In an earlier post I wrote about wanting to clear my to-do list before leaving Melbourne. However, one new thing wedged itself onto the list and refused to budge: my mother’s enduring cold rage about this post from August last year.
Mum had asked me to let her know whenever I’m leaving the country, so before my trip in December last year, I sent her an e-mail saying I was headed off on holiday, and then moving interstate to start a PhD. I got a two word reply: ‘be well.’ Recently I set off on a trip to Oxford, my first time visiting the UK, and this time I actually called, and got five minutes of liquid nitrogen. Afterwards, I sent an e-mail saying I wasn’t going to do that again, and got a reply saying at some point I’d need to forgive her and not to bother staying in touch.
It was one of those moments of misrecognition that characterise unworkable relationships. I wasn’t seeking to hold anyone accountable for past misdeeds, but rather, I wanted a present-day relationship that acknowledges we will have different perspectives on events we both experienced. That was too much to ask for.
My understanding of depression is quite different from the popular account of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain — a theory that has never been proved, nor even studied; it’s pure marketing. I understand it as contentful — it refers to something.
In my own case, it’s a reiteration of what I had to do to survive as a child with two parents who hated each other and both, in their own ways, treated their kids as an audience for their efforts to win the divorce. In short, I had to shut down the fight-or-flight impulse, numb my feelings, keep my feelings locked inside and out of sight to avoid further conflict. And as Brené Brown points out, you can’t selectively numb, it’s all-or-nothing. Solutions that work for us in childhood become limitations we grapple with in adulthood.
I got that e-mail on the same day as my Overland piece went live. That was a fairly plaintive piece, incredibly personal, and I probably overdosed on vulnerability. I spent the next two days in bed, watching Luke Cage and living on Domino’s. Then on Monday I got up and set to work finishing my presentation for my thesis confirmation, which was on Tuesday.
My week of good things
My thesis confirmation seminar went well; following some advice passed on by Will Nutland, when we caught up for coffee in London, I put myself back into it, starting the presentation by telling a story that helped the audience make sense of my topic.
In turn, that meant (retroactively) that it wasn’t completely insane to fly to London for a workshop for four days only three weeks before my thesis confirmation. The workshop wasn’t exactly what I’d expected, but the writing I did for it set up the way I reframed my thesis.
On Tuesday, Labor finally confirmed it would oppose the same sex marriage plebiscite.
BP confirmed it was abandoning plans to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.
Former politicians lost their High Court bid to get more privileges.
My former boss and his long-term partner got married in Ireland.
I got invited to help out at an event I couldn’t otherwise attend.
A couple of friends had babies and they are both damn cute. (Not guaranteed!)
Canberra finally started showing signs it’s spring.
I went to my GP to get anti-depressants (a low dose of a medication that has worked for me before). Now I just need to get my lumpy gallbladder sorted (or evicted).
The lovely Zoe Bowman, feminist and writer, took me out for dinner at Monster and it was freaking delightful. Especially the waiter with an owl tattoo on his hand.
Finally, I bought a bike and it arrived… in a big flat box. So today I put it together and went for a ride through Canberra, to get coffee, vote, and go to the gym for the first time in ages.