An Impenetrable Wall...a memoir

Depression, thick and impenetrable, stands as my personal Berlin Wall. My wall is built by bad genes, distorted beliefs, and an avalanche of trials. The Berlin Wall was built as a consequence of conflicts that occurred throughout WWII and The Cold War. In 1961, a basic wire fence was constructed. My basic wire fence began in sixth grade. From 1962-1965, the basic fence was improved. My improved wire fence is built throughout high school. From 1965-1975, the concrete wall was constructed. My concrete wall begins construction by freshman year of college. From 1975-1989, the Berlin Wall stands impenetrable, separating West Berlin from East Berlin and the remainder of East Germany. By November of my sophomore year of college, my concrete wall is a fortified cement barrier.

Concrete Wall Construction

I don’t know where anything is in this kitchen. Is that the silverware drawer? “Hey baby,” Ugh, it’s DJ. How did my brother beat me to having a boyfriend and getting his first kiss? My fifteen year old brother has kissed a man! Bile from my stomach enters my mouth.

Some hearts they just get all the right breaks
Some hearts have the stars on their side
Some hearts they just have it so easy
Some hearts just get lucky sometimes

Crap, that’s my phone. “Zanna” flashes across my cell phone screen. I can’t talk to her right now. What is she going to tell me now? What else could she add to becoming inactive in church, drinking alcohol and not wanting to stop, and losing her virginity in the back of a Ford Explorer? I let the call go to voicemail and hear the car pull into the driveway.

“Hey guys, we’re back”.

Dad and mom are home from Overlake Hospital. My mom is in her second week of the hospital’s psychiatric outpatient program. She entered the program in an effort to recover from a major depressive episode, AKA: a nervous breakdown. I know neither my mom nor my dad will be up for much right now, so I plan to take my little sister to a movie.

“Elizabeth, are you ready to go?”
“Clarissa…I have to finish straightening my hair!”

My tomboy sister is now into Abercrombie & Fitch, make-up, and MySpace.

My Better Homes & Gardens, fabricated view of my family and home life shatters. This is not the home I left a year ago to start my freshman year of college, both literally and figuratively. In a new house my family has a new, and not better, life. My brother is gay, my sister is a teenager, my mom struggles to function, and my dad is tired and alone. Their faces do not grace the pews of the chapel at church. Dinner as a family is now a rare occasion. We are lucky if we get dinner at all. No one carries on deep conversations with each other. Each member of my family, including me, is treading water, barely able to keep their nose above the surface.
I try to distract myself. I work forty hours, five days a week, as a front desk assistant in an extremely busy physical therapy office. In the end, the distractions only help fortify the wall. The problems are real, regardless of whether I choose to acknowledge their presence. Somehow, I endure the summer.

A Fortified Barrier

I am back at Brigham Young University for my sophomore year in August. School starts out well, but by November life spirals out of control. I am enveloped in a prison within the borders of my own mind. I try to maintain balance. For an eternity, I fling a weak, corpse-like remnant of what is left of my soul against the wall. I achieve perfection and experience insanity in the same breath. Instead of retreating, I push forward with zeal, in an effort to defeat the wall. At the same time, I refuse to believe in the wall’s existence. Without my recognition, the wall is almost concrete.

Sleep evades me at night. My room becomes a prison, my bed my captor; instead of sunlight I only see my bubblegum pink sheets, covered with decorative candy, ice cream cones, and slices of pie. Face down, I lie in my bed for a majority of the daylight hours. I refuse to greet a world in which I cannot function. Sleep is the only escape from what my life has become. My determination and desire to combat my demons is weak.

I lock myself in my room and eat ice cream…maybe then the pain will go away. I make myself physically ill to compensate for my emotional and mental affliction. Real people are better for me than a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but Ben & Jerry don’t attempt to console me or come up with ideas to “fix” how I feel. They don’t have to understand a state of mind that seems impossible for me to explain in words. No matter what, for only $5.00, Ben & Jerry are always there. Battling depression, I need a pint everyday to survive.

Ready to Jump

Hell seeps deeper into the corners of my life. I realize I cannot continue to attempt to function. My mind runs in a maze with no outlet. Is there any way out? Everyday I slip further into the familiar territory of self doubt, deprecation, and gloom; a world where I am a permanent resident. I know how I want to feel, or how I should feel, but I can’t feel anything. I wonder about how I got to this place. Why can’t I break down this wall? Maybe my life never was the way I perceived it? A thought enters my mind. Maybe I was running too fast to really notice?

I am at the top of the wall, ready to jump and end my misery and seclusion. I peer over the edge and try to see relief in the distance. Behind me, I see the landscape of my former life. Refuge is within my grasp, but the wall seems too thick, too strong. Depression is an arduous obstacle to finding happiness and peace. The wall masks my perception of myself; depression makes me believe the distortions my own brain has the nerve to conjure. You brought this depression upon yourself. You are weak and worthless. This hell will never end. The Berlin wall severed peoples’ culture, jobs, and relationships. My wall cuts me off from myself. I close my eyes and brace myself.

Effects of the Wall

Families and friends were kept apart for almost thirty years, until the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. With the wall broken to pieces, lost remnants of lives were finally restored. People, divided by the Berlin wall, spent years repairing the damage done by the forced isolation of the structure. I too, share a comparable fate.

Despite my unfavorable reality, I did not jump and allow the wall to fuel my demise. Instead, I withdrew from school and returned home to cope with my depression. It has not been an easy or simple battle. Depression has had a hold on my life for a total of three years now. My wall is broken, in the sense that, what my psychiatrist characterized as a “major depression”, is over. Regardless, remnants of my wall remain erect. Painful effects of depression lie embedded in the deepest crevices of my soul. Each slice of memory pours acid into my fresh, open wounds. I do not know if, when, or how my wounds will heal. I may be battling against the power of the wall for the remainder of my life. However, the history of the Berlin Wall gives me hope that one day, I may finish my account with my wall, in a similar fashion.

1 comment:

jjfid said...

Clarissa- this piece is gripping. I feel an overwhelming urge to cry and also to cheer. You have captured deep feelings with visuals to help me understand my own battle with the wall. Your gift is real and not only does your insight help me but it will help others too. I love you. Thank you for sharing such a personal battle.