It’s been almost four years since I originally published this. I’m posting it again for a couple of reasons: one, because Katherine Stone has been fundraising for this tremendously important cause and so it’s been top of mind, but the kind of top-of-mind that I keep trying to push down, because there are ghosts here, and I don’t really have the emotional bandwidth for coping with ghosts. Which is why, I suppose, (and this would be reason number two), I completely broke down reading this piece by Pam Belluck in the New York Times. Messy, ugly, lock-the-office-door-and-crouch-behind-your-desk-weeping broke down, the kind of breaking down that you can’t – or shouldn’t – ignore. So I searched for this post, to remind myself that those aren’t ghosts – they’re memories, of fighting real monsters. And to remind anyone who wants or needs reminding that the monster isn’t us. We’re the monster-slayers.
It was just one night, and one night, measured against the course of a lifetime, doesn’t seem all that significant. But it was a dark night, and I have never been able to shed the weight of the memory of it. I have never been able to put it, as they say, in perspective. I never will.
Jasper was not quite six months old. I had not slept in weeks. I lay awake as he stirred and fussed, bracing myself for the moment when I would have to rouse myself fully to nurse him or change him or soothe him. The darkness that night seemed particularly black, the kind of black that has a density, a weight. To say that it felt like it was closing in would be to use a trope that gets overused when writers are trying to describe dark nights and oppressive fear, but in this case it was true. The darkness was closing in on me like a heavy fog, like an army of ghosts, like a slick of oil, like night made solid and sinister. I couldn’t breathe. Jasper continued to fuss. I fought the dark.
I fought the dark. I think that I won. Even at the time, I wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure.
There are things that one knows about one’s self, and things that one doesn’t. I know, for example, that words make me happy and that I love my children and that I can, when I try, be very funny, and that I am introverted (yes, really) and that I am good at philosophy and at making soup and that I love the smell of lilacs. I know, too, that I am prone to anxiety and depression, but that I am able to cope with these with the help of the love and support of my family and by writing and with a certain quantity of pharmaceuticals. What I don’t know is how big a role my proneness to anxiety and depression plays on the stage of my psyche – whether it is a starring role or a bit part, whether its strutting and fretting defines the production in some critical way or is just a nuance, just theatrical flair – and whether, or the extent to which, it shapes who I am. What I also don’t know: how much it effects how my children regard me, and how they will remember me.