Tag Archives: depression

The invisible agony*

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The invisible agony*

Hilarious beast, this depression. Like so many things in my life, I’d assumed it’s like the movies. You lay in bed, in the dark after some devastating loss. A partner dies, a divorce, a lost job. And your best friend comes in after some period of a time, a week, two weeks, and throws open the curtains and says, “That’s it! You’re getting up.” Followed by a montage of you reluctantly going for a walk in the park, thoughtfully sipping tea while wearing sunglasses and a head scarf, you toss a frisbee and laugh accidentally, eventually you play a board game with friends or travel to Italy, you write a meaningful song, or start a blog. There’s a crescendo you ride that steadily increases your mood until one day you are just–better, well.
But in real life there’s no steady path that leads you to better. There are good days relentlessly followed by terrible days. There is distinct pleasure pursued by devastating and unexpected pain. And that pain lives right next to the intense pleasure. Next door neighbors, like the kind of neighbor that you’d borrow sugar from. You’re enjoying that perfect day, the simple joy of the air temperature and the smell of flowers and the very next molecule that holds the very next thought contains a darkness so dire that you once again feel that deep ache, the deepest a heart can know without shattering into a million pieces from the weight of it. The spaces are all so fragile that they’d surely break from the lightest brush of a dandelion parachute. And you feel the black hole of depression opening up, ready to swallow you whole, but you access some hidden resource tucked away, you step forward and back into the light of the sun.
Depression doesn’t get to be the protagonist of that cinematic fairy tale, it’s messier, some days a lot more boring and,essentially, always present. Depression makes you tired, the kind of tired that napping doesn’t alleviate. You ache and not the type of ache that is removed with painkillers. You live with it, it’s a scar, it’s an unpaid debt, it’s taxes, it’s death. It follows you, it lives with you. Periodically it goes into hibernation, you medicate it, or meditate it, or get it drunk, but it comes back. It sits on your chest like an unkempt, uninvited Flemish Rabbit, it pursues you, it waits for you to be too tired to fight it off and hopes you will pull it over you like a dangerous and comfortable blanket.
Most of the time, you manage it. You go about your day. You throw frisbees and accidentally laugh, you sip tea and wear headscarves, you play Jenga, you vacation. Some days you pass so joyfully, you wonder if it’s just gone–taken up residence in some other vessel. Some days it moves in with such authority and violence that you are sure there is no more of you. You sleep lengthy naps in darkened rooms. You wonder what the point is, you cry and fret and ache. But just as the molecules of pleasure are bumped out of the way to make room for despair, the opposite is true as well.
The melody of life with depression is packed with crescendos and decrescendos, swells of beautiful music and discordant cacophonous noise, and hours and hours of background music. You struggle with it, you survive with it, you fight it and acquiesce to it. You treat it, you coddle it, you feed it and starve it, but you never get rid of it. Because you live with it. And that is ok. Or at least, that is.

