Philadelphia’s already starting to lock down gyms, pools, community centers, and restaurants, which means we’ll need to discover alternate ways to keep ourselves happy and healthy. We’ve had an unusually warm Autumn, which gave us extra time to take walks, dine outdoors, and have open-air socially distant functions. But the weather’s getting colder, and the heat lamps that once promised untold months of al fresco dining are being scuttled inside. Can we keep up with the fresh air and fitness routines that kept us physically and mentally healthy?
Eleanor Kazdan09.03.2020My Mother Has a Nervous BreakdownIn the 1950’s and 60’s, people used the term “nervous breakdown” when a person because irrational, unable to function, or lost touch with reality. Today, there are many other medical terms and diagnoses to describe this state of mind. In 1967, at the age of 47, my mother took a solo trip to visit her parents in Montreal. She had done this many times before. She had always had a difficult relationship with them, especially with her domineering, imperious father. As the only girl and oldest in a family of five children, she was expected to cater to her brothers and go to work at a young age to support her family while her brothers pursued their lofty careers.
When my mother returned from this trip, something seemed off. She smiled inappropriately and her eyes appeared glazed. She said strange things. Soon, my mother took to her bed and stayed there for three weeks. She called my father a “chicken” and made clucking sounds. I was 17 and sat by her bed day after day, holding her hand. My father wanted to call the doctor, but she adamantly refused. I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. It was very strange and it felt somehow shameful. After three weeks, my father finally called the family doctor. He gave her Valium. My mother got out of bed and resumed a normal life, but she never seemed quite the same. Many years later, thinking back with much more knowledge of mental illness, personally and society in general, I believe my mother had a psychotic episode and perhaps would have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She never had a full-blown episode again, but for many years, occasionally said things that seemed irrational. People didn’t really talk about those kind of things back then as much as they do now. People just didn’t know what to do. It may be a good thing that she didn’t go to the doctor, because she might have ended up being committed to a mental hospital.
Not long after the episode, my mother took up long distance running, becoming a marathoner, until the age of 80. This changed her life.
That’s my mother in her 60’s with one of her many medals for marathon running. She was unbelievable; she ran 37 marathons from the age of 50 to 80 and won many medals and trophies because first of all there weren’t many women running marathons in those days. Even now, for a woman in her 70’s, to run marathons is pretty unique.
She started running, and in fact, it was right after that so-called nervous breakdown. She started running at age 47, I think I have a memoir, and maybe I’ll read it another time about her running. She and my father both started running. It was really unheard of for adults to run, but my brothers had a track coach in high school who had the idea that adults should run, and so he encouraged the parents of his students to start running. I remember they couldn’t run at all at first. They tried to run around a quarter mile track. Our whole family started running, including me. I started running when I was 17, and I still run. I still run like a mile- it’s kind of an addiction. But in no time at all, I remember my parents coming home and saying, “We ran two miles,” and then “We ran five miles, and then “We ran ten miles.” Then they ran marathons all over the world. They were members of the Canadian Master’s Association and even got funding for running in New Zealand, Korea, Japan, you know they ran all over the world and had an interesting life. It changed my mother’s life. It made her a much happier person.
I’ve never been a long distance runner, and even my father had a lot of problems when he did long distance running and he had to give it up. But my mother seemed to be built for long distance running, she barely had any problems. I mean, with me at one point I used to run five or six miles at a time. I was always laid up with something- knees or back, so it just wasn’t my thing. But I’ve always run like short distances.
People didn’t really talk about those kind of things back then as much as they do now. People just didn’t know what to do. It may be a good thing that she didn’t go to the doctor, because she might have ended up being committed to a mental hospital. I don’t have a lot of good memories of my mother, so that’s the reality.
People used to make crude comments on the street. If you ran on the street in the late 60’s, people would like laugh and they’d make awful comments. Now, you just see people running on the street, you’d never even think of making a comment, except put a mask on.