Family of Me

by Daphne
Updates Mondays and Fridays

Scene 62: Depression Spiral

(Libra is sitting cross-legged on a campus Quad, full of students walking from class to class. I approach from elsewhere, taking a seat beside her as she notices my arrival.)

Libra (The Friend): Hey Mom.

Mom (Me): Hello Daphne. You’ve been spending a lot of time here recently.

Libra (defensive): I’m not trying to! It’s just… Whenever I walk aimlessly through our memories, I’ve been ending up here lately.

Mom: Do you want to talk about it?

Libra: I spent five years here, you know? I dated a little bit near the end, but for most of my time here I was single, and… For a while that *really* bothered me.

Mom: I remember. We couldn’t find a girlfriend, and that made us pretty depressed.

Libra: I thought my life was falling apart, Mom. I didn’t date anyone in high school, and now I couldn’t find anyone in college, and college was supposed to be when I found the woman I’d spend the rest of my life with. You know, like our parents did.

Mom: In retrospect, I’m glad we didn’t follow in their footsteps.

Libra (chuckling): Heh, I guess I am too. Back then though… I had no perspective. If I wasn’t able to find a girlfriend, then I couldn’t be married by the time I graduated, and that would derail my concept of the rest of my life. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t focus on homework, I  wouldn’t go to class. I failed a lot of classes, Mom.

Mom (sadly): I know, dearest. We were caught in a depression spiral that tanked the entire semester.

Libra: I ended up on academic probation. I was all ready to turn my life around the next semester, but… I slipped right back into the depression spiral. I couldn’t escape it… I was failing nearly all my courses again.

Mom: We almost failed out of school.

Libra: We *should have* failed out of school. My grades were low enough that we would have been expelled — I’d have to reapply to get back in, and I wouldn’t even be allowed to reapply for a year.

Mom: I remember. Good thing we’ve always been reliable under pressure, huh?

Libra: Somehow. The clarity with which I made my plan to stay still surprises me — I have no idea how I came up with it.

Mom: The same place it always comes from, Daphne. When our back is up against the wall, we find a way. I think it’s an ADHD trait, honestly — we might be lousy at homework, but we’ve always been excellent test takers. In any case, I’m sure you remember what happened.

Libra: Of course — I withdrew from school, two days before the end of finals. Failing classes would still count against my GPA, and I’d get an incomplete for the semester, which meant I’d still be on academic probation… But I wouldn’t be expelled.

Mom: And so it went. We withdrew and went to our local community college for a semester. That experience was enough of a shock that we finally accepted that our lives wouldn’t follow the timetable we’d prescribed ourselves in our youth, and that was okay.

Libra: Yup. I went back to university the semester after as a better student than ever and with several transfer credits to boot. I aced that semester, was removed from probation, and went on to finish my degree.

Mom: It was hard fought, but we did it.

(Libra smiles, clearly proud of her remembered accomplishment.)

Mom: I can’t imagine you’ve been coming back here just to relive those memories though.

Libra: No… I’m not, but they’re on my mind. I slipped into that depression spiral for an entire year because I thought I had to find someone to share my life with here in college. I found my way out of it when I realized that didn’t have to happen in college, and I kind of let that goal go. But you did it eventually, didn’t you?

Mom: I did. Lark found someone, and Ivy married them.

Libra: I think that’s why I keep ending up here. I failed so spectacularly at companionship, and it meant so much to me that it tore my life apart until I could let it go. But now… Ivy did it. She found a partner and started a family — she fulfilled my dream.

Mom: So she did.

(Libra sits in silence, clearly processing something.)

Mom: How does it make you feel?

Libra: It’s… It’s a little surreal. We finally have something we’ve wanted for so long. In a sense it doesn’t feel real, you know?

Mom (smiling): I’m very familiar with that feeling, yes.

Libra: You’re about to tell me it’s a lot like transition.

Mom: You know me quite well, Daphne. Can you tell me why it’s like transition?

Libra (contemplative): Because transition involves that same feeling of finally achieving something you’ve wanted your entire life. Something you weren’t sure you could ever have.

Mom: That’s a pretty good way to put it. But I’ll ask you again — how does understanding that make you feel?

Libra: Hm. I can’t tell whether that success vindicates or invalidates the time I spent depressed. I mean, I’m glad I finally achieved my lifelong goal, but it doesn’t feel like I did it because of all the hard work I put in. It just feels like things happened to finally work out for me. I was just in the right place at the right time and got lucky.

Mom: And you feel like you would have been able to achieve that goal earlier if things had just gone a little differently — like you were a little more assertive at one point or you understood how courtship worked a little better or you knew a bit more about yourself back then.

Libra: Exactly. Things could have gone differently. So was my depression spiral a necessary step in that process or did I suffer for nothing?

Mom: What do you think?

Libra: I think… I’m not sure I’d keep coming back here if I knew the answer to that.

(I let Libra’s words hang in the air for a while.)

Libra: When does it start feeling real?

Mom: It takes time, but you get used to it. Though honestly, it still feels remarkable from time to time — just the sudden realization that we accomplished our lifelong goal. We started a family. We actually accepted that we’re trans. We actually did those things.

(Libra contemplates that for a moment before answering.)

Libra: So when does our past start to make sense to us? When does it feel like it has meaning?

Mom (sighing): Presumably sometime after scrutinizing it and trying to make sense of it — that doesn’t seem to happen automatically. That process sounds a lot like transition too, honestly.

Libra: What, the process of making sense of our past?

Mom: Yeah. This, all around us. The reason we’re even talking like this in the first place.

Libra: Oh. Well… I guess that’s the question, isn’t it — making sense of my sisters and I. Do we even need to exist?

Mom: Daphne, I love you and your sisters. I’m grateful that you’re all here with me.

Libra: Okay sure, but not everyone has a whole family inside them, helping them process their past. Some people don’t seem to need that. Besides, things were really rough for us at times, remember? Was our suffering a necessary step in the process of becoming ourselves or was that all pointless?

(I take a moment to think before answering.)

Mom (pained): I… I’m not sure I’d keep coming back here if I knew the answer to that.