Content Warning—suicidal ideation The story I tell goes something like this: Did you know I once helped a boy escape from a mental hospital? When I tell it that way, people start imagining things: guns blazing, alarms blaring,…
In any exploration of memory, the “I” ends up a character of sorts. This process is how we make stories out of our lives, how we manage to remember anything at all. Yet turning our memories into writing inevitably leads to a sort of split—between the “I” that the reader sees, and the “I” behind the words, the one who decides where the story will end, what kind of story it will be. Ideally, most of the time, these “I”s are not too far removed from each other, but what happens when one “I” starts doubting the other? What kind of truth can you really tell when the only solid facts are tied up in seemingly inconsequential details? What can you do when your memory suffers, but a story demands to be told?
I’m no stranger to my brain being a traitor. I was sixteen when I first came face-to-face with the reality of my own chronic depression, and the memory loss and bad decisions that come with it. Now, after some dozen courses of various medications and treatments, I’ve found a sort of equilibrium, but the gaps remain. At times, I still end up warring with myself, fighting that anxious, depressive part of me that is always replacing reality with something worse, something darker. And yet such depressive illusions are not lies—they are merely a different take on the facts of reality, a darker retelling of what has happened, a filter drawn over the act of memory. The line between fact and truth blurs.
It took me almost a decade to find my way through this story, to put the experience of my unthinking actions—and their consequences for both me and “Thomas”—into words. The beginning came easy, with its dates and figures, but I struggled with the ending of it, the unknowing. Too many times, I tried to tell the story straight, but there was so much about those years of my life that still remains unclear to me, that I couldn’t, for the life of me, truly remember.
For me, then, the answer was to lean into the unknowing, the blurred lines, the gaps, to dive into them and lose myself in their depths. Though the truth might remain elusive, that would be where I’d have to go, in order to try and find it.
Half Filipino, half Maltese, AMY V. BORG has spent her life slipping between countries and continents. With a master’s degree in creative writing and publishing from Kingston University London, she currently authors fantasy novels and short stories for both adults and young readers, as well as select nonfiction. Her work has been shortlisted for both the Penguin WriteNow Mentorship and the inaugural Gollancz and Rivers of London Award (now the Future Worlds Prize). Follow her on Twitter @thatexpatgirl.