Sunday, January 3, 2016

"Compelling Ironies" (short story fiction on mental depression)

Bindi was saved by a dream. It was a dream that lightened the atmosphere of repressiveness in his memory, a repressiveness produced by his struggle with depression. Cursed with the disease since he was an adolescent, Bindi travelled the highway of life trying to make the most of what he had, all the while self-conscious that he was a prohibited soul, as if his soul were forever in custody due to circumstances beyond his control. Depression not only cost Bindi his ability to be self-reliant, it made him cynical, needy, and delicate.

Bindi read his dream as a message from beyond, as a nebulous message from what was still left of the universal character that could still be found in people. In the dream, Bindi captured something of that character in an arresting image in which he was lying on his side in a severe depression, much like how he could get in real time. His mouth agape and face forlornly downcast, Bindi was harboring suicidal thoughts. He tried to speed his way to the dream’s end before he could carry out the act of self-slaughter but as everyone knows, you can’t control the speed of your dreams. Bindi however, would later be thankful that he didn’t speed up his dream for had he done so he probably wouldn’t be alive today.

The thing that always frightened Bindi was seeing the ghost of his dead father, not so much in his conscious state but in his dreams. In that special dream, the one that would save him, there was complete silence in the signature style of a dream that would have something important to convey. His father appeared in his dream in a blue, melancholic state, unable to utter sounds. His lips instead would form the words. As Bindi wallowed in prostration, what emanated from his father’s mouth was a short, silent plea to his son to make a noble difference with his life:

Open up a path and follow it towards the light. No more pity, no more anger. Open your eyes. I believe in you.”

Bindi remembered his father being generous and kind-hearted and a colorful talker and this was the father he loved. The father he didn’t love was the goddamn one who broke his heart by leaving Bindi and his mother when Bindi was ten. As he bade farewell to him on a cold November evening, his father’s last words were, “people hate what they can’t understand. They don’t know what I’m going through.”

Bindi cut his father some slack for being his devoted, guiding force early on. But in taking a good look at the whole of his life rather than just remembering that at one time he had the advantage of being able to rely on paternal love and bonding, Bindi painfully felt the contrast of not having a father around when he needed him most. To a friend, Bindi offered an insight into his feelings about the man who brought him into the world:

My father wore a mask that presented him as a commanding moral figure and got me to watch him act out the part convincingly until his financial assets dwindled. After it happened, when my father learned he had lost his hard-earned money never to see it again, the whole fucking pretense slipped away and left him feeling naked and humiliated. Beginning then, we practically became strangers to each other until the final closure. It wasn’t an accident that I started experiencing depression then.”

From day to day, it wasn’t easy for Bindi to maintain his composure being the depressive that he was. He would lose his temper over inconsequential things, like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube or getting wet from a minuscule spray of water hitting him from the tap. As a depressive, it was a suffocating life for Bindi, one that he spent most of his time clinging to with all his spirit and energy.

Bindi once wrote a short letter to a friend who he thanked for not thinking and behaving like others about his illness in ways that were difficult to cope with for their blind insensitivity:

Depression is something that is tough for people to wrap their head around. They think of it less as a debilitating disease than something that a depressive just has to get over like a common cold. There was something that people used to say about me, that that I was somehow not human, that I’d irretrievably lost, that I was not deserving of what should have been a bright future that I could now only imagine. Who knows, maybe people will gain some civility and awareness later on. At least with you I know your ever-discerning self will keep the faith. ”

Bindi doubted most people knew much, if anything at all, about depression. At any rate, their minds were usually tied up in knots and jumbles that blurred the boundaries of what was myth and what was knowledge. Their everyday wants and needs came first, so how could ordinary folk be expected to be able to sort out something as unfathomable as mental depression?

Why would people open their minds when the truth is that they avoid uncomfortable mental illness subjects because they’re too complicated or too disturbing? People become uneasy when asked to offer interpretations of what depression is and thus choose simplicity over complexity and fear over courage and end up getting it all tragically wrong.

This was how Bindi’s father related to his son’s depression, with emotional paralysis and a mind surrounded by intellectual darkness. With an inflated sense of his self based on his precious money, the father reserved no time or energy for his son’s problem. Placed against that background, the father complained that no one understood him but he did next to nothing to understand Bindi’s disorder.

But in death, a kindred union was providentially preserved between estranged father and estranged son. Bindi needed somebody to help lift him out of his depression. He never envisioned his father’s posthumous words would tip the scale, not after all these years in absentia. This revelation woke Bindi out of his depressive slumber and galvanized him into following the light his father urged him to follow. Bindi would never turn back.

At the age of 60, Bindi became an outspoken advocate for victims of depression. Still afflicted by the malady but better equipped mentally and emotionally to deal with it at this stage of his existence, Bindi spoke to groups of fellow depressives. During one of these talks, Bindi tried to do justice to his slow but steady recovery from depression:

There were days I wanted to give up. I was angry, lonely, and many times pitifully incoherent. I think I see now how I got through the worst of it. It sounds strange, but I think I deliberately hit rock bottom knowing that standing at the bottom the only way to go was back up. As it turned out, it was my dead father who provided the inspiration for me to take my life back into my own hands. This was the father who abandoned me, who wouldn’t stand by me when depression had its claws deep within me, the father who saw me as a blemish on his manhood.”

Life is full of compelling ironies, no?”


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