It’s taken me a while to figure out the thing I’m an expert on. Aside from being an expert on writing and figuring out how to be in the world without being killed, incarcerated or famous, I know something about depression. Real. Clinical. Depression.
Mind you, I’ve been dealing with it since I can remember which technically qualifies me as someone with “early onset major depressive disorder.” That sounds downright Oscar-worthy. But the fact is that– like being middle class or double jointed or from Texas– I just didn’t know there was any other way to be. I thought everyone had an annoying chorus of negative thoughts and weekends spent in bed and a dull sense that there had been a mistake in my being born. I had fantasies of joining the unknown in my sleep– my soul and neurons and unleashed bliss could rejoin the cosmic soup which has played a cruel yet hilarious joke on the whole of humanity. I was convinced we could all experience peace and joy when the lines between “me” and “others” could finally be dismantled in death.
Why I am blabbing on like a psych patient? Because that’s what I think about. That’s what I’ve always thought about– since I was 9 or 10. I can’t really tell you the exact age, which is one really terrible quality of depression. I have virtually no long term memory of years, places, people, experiences. But I do remember how I felt. I can tell you how I felt when I was three years old, seven years old, 12, 19 and on and on. But I depend on other people to give me back my memories. The memories I have are given back to me through filters of sympathy, confusion, judgment, remorse, victory and emotional peril. I take people’s word for it that I have an infectious laugh and a great smile. I don’t need to remember those times, because the smiles and laughter are my rewards for cutting through the infection of my disease, and that’s more than good enough. It’s good enough because every breathless, hysterical laughing fit, every happy tear, every sincere smile is mine and lives in me somewhere. For months and even years at a time, I can feel them running for their lives like the last living people in a zombie wasteland.
Lack of memories is a big reason I became I writer. I thought I needed to remember every last detail of my life like a supernatural Netflix series. But I don’t. What I do need to remember is that for every self help book or spiritual practice I’ve devoured, I always left out some critical key ingredient in understanding myself, my pain and my place in this world. My brain… and its smaller than normal hippocampus.