This is the next installment in the ongoing saga of Me, a topic which (at the moment) I actually don’t find that interesting, but it seems important to share with those of you who have also struggled (or are struggling) with depression…if only so’s you know you’re not alone on the High Seas of Funk. (And to remind me that I’m not, either.) Like all good daytime drama, if you don’t have time to watch today’s episode, you can pick it back up three weeks or three months from now and it won’t take you long to catch up. (Oh my God! Jack & Jennifer are back together? Again?)
It’s crazy to realize how profoundly things which have happened in one’s past shape one’s present. I don’t even have that glamorously bad of a past, but still the bad bits have managed to get their sticky fingers all over the Play-Doh of my life and leave a disturbing, syrupy-brown residue. (I was one of those kids who was meticulous about not tainting the pure, salty goodness of the Play-Doh by mixing it with other substances, so this realization is doubly upsetting.) My therapist is helping me recognize that while I thought I was over the bad bits, had worked them out and made my peace with them, really I’ve just swept the interior fallout under the rug. We all know — Pop Psychology Generation that we are — that ignoring pain is about as smart as blow-drying while soaking in the tub, but apparently my Emotional Intelligence skipped that day of class. (Or leaving the hurt unexamined seemed like the best option at the time, given the thorny situation and my kid brain.)
Whatever my reasons for suppressing the suffering (and I’m quite sure those reasons will not be allowed to rest unplumbed by my zealous therapist), suppress I did. And quite well, might I add, since at the end of the day, I am my mother’s daughter and we don’t like to do things half-assed. But though I did my level best to tamp it down and cement over the evidence, the boo-boos have lurked with their viscid fingers and sneaky ways, sullying each new brightly-colored sculpture of me that I make until I have to scrap that one and start again. It’s taxing work, re-making oneself all the time, and I think I just got tired of it (hence, depression), while still panicky that what’s left won’t be worth keeping (hence, anxiety).
Here’s my point: the past makes us who we are. Not completely, of course, but more than we’d like to think. We’d like to believe — in our hyper-individualized, choice-driven, Protestant-American consumer culture — that we’re in the driver’s seat with the irresistible force of our wills, but the truth is that our “free” will isn’t that free…at least not until we’ve taken loads of time and energy to discover what unhealed wounds and unanswered questions and unmet needs are navigating the drive, whispering or shouting or crying directions from the back seat, managing to make themselves heard even over the road-trip playlist we’ve got cranked to 11.
Which is what I’m doing now. I’ve pulled the car over and asked the crowd in the back to please disembark. Let’s stop here for coffee, I say. Bring your maps. Let’s talk about where we’re going and why, and who might be good company for the journey. Let’s chat about why you think secondary roads are better than the Interstate, and why you always suggest putting the top down in the rain. I don’t understand why you want to try a Thelma & Louise (just once), and I think your hope that this car will fly is naive and irrational. (But I still respect you and affirm your right to be a little crazy.) Let’s just sit here awhile and get to know each other before we get back in the car. Then maybe we can get somewhere and enjoy each other along the way, instead of driving around in circles screaming at each other to pass the turkey jerky.