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Column: 'The old black dog'
by Lauretta Hannon
August 28, 2014 02:58 PM | 7096 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Lauretta Hannon
Lauretta Hannon
Q: I was recently hospitalized for some major surgery. When the anesthesiologist came in to visit just prior to surgery, I asked him what his death rate was. You’d have thought I’d shot the man with a stun gun. I thought was quite a valid question (he did finally respond that it was zero, which I was glad to hear), but he really seemed appalled. Was I right in asking him? Actually, I don’t care if I was right, but perhaps you could suggest a slightly more appropriate Southern phrasing for me.

A: The Southern phrasing coming to my mind isn’t appropriate or suitable for a family newspaper. So we’ll just bless his heart instead. As to whether you were right to ask him, of course you were. He needs to be reminded what is at stake. I bet you kept him on his toes, and that’s a mighty good thing when you’re the one stretched out on his table.

Q: I recently experienced the death of a family member. As he had been ill for quite some time, and his passing was inevitable, I seem to have done my grieving in advance. Well-meaning people seem to have trouble grasping this. They continue to offer suggestions such as grief therapy or that I need to see someone about getting in touch with my feelings or that I am stuck in the denial phase of grief. I am, quite frankly, tired of getting “the look” and unwanted advice when I say I am doing fine. How can I get folks to back off without being downright rude about it?

A: I have found silence and a peaceful expression work wonders in such situations. Most people can’t handle silence, and when they see you’re not going to say another word about it, they will move to another subject.  

Q: How do I handle my family understanding a celebrity dealing with depression while they refuse to recognize mine?

A: I don’t believe they have a clue about depression. In this case, I suspect they have expressed compassion for Robin Williams because he is an idealized abstract to them. You, however, are flesh and blood. You are the real face of depression, something they certainly don’t understand.

Try and remember how difficult it is for people to “get it” when it comes to depression. It’s nearly impossible to convey to those who’ve never suffered from it. Perhaps knowledge will begin to grow as a result of the dialogue created by Williams’ demise.

Depression is a legitimate, complicated disorder. I have witnessed its ravages up close, all of my life. Earlier this month I dealt with a relative’s third suicidal episode. And in the immediate aftermath of the second incidence, I carried her suicide note in my pocket. I took it in hopes of getting her the help she needed. It didn’t work. That’s another story, and I’ll share it eventually.

In the meantime, I’m so sorry that your family isn’t open to learning about your depression. That’s a shame for everyone involved.

Winston Churchill famously referred to his depression as “the old black dog.” He also said, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” Whatever you do, please keep going.

Send your questions to

Lauretta Hannon, a resident of Powder Springs, is the bestselling author of “The Cracker Queen — A Memoir of a Jagged, Joyful Life” and a keynote speaker. Southern Living has named her “the funniest woman in Georgia.” See more at

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