I seem to have tumbled over the deep end this weekend. A reminder of what depression feels like. A reminder that sometimes, I am not well. A reminder to be gentle with myself.
Depression is more than a disease. It is a death sentence. It robs you of the words, the images, the hope that makes life worth living. It’s an implosion that shudders through your body and emanates out of you like waves, like what I imagine a city goes through when it is hit by an atom bomb. The strangely beautiful mushroom cloud, then the air full of dust and debris and bodies.
The bodies I face are those that never existed or that should have. They are the mother who should have loved me, the father who should have been healthy enough to defend me, the sisters who were adult enough to see that our family was a disease in and of itself.
How dare I write these words. How brazenly I condemn my family. What if it isn’t true? What if it isn’t their fault at all?
What if my own misery belongs to know one but myself. I am its creator, its nurturer.
How do live with myself then?
The truth is I am going through an identity crisis. Or should I say, a lack of identity crisis. The facts are like leaves falling off a tree. They land here and there but there’s no pattern to it, no reasoning with it. They lie there on the soil, dry and dead, waiting for someone to rake them up again, throw them away or compost them.
Worm food. That’s what I am. I can feel myself rotting.
I had a teacher once. He told me to write at least 4-5 hours a day. “If you want to be a writer,” he said, ” you need to write”. I told him, essentially, to piss off. I worked until 6 pm each night and didn’t have the energy to sit behind a desk and write for four hours more. A person needs to have time for life as well. “It’s you choice,” he said. Yeah, it’s my choice not to spend my life doing something meaningless that no one cares about anyway.
Yeah, it’s my choice not to indulge the side of myself that is constantly seeking attention, pity, sympathy.
In Jeanette Winterson’s powerful memoir “Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?” she writes: “I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence. The one who breaks the silence is never forgiven. He or she has to learn to forgive him or herself.” How do I forgive myself? And how do I know if I deserve to forgive myself? There are bad people in this world. Maybe I am one of them.
The apartment is empty tonight. M is away, camping with a group of friends. I was invited but declined. i needed some time to myself, I said. What I really needed was time to feel sorry for myself.
M has been thinking of planning a pity party. Maybe once a month. We would save up all month on all the reasons our lives suck, we would gather these reasons together and once a month we would share them with others. Together, we would feel sorry for ourselves, and then, at the end of the night, we would wander down to the ocean, with pieces of paper on which we have written these feelings down. We will burn them in the night. Let them go up in flames. We will experience some sort of catharsis. That’s what ritual is for.
How many months will it take before the catharsis is complete?
What if the pus of self-pity just goes on and on. What if that is my identity.
I’ve been thinking, lately, of dabbling in fiction. My father didn’t have a high opinion of fiction; he felt it was just make-belief. Ironically, he loved Homer and Virgil. As long as it was myth; as long as it was Literature, I suppose it was alright.
But I don’t think it matters what my father thinks anymore. I’m 34. He’s just shadow of a ghost that still, occasionally, haunts me. He’s just the man imprinted on a medallion I wear around my neck to remind me. That he once was. That he once claimed to love me. That I once let him down. Or more than once.
In Jeanette’s memoir she writes: “I believe in fiction and the power of stories because that way we speak in tongues. We are not silenced. All of us, when in deep trauma, find we hesitate, we stammer, there are long pauses in our speech. The thing is stuck. We get our language back through the language of others. We can turn to the poem. We can open the book. Somebody has been there for us and deep-dived the words.
I needed words because unhappy families are conspiracies of silence.”
I’m done with conspiracies. It’s too painful.