The Light at the End of the Tunnel
AL ZAGOFSKY/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS At the age of 30, shortly after birthing her first child, Jaqi Medaris of Palmerton experienced something greater than postpartum depression-her hormones went ballistic leading to a set of behaviors that her doctor diagnosed as manic depressive. Her book, The Missing Link, tells her story.
At the age of 30, shortly after birthing her first child, Jaqi Medaris of Palmerton experienced something greater than postpartum depression - her hormones went ballistic leading to a set of behaviors that her doctor diagnosed as manic depressive.
"My doctor said, that I will be a manic depressive for the rest of my life," Medaris said. "He told me that I would be taking medication for the rest of my life. I kept saying 'No! No! No!'"
Jaqi, her nickname and the pen name for her book, writes about her nearly 20-year struggle with manic depression in her book The Missing Link - A Journey through the Mind of the Manic-Depressive to the Light at the End of the Tunnel.
Jacqueline Lois Shivik was born in 1937 in rural Northampton County to parents Ethel and Victor Shivik. She was a good student and graduated valedictorian in a class of 68 students from Palisades High School in Upper Bucks County.
At the time, women were not encouraged to go to college, and both her parents and her teachers had encouraged her to take a commercial course in school rather and an academic tract. They encouraged her to get married and work as a secretary.
Victor Shivik worked construction and was frequently on the road. Ethel Shivik worked as a microelectronics assembler. Jaqi grew up as a latchkey kid. When Jaqi was in high school her parents divorced, and each remarried. "I live with my mom and stepdad," she said. "I saw more of him than my real dad."
In 1956, after graduating high school, as expected, she married and she went to work as a secretary. At the age of 30, 10 years into their marriage, they had their first child.
"The first thing I experienced after the birth was euphoria - I was just ecstatic," Jaqi said. "I felt my life was going to change. That I would have new friends, and we would share the experiences of our children growing up."
But soon, euphoria and ecstatic was turning to gloom and doom. "I descended into a state of fear and anxiety. I thought the end of the world was approaching," she said. "I tried to turn our cistern into a bomb shelter."
"I imagined that my husband was dead on the street," she continued. "I was in an out-of-control state. I wouldn't listen to anyone. I thought everyone was my enemy. I viewed them as out of control and out of touch."
"I was resistant to anybody trying to help me. When my husband called the doctor, I became physically aggressive-fighting off three men trying to take me to the hospital."
She was taken to Allentown Hospital, restrained to the bed, and heavily sedated. "I didn't trust my doctors. I didn't trust anybody. I wanted to escape."
She did. Once the lithium carbonate stabilized her system, the restraints were removed. One day, she dressed, stepped into the elevator and left the building. She walked several blocks to the high school, stepped into a classroom and began teaching. When the school found out, she was escorted back to the hospital.
Jaqi had three children, and she had recurrences of her manic depression every 6 to 8 years. "In the meantime, I was on lithium carbonate," She said. "It was very deadening. That was the standard treatment at the time."
Then, nearly as suddenly as it had begun, at the age of 48, when she entered menopause, her manic-depressive episodes ceased. "Most women go into menopause and have great difficulties with emotions and hot flashes. It was the reverse for me. I never got sick. I never got hot flashes. My life seemed to finally become normal."
"Pregnancy changed my chemistry-menopause changed it back," she said.
Jaqi Medaris' book The Missing Link is available online from Blurb at www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3316911. She has two previous books of poetry: The Farm and Nana's Garden.