A few nights ago, there was an accident in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan involving a bus carrying members of a junior hockey team, the Humboldt Broncos, and their coaches. Fifteen people died, with the majority of them between the ages of 18-20. This tragedy has dominated the news since then.
And I can’t seem to make myself care. I watch the news, because that’s part of my routine, and I think move on, you’ve talked about this enough already. This evening, the news anchor’s voice broke as she read out the names of the deceased, and she was clearly fighting back tears. Her job is to be cool as a cucumber and she struggles to maintain her composure, while I feel like an ice queen.
This isn’t new. Depression does this. It causes apathy that hardens my heart to anyone’s pain but my own. I recognize that this isn’t who I am, but right now it’s how I experience the world. I don’t exactly blame myself per se, but at the same time, I’m the only one accountable for my emotions. There is no one outside of myself that I can blame; only the illness that’s turned my heart to ice.
Some moments we remember not so much because of the event itself but because of our own circumstances at the time. For me, the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting was one of those moments in time. Don’t get me wrong, it was a terrible event, but sadly these types of events occur with disturbing regularity. I remember Sandy Hook, though, because it is burned in my mind what was going on for me at the time.
I was in the small psychiatric emergency ward in a suburban hospital near the city where I lived. It was a single large room with curtained off beds and a small seating area with a tv. There was nothing else to do, so I watched tv and picked at the rat’s nest that my hair had become during the delirious days prior to my admission. The tv was tuned to a 24-hour news channel.
As I watched the story unfold, I felt a curious sense of indifference. The only thing that really struck me was that I wished Adam Lanza could have shot me rather than those innocent kids. Why did they get to escape this world while I was stuck rotting on the psych ward? Aside from that thought, I just kept mindlessly picking away at my hair.
I don’t like the heartlessness that depression brings about in me. I previously blogged about my own non-reaction to the Las Vegas mass shooting; I was disturbed more by my lack of reaction than by the event itself. Indifference was not a “normal” way to look at such a horrific tragedy.
I find it interesting that my life’s chronology has come to be defined very little by external significant events and much more by illness events. Hospitalizations and relapses form the major milestones as I look back at my life over the past 10 years. Everything else is situated in relation to those milestones; either that, or it just blurs into a fog of meaninglessness. I regularly watch the news and, so I’m aware of major world events, but unless things somehow relate to my depression journey, my brain relegates them to the discard bin.
Mental illness changes how we interact with the world around us, and that can be distressing and even frightening. It can be hard to separate how much of our reactions are truly our own and how much are the illness. Why are both 9/11 and Sandy Hook burned in my mind when so many other events have gone into the dusty filing cabinet of my brain? Why did 9/11 trigger stunned horror while Sandy Hook triggered nothing?
Jumping off on a bit of a tangent, my brother’s wedding is coming up this summer. And I don’t care. I have no interest in going to the wedding, although I will go because that’s what’s expected of me – that’s what I’m “supposed to” do. I won’t feel happy for him, because my ice heart doesn’t do that. Cognitively, I know that it’s a positive time for him, but there just isn’t any positive emotion to go along with that.
It’s not something I try to beat myself up over, but I do find it curious. As in so many other situations, I’m not really sure where I end and the illness begins. On this journey of self-discovery, I don’t think I’ll ever find concrete answers, and maybe there will always just be more questions. Still, it’s important to keep asking those questions – and maybe that’s what I really need to take away from all of this.
Maybe global warming will melt my heart of ice. Or maybe the solid black of my apathy will sink the Titanic all over again. But now I’m just rambling.