Depression and the Failure of Memory: An Introduction and Plea

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.

 

  1. Bailey

1/17/19

Why I Just Assume I Will Commit Suicide

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No no don’t call the authorities. I’m fine I promise.

 

Well at the moment anyway.

 

There are tons of articles on the web exploring “risk factors” for suicide, ranging from middle age, race, mental health conditions, psychiatric hospitalization and of course past attempts. The amount of boxes I check on these lists is simply staggering.

 

It can leave one overwhelmed with a sense of impending doom. You start adding up a 10% increased likelihood from one category, to a 5% increased likelihood in another category and when it’s all said and done you sit at a 75% chance of offing yourself because a parking ticket broke your mental back.

And yes I know that’s not technically how the statistics work, but damn if it doesn’t start to feel that way.

Then you factor in the constant visages held over dying family members as the years drag on and on with their endless procession of suffering loved ones crying out to God as they slowly drown in their own viscous sputum. You start to think, “when I get that far gone, maybe I’ll just put a gun to my head.” You think this not necessarily because you don’t want to suffer the indignity of the end, but more to spare the ones you care about watching a hollow shell just wither away.

You think of your wife opening the bills years after they plant you in the ground. Imagine her sitting at the table as your teenage sons play video games and skip showers. They have started to curse and even though their mom begs them to stop they just go right on. She can’t keep the accounts straight. She can manage them, pay them, but it’s the constant stack, the dividing and sorting that keeps her awake and makes her eyes sink into their sockets.

You realize that just assuming you will die of bowel cancer is grim. You have a family history of that. The percentage points just tick up and up as you finish off a three musketeers bar and a bag of doritos. You are diabetic. The end will likely be blind and helpless.

You joke about this with friends and colleagues. You casually include “when I commit suicide” in normal conversations. When they gawk at you like your pants have fallen to your ankles, you laugh and talk about the statistics. Gallows humor is funny right?

It’s not funny. They are unsettled by it. They walk away with a grim frown and likely report you to someone who is mandated to follow up.

You are not suicidal. But the reality of it, the seduction of it as a solution to awful realities lying in wait offers a morbid comfort. It’s there. The idea sits on the edge of your brain and assures that no matter what, if it gets too bad you can always just check out. Don’t obviously. At least wait until you can get shit straight and tell someone what you are planning. Be of sound mind and body and all. Don’t be stupid. Don’t cause more pain than you have to.

Maybe don’t bring it up in conversation so much. And for God’s sake don’t fucking blog about it.

 

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The Second Day: Final Preview For Cyclops: A Memoir of Mental Health Collapse

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I float into the hall and see the techs lined up at main junction where all the security cameras converge. The east wing doors are shut with chairs braced across them. A zip tie binds the handles. It’s been a fun night I think.

A woman runs from the end of the wing and throws herself into the glass window separating the wings. I don’t even startle at the zombie like scene, even as blood smears from her nose and lips at the impact. She wears a bra and sweatpants and in the midst of her screaming, I notice a missing front tooth. It is a fresh loss. After a moment of dizzy stumbling, she rakes her fingers through her black hair and pulls out an impressive clump. I begin a slow, methodical stride to the junction. I smell bacon.

I arrive among the techs just as she raises an ugly, brown chair above her head and lunges with it toward the glass. She throws with all of her might, but the glass merely bends as the chair betrays her. Both the zombie and the 70’s porno furniture reject crash to the tiled floor. For the first time I notice how savagely brown this place is.

“Don’t you guys have a padded room for shit like this?” It’s nice to know my cruel sense of humor has returned. She begins to gnaw on the skin of her kneecap.

The techs chuckle. “No we don’t have padded rooms here. She is coming off a Xanax addiction. It’s a good drug, but God help you if you get addicted.” She screams. The same black tech that processed me turns from the glass. He looks me straight in the eye as if sizing me up. His goatee is now less distinguished. He hasn’t shaved in a few days.

“She’s gonna be fine. She has to get over this hump. We see this a lot.” He yawns and stretches as he returns to his station. “You’re getting a roomie though. She is gonna need that wing to herself for at least a whole day. Tom is gonna be staying with you tonight.”

Oh no…not fucking Tom…

Cyclops: Debriefing

A new sample from Cyclops I am especially proud of. Every night we discussed our goals, our successes and our failures. These conversations often affirmed our efforts, but occasionally the real pain would erupt from us like pus from a zit under pressure.

This is the beginning of one such eruption.

 

goals

 

A new tech arrives for our daily debriefing. We make the rounds. Yawns erupt and people confess to their daily sins and triumphs. Most of us achieve our goals. The few who don’t are encouraged. The tech tonight is an elderly man, gaunt as fuck and sporting thick glasses that could start a fire with nothing but a nightlight. His voice is heavy, but he speaks slowly and its buttery tone reminds me of Breakfast.

Randy’s goal was to get through a day without crying. He failed. It was Allison’s fault.

Matthew Wanted to eat in the cafeteria and not subsist on vending machine snacks. He succeeded but still ate Cheezits eight times today.

Molly wanted to go an entire day without Masturbating. She failed.

I wonder how Molly strategizes a failure of that magnitude when the bathrooms and bedrooms have no doors..

Jamal wanted to cuss out Jennifer. That was a resounding success.

I went to therapy. I have some ideas for goals tomorrow. I am kicking ass at this mental hospital thing.

Allison doesn’t want to talk. She cracks her long fingers and winces. Her arthritis is getting worse and these assholes can’t get her medication right. The tech presses. He adjusts his glasses and frowns. She needs to discuss her goal for the day. The tears flood across her nose and down to her lips. A damn bursts within her and all the hurt bleeds out.

 

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Argument for Book II of Lucifer Triumphant

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I always loved Milton’s use of an argument to provide a quick view of the events in a section of his epic poems. It’s easy to get lost in verse, and the argument allows a reader a chance to get their bearings.

 

The loyalist angels awaken to find themselves in Hell. Their memories are fragmented and unclear. They lament for what feels like eternity. The cries of despair fill the caverns. Michael the Archangel manages to rise from the fire and make his way to shore. He attempts a speech to rally his brothers in hope that some remnant of Yahweh’s forces remain in Heaven, and that Yahweh himself could yet live. Sandalphon responds to him with a recanting of Yahweh’s death, assuring the once heavenly host that the Lord of all is surely lost. The laments rise again and Michael tears the wings from his back in grief. The others follow, and for the first time since Yahweh laid their foundations, the fires of hell cool just enough to allow the lost angels a chance to properly grieve. 

 

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