The Non-Discriminating Monster

I stared down at the rusty razor blade in my palm — I don’t know for exactly how long as I was in a hypnotic trance — but I couldn’t have been considering what I was for much of a span as I was on recess. I also can’t recall how young I was, other than this low moment in my life predated middle school. So, still very much a baby through the mother’s eyes I have now, but old enough to understand that this filthy tiny slivered rectangle of  jagged metal could do worse than assist me in taking my life. It could assist me in botching taking my life, creating further pain, and possibly implanting disease into my little veins.

Looking back, I am not sure if I was mature enough as a grade-schooler to realize this, and if that is why I was fixed in place. Or, if I was just afraid of my own motivation for picking the discarded blade up from the black tar concrete, and found myself frozen, terrified to act further. I also wonder if I would have followed through at sawing away at my delicate-as-rice-paper little girl wrist, if I would have been able to handle the certain sting that must go along with this sort of self-infliction, if the flesh-fountain of crimson lifeforce would have further immobilized me…had a classmate not observed the object I held and the strange way in which I stood in that spot, and run to tell an aide posted in the school yard.

In spite of my hesitation that day — which I believe was my first instance of experiencing depression so acute that it brought on those suicidal thoughts — it wasn’t enough to deflect me from ever approaching pseudo-attempts again.

Later, in high school, while my mother was out, I found myself paused by the bathtub, contemplating just exactly how the ruby and the water would mix, how the latter would coax out the former, once I severed the very visible vessels in the undersides of where hand and arm meet.

That is the last memory I had of considering suicide then. Somehow, I had found a way to cope with life, with everything, found a way to heal just enough to not go that dark, to want to live enough to not want to die. That is, until the actual last memory.

The year is foggy but because it happened in the house in which I currently reside and have for a decade this month, it couldn’t have been any earlier than 2004. If it was that year, that would have been two years before I got married, and six before I became a mother — two very beautiful events in my life that I might have missed out on had I given in to the feelings that enveloped me in my mid-twenties, causing me to carefully think out how I would hang myself from the once too-high pole in the closet of our middle bedroom — now my daughter’s room — with one of my belts.

Obviously, again something more powerful than my own miserable misery won out. But not before I plunged deeper into despair, leading to an extremely emotional and tear-filled one-person intervention with my then-boyfriend.

That, I do fervently hope, was truly the last time. I don’t want to feel that way ever again. I don’t want to be that version of myself ever again. To go a solid decade without ever getting so down (not that I haven’t gotten depressed since circa 2004 — that would be an absolute lie) that I’ve managed to not entertain taking myself out of the world is amazing. And I don’t know how I achieved it, but I suspect it hasn’t been on my own, and that it has been a delicate mixture of things, beginning with my rock, my husband.

Out of all the ways that any of us can be put in front of discrimination, there are certain things that don’t care about our gender, our upbringing, our socio-economic status, our age. Depression is certainly one of those.

Even though I have never gone to a doctor specializing in the treatment of depression, I have suffered in my own ways with it. And because this has always been something I try to keep distance from, I have never written in any way about this part of myself in a public manner before this post.

When I was 13, after family counseling had failed me — not because family counseling doesn’t work, but for a whole other reason — I joined a group at the same facility for kids with one or both parents having issues with drug and/or substance abuse problems. My father is an alcoholic. My already-deceased step-father had a drug addiction. (Finally, somewhere I belonged!) I don’t recall everything that I got out of the group teen counseling sessions, but overall it was good for me, and the female counselor was of decent repute.

In spite of that, one message that didn’t sit well with me at the time was basically this: as a child of an alcoholic, your chances of becoming one as well are higher (no idea what the percentage was said to be) than someone whose parents do not have this issue.

I know I had already entered and been plenty ensconced in my rebellious period by then. So, adolescent me thought this was pure bullshit.

Now with 20+ years between teenage me receiving that information and adult me pulling it out of the depths, some of my little bad brushes with alcohol (drunk and naked one night in college, sobbing to my then-boyfriend on the phone about my activities that evening, which did not involve sleeping with anyone, thankfully; fast forward just a few short years back having a sad and angry conversation with myself on Facebook following the consumption of an entire bottle of wine at the dining room table, causing much concern for my husband and very, very small daughter) I’m thinking, it’s probably not at all an untruth.

I’m very convinced that if a person with my certain life fact — alcoholic dad — does not firmly make certain decisions about how to handle adult beverages way ahead of instances when adult beverages might be procured, as well as how they want to live their life, who they want to be concerning all this, the demons all show themselves, all at once. Putting them back into the dark corners where they lurk, dealing with the undiscriminating monster in all of this… I don’t want to know what that is really like.

There is validity in a child of an alcoholic having the probability of becoming one themselves.

It’s been eight days since actor, comedian, husband, father, and human being Robin Williams took his own life. And I still can’t process it, still can’t accept this as true. Even though he struggled at various points in his life with alcohol and depression. Even though it can not be denied that neither of these discriminate. That either of these can and have affected just about anyone.

