Wednesday, April 06, 2011
A handful of days a year, the depression just gets me, and there is nothing I can do except ride it out and wait for it to get better. I took a mental health day yesterday, and fortunately, working in mental health, my boss and co-workers totally understood.
My dad said, "So you took a mental day?"
Me (laughing): "No, mental health day."
Dad: "Isn't that the same thing?
It's hard for me to write when I am down, but conversely (and this really irritates me) when I get the blues my mind won't stop running around in circles...and writing is a good antidote for this, normally. Go figure the catch-22.
So a few hours away from me is Kurt Cobain's hometown of Aberdeen, Washington. The 17th anniversary of his death was in the news largely because of a guitar statue that was put up in his memory this week.
I did a lot of involuntary thinking about him, and not because I am the biggest Nirvana fan (although I do like some of their music.) But I remember tiny details about where I was (Santa Barbara), who I was with (a bunch of people I'd mostly never see again), and what I was doing (hanging out at a party my boyfriend's friends had) when I found out that Cobain died.
This wasn't a seminal generational thing - but it strikes me because it's one of only a handful of moments (9/11 is another) that is permanently etched into my memory.
A guy whose last name was Hendrix (hard to forget) told us the news right after he told me about a girlfriend he had who had died. Our first thought: drugs. When we found out it was suicide, some part of me thought: He found a way out.
I also finished reading a book on illness by Mark Vonnegut, a pediatrician who lives with bipolar disorder who is also the son of the late author Kurt Vonnegut - another Kurt who suffered from major depression, except he never owned up to it publicly. "I have so many original thoughts," Mark Vonnegut wrote, "that I take medication for it."
There's no humor like black humor to get through the day.
At that point I was 17 and I was not sure if I would, or if I wanted to, get to 27, Cobain's age when he died. To say that I am glad I did is a big understatement. Depression has claimed far too many and I am blessed to have found treatment that works most of the time, and friends and family who are supportive most of the time.
Some people speculate that artists and writers suffer from mental illness disproportionately from the rest of the population; I think we are just better at writing it down.