Sunday, Jun. 15, 2003
I think a major danger in living with depression is the tendency - subconscious or otherwise - to rely on external stimuli to keep my mind and spirits afloat. That day, for whatever reason, I was relying on a very narrow set of expectations of Amy to make my day. To rely on anyone else to keep my mind clear and free of guilt, sadness, lonliness, self-loathing, and disgust with everything in the world is no different than sucking on the pipe or the bottle. Back in the day, when I had drunk all the booze, cashed the last nugget and worn out my last welcome, all I ever had left was me, myself and I. For six years I played the same game with myself over and over again before I felt a serious breakdown coming on.
One day last week a urologist from the Health Sciences University pulled his car over to the side of Interstate 5 durning the afternoon rush hour. Three lanes of heavy traffic rushed past him as he opened the hood of his car and then turned and stepped out in front of a speeding truck. Two days later, after the police wrapped up their investigation, the headlines declared it a suicide.
I listened to the public radio announcer with a mix of saddness and contempt. How could she, this dumb bitch who still tripped over her own tongue, tell me in her monotone voice about this poor soul who stepped out in front of a speeding truck on the freeway? I knew the story better than she.
I tried to put her voice out of my head as I searched through stacks of newspapers on my mother's breakfast nook table. Mom was in the kitchen, fussing (as usual) over something (god knows what). All I wanted was the comics page; any comics page. I'd missed the last three days. I pretended I didn't see the headlines as I flipped through three days of Sports, Metro and Classified sections: "POLICE RULE SUICIDE".
"I just don't get this guy," mom called from the kitchen.
She was speaking loudly in that high-pitched tone of exasperation.
"I mean, this guy was a doctor..." she said as if what had happened had somehow defeated her monumental effort to understand his seemingly irrational and sensless act of self destruction.
I just stopped what I was doing. Not frozen, but tense, I waited for her expert conclusion on the act of walking into oncoming freeway traffic. She came into the breakfast nook with her elbows tucked to her sides, shoulders raised and her palms waiving out in front of her. My jaw felt like stone.
"What reason could he have possibly had...?"
I wanted to smack her in the head with a newspaper.
"Yeah!" I said, trying not to yell in a voice that was unusually loud. "You just never know what those crazy people are going to do next, do ya?!"
I startled myself but I was glad I said it. Mom blinked at me, her arms still posed, unsure of if she would agree with me whether I was serious or sarcastic. She seemed to instantly forget everything she was about to say.
"Yeah..." she finally mangaged.
I gave her a sharp look and went back to searching for the comics page.
For a 30-year veteran newspaper reporter, my mother has a frighteningly dismissive worldview. As if the world ought to behave according to her idealized recollections of 1962 middle-class America, any representation of a culture of personal expressionism that resists the established acceptable norms is, to her disgust, "wierd!"
Sometimes I can't stand listening to my mother's ill-informed, borderline hysterical tangents. Especially when her relatively conservative ideals toward society and cultural behavior lend an aire of superiority to her ramblings. Most of the time I think she's just having one of her own depressive reactionary fits about an unspoken failure of expectations. Other times I get so mad that her aloofness could make me feel so infurior about the things that go through my head.
When I was living alone in that low-rent studio on the 405 freeway I was getting as stoned as my body would allow as often as my wallet would allow, sometimes in a good mood, sometimes not. The doctor who'd stepped out into rush hour traffic reminded me of my old passive inclinations toward the ultimate showdown between pedestrian and machine.
Once, I had left the studio on foot after getting myself so completely stoned I could barely walk straight enough down the sidewalk so as to avoid getting stopped by the cops. I had walked into the downtown Safeway trying to subdue suspicion with an over-compensating imitation of courtesy and good humor. Then, with a large Chinese box of orange-flavored chicken I had taken an aimless stroll through downtown at midday dressed in a cloak of pot-induced invincibility. That dizzying haze filled my head and my chest with the dilusion that nothing in the world was going to hurt me, even if I double dog dared it to. Thus, with a sort of peace and contentment that only a condescending arrogance can achieve, my mind was disengaged from the terrifying consciousness of diliberately stepping off the curb in front of a passing bus.
Anymore, though my depression still manifests in many defferent ways, I'm no longer living under its constantly threatening shadow of doom. Outbursts that at once seemed so earth-shattering eventually serve to highlight the things that are good and right with my life. In an odd way, I guess I should be greatful that I am able to be so intimately familiar with dispair, hate, anger and self-loathing without actually living the traumatic events that would otherwise shape my frame of mind with such tortures. Without knowing that which is bad, how could I appreciate that which is good?
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