A different happiness

Jorge Correa walks into Zale Lipshy hospital, clutching his copy of Struck by Living in his hand.

Inside, his wife is hospitalized and dangerously depressed.

Every day, the community service director reads the book to his wife, Inda Correa, translating the words into Spanish as he goes. Coping with the devastating effects of depression as he goes.

But today, her birthday, Jorge notices she is different.

She’s putting on makeup, changing out of the clothes she’s worn for days, calling friends and asking them to visit.

She’s finally talking with her husband.

It seems like the best birthday gift ever.

But some of Jorge’s friends warn him this may not be how it seems.

Don’t be a fool, they say. 

She could relapse.

For a few weeks, Jorge sees the beam of light he so badly wants for his wife and himself. They’re back at their house and getting back to their normal lives.

Then one day, she can’t get out of bed.

She slips back into depression just as quickly as she got out.

They’re right back where they started, but that doesn’t mean they’ve lost hope. Since that day years ago, Inda has almost fully recovered from her depression.

“It’s like trying to move a huge boulder,” Jorge said. “We are all together, and we are happy we are together doing this, but the frickin’ thing is heavy. And it’s not moving and it’s going too slowly. It’s frustrating at times.”

Before her depression set in, Inda led a happy life as a teacher at Hockaday.

“When I was working at Hockaday, we had a lot of friends,” Inda said. “I was not sick at that time, I had a lot of energy. We would have parties with our kids and our friends at home. We were such a happy family.”

Then she started feeling tired and was not motivated to go to work. Jorge could only watch his wife’s mental deterioration.

“I didn’t know what was brewing in there,” Jorge said. “And then one day, she just wouldn’t and couldn’t get up, just stayed in bed all day, sleeping.”

Inda was happy, yet somehow depression found a way into her life.

The same happened to Julie Hersh, the author of Struck By Living and the mother of Daniel Hersh '13, and she attempted suicide three times.

“I know I felt guilty about it because I had two healthy, beautiful kids who were pretty easy kids. How can I be depressed?” Hersh thought. “And it really has nothing to do with that. It’s really not a logical disease.”

When people have suicidal thoughts, often times that person’s problem-solving and decision-making skills are impaired.

“Usually, when people get to the point of feeling suicidal, it is because they have difficulty generating alternative solutions to problems,” Director of Counseling Barbara Van Drie said. “It just tends to spiral and they can’t see any other way out.”

Jorge’s son, Andrés, was concerned about his mother’s condition as well. He heard about Struck by Living on NPR and recommended the book to his father, not knowing Hersh was involved in the St. Mark’s community.

“I was seeing parts that had to do with Dallas, but I had no idea that the author was even in Texas,” Jorge said. “Then I realized she was talking about St. Mark’s and I was like ‘What the…’”

After reading the book, Jorge was able to better cope with the new challenges he was facing.

“[Inda] wasn’t alert,” Jorge said. “But if I could do it in her language first, it would be more natural. I had it all in my mind because I was reading it. I don’t know how many times I’ve read it now, but that’s how it started.”

Since the book made such an impact on Jorge’s life, he decided to return the favor to Hersh by writing an official translation of the book into Spanish — a process that took nearly three years.

“Oh, I’ve gotten all kinds of requests to get the book in Spanish,” Hersh casually mentioned to Jorge at a school function.

Jorge said he’d do it, but Hersh didn’t really expect him to tackle the enormous task.   

When she realized he was serious, she insisted on paying him.

“No, no, no, this is my gift back to you,” Jorge told her.       

Since the translated book would reach mostly Mexican populations, Hersh gave Jorge’s translation to some of her Mexican friends, Emilio and Monica Pementel, to “Mexican-ize” it.

Just as it took a community of writers and devoted people to translate the book, it takes a community to help a loved one overcome depression.

“I think the biggest thing that helped from taking my life was that there were people there,” Hersh said.

Van Drie agrees that while it may be difficult acknowledging the support, thriving off of the community is key to recovery.

“I think that’s the hardest thing,” Van Drie said. “Being in a culture that praises self-reliance, I think that seeking help and gathering our support around us is sometimes hard for people to do. That’s I think the most important thing is to recognize that we are a community.”

Through her book, Hersh was able to connect with all kinds of people and truly impact the lives of her readers.

“I’ve had teenage kids that look like goth characters come out and say, ‘I feel like your book was written for me,’” Hersh said with a laugh. “Really? I’m a plain, boring, suburban soccer mom and I remind you of yourself?”

Inda was able to establish a concrete connection with Hersh since she was in the same hospital.

“There were many things I was believing at that time that she lived also,” Inda said. “I felt close to her. She described things I was going through at that time. It was something that I could understand better about myself because it was a similar experience.”

Connecting with Hersh and opening up about her condition was a critical part of the path to healing for Inda.

“When you realize that you are sick with depression or feeling down,” Inda said, “I would say that you need to talk to somebody and share that experience. You don’t have to keep it to yourself.”

As her ordeal progressed, Inda gradually did get better, and now she feels much better than when she was battling the worst bouts of depression.

Hersh says that the most important thing for a depressed person is to keep trying.

The most important thing for that person’s family and friends: just be there.

For Hersh, her family and friends were stubborn enough to keep helping, keep pushing until she got better.

Jorge read her story and knew he had to do the same.

Thanks to his efforts, Inda is well on her way to recovery, even after suffering through a potentially deadly mental disorder.

“I am happy now,” Inda said. “Not as happy as I used to be, but I feel good about myself and I think that I’m doing well. I feel happy now, but it’s a different happiness.”