depression, in my house
depression had a name in my house.
it looked like the medicine my mama took at the same time every day.
when I was little, she’d forget to watch the clock and yelp at 10 minutes past, sometimes twenty. now she has one of those mom iphone alarms, you know, the one that goes off in the movie theatre because moms seem to have to sign a mom waiver that ensures a minimum of 25 awkward public phone alarms in their lifetime.
“you’re half daddy,” she would say. “I don’t think it will happen to you. you’re so healthy.” this confused me. i saw my half of her as often as I looked into the mirror. I was proud of it. to share this blood and bones. my mama. me.
but when depression came, that lonely summer in new york city, I didn’t know its name.
the longing in my gut for comfort, never obtained no matter how many extra minutes spent in bed. that summer I only ate watermelon from plastic containers. it was all I could stomach, the store was only halfway down the block.
I was newly nineteen, and that excused my home-from-college laziness. my youth excused recklessness. the boyfriend who sold mushrooms he kept under a pillow. he said I was the most amazing girl he’d ever met. I barely recognized myself.
I quit my summer job and told no one. I ached in bed. I could only walk halfway down the street.
where did I go, I thought. or has this always been me?
I finally told my mother on a stoop in the lower east side. I didn’t have the words. which, for me, means everything.
I went home for the rest of the summer. read books with her on the couch. got my wisdom teeth out. everything became unbearably pre-nostalgic. I saw death on my parents faces. “once I go back to school, everything will be okay.”
“The sophomore slump,” they said.
“Being an artist is hard,” they said.
“Let’s get drunk,” we did.
I woke up with my shoes on that year more times than I can count. Tequila is an upper.
In 2014 there was a bombing in Boston. the world felt as dark as I did.
The city was put on lockdown as the police chased that boy. I couldn’t stay in my apartment. I went to the park and called my mother.
“I have what you have.” I told her. “I know you don’t want me to, but I do.”
“Okay.” she said.
That summer I went to my mother’s psychopharmacologist. The one who had been treating her since I was born. Because I was born. I spelled my depression for him. He told me no one had ever been able to describe the disease so accurately. Relief washed over me. I was right.
My mother became a therapy Yenta. She sent me profile after profile.
She thinks I read all of them, but I just picked her favorite.
My therapist’s name is Jody. And since 2013, I have talked to her twice a week, every week.
You read my writing because of her.
In 2015 my depression soared. Worse than ever before, I watched my life and lifeforce crumble in front of me.
And oh, my mother. A warrior. Every time the worst thoughts came, her voice on the receiver. And articles, and books, and Ted Talks, and intention cards, and warm food, and a gentle persistence.
Because it was time that I took the medicine.
I had to.
It got bad, yes. Close to really bad. But not all the way there. And that’s because of my mother.
My mother, my mirror. My mother, the well of information I needed and the proof of wellness I could hope for. Depression, just a sickness. Depression, remedies to get better. When my mom was diagnosed in 1993, no one knew what was wrong with her. She was bedridden and hopeless, with a baby she’d been waiting to celebrate but couldn’t.
There was no family history. There was trial and error. There was stigma and fear.
No articles, no ted talks, no intention cards.
Just enough hope.
My therapist chose my prescription based off my blood and bones. The murky waters my mother had traversed led to clear oceans for me. There was no trial and error. I just got better. When my mother’s medicine stopped working last year, after twenty three good ones, her therapist called mine.
What medicine was I on? And finally, I became my mother’s mirror.
My mother normalized depression for me. It was never a secret. I am fiercely lucky. What she did for me, I must do for others.
You are not alone. I am your mirror.