The Legacy of Depression: My Father’s Story Part I

Every father’s day I think about my children and grandchildren, but most of all I think of my father. He was a wonderful man who suffered most of his life from depression and manic depressive illness. As a therapist I thought I was immune from the family inheritance. Many of us have to deal with a family legacy of depression.

My father was born in Jacksonville, Florida December 17, 1906. He was one of eight children whose parents had been born in Eastern Europe and had come to the United States in the late 1800s. From what I heard growing up, he was emotionally sensitive, artistic and talented. He wrote stories, poetry, and put on little plays for the family.

Unlike most of his brothers and sisters who either went into business or married business men, when he was 18 my father went to New York to become an actor. At first things looked bright. New York in the 1920s was full of glitter and glitz, a great place to be for a young man seeking fame and fortune. But that ended in 1929 with the stock market crash and the beginning of the Great Depression.

It was in New York that he met my mother and they married on her birthday, October 5, 1934 after a somewhat stormy courtship. Economically things were difficult, but they were together and ready to weather the storm. When all money ran out they would invite friends and acquaintances to their small apartment and my father would put on a show—readings from Shakespeare, his own poetry, or short stories. The price of admission was a can of food.

But as the economic situation worsened so did his mood. He would snap at my mother. Small things irritated him. How she cooked, cleaned their apartment, or made the bed became points of discord. Recalling the times, my mother told me, “He was always on edge. I couldn’t seem to do anything right. No matter how much I tried to support him and let him know I cared, he still got mad at me.”

There were increasingly heated arguments and fights. He would accuse her of being interested in other men and “sleeping around.” She would proclaim her innocence and feel hurt. They would make up, make love, and everything would seem all right. And they would be all right, until the next time. There was always a next time.

My mother was always able to find work as a secretary. She had excellent skills and even in bad times people needed her talents and experience. However, there weren’t a lot of people looking for my father’s skills and talents. Not feeling comfortable at home, my father spent more and more time away. “He’d stay away for hours at a time,” my mother said. “Sometimes he wouldn’t come home until early the next morning.”

His brothers tried to convince them to come home to Florida and sell insurance like they were doing. My father laughed. “I’d rather die first.” It was a prophetic outburst. He nearly did die. Most of what I know about his life I learned from my mother and the journals that he kept in the last three years before he tried to kill himself. A lot of my own life has been spent in fear that I might suffer from the same illness as father. As is true in so many other areas, until we confront and deal with legacy of our parents, both good and bad, we are trapped by truth we are afraid to acknowledge.

©2010 Jed Diamond

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Jed Diamond is the internationally best-selling author of seven books including Male Menopause, now translated into 17 foreign languages and his latest book, The Irritable Male Syndrome: Managing. The 4 Key Causes of Depression and Aggression. For over 38 years he has been a leader in the field of men's health. He is a member of the International Scientific Board of the World Congress on Men’s Health and has been on the Board of Advisors of the Men’s Health Network since its founding in 1992. His work has been featured in major newspapers throughout the United States including the New York Times, Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. He has been featured on more than 1,000 radio and T.V. programs including The View with Barbara Walters, Good Morning America, Inside Edition, CBS, NBC, and Fox News, To Tell the Truth, Extra, Leeza, Geraldo, and Joan Rivers. He also did a nationally televised special on Male Menopause for PBS. He looks forward to your feedback. E-Mail. You can visit his website at

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