Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Review (sort of): Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

So I guess it's true that as my depression goes, so goes my blog. Or maybe it's inversely proportional? Either way, here we are, or are not. In sort-of good news... no, not really, but I guess in sort-of illuminating news that means I won't chuck my antidepressant, my friend Dani (HI DANI) posted something on Facebook that gave me a thundering A-HA moment. Of course, I didn't save it so now I will go hunt-scroll on Facebook for an hour or so to find it. BRB. Oh, here it is.

In short, it talks about peri-menopausal symptoms that aren't widely known, including a pervasive brain fog and memory problems, because "fluctuations in estrogen and testosterone make it hard to concentrate, wreak havoc on your memory, and influence your mood." The thing is, I knew I wasn't concentrating well and my memory was scary bad, and when I read blog posts from a few years ago and compared them to recent ones, they almost seemed to have been written by someone else. I remembered the words flowing faster than I could type them, shaping some small incident into a hilarious anecdote (it's true, read back, I was HILARIOUS), and as I went about my day I was often reworking things into a blog post, not compulsively, not so I would always write it down, but because that was how my brain worked. And now, it wasn't. Working. 

I was worried that this was an effect of my antidepressant, because that seemed the only thing that could have that big an impact on what I thought was my personality. It seemed like changing how my brain worked was too big a price to pay for a stabilized mood, so I dropped my dosage. Then Eve got a mild virus and I stayed awake all night worried she was going to die in her sleep, so clearly that was not a workable solution. So then I just stopped blogging. Then I read this. 

So, it's not a solution, but it means I should keep taking my antidepressant, which is good because my kids don't need me waking them up every two hours every time they get a cold. It means I probably don't have early-onset dementia (probably). It maybe does mean that I should quit blogging, but I don't think I'm quite ready to do that. 

So I've been meaning to read Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere based on nothing sensible - I knew nothing about her or the book, but it kept popping up on lists and I liked the cover, and the title, and her name. But then Nicole (HI NICOLE) recommended Everything I Never Told You, which was also available as an express library e-book, so I read that first instead.

I really, really... thought it was a good book. I didn't exactly love reading it, because it's very, very sad and uncomfortable and sometimes infuriating. It reminded me in many ways of Home by Marilynne Robinson, in the way that it showed that people can love each other very much and try very hard to be kind and do the right things and it can all still go horribly wrong.

Two main things kept gnawing at my brain while reading this book. One was mainly about the book, and one was mainly about me. The one about me was how desperately grateful I should be to have been born now and not fifty or sixty years ago or more. In a world that didn't have antidepressants, machines for treating sleep apnea, orthotics, body positivity... good lord, I would be even more of a weird outcast than I am now. Shit, I don't even know how to say it without joking because it's frankly terrifying to contemplate. Without orthotics I would be in pain every day that I tried to stand or walk. Without my CPAP I would have gained even more weight unrelated to diet or exercise levels. If I had just grown up with my mother who sighed and looked crushed every time I couldn't fit into something she thought I should be able to fit into, and never found groups of people who talked about how that kind of thinking is actually bullshit, I would have felt like a fat failure. Without antidepressants...well, I guess that might have taken care of all of it, honestly. Okay, whew, enough of that, it's creeping me out.

The thing about the book is, Jesus Christ, we talk about communication so much that it's almost become a joke, but if one single person or married couple or sibling pair in this story had had one single honest conversation, how much misery could have been avoided? I'm not saying this judgingly; I understand very well all the reasons that people don't speak up, and it made perfect sense why the characters in this book felt like they couldn't be honest with each other. It's more just a fresh realization that communcation is actually very, very important.

I've been working on this post for weeks, and I feel like I haven't done with it what I wanted to do. But unless I wait for seven to ten years, chances are that's not going to happen, so I'm going to post it as is, because I guess just binge-watching Jessica Jones until my hormones settle the fuck down isn't really an option. If anyone needs me, I'll be here in the fog. Call my name, walk slowly and wave something in front of you.