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Showing posts from January, 2013

Every Day a Reprieve

I woke up sweating, gulping for air. I was in the grips of a panic attack, my stomach cement hard yet churning. In my mind, movie screens played horror films in a loop; the images in this multiplex were darker than Dostoevsky.
I’d been sober for six years, but it didn’t matter. My new marriage was surely destined to fail, the small house we’d purchased in Brooklyn destined to crumble. My skills were worthless and would, without doubt, leave me unemployable. Everything about me, an inner verdict announced, was phony and shallow. Friends and family would turn away once my true nature was exposed. I had the feeling that countless eyes were piercing through me and locating something pitiable.
I’d awoken into what was eventually diagnosed as “a major depressive episode.” What was the root of it? A childhood spent in a household where rage was routine, violence not unknown. I recall the terror of being awakened from a deep sleep at 4 a.m. and dragged by my ankles into a bathroom for a cold sh…

Letting Go of What It All Means

The mind has a tendency to search for a meaning, an underlying message, in every murky or complex experience. It can feel like we've only processed and come to closure with a traumatic experience when we've come away with a simple interpretation for the traumatic event, a "moral to the story."

In practice, we want to be able to report to those around us that we understand what a period of depression or confusion "was all about" and have come away "a new understanding." After a painful and dramatic conclusion to a relationship, we might report "it was for the best, we were heading in different directions." When someone dies, many feel the obligation to console their loved ones with "well, he lived a full life, got to a very old age, he travelled and got to see the world, etc." We see this default wiring at work when we stand before an abstract painting, a challenging film or theater piece: What is it trying to say? What's t…