unacceptable to my wife. She preferred to spend time with her kids, and I could hear them from the next room having their argument. "Your husband needs you!" "Mom, I do. Not. Care."
My oldest son was 11 at the time. He'd moved in with us earlier that summer. When he visited for a few weeks at a time — when he was younger — my wife thought he was fine. But when he was a permanent fixture, and getting to the age where teen-aged defiance and pouting began to show up, the wife started to let me know how horrible a person my son was. I can't count the number of times I would get screamed at in the kitchen for some trivial thing my son had done. He was "irresponsible", I would be told at the top of the Home Office's lungs. He was a "brat" would be shouted so loud the plates in the cupboard would ring. How can any child be so "stupid", would echo down the hall. "I don't trust that boy!! It's that boy's fault!"
The CEO didn't have time to take me; she'd called the doctor and thought that was enough effort on her part. I could call an ambulance or drive myself, she told my son to tell me. She was busy with her "babies".
Nothing improved after I got my mobility back. Oh, sure, I could stand long enough to cook dinner for Her Highness to eat when she deigned to come home. I could clear the decks for her to devote all her time not spent at the office to her "babies". But I was still a wholly-owned subsidiary, whose input into corporate activities was unnecessary.
That winter we got snowed in. Or out, depending on where you were as the snow arrived. I was snowed in, the Home Office was snowed out. She drove her company car into a snow bank at the end of the driveway — the far end. Three hundred feet from the garage. I was required to shovel her out. And the "stupid, irresponsible, untrustworthy brat" could help. For two days I shoveled snow — my back was healed, right? My son helped … some. He was 12. He got bored and whiny. That's what 12-year olds do. I sent him inside. One of us might as well be warm.
When I came in about midnight after having cleared her car and shoveling about half the 300-foot long driveway, I mentioned that I was sore and I held my lower back. I was informed that, "…if you hurt your back again I'm fucking divorcing you." At least it wasn't screamed at me. She hissed it.
The current wife considered me no different than a merger and acquisition target. As long as I could benefit her bottom line then I was a good investment; if I had needs of my own, be they medical, emotional or otherwise, then I was a hindrance and expendable. I could be spun-off like that, mister, or simply liquidated for the tax deduction.
What a pathetic person I must be to so consistently pick women who do such things to me. On more than one occasion I would be finishing dinner on the stove when the Parent Company would arrive home from work. She'd walk right past me without acknowledging my presence despite me greeting her, and she'd run to her "babies". On these occasions, when being irrelevant to my own wife got to be too much, I would start crying into the stew. On many of these occasions she would then demand, "…and what's the matter with you!" After briefly relating how I felt rather excluded, as if I were nothing but a servant, she would often conclude, "You're a weak, weak man."
Obviously, I never finished the job, and I've sometimes regretted I didn't. It was around here that my divorce loyyer suggested I see a doctor, who diagnosed the depression that was obvious to all … who knew what they were looking for. And looking back, I'd undergone serious bouts of depression in high school — my other major suicidal period — and while enduring the mindless, brainless Air Farce, and briefly [interestingly, only briefly] while getting my first divorce.
I've just been a weak, weak man all my adult life. Prior to that I must have been a weak, weak child.
Yet, I've always had a sense of humor. I've always been able to see the odd things that are laughable in the world and relate them to others in ways that were, if not outright funny, at least ironic enough to elicit a chuckle. There's probably parts of this morose exposition that have caused a few snickers.
Dorothy Parker: majorly funny, and majorly depressive.
Robin Williams: lieutenant colonelly funny, and majorly depressive.
Humor, laughing, making others laugh, seeing funny in sad or grotesque or horrible … nothing to do with depression. There's evidence, in fact, that they're related; "positively correlated", as if there's anything positive about depression.
I've told people for decades that Andy Williams was my uncle. Venus and Serena are my nieces. My current wife — I finally married a Cubs fan — went with me several years ago to the Cubs convention and we stood in line to get our picture taken with 70s Cubs star and Hall of Famer Billy Williams. Standing there waiting for the photographer to get everyone placed, I introduced myself by name and mentioned "I tell everyone that you're my uncle." He looked up at me, his brown face quizzed my pasty white one, then he chuckled and said, "I just might be." We're both minus most of our hair on top, so it seems likely to me. Then the picture was snapped and we left.
I do not envy Robin longing for death or the thoughts that came as it happened. I don't envy it because I've had enough of both, and I don't need any more. Yet I have plenty more, coming in floods when I deal with the self-righteous Home Office who is, naturally, blameless for her treatment of those around her.
I don't know if depression is a justifiable cause for being considered disabled; I'm not the right person to ask. I know that most of the time I can function to a semblance of "normal" and "effective", so that my work gets done, I eat regularly and I can keep up my personal hygiene. But I also know that sometimes I can't do my work, can't get out of bed, eat only four meals in a week, and don't see the point in showering or brushing my teeth. Is it a disability?
Sure you can. Ask my cousin Robin. Laughing — genuine laughing — is easy. You just still want to kill yourself afterwards, is all.