Anatomy of a Depression

Little BoyHe remembers being four or five and getting his parents to play hide and seek with him. He comes around the side of the farm house, with the painfully bright white walls and there they are laughing and hugging at "home," the hills hoist (clothes line). He always remembers this. It is the first time he realises he is alone. He is himself, separate from them. It is always a sharp little grief to remember this separation and betrayal of his world.

At Christmas his mother discovers him looking sadly at a plate of desert. What was wrong? "I thought there would be more to Christmas than this."

Later, the white of the walls and the bright reflection of the limestone where there is no grass is too much and he hides indoors. He pulls down the blinds and retreats and feels safe and cool in his bedroom. His mother talks about it being too dark and gloomy, but here he is safe and cool and his eyes do not hurt from the heat and bright. Something bothers him about this; how will he get through life? But it is his only answer to life, and he lies safe in his thoughts and the dim light.

Teenage BoyIn the final year of high school he walks one night around the farm's two largest paddocks. He finds in the dusk an old knife blade, and slams it into the top of a fence post. Slowly as the year progresses, he shifts it one post along each night as he walks around the paddocks... depressed without a name for it, instinctively getting the physical exercise that will be a healing gift and saving wall in the years to come.

In those years he will learn that there is more to mental illness than "a breakdown", the only mental illness recognised in his little rural world. He will remember these events and wonder if this is where it all begins. 



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