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A woman who has lived with depression recounts her feeling after watching Julianne Moore’s Still Alice. She tells how she could relate to Alice in the movie.
This is going to be a rather morbid post, I promise you!
When I had sat myself down to watch this movie, I was uninitiated, totally uninitiated. Of course, I had chosen it only because Julianne Moore, who played the protagonist in it, won herself the Oscar for it. Little did I have a notion of what to look for, what to think of it. But, having watched the gripping tale of ‘Still Alice,’ all I can say is – it truly has been a lesson, at least. A lesson that, one, can really never learn!
How? Well, Imagine you’re an accomplished, fulfilled, reasonably busy person – an illustrious career of a Linguistics professor by occupation, while an equally if not more charming, loving wife and a doting mother of three grown-up kids – a sure picture of an able hand in both spheres.
Done… imagining? Good! Now, imagine… Letting go! Letting go – all of these – first one by one, and then, almost, all at once.
It indeed comes as a cruel irony when for someone as Alice, when her very tools of trade – vocabulary – start to fail her, betray her. As we’d all do, she too brushes it aside at first, but for not too long. And thus she lands up at the neurologist’s cabin one day, on eventually many more days – with tests, questionnaires, scans one by one pointing her towards the very inevitable. Yes, barely fifty years old, Alice has been detected with an early onset of Alzheimer’s!
And not just that! Hers is a rare kind, one which is passed on genetically, one in which – if it has been passed on as can be tested out surely – the child will have a cent percent chance of developing it eventually. ‘Sorry!’ – she chokes as she tries to, failingly, hold her fort strong, while breaking the news to her children towards whom she cannot but feel very responsible, and of course, guilty!
The decay, thereafter, is fast paced. She loses her words – slowly, erratically. She loses her job – essentially. She loses her basic abilities to get around, to get along in life. So much so that she soils her clothes because, well, because she could not locate the washroom in her very own home!
Your entire self-esteem – everything that was once yours and now you cannot remember, cannot quite be sure – they, now, are placed on a tricky slippery ground. It now all depends on if people do treat you as if you’re still who you once were when you had, unfailingly, done them proud and done them good. Easier said, no?
So it is, for herself too! And all these – so suddenly and yet so surely that – she cannot but cope with it with a self-scripted, self-designed suicide plan.
But guess what? Even to accomplish that she needs help! And so she sets up herself, a version of herself from the past, to read out the instructions to that future version who has now reached the need to carry out the action plan – so that, still, the day can be saved. You can, really, be so embarrassed to live that you can well be pushed to choose not to, of course!
But no, she had over-estimated herself. She – despite her own planned instructions playing out to her in loops – turns out to be incapable of even that!
Personally – I can, somewhat at least, actually! Having been chronically clinically depressed for nearly a decade – surviving on anti-depressants that seemed to never work on your mood but instead on everything else and negatively.
Personally – I can, somewhat at least, actually! Having been chronically clinically depressed for nearly a decade – surviving on anti-depressants that seemed to never work on your mood but instead on everything else and negatively, on sleeping tablets that your sleep or lack of it have by now got immune to, on analgesics that seem more compulsory than your daily meals, and essentially on Alertness boosters without which you wouldn’t know how to get up just like you hadn’t known for long how to sleep – I now, too closely, can imagine how it possibly can feel when you’re no more, well, quite yourself! How it may feel to let go, lose, one by one. To want but fail to – care, for things; take care – of things; to eventually – therefore – give up, give in! To, lose yourself, inch by inch…
But of course having said all that, at the very same time you cannot but feel blessed, fortunate – even lucky if you may – that you are still you and not her. Not Alice, yet.
Not, still, Alice… What relief!
It’s not easy to grope with a reality as dark, as uninitiated, sudden and yet as dark, as Alice’s reality becomes. You start identifying with her sooner than you know… You wish her strength and courage, and yet, inside your own heart, you start getting scared for her. For her, and perhaps, for yourself too…?
“I wish I had cancer. People wear pink ribbons for you and go on long walks. I wouldn’t have to feel like a social…I can’t remember the word!”– She says.
And yes, it’s true as hell! I know it!
And you know what? All you can do, if you want to help an Alice you meet on your way in life, is this:
Just, help them feel, still, important. Help them believe, if you can, that they are – despite the disease, despite the scans, the tests and the symptoms, they are –
First published here.
Cover image via Facebook
An alumnus of Indian Statistical Institute, Sinjini Sengupta is an erstwhile Actuary turned into an
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