In recent years, more than 100 political prisoners of Burma have been killed in what appears to be a politically motivated execution-acts that some say are “genuine,” though others dispute this. Isolation blues? Former prisoners of Burma’s former regime tell how they continue to struggle even today, “despite everything,” while suffering symptoms of memory loss and depression. Isolation blues? Former prisoners of Burma’s former military junta describe how they continued to suffer symptoms of depression and memory loss even after being released from prison, while many others report that nothing has changed for them since their release.
Isolation blues? No one seems to know, but the symptoms have plagued many people of my acquaintance’s generation, who lived through the brutal martial law rule. They are a loss for many, yet some of those I met while researching my book on life in Myanmar (MOHA) offer an explanation: “The system worked; we were given food, shelter, education, money, jobs, and so on. But something happened after those years, and most people were either forgotten or believed dead.” The victims of political prisoner abuse, including mass disappearances and torture during the reign of military ruler Sukhothai in the mid-1990s, now live in exile or in fear of further persecution. And as the global community works to bring those accountable for these crimes to justice, the survivors of “the forgotten people” of Burma have to come to terms with their own personal memory loss, which may be associated with their prolonged incarceration.
Depression and memory loss go together, and the symptoms of depression, when combined with diminished ability to socialize and make friends, can be fatal for some. Even a seemingly healthy person can fall into the trap of depression. Recent research into post-traumatic stress disorders points to a link between depression and physical illness, such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney problems, osteoporosis, and even cancer. Some sufferers even go onto suicidal missions.
In her book, “The Pill”, psychologist Marlene Schnepfer presents several symptoms of depression and memory loss. When depressed, she says, “You begin to notice things you don’t remember happening. Memories you thought were permanent seem to become broken, lost, distorted, or fuzzy… You feel disconnected from yourself and from everything. You worry that what you’ve lost is permanent, and you wonder if you will ever be able to have happiness again, let alone live a satisfying life.” And, unfortunately, she says that sometimes it can be impossible to know when the blues pill has been swallowed.
If you have experienced depression and gone through the blues pill, you might feel a sense of despair. And yet, you might not understand that you are not alone in this world. Depression, at its core, is the inability to feel our basic self-relationships with ourselves and others, and with life in general. It is the awareness that we are in a constant state of abandonment by others that causes us to develop depression.
The blues pill is one part of depression. But, as my therapist has taught me, the real depression lies in the state of self-doubt that comes with depression. This type of depression, which can last years, is not really reversible. However, the blues pill is a helpful medication that, when used along with other forms of depression treatments, can make a significant difference in the lives of those who suffer from this disorder. Depression doesn’t just “go away” on its own.
When asked, “Why does depression isolate so many people?” I began to think about what I’d done in previous days. I’d arrived home after a long day at work, the kids had been napping, and I was feeling very blue. I’d eaten breakfast while listening to the radio, drank a few more alcoholic beverages as the warmth in my body was beginning to leave me drained, and then settled down to watch television.
It seemed that there were a lot of reasons for this. And then I remembered something my client had told me years ago. If depression is left untreated, it will continue to get worse. So, if you are suffering from depression, do yourself and your family the favor of taking the blues pill before it gets worse and puts you in a nursing home or worse!