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Blog 6: Dealing With Gloomy Thoughts

Posted by LeslieDavidSimon in The LLS Blog, 27 January 2015 · 73 views

By Leslie David Simon

This continuing first-hand account of Leslie David Simon's experience as a lymphoma patient will run throughout the next few months. Please check here frequently for new installments.

Something unexpected happened at this point. I found that gloomy thoughts never involved a fear of my own death. While I don’t think of myself as particularly fearless, the question of my own death and its consequences for me, simply didn’t seem to trouble me, as I began to have morbid thoughts. Rather, the thoughts that made me most depressed were about what would happen to my family, most of all to my beloved wife, Ruth, but also to my children and grandchildren.

Ruth and I had married in August 1962, a few months after our graduation from college, and three children, seven grandchildren, and 50 years later, we are still happily married. I knew that if, God forbid, she were to die before me, I would be lost. The worst of my depressing thoughts were now for her.

And then there were our sons and their wives. And the grandchildren, who ranged from age 5 to 18. I enjoyed my role as patriarch of this family, a role I could not have envisioned just a few years earlier. We had raised our sons to become successful in their professions and good husbands and fathers. We were providing all the help that grandparents offer. What would happen to all of them without me? Of course, life would go on, as it always does, but I found all of this the most depressing thing.

So during the day, and even worse, in the middle of the might, all these gloomy thoughts would begin to fill my brain. I knew I had to find a way to wipe them out. I did. The trick during the day was simply to keep busy. Even later, when the effects of chemotherapy began to limit my activities, I learned not to give in to the temptation to lie around. Rather, I read extensively, tried to keep up with most household chores, took a video course in the history of western art, and began to write this journal. Ruth made sure that we kept up a busy social schedule, with meals out with friends and family frequently. My sister, Diane, and her husband, Verne, who lived nearby in Virginia, also helped keep me supplied with old Sid Caesar and Ernie Kovacs DVDs, and dined out with us frequently.

But often at 3:00 am, lying awake in the dark, I found another solution. Whenever the depressing thoughts would keep me awake, I would visualize pleasant things we had done together, beautiful places we had visited, or events that had happened with our children and grandchildren. These mental images worked. Scenes of trips Ruth and I had taken to places like Burma, Turkey, Provence, Israel, Hawaii or Mexico; events such as shoveling snow with our three sons; watching our young granddaughters dance to music; or gathering with the whole family for our parents 50th anniversaries all overrode the depression.

But the depression never goes away completely and some days are worse than others. The endless waiting makes it worse but there are ways to minimize it.

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Simon is a retired senior executive at IBM in Washington DC, New York and Paris, where he oversaw government affairs and communications. He also served as a scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC and wrote two books about the Internet, public policy and democracy.

Read Leslie David Simon's full blog, as chapters are posted, by clicking here.

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