I was diagnosed with depression and OCD when I was seventeen, however I was unwell for about two years before that.
The depression crept up slowly. I found it harder to concentrate on my studies and it became difficult to socialise. Another thing which I lost, which I didn’t realise at the time, was access to nice memories. Others may have a different experience of depression, but I found that I distorted the memory of my life to focus only on the negative things.
When I started on antidepressants which worked for me, Avanza if you’re wondering, I found that they didn’t work right away. There was still a long period of adjusting to being on the medication.
As I’ve talked about previously, I found socialising to the missing ingredient to my emotional development. In that, when I began socialising, I started to feel much better – I had more energy, confidence and I could concentrate better. Overall I was feeling much less anxious and my mood didn’t drastically dip for no reason. I finally felt that I had some control over my emotional state.
It was at this state that I noticed the nice memories return. Whenever I’d talk to people about my life, I noticed that I’d word it differently to how I ever had. As I spoke, I would have mini realisations about how some aspect of my life which I’d always complained about, wasn’t necessarily that bad.
Every day, I’d have simple nice childhood memories return. I quickly realised how influential to my day to day life having access to pleasant memories could be. It can be as simple as making you smile while you’re on the tram or being as fundamental as allowing you to feel more hopeful for the future, as you know things have gone well in the past. It also helped me to see the people in my life and my upbringing in a new way.
I realised, despite all my moodiness, I’d had a very privileged upbringing. I went to a good school and never had to worry about whether I’d be fed or have somewhere to sleep.
Even with my experience with illness, which we might argue is a negative thing to experience, I received the best medical care that anyone, anywhere in the world, at any point in history, would have access to.
I think seeing our upbringing in a more mature, appreciative perspective is something that most of us go through when we leave school or university. Perhaps it was delayed in my case due to the emotionally stunting effect of the depression? Or maybe I should get out of the habit of analysing myself.
Whenever I’m asked if my novel is autobiographical, I always explain that the characters and the plot are fictional, yet the environment which Yossi, the protagonist, lives in is based on memory.
A large part of the motivation to write this book was the desire to sit with these pleasant memories, which I’d only recently been reunited with. I’d spend nights simply sitting with these nice memories and I started creating the atmosphere for the book by writing these memories down. And, in retrospect, I think it was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process.