My first depressive episode happened in 1997, just after I turned six years old. My parents were living apart, because they wanted my brother and I to attend a private school that was far away from where my father worked. My brother, mother, and I lived in an apartment by ourselves, and dad showed up on weekends. There are two incidents that happened this year that laid the groundwork for how the rest of my life would go.
I’ll begin with my first midnight dreary panic attack. I remember this night down to every minute detail. The apartment we were in had only one room, and my mom usually slept on the couch with the television on. I was asleep, and just as we entered the witching hour, my eyes opened. I hadn’t woken up from a nightmare. I had been sound asleep. I just couldn’t drift off again, and a feeling of extreme fear washed over me. I was terrified, and I didn’t know why. There were no monsters in my closet, no boogeymen hiding under my bed. I didn’t know what was making it hard for me to breathe. Before the tears settled in, I got out of bed and went out to my mother, hoping she would make it stop. The Brady Bunch had taken over Nick at Nite, and the amused laughter emitting from the television sounded sinister to me.
I gently tapped my mother, but she didn’t wake up. She was a heavy sleeper. I tried again a few more times, until her eyes opened and she looked at me groggily. Trouble was, my mother always took several minutes to come out of her sleep coma enough to understand what was actually going on, but I didn’t understand that, then. My panic amplified everything going on around me, and it sounded like she was yelling at me to go back to bed. She turned away from me and closed her eyes again, leaving me to kneel by her on the floor alone.
I sat there for a few minutes, just a six year old confused and terrified of everything and nothing. I went back the bedroom, closed the door, hugged my knees and cried, making sure I made no noise. Silent tears were just cascading down my face. I was alone, drowning in the noise bursting through the door from the television set.
I cried until I managed to fall asleep. She didn’t remember it in the morning, and I didn’t speak of it.
It was the first of a series of terrible childhood nights, but more on that later.