Initially, I believed that my shock at his passing and the way in which it came about, was my sensitivity, my heart-on-my-sleeve personality allowing me to be the empathetic soul that I am. Upon reflection, upon seeing how this relates to my own life, I know now after mourning this man that I never personally knew that really my shock was at the realization that this battle inside does not end. He was 63. He had had a streak of time where he had been able to keep demons and monsters alike in the hell where they belong. But they escaped somehow again.

At 34, Williams’ death has me gazing hard out into the foggy abyss of my own future, wondering if I have as much a grip on both issues as I have come to believe that I do.

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10 responses to “The Non-Discriminating Monster

  1. Kat

    This is a powerful piece. Anytime you go to ‘that place’ and confront what lurks there, or even just admit that it’s back there, it’s difficult. People don’t like to think about it and they don’t likem to talk about it. I think it’s important to share these feelings for so many reasons.

    • Thank you, Kat. I’m glad to hear that it is ‘powerful’ and not ‘crap’ as I had feared. I was pretty uncomfortable putting this out into the world. But then I reminded myself that this is a part of my past, that we need to own our stories, and more importantly, we need to write them. There is a lot of ‘that place’ writing in me. I hesitate to write these types of posts too frequently because I don’t want to be a downer writer that people turn away from due to how heavy this can get, nor want to risk igniting old/bad feelings in myself. Weird that I am fearful of that last part since writing is usually the opposite — therapeutic, cathartic, cleansing.

      • Kat

        It is most definitely NOT crap. I think your fear of that place and igniting those feelings is a very valid fear and one that shouldn’t be brushed aside. I know that writing is very therapeutic for me- even when it’s crap! 🙂 I think the challenge is finding the right balance both in the subject matter and inside yourself. If you only write about those dark places, I suspect that it might bring you down and drag you back in. My writing has come to a screeching halt due to time constraints and I’m really itching to be able to sit down and write anything!

        I look at it all as trial and error. I try to vary what I write but stay true to myself. Some things work. Others don’t. One of my goals is to look at the pieces that didn’t work and see if I can find the problem. In some cases it might be as simple as the tags. Like most things in life, it takes time.

      • I agree — even when the writing really IS crap, it is STILL therapeutic. Therapeutic all around, quality or crummy. Finding the balance, yes, is a challenge. I think also, the wondering at whether you are presenting your subject manner in the right way, whether that be tact, tone, arrangement of paragraphs even.

        Right. That’s why I am just now starting to dig into the dark places, and pacing myself on how often I do it.

        Time. Oh, sweet suffering time. As Hootie & The Blowfish lamented, “Time, why do you punish me?” When I’m itching to write, but just can’t get to it, sometimes it is like what I imagine withdrawal is to a heroine or cocaine addict.

        I’m always about staying true to me, too. Because I can’t be anyone else, so why try to write that way? And what would be the point in anyone reading something that I claim is genuinely me if it isn’t?

        I don’t think I’ll ever be sure if whether I am tagging my posts adequately or not. So, I just try to choose concise descriptions.

      • Kat

        I think it is like withdrawal. Those are the times that the things I’m writing in my head keep repeating over and over- until I get them out!

      • Ha! Me, too! That helps me though, because I have learned to look for those patterns in my thoughts. If I have been thinking about something that much, it is plenty of writing already locked and loaded…and certainly something my psyche needs to put out.

  2. This is a truly brave piece. It really takes something special to share these types of painful memories with people, and you handle it with such grace. I, for one, appreciate it. Robin’s death hit all of us in a profoundly unique way, I think, because of the kind of effect he had on us in life–through his work and the characters he played.

    And we really can’t say enough about self-awareness and how important it is to self-preservation.

    I’m sorry I was away for so long. 🙂

    • Thank you, Shane. Your extremely kind and sensitive comment is beautiful and humbling. Unfortunate to life, I have more of this sort of writing in me — I am just trying to sort out when and how to present it. Fortunate to life as a writer, pain from the past gives us things to write about. I agree — seems like his life and his death have both been the stuff of transcendence. Pretty much anyone from any walk of life has been relating to him, and the loss of him.

      No, we can’t say enough about self-awareness nor self-preservation. Robin is proof of that. I hope that no one else well-known becomes an example. I hope no one in our personal lives does, either.

      No worries. We’re still getting to know each other. I knew you hadn’t turned away, per say. Just busy with your own doings. Part of which, I owe *you* a catch-up on, as well.

  3. Kathleen

    I’ve been thinking about this journal for the past two weeks. I am proud of you for writing this so openly. Depression is a “disease” that many do not want to talk about yet, it is so common.

    • Ah, here I thought you had missed this one. Thank you. I had no idea that it would elicit pride in anyone that knows me. It simply originated from empathy, from sadness at that particular news, from recalling that deep despair, from hoping that I never find myself there again. I suppose it evolved organically into me talking openly about a dark and tender part of myself. Taboo still clings to many things. I think it is still a reason for some people to not talk about it. For myself, as I read it over during the editing process, I kept asking, do I really want people to know this about me?

      I feel like I really didn’t say anything though. Some topics just take a lot to even chip at, let alone feel satisfied that they’ve been covered adequately. I have more posts like this one in me, on different topics. I just want to make sure to pepper them throughout, not have this sort of overall, all-the-time tone.

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