Breath & Shadow
Spring 2019 - Vol. 16, Issue 2
"My Wildest Dreams"
I walk down the sidewalk of my favorite street in the neighborhood. I’m staring down, studying the cracks between each slab of concrete. But then, I always look down.
Five years, I tell myself. I’ve been depressed for five years. Do you know how long that is?
As if life hadn’t been challenging enough, major depression and anxiety started hitting me at the age of fourteen. They changed the trajectory of my life.
At the moment, I am thirty-six years old, unable to work, terribly uninterested in housework, and in need of a case manager. I’m lucky. Since I recently got out of the psychiatric unit (again), I don’t have to be on the waiting list for one.
She comes over to my apartment on a Tuesday. Her name is Kathy. She’s a tiny little thing, full of life and spirit, though not sickeningly so. She’s practical, compassionate, and has a great sense of humor.
That’s a good thing, because I tend to be a downer. I need more laughter in my life.
Kathy treats me like a human being who’s having a rough time, unlike the people who have worked in the mental health system for too long and have bad attitudes, treating us like “just another client.”
I can’t remember, but I’m pretty sure I cried with her that day. One can only suffer for so long before it’s time to break.
It’s actually very surprising I remember anything she says, as I had ten ECT treatments while I was in the hospital. My memory just isn’t the same as it used to be. I can’t remember my address or my phone number. I can’t remember shit.
Kathy is in tune with this, so we work with a lot of lists. We write everything down that we talk about, to help me remember.
But what if I don’t want to remember?
Living with depression and anxiety is awful. And, even though I was in the hospital this time for five weeks, plus a week at a group housing unit to help me transition, I felt no better than usual. Now, that’s a depressing realization: They can give you the harshest, most serious treatment for your dysfunction, and you don’t respond to it. Not in a good way, anyway.
Who wants to remember that?
Regardless, I plug away. Kathy visits me once a week at my apartment. That means I don’t have to try and maneuver through the streets of Minneapolis, full of name changes, light rail tracks, and one-ways. My mind can’t figure out the simple grid pattern of numerical and alphabetical street and avenue names.
It didn’t used to be that way. Pre-ECT, I would drive anywhere. I’ve always loved driving, and the logical street pattern in the city made sense to me. Avenues go east and west, streets go north and south. Numbered streets are in chronological order.
Now I can’t even remember the name of my own street.
Kathy is very patient with me and my new memory problems. She helps me build a routine, provides emotional and intellectual support, and never misses an appointment. We’ll end up working with each other for a year and a half.
The most important thing she would do for me is help me let go of my preconceived notions about myself. One day, we were working on goals. She asked me, if I could be anything in the world, what would it be? My answer came easily inside my head, but it took an extra dose of vulnerability to make the words come out of my mouth:
A wildlife photographer.
She, of course, thought that was excellent. I, however, pointed out that Minnesota doesn’t have many jungles. Her response was swift and direct.
“So grab your camera and go figure out what else you like to take pictures of!”
Though a strong spark of doubt hit me, my excitement would not remain stifled. I thought, Yeah, I should get out and use my camera, see what I find in the city.
That excitement, of using a natural talent I seem to have and love, has never left. Although I have gone long periods without using my camera, ever since that day, it meant possibility to me. It opened up doors to other people who love photography and a lengthy and consistent correspondence with a noted black and white modern landscape photographer halfway around the country.
It also brought passion into my life, which is something it sorely lacked.
No, I haven’t moved to Africa to realize my original dream, but I do take photos constantly. I do it for myself, but I would love to be able to sell some of my work. Maybe someday. Until that time, I will keep Merlin (my camera) handy and capture life as it happens.
Thank you, Kathy. You will never know how much you’ve helped.
Laura Becker writes fiction, short stories, creative nonfiction, and personal essays. She’s just starting to get her work out there..Visit her website and blog at