Carrie Fisher, may she Rest In Peace, battled her mental illness for years, sometimes quite publicly. But I was surprised to learn that she credited electro-shock therapy with helping her to cope with the depression. My Grandma Layton didn’t have the positive experience of that therapy. But, at one of her darkest hours, it offered hope, and her thirteen treatments were completed before she found the healing art of Blind Contour Drawing. An excerpt, titled “Transverse Shadows”, from her biography/memoir, Signs Along The Way:
I was cold, hard marble. Despair and fear are at least feelings, and very intense ones. And affection is better than none. Having once been sensitive, I recalled the sensations, and as with pain, I could and did hold and examine them. Now I was unable to experience them.
In this vacuum I wanted to make dejection and fear my friends, the way a person in unbearable suffering makes friends with his pain, groping the way to death.
I wanted to feel my way back to life, even if I had to endure death to do it.
Different experiences with different results. But Carrie and Grandma shared a common denominator: living with, and battling to overcome their disease by expressing themselves – some way, somehow. Carrie wrote, acted, and advocated. Grandma Layton wrote, drew, and advocated. I am glad they both have found peace. – Judy Kay
In July, the great flood of 1951 spread over the valleys of the Neosho, the Marias des Cygnes, the Kaw and the Missouri rivers. Nothing was sacred to the boiling waters, leaving only silt and wreckage in its wake. It filled the people with despair and discontent. In Clyde, it left not only these emotions, but also a desperate need for help. He found it in a whiskey bottle…
Excerpt from Signs Along The Way
We had only four days without rain in the entire month of May, and people are getting a little testy. Critters too – the dogs actually want to go out in the pen, and the chickens are literally cooped-up! I can pop a D vitamin to make me feel a little sunnier, but that doesn’t change the depressing atmosphere. But we hear that relief is right around the corner, so we will keep on keeping on…
Grandma Layton suffered from bouts of depression for much of her life – deep despair that could not be brightened by a sunny day or a vitamin dose. Thirteen electroshock treatments didn’t work, neither did drug therapy or a divorce from her alcoholic husband.
Signs Along the Way, a biography/memoir about Elizabeth “Grandma” Layton, tells of her journey from discontent to joy. Maybe it will encourage others as well. Carla
P.S. The sun just came out!
Signs Along the Way
Grandma Layton was an insatiable reader and prolific note-writer. Which both helped and hindered our efforts at putting together her biography, “Signs Along the Way” – with literally thousands of slips of papers, backs of envelopes, napkins, old receipts, etc. to go through, it’s a miracle we ever finished the book! Many were simply lists of words, or simple phrases she hoped to use in a short story, or perhaps to help develop a character. Other papers were filled to the brim with notable quotes, news of the day, something she had read or wanted to know more about. Say, for instance, she found an especially beautiful flower, nestled in a crevice by the side of a dirt road deep in the heart of Franklin County. And it was pale blue, with little flecks of purple, and touches of white. Grandma would have to know its name, because that’s just how she was. The resulting search could possibly take days, even weeks, reading through flower books, magazines, encyclopedias – and probably calling friends and neighbors if necessary. While retyping one of Grandma Layton’s short stories, I came across “Henry’s Flivver”, and thought it was misspelled, because I’d never heard of such a thing. In about ten seconds I discovered that it was a car – one of the first Fords – without leaving my chair… I began to imagine how much time that would have saved Grandma, how much she would have learned on top of everything she already knew, and how intriguing she would find that journey.
I forgot about the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon (yes, I had to look that up). I have found that an innocent internet search can go from pleasant to horrific in as few as three clicks of the mouse. Watching Dressage videos, the Dancing Mare in particular, is one of my favorite computer entertainment pastimes. Well, I wanted to see more. Three clicks later I was into the middle of a rodeo video that I wish I could unsee. After three or four such excursions, I have learned to stay on topic. I’m too old, and have seen enough tragedy and cruelty to know that it exists, and that I can’t save or change the entire world, just do my best in my small part of it.
Grandma Layton’s life and art work dispels the myths and misconceptions of mental illness and old age, and she did it all the old-fashioned way – without the internet! — Carla