My memoir is almost done, and I am thrilled to share the introduction! Writing this book has stirred up some strange and awful emotions, but it has been well worth the struggle. I won’t say I am proud of this work, but it has been struggling to escape my mind for years. Now that it will soon erupt into the world, I can sit back and say a dream has come to fruition. My greatest hope is that someone will understand the extremes a mental illness at least a bit more. I hope that they find some new well of empathy to draw. God knows we are in short supply as of late.
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Much has been written about the effects of major depression on one’s cognitive capabilities. To summarize, they diminish in some fairly shocking ways, though the fact that they diminish should surprise no one. I have wrestled long and hard with the stories contained here, not just in their shocking content, but even their veracity. I have long had a bad habit of embellishing things that happen to me for the purpose of milking those experiences for more dramatic effect in the telling of the story. I think all story tellers do this in one form or another, but I believe it vital to disclose some suspicions I harbor for my own memories.
To keep this somewhat short, let me get right to the point. A major milestone of this journey is disputed. I remember my sons suffering awful digestive issues in their very first years. I remember losing sleep, crying through nights and accepting that both had feet planted on death’s doorstep. These memories are as real to me as the keyboard recording my words. They are tangible with sights, smells, touch, and dreadful sounds that still drive me from the peace of sleep. I have written pages and pages of poems and other material cataloging these experiences not only to share with others, but to try and better deal with the horrors myself.
Just recently, my wife informed me that none of this ever happened. There had been problems with their stomachs and it caused more than a little discomfort, but the intensity of these memories are apparently misplaced. The specifics, my memory of actual things said and nights spent in dread are almost completely denied. For me the story is true and the past is something that we shape as our lives twist through life’s harrowing course. My wife doesn’t have the best memory in the world, but her vehemence in denial leaves me cold and shaking with doubt. Afterall, my sickness is one of the mind. I descended into a place where thought fails, collapses into the confusion of fantasy and wanders amongst the fears of things that never were.
I caution the reader that this is the story of a time when the boundaries of dreams and reality blurred. I am honest. These things happened and the people in the facility were real. The names have morphed through the years and the order of events is somewhat scrambled, but it is a truth I defend. At the very least, I like to tell myself sometimes that the Mandela effect is real and we all cross a few rogue parallel universes from time to time. If it didn’t happen exactly as I describe it, it probably happened to another David somewhere in the cosmos. That logic helps me sleep.
For the record, James Frey did nothing wrong. At least in my universe.
It has been a struggle resurrecting my ambition and even summoning the strength to put these words on paper, to tell my story of a journey into the belly of our mental health system. To be committed is an experience wholly unlike anything else that I have ever endured. I am thankful for the lessons I learned, but even more thankful it’s over. One of the tech’s at my hospital told me the world would be much better if everyone suffered a nervous breakdown at least once. At least there would be more empathy for those struggling with minds that don’t behave. My hope is that this work opens these doors and gives us all a chance to lose our minds, at least temporarily.
Contained here is only the first part of this story. I stayed in the facility for more than a week and the real work of self care didn’t begin until day four. Just as Allison said near the end, we can’t begin to reassemble ourselves until we shatter completely. That moment is still incoming. But for now, lets dip our toes into these tumultuous/ hallucinogenic waters.