We’re going to concede that this sweeping melancholia may, in fact, be a reaction to the increase in my medication, as well as the time of year. Despite the fact that this is the first year in a while in which I’ve not lost someone to the icy hands of death, I seem overwhelmed by a sense of grief. Nothing is going quite as I had hoped, and with every passing day, it seems that I can no longer recognize my victories, however insignificant.
Perhaps it’s that the house in which I spent the majority of formative years is passing into the hands of someone (as yet to be determined) else. Perhaps it’s that my expectations of my personal life are unrealistic, and that my dreams are simply too lofty for my ability to achieve them. Or perhaps it is the knowledge that I have failed my son in ways which I have not yet begun to comprehend. Regardless, it all seems to boil down to a single common denominator: the man who abdicated his role as my father.
Somehow, no matter how hard I try to convince myself, it seems that I cannot get over his absence, and what it meant for me. Was it my mother he was escaping, or was it myself? Had he remained, would I have grown up in toxic home, somewhere in Boise, Idaho, or would fatherhood have helped him to discover something within himself that would have transformed his pain to joy? Then again, have I?
How can I be an effective father, or for that matter, husband, if I still have yet to have made peace with myself? I must have written this dozens of times, but what if I’m not cut out for this? If I cannot figure out how to live with myself, how can I expect others to live with me? If I cannot figure out how to help myself get past the pains of adolescence, how can I hope to help David survive his own?
I have been in stasis since the onset of my disease, and, despite the strides I’ve made toward understanding the secrets of reality, that’s been merely and intellectual exercise. I’ve stagnated emotionally, and face the world, and all it holds, not with wisdom, but with the terror only a child can muster. And now I must square the circle, and reconcile these disparate parts within myself to become greater than the sum of my parts.
My psychiatrist is worried that I’ll do something stupid, as I have made the mistake of being candid with her, but if I am to find a medication which works, I feel that honesty is probably best. But as much as she is concerned about the risk of self-harm, I cannot seem to get through to her that I have dreamed of little else but the cessation of existence for as long as I can recall. For some reason, this answer doesn’t seem to satisfy her, no matter how many times I try to tell her that my desire for the end is not an active one, which I am seeking out, but rather a passive hope that one day I will permanently fail to wake. Perhaps the distinction is too subtle for her to have noticed, not that that should surprise me.
I have built up a coping mechanism over the years, though I wouldn’t say it’s healthy. I have found that humour, especially that involving wordplay, is am extremely effective balm for those around me. I slip silently into the mask of a clown, disarming the worry of those around me, and allowing them to believe that I’m okay. For me, however, it’s not as simple as screaming Dad Jokes into the Void. I mean it is that simple, but it’s not terribly effective at relieving the existential pain.
I suppose I should find it amusing that I am using Dad Jokes to combat the ache inside me where the love of a father should have been, but it only compounds the misery, and lets loose a sigh from betwixt my lips.
The only thing my father ever gave me was an inheritance of mental illness, which he, in turn, had been gifted by his father. And it looks as though I’ve regifted it once more to my own son. They say it’s better to give than to receive, but having lived these nearly three decades with Bi-Polar Disorder (Type 2- Neurochemical Bugaloo), I wish that I’d been able to hold on to it a while longer, instead of lavishing it upon my son.
So instead of facing this head-on, I merely cry at any presentation of interactions between fathers and sons, be they cinematic or literary, and seek out catharsis by proxy in the words and images of others. I would ask why there seems to be such a prevalence of estrangement, but I think I know the answer. Either that, or I am like a salmon, returning home to hurt, and allowing it to spawn.
I cannot help but wonder how things might have been, had they been different from the start. Would I have loved my grandparents as much as I did? Would I have even known them? Would I have survived my adolescence?
I am, at best, an ineffective husband, and a distant father. It’s easier for me to throw myself into work, than face having so fundamentally disappointed those who love me.
I was hoping that by the time I’d reached this point, I would have come to one, or at the very least, managed to maintain on topic, but alas, it seems that my depression has held the reins all along, weaving me erratically between self-recriminations as I’ve tried to make my point.
Depression lies, but it’s not really that.
Depression wouldn’t be deceptive if it could get caught in its own lies, for it is a master of half-truths, brutal and incapable of giving quarter. It reminds me of all of my failures, which I know are not untruths, but it also fails to allow me to acknowledge my victories, which is where its brilliance lies.
We are human, bound to the wheel of uncertainty and doubt, capable not only of exceeding expectations for unlikely successes, but for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Whispers in the dark remind me of my fears, but also cloud the revelations of the light of day.
Shall I step boldly forward toward the future, or cut my losses and congratulate this indifferent universe upon a game well-played? The candle which burns as proof against the monsters in the night is almost gone, and I don’t know if I’ve got it within me to find another before the light has finished sputtering and gone out.
But I will try. I will try for as long as I can, until the weight of it all will no longer let me rise. I will keep doing what my father never could: being there for my son.
It’s one day at a time, which means no promises. But it also means no worries, at least not for today.