Every Day Above Ground (mallorys_camera) wrote,
Every Day Above Ground

The Precise Moment When People Get OLD

One of my preoccupations is isolating the precise moment when people get old.

I suspect that happens at the exact second they stop bearing any resemblance to what they looked like as children.

Meaning, that when someone else—me!— does a side-by-side comparison of photographs, you can still plot a line of resemblance; but when you see those same people standing on line in the grocery store or checking out books at the library, you scrutinize their faces and think, They were always old.

Thus, I was taken aback when I ran across this photo of L and C, taken approximately 35 years ago:


Not a photo of them as children, true!

This is what they look like today:


I mean, looking at the two photos, it’s obvious that the people in the first picture are the people in the second picture. L has the same endearing smile! I’m fairly sure that you’d find that smile in her kid pix; perhaps that accounts for her really youthful disposition and approach to life: She’s 80 in chronological years, but you’d never know it.

But you could not go backwards from that second picture of C.

I can go backwards from that first picture and know absolutely what C looked like as a boy. But I can’t do that at all with C in the second picture.


We had a pleasant little Epiphany party last night for which C and Kassie came down. Longtime readers may remember that Kassie was diagnosed with schizophrenia 20 years or so ago, which is managed more-or-less effectively by an arsenal of meds.

Kassie is an exceptionally talented artist with a style that’s very reminiscent of William Blake’s. I have one of Kassie’s watercolors hanging on my wall:


There were a couple of extremely bored children at the party, and Kassie took them under her wing. They all did watercolors together. I was impressed!

This morning, I wandered out to the kitchen to find Kassie sitting at the counter eating a large bowl of cannoli cream.

“I’m having a panic attack,” she told me. “Eating carbohydrates and sweets is the one way I’ve ever figured out how to control that.”

I nodded. “Makes sense. You’re nourishing yourself. When we’re kids, people give you sweet things as a reward.”

I gave her a shoulder massage. Her shoulders felt like rocks.

When I’m around people in great psychological duress, I often find myself slipping into Delphic Oracle mode. It may be very annoying—I dunno. But it’s the only way I feel I can speak with them honestly.

“You know, Kassie,” I said, “you have a singular karma. A very, very hard karma. I couldn’t handle what you handle with any degree of grace. But you do. I can’t tell you how much I respect you for that.”

Kassie’s eyes teared up.

“And I realize that I’m not as good a friend as I probably ought to be,” I said. “I’m incredibly self-absorbed, you know. I get panic attacks, too. And the way I handle them is to remind myself: It’s only brain chemistry. It’s only errant brain cells popping norepinephrine. I dunno whether that would work for you. But it’s a thought.”


In a recent LJ comment exchange, [personal profile] rosegardenfae observed that the feelings I’ve been describing recently sound a lot like PTSD.

I am really resistant to the psychobabble around PTSD. PTSD is something that soldiers get when they’ve been on the battleground frontlines for too long!

It’s not something people like me, living more-or-less comfortable lives in the cozy flow of every-day-above-ground, should stake claim to.

But there’s no denying I have one of the primary diagnostic signs for PTSD: extremely exaggerated startle reflexes.

So, Huh.

Of course, there's no real effective treatment for PTSD. Except drugs. Which I refuse to take.

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Tags: aging, friends, psychological depression
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