I wore my dad’s wedding suit, all lovingly hand-stitched, on two major occasions:
The first time was when i was 16, a school dressup, I went as a member of the mafia. Not mine, necessarily, because as far as I knew, nobody had been whacked by my family, although there have been a number of dubious, extreme accidents over the years. With my dad’s wedding suit, I wore the requisite hat and machine gun.
The other time I wore the suit was not for dress-ups, it was simply a matter of choice on my first day at university. I was 8 months short of my 18th birthday, and extreme weight loss gave me few options to wear. I didn’t want to say that I was straight-outta-highschool, not too hardcore, either. I could have gone Goth, but that wasn’t my thing, so I went Mod instead, before I knew exactly what that meant. Thanks to Google, I know know now that I looked the part (without the hat and machine gun, of course). But I just wanted to stand out a little, not be one of the nice girls, benign and forgettable. I wanted to be memorable, but only for the right reasons – ‘cept I didn’t know what those reasons were back then..
The way I reminisce over those days, 31 years later, it didn’t feel planned so much, but it certainly marked my entrance to a new place I called home for a couple of years. I even changed my name, from Josephine to Jo. Not a huge shift, but it marked my break from family, from all the other Josephs and Josephines.
That was thirty-one years ago.
And still, I wake up every morning, and wonder how I should dress so I can go out into the world a little less forgettable and benign than some, a rebel. A Jo in her dad’s wedding suit, except it doesn’t fit me anymore. Most anorexics get fat eventually anyway, thanks to yoyo-dieting, the rest just die like Caren Carpenter (my hero at the time – I told mum how I was so sad I couldn’t be as skinny as her and she just gave me a fat lip).
Thirty-one years ago, I was having so much fun. I was drunk, stoned, studying, barely-studying, fucking, tripping, putting dishwashing liquid into the moat at Deakin Uni just to turn it into a stream of bubbles, running around with bikies who looked after me because I was the kid. We were so stupid, so high, writing poetry and songs, like “medication time”, when it was our turn for the bong. We made music on walls with wooden spoons, with lids. We wrote them on the walls of a mystical house in Pakington Street in Geelong. It was a magic time.
We also threw up on ourselves, became paranoid after eating mushrooms, forgot the dates in history exams and slept with each other’s boyfriends, by accident, but it was ok, as long as we looked after each other, understood each other’s parental strifes, and stayed ahead of the news, knew about politics and books. Everything mattered.
We were fucking fighters when we weren’t too stoned to get out of bed.
I remember in the 80s when there was one of those financial crises and all people cared about was the extra tax they had to pay, not the greater good that their extra tax was serving. They were fucking self-serving big-L Liberals. We were Socialists with torn jeans in 1987, because we couldn’t afford another pair of jeans. Scum. Hippies. Students. This was pre-grunge.
I don’t know why I’m telling you all of this. Those people, MY BEST FRIENDS, what the hell happened to them? Where are they? I barely remember their names, but they meant THE WORLD to me. I’d do anything for and with them. I miss them so much.
How does friendship that is SO MEANINGFUL just turn to sand on a 90 mile beach?
It’s lonely having no meaning, no addictions. You also lose the friends who said they didn’t like being around when you had the addictions. They forgot how boring you were without the booze.
What they don’t tell you about getting sober, about losing all the addictions (because they are losses), is that life doesn’t necessarily get better. Life just becomes something you remember and long for. It becomes so boring. It becomes something you endure. Having the privilege to stay home while I’m withdrawing from old meds and going on new meds isn’t lost on me. So privileged. SO PRIVILEGED. The problem with having manic-depression (the best kind if you can keep the manic state going as long as possible) and quitting smoking, booze and everything is that you’re just left with the depression (because, in all honesty, the manic bit doesn’t stick around long, it’s the depression that lasts the longest).
We used to have this joke – “I did (fill in the gap with your own dirty secret) and I turned out ok”. But we didn’t.
WE DIDN’T turn out ok. How many Gen-Xers take anti-depressants, Diazepam, go onto Tinder even though they’re in a “monogamous” relationship, over eat, under exercise, over exercise, watch Netflix for days on end, or drink to oblivion to forget all of those small-l liberal socialist conversations that turned into little more than white picket fences and mortgages and a tonne of dirty nappies?
