The Living Phoenix
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
“Stop treating me as if I am only a woman!” she told the bank manager, who probably did not grasp the meaning of that sentence. Little did he know who he was dealing with.
Sharon Harmon Muir is a lady to beat most men. Right from Religion to Depression, she has fought her battles with the determination to win. She indeed won them, including her last battle with suicidal-level depression.
4 years ago I met her with her husband Harry Muir, for some mild memory issues which turned out to be the symptoms of severe stress and depression. As she revealed the details of her life, I realized what an extraordinary life she had been living. When analyzing her own thinking and her art (painting), she said things that made me realize her genius.
I gave her a compliment I had rarely used: “You are one of the most brilliant minds I ever met”.She laughed aloud, looked at her husband, and winked “I told ya!”. Mr Harry was only too happy and proud.
Sharon was born in South USA to parents who were mill workers. She started her theatre performances at the age of 13. She sold her first painting at the age of 15. She was actively involved in civil rights movement. Once while service in the church, a black couple was denied entry in the church. Sharon quit organized religion that day, protesting against racial prejudice.
She went to an all-male institute of design and technology, University of North Carolina and later started teaching men at the same center to use power tools and build theater sets (That was in the 1960s!). She studied various art forms, ballet, composing music, painting and much more, also working as an electrician.
She says: my job profile was easy: whatever anyone could not do, I offered to do it for them. Working at such odd jobs, she met Harry Muir, who was a political protester within the US army. As Harry was jailed, Sharon’s family opposed the marriage. She was even labeled “carni-trash” then. Together Sharon and Harry worked as college professors, musicians, fine artists, magicians, and stood for each other. Sharon got an excellent corporate job, so Harry decided to complement it by choosing to be a house-husband, cooking and serving and looking after their daughter, and when the daughter went to school, he spent his time as a street singer.
At the age of 50, during menopause, the first attack of depression struck Sharon. In her own words, “It wasn’t me who was sad and suicidal, it was like someone else within me. I fought those thoughts, I knew I had to overcome this”. She developed severe panic attacks that prevented her from going out of their home. So she trained a Scottish terrier who would stop the traffic for her, take her to a safe place and then find Harry!They reached India in search of spirituality, finding it at Meherabad, and settled there. She continued to work as a painter and musician. “I was lucky that I could be the head of the family” she comments, although every time she speaks of Harry now, her voice becomes tender.
Once on a flight from Atlanta to Paris, Harry collapsed and was resuscitated. He was shifted to an ICU in Paris from the airport, and was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis (shrinking and progressive failure of lungs) of unknown origin. A few weeks later, they returned to India. In January 2016, Harry suddenly collapsed and passed away while in a hospital. Sharon kept on resuscitating her life partner of 50 years, till the hospital staff arrived after 8-10 minutes. She cannot forget that trauma.
With this loss, her depression resurfaced again, stronger than ever.
The worst loss in life is not death, it is the loss of love. Once more, suicidal thoughts and severe depression engulfed Sharon. To be left alone in a foreign country at the age of 67 is not easy.
“My belief system is very strong. I know my intelligence is above average, so there was no reason I couldn’t do everything I wanted, if I just put my mind to it” she tells how she decided to overcome her depression. “I read about it all I could, tried to get help, and got it”. She is thankful for getting good medical help in India, although she adds with a wink “I didn’t want a doctor who pats my back and laughs aloud telling me not to worry. I wanted a doctor who understands me, my illness and my worries as well”.
After Harry’s death, she had to clear a lot of legal hassles and banking formalities. Her daughter helped her there. When one bank manager tried to behave high-handed thinking that she’s just a woman unable to cope up, she told him : “Stop treating me as if I am only a woman!”.
When she visited me recently, she laughed a lot and told me: “This time again, I have chosen to defeat my depression. I will never give up. Back to life now”.
I usually keep busy, but when some patients talk, I want to listen to the beauty they create in my life. They expand my mindscape. When I asked Sharon what was her favorite subject for painting, she answered with a mysterious smile: “I paint the colors of the spirits of places”.
As I drank in the beauty of that sentence, I realized that the soul of this extraordinary woman can only have one title: “Phoenix”. The legendary bird is not imaginary, so long as we meet people like Sharon. This great magician called nature has given us the magical ability to be everything we want to be, to be happy, to win over any challenges we might face, just with a small trick: wanting to do it.
Sharon is an extraordinary example of that magic.
© Dr. Rajas Deshpande
Thank you, Sharon Harmon Muir, for the permission to share the story of your extraordinary life.
Please share unedited for spreading awareness about fighting depression.