My mother’s family, the Sweeneys, have been my “main” family for most of my life. Between being told that my grandmother on the Webb side disowned me and generally not feeling a part of any of my step-parents’ families,1 the Sweeneys have always been the family I’ve been around the most, the ones who helped me to accept my Irish heritage (even when I didn’t), and the family that frequently encouraged my creative side.
The Sweeneys are also riddled with chronic depression.
My mom, thank god, seems to have been largely untouched. My aunt ended up addicted to a variety of drugs and ran away from her husband and family. She and my uncles were also alcoholics. One of my uncles has tried repeatedly to commit suicide. The other one succeeded. I have heard legendary stories of my grandmother’s mood swings, even though she was always polite and tender toward me. One of my cousins has been in and out of jail a couple of times, and that’s only what I know from our childhood and young adult life. The “melancholic drunk Irish artist” stereotype isn’t so quaint or amusing when you’re looking at it over the course of your life.
If you think you know where this story is heading, let me jerk the wheel on you now: I’m not an alcoholic, nor am I an addict. This isn’t denial or repression — I’ve taken drugs in the past, and I’ve certainly had my share of alcohol (especially in the CCP company environment). But I don’t need substances to function, and I don’t take them when I’m down, aside from the occasional beer when I’ve had a rough day. I can be a little obsessive at times, but not about drugs or booze.
I also don’t have emotional problems. Sure, I have a hell of a temper, and I am what Michelle lovingly refers to as a “moody bitch.” I have my melancholic moments. I have good days and bad days like anyone, but none of these things impair my ability to function normally, because I won’t let it. Over the years, I’ve developed a wide variety of coping mechanisms and outlets that don’t involve substance abuse. I can usually get out of whatever emotional funk I have and get back to living my life. But after a run of bad days when I find myself craving a beer and time alone, I end up thinking “Is this how it starts?”
And then I kick myself for being such a melodramatic asshole.
Sure, I might have inherited some genetic predispositions for chronic depression. For all I know, at any moment I could explode into a huge ball of drama and want to kill myself. I might also get hit by a truck, or killed by a chunk of a satellite plummeting to earth. I can worry as much as I want about stuff that could happen, but at some point I either have to control it or let it control me. And at the end of the day, I’m too fucking stubborn to let anything try and control me.
You see, I’ve already had a time bomb in my head. In 2005, I had to have an emergency operation because an infection in my inner ears was dangerously close to infecting my skull lining, and ultimately my brain. I dodged that bullet. I survived, and I lived on, and my life improved as a result. I’ve survived thirteen different surgeries over the course of my life. I was told I would never fly, and since then I’ve been to Mexico, the United Kingdom, Iceland, and Morocco.
Depression? Fuck that. Once you defuse the first few time bombs, the rest are easy.
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- To their credit, the Maruna family did try, but they’ve pretty much cut off ties with us since my step-father died ↩