"Mother was diagnosed with "involutionary melancholy." Please
tell me about this illness."
Involutionary melancholy — is an illness which can surface at an elderly
age. Even the name reveals that the basis of the abovementioned pathology is a
sick depressed mood. The main symptoms of involutionary melancholy are
apprehension and sorrow, which can be expressed in different degrees of
Usually this illness develops gradually. The initial period usually lasts
2-3 months, when the precursors begin to be felt: worsening sleep, growing
fatigue, weakness, loss of memory.
Provocative factors that can be characteristic for this age are changes in
social status, material condition, loss of a husband or wife, forced change of
habitat, conflicts with children. Many elderly people are concerned about the
political, economic instability of our era, characterized by local wars, drops
in national currency with the loss of savings, and many other circumstances.
An old French proverb states: "Everyone ages as he lived." There
is a deep meaning in these words. The body ages with each year, but the soul…
The soul is immaterial, and if it is with God, then with age it brings good
fruit. St. Theophan the Recluse, speaking of the different ages of a virtuous
Christian life, thus described old age: "This is a time, when the internal
battle calms down and the person begins to taste peace and sweetness of the
gathered spiritual blessings. The farmer, eating the fruits of his labor after
harvest, or dough, leavened and soured, fully risen, — these are images of old
age. The most wise Sirach portrays the actions of wisdom, how it first tests
its beloved, then turns to him, gladdens him and reveals its secrets to him
(Sir. 4:18 and on). This last is the character of spiritual maturity. We assign
such a person strength, gravity, steadfastness, experience."
Priest and doctor Father Valentin Zhohov writes of the elderly Christian:
"Before us is not an old man, but an elder, evoking the feeling of
respect. Such Christians, with faces like icons, can only be found among the
Orthodox. Handsomeness does not come by itself, but is the result of efforts
and patient suffering."
One of my old friends related that he searched for Truth a long time,
thought about eternity, but only became a confirmed Orthodox Christian after he
met the glance of an elderly woman, returning from a church service. "How
much simplicity, humility, nobility there was in her appearance, walk… And
there was so much kindness in her eyes!" — he recalled.
Probably many Orthodox are familiar with the worrisome-reverent feeling
which one feels when talking with an experienced elder, spiritual father. After
such meetings there is sweetness, peace and quiet in the heart. But most of the
present elderly population — are children of the 1930s and 40s. Year after
year, decade after decade, atheistic "order" has been seeded in their
souls. The Party, Komsomol applied their "values" to them. Rethinking
life with time, particularly in these latter years, some of them have come to
church, repented, found God, while others remain captives of the
"ideals" of youth, waste time and waning strength on meetings, curse
the civil authorities, are offended and disappointed.
Melancholy becomes as natural to them as breathing. Why, one can understand
this on a human basis: life passed, but justice remains elusive.
Responsibilities and awards are in the past, and money has lost value after
reforms. The soul is worried; the feelings of approaching illnesses, fear and
the bitterness of real or imagined solitude do away with its peace. There are
cases when such old people kill themselves.
It is interesting to note the following: the kernel of personality is revealed
with age. For example, a kind person does not lose his kindness, the sensitive
may become weepy/good-natured, while the selfish become miserly, and so on.
Your mother should be observed regularly by a doctor-psychiatrist. If she is
a religious person, then it would be good to meet with her spiritual father or
the priest to whom she goes to confession. Explain your mother’s illness to the
priest, so that he could construct the necessary strategy for caring for her
soul, ask him for his prayers…
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