It was like shooting baccalà in a barrel.
She ranted and scolded. I held my ground. "I have heard enough of you," I hollered, and we hung up.
According to my father and what I've managed to piece together through the village grapevine, this sickness surges through my maternal line like a tsunami: my mother, grandmother and great grandmother were stricken with a serious brain disorder. I write about it, I talk about it, I get therapy for it. My mother's endless suffering from schizophrenia is like a harpoon in my heart. I worry, for all the good it does nobody, that this story might be exactly what Shakespeare meant when he wrote, 'it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.' This photo is my mother at sixteen. She was beautiful, and her brain was busted long before I was born.
Then I went to a salon where a biographer discussed his subject, a writer who had committed suicide, repeating the phrase, "I'm not really one for labels." As in, "Depression, what depression? No, he took his own life but..." I should note that it was an incredibly stressful week, I was feeling vulnerable and exposed, and it is entirely possible I misunderstood his meaning or intention. In fact, I would prefer we assume I got it wrong.
Does acknowledging that the writer might have had a debilitating mental illness (in an afternoon structured around the topic creativity and mental illness) mean rereading his work and reframing everything through the dim light of depression? Does that distress you? Does it impress you? Does it matter what you think?
When it comes to mental illness, I think it does.