I come from a family of news junkies. I remember my mother’s father sitting in our living room devouring the daily papers. And my father’s mother lived long enough to become addicted to CNN and the 24-hour news cycle. She was a 24-hour news devotee debating local and global politics with anyone who enjoyed a lively discussion.
I became a news junkie too. Mostly, I love tragedies and legal procedure. Tragedies provided me an outlet for all of the sadness depression dumped on me. Legal procedure appealed to the other parts of my brain, eventually leading me to law school and then litigation.
When news happened, I focused on how it played out and what the legal framework was. The current inquiries surrounding Trump and his colleagues are excellent, procedurally. Anonymity of whistleblowers and the use of latin terms like quid pro quo are far more exciting to me than what the definition of ‘is’ is.
And with MTV and the CNN 24-hour news cycle both beginning in 1980, I finally had company when I was feeling alone, which was all the time. But the round-the-clock repetition of news also exacerbated the cycling of my obsessive mind. Ultimately, cable and CNN would enable me to stay home for days at a time, convinced I was participating in the present and ignoring the fact that leaving my apartment was becoming harder and harder.
By the time Clinton faced impeachment in 1998, I had experienced several darker-than-usual episodes. I had reached out for help at those times and was doing all I could do to get healthy and stay healthy. I kept working full-time and learned how to over schedule myself in order to avoid being alone with my horrible thoughts. But while Americans were following the dramas of Whitewater, Linda Tripp, and what the definition of ‘is’ is, I was sinking lower and lower. No amount of working, running, meditating, family or friends could stop the downward spiral. Medications were helpful and unhelpful, all at the same time. Side effects were often impossible to withstand and waiting weeks or months for medications’ benefits to possibly kick in was like a cruel joke.
I don’t remember Clinton’s impeachment hearings. I don’t remember the blue dress or the secret recordings.
I also don’t remember my parents moving out of our childhood house. Or my younger brother’s wedding. Or when I left my job.
My few memories of those Clinton years are of my mother driving to Bethesda from Baltimore each day while I received 18 treatments of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for the depression that wouldn’t budge and the suicidal thoughts that had taken over my brain. My boyfriend at the time would take me to the hospital for treatment before work and my mother would pick me up. After treatment, my mother would take me home where I would sleep the anesthesia.
After the course of ECT ended, my mother still drove over every day to help me get dressed and out of the apartment. We would go to a Mexican restaurant that no longer exists. I’ll have to ask my mom what we got there. I’ll bet it was fajitas. Some days we would go to the grocery store to buy one or two items I probably didn’t really need. Or we would do some unimportant errand that gave us something to do. My mother would leave me to take an afternoon nap and then call me an hour later when she arrived home.
Eventually, I began to come out of the ECT fog that made me a zombie. I remember the moment I sat at my parents’ kitchen table, watching my mother clean the kitchen while I drank coffee out of a clear glass mug. The radio mentioned something about impeachment and Clinton. I remember asking my mother who the President was now.
I had to relearn life little-by-little. I relearned how to use my computer and how to twist my hair into a bun that stayed up all day with just the help of one jeweled stick. I learned how to run again, how to drive again, and how to talk to people without seeming confused.
Eventually, I went back to work. But that was only after a volunteer gig where I could relearn how to go to an office everyday. Volunteering gave me time to relearn reading. It also gave me time to practice work hours and to forgo daytime naps. After that, I took a job just to get back into the legal field. It was a job for a legal assistant but I didn’t care. I needed time to recover my knowledge of law and my legal skills.
But I took that job and within a year I was promoted to a lawyer’s job.
I am not for or against ECT. I am a supporter of any treatment that gives hope to the depressed individual and their support network. It is beyond difficult to live with depression that won’t give in to treatment. I know. I’ve been there more than once.
And ECT is the right thing for a lot of people whose choices are becoming fewer. Sure, it took me a long time to recover from ECT, but who knows what the alternative would have been. I lost a lot of memory, and I lost myself for a while, but I didn’t lose my life.
So there’s that.
It’s okay with me that I don’t remember the Clinton impeachment. And it doesn’t surprise me that I do remember Columbine from that same timeframe. I have a long history of latching onto traumatic events and following them to the point of obsession.
But now I have the Trump impeachment proceedings to salivate over. It’s as if this is my first experience with impeachment.
Because it is.
Give someone hope. It’s the only thing.
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