Naomi Klein is one of us, but she had a decent start, with academic parents in the union movement. My dad was a commie, like, literally, but when he came here, to Australia, he tossed out his beliefs out of fear. He never crossed a picket line, of course, but he stopped going to meetings – that’s how you got deported in the 60s and 70s. So he just gave it up. He gave himself up – that’s how I see him. We talked though. A lot. About the movement. I was encouraged to read 1984, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm and (without dad’s knowledge, Fear of Flying – you know, for a well-rounded education). We talked about what was important. Mum didn’t get it. She just cared about whether anyone heard us arguing.
One time, my friend Nat and I did acid and stayed home, just your average Saturday night. And as the sun rose onto a gloomy smog-filled West Footscray vista, we noted all the boxes, the bits, we buy a big bit to fill with our little bits – souvenirs, babies, bluetooth speakers, cats and dogs, plants that die, smart TVs that you replace as often as your plants die, photos of people whose names we no longer remember.
So anyway, I’m depressed. I have manic depression. I am bi-polar. I am not anxious – I hate that word. Anxiety is controllable, Depression is not. It’s hard wired. I’ve been taking medication now for around 15 years – effexor, lexapro, prozac, blah blah blah – I don’t even know what I’m taking now because I was sort forcibly taken to my shrink (sorta forcibly because I’d just taken 4 diazepam so I didn’t make much of a fuss anyway). Jeff now controls my meds, so I don’t know what they all are. I have a carer, like an old person in a home. Isn’t that just everything a married couple longs to become – the carer and the cared.
I’m possibly going to hospital soon – you know the ones: Melbourne Private, Whyndam (they let you visit with your dogs), Essendon Psych – to clear my system of everything so we can start again. My understand of meds is that it takes around 2-3 months to notice significant change. Is that how long I’ll be in hospital without my dogs and cats and laptop and phone and music? Part of me feels a sense of relief be because I need some headspace. But then there’s the rest of it. What do I do? I don’t like colouring. I don’t like people, I don’t like being told when to go to sleep. At least having a home carer (aka husband – geez he must be SO rapt), I’ll be used to it, and I can refuse his demands.
I feel sad, and freaked out. I mean, I read “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Girl Interrupted” and they don’t turn out well for the loud people. And I’m one of the loud people. Do they still give lobotomies?
Carrie Fisher was open about her fight with all forms of depression and told Oprah in 2011 about how she found ECT treatment to be the best thing she ever did.
“Some of my memories will never return. They are lost – along with the crippling feeling of defeat and hopelessness. Not a tremendous price to pay.”
But she killed herself, despite it all.
So did these talented people who despite their darkness managed to do wonderful things and leave legacies:
Robin Williams, 63
Hunter S. Thompson, 67
Ernest Hemingway, 61
Anthony Bourdain, 61
Kurt Kobain, 27
Chris Cornell, 52
Hunter S. Thompson, 68
Sylvia Plath, 30
I’m not a victim, my stories got me here, got me writing this. But I do feel alone. Hardly anyone has reached out to me. Depression is hard to talk to people about. It’s so negative and pretty boring. I even mentioned that I was disappointed that they hadn’t reached out. I don’t even know what I would do if they did reach out? Maybe I’d just want to sit in the same room, silently, smile at them now and then, and continue what we were doing – reading, drawing, knitting, playing with a Rubik’s cube, snuggling with the dog, checking Instagram, creating a zine. If they want to know how I am, they should read this.
But maybe hospital will be better – a bunch of strangers and no expectations. Nobody to disappoint or be disappointed by.
I feel bad, sad and guilt. There’s a business to run, and I’m dumping it all on Jeff and everyone else. There you go.
Sometimes I think it would be easier if I weremnt around at all. But I don’t want to die by choice. I did once. But that involved booze and pills. But I want to do something, something that doesn’t involve upsetting people. Something that leaves a mark, just like the first day of uni when I wore my dad’s wedding suit and looked like a Mod. If I don’t do something, then what is the point of this mortal fucking coil? You know? Because this just isn’t enough, despite what the shrinks and coaches tell me when they say I should write a gratitude journal. Fuck that. I need more but, right now, I don’t have more. I just don’t care.