Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Back to hell 

In a sympathetic and understanding post, The Mighty Favog excerpts an article from the Columbia Journalism Review that details some of Chris Rose's demons. Wet Bank Guy writes about them here. I wouldn't wish Chris Rose's problems on my worst enemy, as the CJR makes painfully evident.

[T-P writer Chris] Rose’s breakthrough column in the fall of that year, describing his depression and the lucidity that anti-depressants brought, was titled “Hell and Back,” and it ended with an altar call. For those who recognized themselves in him, Rose wrote, “Let me offer some unsolicited advice, something that you’ve already been told a thousand times by people who love you, something you really ought to consider listening to this time: Get help.”

And they did. Rose’s column “sent hundreds and hundreds of people to their physicians,” says [T-P Features editor James] O’Byrne. “I know that just based on the physicians that I have, who themselves got fifteen or twenty patients to come to them and say, ‘I read Chris Rose’s column. I think this may be me.’”

The next week, Rose urged readers to look for the “red flags” of mental illness in their neighbors. “I don’t mean to get all Oprah on you here,” he wrote, “but if you see the opportunity, help a guy get his shoes on, because sometimes it’s harder than you know.” In fact, for Rose, recovery was proving harder than just taking a pill. Feeling impatient, he started upping his dose of Cymbalta. Then he added painkillers to the mix. He began withdrawing again, and losing weight, until he weighed what he did in eighth grade. His columns became “unrunnable,” says O’Byrne, who spiked three in a short span of time. “They were just angry, rageful rants against life and the universe.”

Finally, last April, Rose’s wife Kelly arranged for an intervention. She and O’Byrne, along with three neighbors, confronted the columnist at his house and urged him to enter rehab. He didn’t need much persuasion. Not only did Rose understand he was in trouble, but he had an additional incentive: he had also recently learned that he was a bone-marrow match for his sister, who had leukemia. “I thought, ‘I’m gonna save Ellen’s life and then write a story that will blow people away,’” Rose says. “And I get to be the hero.” Rose went into rehab for thirty days, kicking both the painkillers and the antidepressants. But not in time to donate marrow to his sister, who died three months later.

Oof. That is some tough stuff. And, again, I'm sympathetic to his plight, and the midnights of the soul he has gone through (and will go through). I hope Chris Rose gets the help he needs to get back on his feet, but I still stand by everything I said about antidepressants in this post.


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It think it's odd that CJR and a Florida paper get the whole Chris Rose story, but New Orleans doesn't?

If you're going to make youself the poster child for Katrina PTSD (and the poster child for the Katrina/Flood story in general), doesn't this important Part II of Hell and Back matter as much as the first?

By Blogger Mark Folse, at 4:48 PM  

"doesn't this important Part II of Hell and Back matter as much as the first?"

I certainly think so.

By Blogger oyster, at 6:03 PM  

That kicker about his sister is certainly a horrible thing to have happen to anybody. I do hope he gets his shit together.

By Blogger Leigh C., at 6:05 PM  

I also agree about "To Hell and Back". I've never been able to read that column all the way through, because of a certain assumption running through it that the pharmacology will set you free. Well, it won't necessarily. Every day will still have an element of struggle to it. The drugs will simply help dull some of the sharper edges of it. The rest is still up to how you manage your life in all the intangible ways.

By Blogger Leigh C., at 6:13 PM  

Never mind.

By Anonymous Editilla, at 7:56 PM  

I had mocked him earlier, but no more...I have watched a sister go through the same issue after watching as her marriage dissolved two months to the day after she delivered stillborn at 5 months...

When-as a younger brother she's always respected and whose influence she's always been, well...influenced by-you watch as your logical discussion and emotional pleas, along with everything else across the human emotional spectrum, go in one ear and out the other, its frightening...

Her "happy pills" (as I call them) or "nerve pills" (as she calls them) are truly what snatched her back from the brink...

I was not able to help her myself...Nor was my family...But, in concert, along with her own rediscovered willpower, we are were able to...

I said a prayer for Mr. Rose...For his family...for him...For those close to him...

Let us hope that he can bow up and walk the path...

By Blogger GO, at 10:21 PM  

Many years ago (Twenty years? Good God...) both Rose and O'Byrne played with me on an adult basketball league team that I ostensibly "player-coached", and both struck me as just the kind of guys I wished I'd hung out with more outside of the gym. I'm sorry to say I haven't seen either since those days. (As an aside, we also frequently had Frank Donze playing with us, who I have seen off and on...but no, this wasn't a T-P-sponsored team or anything. Just that my best friend and basketball buddy at the time was also on the paper's staff...LOL) Needless to say I'll be pulling for Chris like many others.

As for the pharma/no-pharma question...I didn't get enough semesters in as a psychology major to feel any more qualified to give an opinion than anyone else, but I have always felt that you'll get better results addressing the underlying "negativity loop" that can eventually throw people into this situation if you first do something to correct the resulting chemical imbalance in the brain. I've never understood those who insist you must solely "talk" and "feel" your way (with professional assistance, of course) out of mental illnesses when as a result of the illness the electro-chemical wonder that is your brain is either failing to give or misreading the chemical cues that regulate "normal" brain function. Therapy, exercise, positive reinforcement--absolutely. But don't tie one of the patients arms behind their back until you know if they're one of the folks who'll benefit from phamacological therapy as well.

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