Okay, so here’s the deal…
I suffer from depression.
To the unenlightened out there, that means I’m moody or lazy or mopey or too sensitive or whiney. I’m none of those things. I’m not even really sad, for the most part, though after suffering this affliction pretty much all my life, there is certainly a constant hum of melancholy way back in my mind. And despair. And anger.
On the plus side, I’m 6′ tall, naturally fit, agile, and strong. The baldness that colonized my father’s head has found no home on mine. I’m blue-eyed, square-jawed, and apparently reasonably attractive. I’m highly intelligent, and can write very well. These things and others I’m grateful for.
In overwhelming opposition to those blessings, I apparently have the genetic bug that makes you vulnerable to depression. Apparently, though anyone can get depressed (usually through some sort of trauma), most people are innately capable of recovery. But when you have the gene for it, it’s harder to recover, and if you are repeatedly traumatized, the depression can settle in for good.
Kids, especially very young kids, with this neurological fuck-up are particularly susceptible. Their brains are still forming and such trauma can do permanent damage. Kids who lose a parent early or who are abused are at really high risk.
I was both.
My mother was killed in a car crash when I was a baby. My father replaced her with a step mother who would sometimes hit me in the head with a broomstick for punishment, who was around till I was about twelve. When I was fifteen he brought another in who was petty and manipulative and did everything she could to destroy what good there was in my relationship with him.
For my father’s part, he was a drunk. I don’t think he was actually an alcoholic, but he was definitely a drunk. And a mean drunk. He was occasionally physically abusive, but worse he viciously attacked my sense of self. He told me I was a worthless shit who’d never amount to anything. He told me I was a coward.
He was unpredictable in his cruelty. Once, a good friend of mine, Andy, was going to go camping with us. The evening before, I went to my friend’s to help get his stuff together. My father told us to be back by nine o’clock. When we were leaving Andy’s, his dog slipped out the door and we had to chase it down, making us two minutes late. My father was cold and mean when we arrived, accusing us both of being unreliable and worthless, and he sent Andy home. As you might imagine, the camping trip was great fun after that.
Another time, he let me use the car to pick up my girlfriend who lived about forty-five minutes away, so we could go to a Halloween party thrown by my Drama Club, but something pissed him off and he rescinded my use of the car, leaving me unable to drive her home. I had to call a friend to get her a ride, then my father wouldn’t even let me leave the house to get her home.
I was a smart, good-natured, reliable kid. I was a good kid. I didn’t get in much trouble. But he’d sometimes get drunk and call my friends’ parents and tell them what a terrible kid I was, and that I was a bad influence on their children.
Finally, an event occurred that is such an entertaining anecdote on its own, I think I’ll give it its own post.
(Part 2 on Monday)