Some of my first memories of my mother include her being sad, in some capacity. That is a very sad thing to say, I realize this now. Likely, on some level, I realized it then too. Growing up, I couldn’t understand her sadness, couldn’t access the dark places she must have dwelled. As far as I knew, I came from a family of sound minded people who scoffed at the idea of therapy in any form.
And then, at the home of my grandfather, my mother (by this point, an alcoholic) revealed to me that my great grandmother, a woman I’d never met, had committed suicide when she was a fairly young woman, around thirty. She left behind a few children, and a legacy of secrecy. My mother’s depression had happened around the time that she was thirty and as I grew closer to that age myself, I realized that my feelings of sadness were more than that. They told of a history of women and mental illness and social stigma. They told a story about the ways mental illness can destroy most of the women in a family before they even realize it.