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Passe-Temps. Story of One Life.

Yana Malysheva-Jones


I am sitting in our room in a hotel — a sanatorium to be precise — an old soviet building that had been renovated some time ago though some parts of it still show the time to which it originally belonged.

I cleared the table so my laptop can fit in here, though there are still four piles of nappies on my left — from time to time, through almost three years of my motherhood, I try to imagine how many nappies we’ve used during this time and sometimes I regret that I didn’t start counting from the first one. I guess it would be an interesting number. For some reason I am thinking about someone I know who became a mother almost at the same time as me — her plan was to use eco-friendly, self-made nappies, apparently healthier than commercial ones. As far as I remember she gave up that idea pretty quickly and I don’t blame her, though a little sarcastic thought can’t help but crawl through my mind.

“What is the worst thing about depression?” I ask myself on our walk in a sanatorium garden with Max, pretending I am an interviewer, interviewing a version of myself who somehow made it to great fame and is now being interviewed by famous Russian journalist and media figure Ksenia Sobchak.

“The worst thing,” I answer, “is the loneliness of this sensation” (I speak Russian back then but now decide to make notes of my conversation in English, don’t ask me why but I guess writing in English gives me the freedom to actually not be me, but someone else, like watching myself from the outside and judging my own life and making myself believe that my life is worth something). “Experience, in fact. You can’t really call depression a sensation. It is an experience, though I really got tired of this word, just as I get tired of all words overused in modern life like some advertising slogans. I guess any illness — and depression is an illness, I need to emphasize — is a lonely thing. But somehow I feel that it is worse than an illness like cancer, for example, because people and society, though not able to feel the pain of the sufferer, do empathise and feel sorry for the ill one more and more easily than those coping with depression. The attitude is definitely different. I guess no one can really get what it feels like to not want to live and question your existence, not for philosophical reasons but for the sake of actually being in that state of mind that has nothing to do with where you are in your life, who you are, your looks and other things that altogether create a human. You can’t know it unless you know. This is the fundamental thing about depression — that your basic instinct (as far as I understand from my fragmented knowledge of psychology, biology and other sciences) — to survive — fades. And from what I know this process is unnatural, isn’t it? Different people have it to various degrees but they do have it. And this is the second worst part of it — nothing really matters on some molecular level if the importance of your own life is questioned by you — I will repeat, not by your own choice but by the choice of hormones and a series of genetic and other obstacles that might have started way earlier than you as a sufferer were even conceived. Isn’t that weird?

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