One night in the middle of my senior year of college when I could not get out of bed, and I could not taste my food, and I could not answer the phone, and I felt that there was something vile and rotten coursing through my blood, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps there was a “dybbuk” dwelling within. According to Jewish folk wisdom a few centuries ago, the dybbuk was the dark, sick spirit that possessed people and caused all kinds of maladies. For a few minutes, I seriously entertained the possibility that a dybbuk prompted the inner darkness that descended upon me periodically. Then the realization that I was resorting to primitive superstition made me even more depressed, and I dropped the idea.
I got better, much better, over the years, but the dybbuk/black dog of depression never seemed very far away. And I could never fully account for it. Somehow my particular set of stories, and my particular capacity to overcome them, and what little I knew about biochemistry never came close to explaining it. Maybe it wasn’t a dybbuk, but there often seemed to be something from somewhere outside of myself that grabbed hold, or threatened to grab hold, something beyond my control and imagining.
Then, on a winter evening in 2012, when thinking about thinking about writing about diabetes, I found a New York Times article by Alice Dembner with an evocative lede: “Millions of people face a two- headed beast – diabetes and depression – that gnaws at them from the inside out.” It prompted me to hope there was a chance to understand the dybbuk –or whatever it was that grabbed hold of me–and maybe even find new ways to ensure that it never returned. [Read more…] about Diabetes, Depression and Chasing Away the Dybbuk