Trigger warning: contains references to self-harm.
When our son was born three years ago, someone, I don’t remember who, stood by my side in the hospital room and whispered in my ears, “Be careful. Don’t pass it on to the baby.”
I was still too stunned with the arrival of fatherhood to ask them what they meant. But I had a fairly good clue. “It” referred to the feeling inside my head. Not the frothy high of becoming a parent, which, in spite of everything I had heard about the life-changing nature of parenthood, already felt like a temporary visitor three hours after A was born. “It” was the other stuff that lived permanently in me. A disgusting, filthy feeling, like meat left rotting at the back of the fridge, crawling with life that you dare not inspect too closely.
“It” was my depression. My boundless capacity for self-loathing. My urge to self-destruct that I was told I could only defuse with a cocktail of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and talk therapy and exercise, in that order. According to this person whom I no longer remember, “it” was, despite the lies I had invented to console myself, just as communicable as HIV or tuberculosis.