Friday, May 13, 1977.
45 years ago today I was born.
According to reports, it was not pleasant.
I was born on time, but very underweight, and had jaundice. Oh. And I was breach. And when the doctor… or team of doctors… or the 12 clydesdales that I was hooked to pulled me from my cozy habitat… my mother recalls feeling the moment my collarbone broke as I was being evacuated from the premises.
I was whisked away to spend the first 7 days of my life in a plastic incubator.
Helluva first day.
All during my childhood it was described to me again and again how the only contact I had with my mother was through a glove in the side of the babyquarium™.
I was too weak to cry for that first week.
And so the story goes that eventually, on the seventh day, Dave developed a voice. And I cried. Out loud. For the first time in my existence.
I have been told that the nurses all broke into applause and cheered.
That’s a lofty experience for a 7 day old, eh? First time speaking and an audience claps! I wonder sometimes where the urge to be a performing artist came from. I have a line of artistry in the family tree. But something must have resonated in that tiny little brain. Cause. Meet effect. Action. Reaction. Speak. They clap.
And while that’s been a fun thing to consider over the last 45 years, there is a darker element one must consider. Lately, I see more and more evidence emerge that babies in these environments (typically premies) can develop some rather difficult issues later in life. Avoidant issues. Codependency issues. Anxiety. Depression. Severe mental illnesses requiring future hospitalization. Etc.
I also come from at least two lines, one maternal and one paternal, where there is a clear history of mental illness. Two separate family lines of brilliant and unstable people collide in my DNA.
So, I was already predisposed to lose the genetic lottery when it comes to mental health. Then you add to that potential powderkeg a sick newborn infant thrust into a sensory deprived environment unable to physically touch the mother that just birthed me and therefore lacking all the lovey dovey brain chemicals that we now know babies need instantly after birth– all 3 of my kids were immediately given to my wife for that post-natal bonding– and one has to wonder what are the odds that a baby with that kind of Friday the 13th bad luck is gonna have an unscathed brain?
Add a baseball bat to the head at 9 and some other concussions and head wounds– man, they bleed like crazy– over the years and now we’re getting into some areas of real concern.
Having mentally ill parents didn’t help.
And being raised in a… *ahem*… rather strict religious environment prone to abuse probably also did. not. help.
All of this to say, I’m not really here to blame one thing or another for what happens later. It’s impossible to say what caused what. Which factor influenced more. Where did one form of abuse mingle with my DNA and myriad brain traumas while being reinforced by toxic cultures… how did the mix ratio create the final product?
I have absolutely no idea.
And I no longer really care about the “why” and the “how” anymore.
Because a human’s life is far too complex to distill problems down to a single root cause, usually. Sometimes in life we’re able to do this. Lung cancer is more likely from smokers. Traumatic brain injury or strokes or particular drug use can be clear links to mental illness causation. We see in the NFL how players with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) can have damaged mental health that lead to a wide range of unpleasant behaviors.
Usually, though, with mental illness we’re talking about something so complex that it’s impossible to determine a starting point. And so one of the things I will NOT be doing in these pages is trying to assign some blame to something that, quite frankly, I blame all of human existence for. 10,000 years of damaged DNA. Born into a country full of white supremacy and religious insanity.
All y’all fucked me up. It’s everybody’s fault. Some more than others, for sure. But, trying to suss out what percentage of the problem came from X and what percentage of it came from Y is a waste of time for the purposes of this project.
Because it shouldn’t matter “why” it happened.
Just that it did.
Besides. It’s the aftermath that brings us here today. And for that, there is blame.
But in the beginning… the odds were against me.
I never stood a chance.
Welcome to the world, kid.
Happy birthing day.
Enjoy the applause while you can.
In the Beginning
Friday, May 13, 1977.