On Telling My Parents Their Divorce Didn’t Cause My Depression

“Hey Siri.” Ding. “Dial Mum Mobile.”

I was in the car when I called Mum, a few days after reaching enlightenment. I had been sitting on the couch in the living room of my Life Coach when the wormhole he guided me down dawned into a rushing realisation.

“Hey Mum”

“Oh, hi darling”

Mum has a way of lengthening the vowel in “Oh” which sounds at first as though she could be doing anything more constructive than answering the phone, yet at the same time like she’s been awaiting the certain inevitability of this very call.

I wasn’t sure where to start so I did what I always do: bore my audience with background information in an amateur effect to build context.

I cut to the chase. “Mum I saw my Life Coach,” I braced for an audible eye roll. There wasn’t one. “I think I figured out where my Bipolar Disorder came from.”

I recounted a memory. It wasn’t a special memory; it hadn’t been repressed to come back in a brace of cold sweats. It was myself and my 2 years younger sister, Lisa, playing in the dirt in the back yard. We’re dressed the same in turquoise tracksuit pants and matching tops, matching navy and white-velcro shoes. Mine were on the wrong feet, having dressed my three-year-old self as I usually did back then. We were two cherubs with stamped foreheads and sticks in the mud, Lisa’s chin and ruddy cheeks suspiciously brown with dirt. There’s a dusty photo of this scene somewhere, both of us giggling uproariously.

In the guided meditation this memory bounced onto another one, perhaps 12 months later. The sodden green grass and rich dark earth gave way to freshly laid brick pavers, its summertime in this scene and Lisa and I are playing in a makeshift sandpit. It was actually the bucket or two remainder of the sand underlay that had been dumped onto the hard ground, we pair grabbing our beach pails and little fistfuls of sand. We lived nearly 100km from the nearest beach and laughing, we smiled for a photo. I don’t recall how long we played like this but my next memory was of looking around for more sand. My imagination was whirring and I had endless ideas I wanted to create with my hands in front of me, with my best imagination partner right there, reliably willing and able to help me create whole new imaginary worlds and hours and hours of completely absorbing play.

I knew immediately that there was no more sand. This was all we had and this wasn’t enough for me. My ballooning imagination that had been rushing to fantastical heights slammed shut. In that moment, I realised that my world wasn’t big enough for me and I was bound in. My little body felt a visceral stress response of that sensory depravation.

I realised that the physical panic of that moment had been with me ever since. The understanding of that moment hit me all at once like a tonne of bricks. I opened my eyes. I was crying.

My tone was conciliatory. “So you see Mum, it wasn’t your divorce that caused my depression,” Mum paused before responding.

“Well,” she said carefully, “it didn’t help.”