I’d like to resurrect an old post thread, Tales of Despair. In the past, I used this topic to discuss works of art and music that were born out of, or inspired by, depression and despair. Tonight, I’d like to use it as an opportunity to talk about my own struggles with depression. I may keep this series going; I may not. I can’t promise it will be interesting, or well-written; I can promise it will be a deeply personal look into what depression has meant—and continues to mean—for me.
I first became depressed in my mid-teens. I don’t recall much of the early days, but one of the contributing factors may have been the lack of control I felt as a child growing up with well-meaning but overbearing parents. I remember a trip to Germany one year, a kind of exchange-student trip, and when I came back, everything was different. Life was empty and meaningless; colors were muted and gray. Music held little joy (this was before I discovered rock and metal).
As my depression worsened I became first lackluster, then miserable, and finally self-loathing. Like so many young people who suffer and don’t understand why, I looked for outlets, and one of them turned out to be self-harm. I remember my first cut: barely a scratch, with a blunt Swiss Army knife. Today I have so many scars I can’t count them all. I discovered the blade of a pencil sharpener was one of the most effective cutting tools: sharp and solid, it could leave small marks or deep gashes.
“Let me see your cuts.” I punched him.
My parents, of course, worried. All they could see was a child who used to love life now bent on destroying it, and they didn’t know what to do. I did little to hide my self-harming; my school shirts would be perpetually blood-stained, though I always kept my sleeves rolled down. One day, my father, once an M.D., decided he wanted to see how bad my cuts actually were (all were frankly superficial; I never needed stitches or hospitalization). Being the gruff Yorkshireman man he is, he did so by walking into my room, grabbing my arm, and saying, “Let me see your cuts.”
I punched him.
I think I was probably as astonished as he was. His reaction was predictable: he punched me back. Now, I should point out that my father has always been a power figure in my life, and to defy him like this was utterly terrifying. I was shaking so hard I couldn’t see straight, and while he tried to pin me to the ground (he’s not a weak man, by any means) I kept beating him away. The whole fight probably lasted a minute at the most, but it felt like forever. I might have wet my pants a little. Finally I managed to escape his clutches, and ran down the stairs and out the front door, barefoot. I didn’t go home for three days.
My relationship with my father never really recovered after that. To this day we are cool with each other—civil and kind, but certainly not close. I doubt we ever will be. One of the greatest casualties of my depression has been the relationship with my parents. I find it difficult to talk more than trivialities with them. They feel the same, I think. We see each other once a year, and rarely talk outside of that.
I hope my own son never suffers depression. If he does, I hope I know better than my own parents what to do. I don’t blame them—they did the best they could. But it wasn’t enough.
Featured image taken from http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Darth_Vader.