Sunday, December 19, 2010

66. Back in the sunshine

Tom was safely deposited with Beryl and Mac in Kensington, the furniture dispatched and, against all odds, mother’s Residents Permit arrived in the nick of time. So, I bade the English gloom farewell and headed for Johannesburg where I met up with mother.

Tony had bought me a new end of year, red Opel Rebel for R14 000.00. The boot was a bit small for a folded wheel chair but, as it happened, Tom refused to use the wheelchair ever again. We packed the car and mother got in, eager to begin the longest outing of her life! Tony guided us out to the Cape Town road and waved goodbye. About an hour later we came across a diversion, just my luck. We followed the arrows and, about an hour later, saw Vereeniging on our left, which was odd because it had been on our left coming out of Johannesburg. Hundreds of miles of deserted road lay before and behind us and, as usual, I did not have a road map. Then I saw a car approaching and waved like mad. At that speed it took about half a mile to stop, but I ran towards it. No, we were not headed for Cape Town; we were headed for Johannesburg, the opposite direction. I turned the car round and an hour later we were back at the diversion. Two hours of wasted time and petrol. It was not a good start.

Driving long distances in the heat, on long empty roads through the desert is very soporific and I had great difficulty staying awake. We would stop and I would try to have a doze, but as soon as we pulled off the road I would be wide awake again. It was most distressing, and dangerous. The figures for accidents caused by drivers falling sleep at the wheel must be very high. We reached Bloemfontein by nightfall and I was anxious to find somewhere to stop over for the night, but all the turnoffs, bright lights and traffic rushing by were confusing. A hotel was signposted, so we turned off the main road and followed the sign, but the hotel was at least five miles from the main road, and when we finally arrived the dining room was closed, and we were so hungry! We left at dawn and drove in haste to the first eatery we could find! By the afternoon of the second day, Somerset West finally came into view, and mother was delighted by what she saw. I drove round and round and managed to find the house but I did not have the keys, so we were unable to go inside. One thing I saw disturbed me. I had asked George to get his builder friend to erect a light car port for me but, between them, they had decided to start building a full garage – without Municipality planning approval. Approval was subsequently refused because the end wall was too near the boundary fence, and I was later told the partially built structure had to be demolished. The problem was solved when the owner of the adjacent property signed an agreement that he was not opposed to the garage encroaching on the boundary line. Wheew!

We moved into our new house in 1987 and, taking into account the above items 1 to 15, the garage fiasco, and mother’s fussing to get her rooms altered and redecorated first, it was no wonder that Black Dog was laughing his head off while sitting firmly on my shoulder. I was exhausted, irritable and to my shame, not as kind to mother as I should have been, and there were times when she must have regretted her decision to live with us. Unfortunately she could not see that I was having a break down.

Mother and I used to walk round the area, looking at houses and there was one we quite liked, actually I was just agreeing with her to make conversation. It was not nearly as pretty as the one we were living in, but mother liked it because she could see that the little flat on the side had its own front door. I was in hospital recovering from an operation on my shoulder when mother visited me, bursting with the news that the house we liked was for sale. Tom had been to see it and approved; we could have first option. Had I said anything about wanting to move? Hoping that mother would be happier with her own front door, we agreed to buy it. Blame the decision on the anesthetic. We had only moved in a couple of months when the little petrol pump station in front of us became a full scale BP petrol and service station covered over with a high roof that completely blocked our view of the sea. A small convenience store was added, a video shop and a food takeaway outlet. The food would be eaten by people sitting on the little piece of ground that separated us, and litter would be scattered all around. There were several problems with the house, including rising damp and a sagging roof.

My migraines were getting worse and if I got out of bed in the morning without a headache it was like a holiday. One morning Tom came upon me crying, he put his arms round me and I told him that I could not go on any longer, feeling the way I did. Living was not worth the effort and I was at the bottom of the bucket. We had been married almost fifty years and he had never realized that I had a problem!

Patty Duke was one of my favorite actresses and so when I saw her biography in the library, I borrowed it. The book had been written in conjunction with her psychiatrist and some angel must have put my hand on it. Patty had written about her battle with depression, and I could have been reading about myself. I went to see my doctor, who was a very sympathetic man, and told him that I had known for years that there was something wrong with me, something so awful that it filled me with self hatred. Although I did not drink, I could see my father in myself which had caused me, at one time, to turn all the mirrors to the wall. Now that I had read Patty Duke’s book, I thought perhaps I was not such a horrible person, just a sick one. He referred me to a psychiatrist who asked me questions while he placed ticks in little boxes on a piece of paper. After a while he put his pen down and said, “If by the end of these questions I had ticked 12 squares I would have known that you were in trouble. I have already ticked 15 squares and we have not yet finished the questions. You do have a serious problem”. “Can you help me?” I pleaded. “Yes, I think I can”.

It is a shame that the drug “Prozac” has become an object of humor and derision, because it saved my sanity, if not my life. Three weeks after seeing the psychiatrist I went for a check up. “How are you feeling?” the doctor asked. I replied, “I feel like I think normal people feel.” And that was how I felt for the first time in my adult life – normal. The effort of trying to cover up the condition had been exhausting, now I felt I could start to be myself. That was eighteen years ago, and I have never had a headache, let alone a migraine, since. The Black Dog is dead, long live his mistress!

No comments:

Post a Comment