The title is credited to David Foster Wallace

The Amish break up

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The Amish break up

So yes, I ate a roll-ish of cookie dough yesterday. I’m not admitting that it’s relationship related, maybe my diet simply lacks enough chocolate chips.
On a, probably, unrelated note, let’s talk about break ups.
When I was 15 and Tim “somebody or other” broke up with me (he was 17 after all and about to go off to college), I spent the better part of three days laying face down in a pile of discarded acid washed jeans and neon stirrup pants inside my closet. One day, while trying to put clothes away in my room, my mother insisted that I get up and move on with my life. But Tim was the first boy I ever “really” kissed, I had picked out bride’s maids dresses for our imaginary wedding. They were drawn in ink pen on a piece of spiral notebook paper. This was serious.
But I never really saw Tim very much. We didn’t go to the same school, the one phone in my house was on the wall of the kitchen, and there was no internet, no Facebook, Instagram or snapchat. We weren’t ” friends”. Stalking an ex required hiring a private investigator, or asking our mutual friends. My babysitting gigs didn’t really provide the kind of income that would afford me private investigator money, and we didn’t really have mutual friends. So, when I finally did see Tim with another girl, it was months later and at 15, my heart had healed.
Now, it might seem that as an adult, IF I were upset over the break up of someone, I’d have the common sense not to look them up on the inter webs, to block them from my feed, or whatever I’m sure real grown ups do. But apparently I’m not a real grownup. I blame having to start over at 40, but I’m not sure that’s fair.
The internet essentially allows a person to gaze into the sanitized version of your ex’s life without you. Man, does it look like you were holding them back! Look how happy they are, how social, how utterly ecstatic that you are out of their life (but not their newsfeed) for good. Who even knew they liked to travel? And drink so many exotic drinks, and dance with sooo many women.
If you’ve broken up with someone, but would like to remain a part of their lives, Let me give you some advice that I should have taken myself, go back to a simpler time. I’d like to call this the Amish break up. Pretend the Internet doesn’t exist, especially Facebook. If you have to be on there, BLOCK! BLOCK! BLOCK! Do not, under any circumstances just glance at their page. It’s the olden times equivalent of standing outside their house and gazing in their windows or tapping their phone, the difference is, they know you’re watching and listening, and they get to control what you see. So, even if in the dark of the night they too are eating cookie dough, on Facebook their life couldn’t be better or happier and it’s more than a little torturous.
We’d all like to believe that it is impossible for others to go on without us, not just in relationships, but with jobs, and friends too. But, regardless of how accurate an expression of reality Facebook is, it’s in print and picture. And like art, it tells us plenty and leaves plenty up for interpretation, tortuous interpretation. So just don’t, go there. Go back to 1980. Use only cordless phones, pretend computers are only for evil geniuses, use a camera with film, lay in your closet if you have to. And eat cookie dough if you need to. Not that that’s what I was doing, I’m just trying to help you.

What I’ve avoided telling you for some time now: part 2

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What I’ve avoided telling you for some time now: part 2

When I opened the garage door, I saw the grey motorcycle jacket hanging there. The sleeves extended as though Chris’ arms were still inside them. I unzipped the front, laid my head inside the jacket and breathed in as deeply as was possible.

We had broccoli to eat that night and Greek chicken. While we were at lunch, Chris asked if we could have dinner together. There was that weird twinkle, that strange energy that betrayed a simple dinner invite for something more, but I ignored it. I was pleased that Chris seemed interested in spending more time with the girls. I took it as a good sign. Over the course of our separation, it was exceedingly difficult to get him to agree to any set schedule. So it was a relief to know when the girls could see him. I was more than happy to host dinner.
Of course, Chris never showed up for dinner that night. The details that followed still feel to raw to share. Three years is not enough. I made the toughest phone calls I’ve ever made later that night. There are no words that soften that news.
The hardest thing I have ever had to do was tell the girls the next morning.

By the break of day my little house was full of people and coffee and tissues and love. So much love. My village rallied around me the way villages do when one of their own is down. I have never known such love and support as I knew in those blurry days that followed that horrible Sunday night. If we wanted casserole, it appeared, toilet paper, hugs, candy, cookies. I can never express how amazing my friends, friends of friends, teachers, family and strangers were for my girls and I. People really are at their best when things are at their worst.
On Tuesday morning, the second day after Chris died, I woke up from a restless sleep thinking about two things. I had a clear image of a photograph of the two of us in Times Square. It was a selfie we took on our tenth anniversary trip. We were happy. I knew Chris had kept it in a desk drawer in the living room. I felt an intense drive to get that picture. When I opened the desk drawer, taped to the back of that picture was Chris’ last note to me. He had written it that Sunday night, before he died. It was short, written in Chris’ characteristically neat print.
The second thing I woke up thinking was I had to call Chris’ girlfriend and invite her to the funeral. As well as I knew, they had broken up several weeks beforehand, but I knew she must be devastated too. So I called her and told her she was welcome and that she should have some time at the viewing. She loved him too and whatever complicated feelings I had about her and Chris, none of that mattered anymore.
I don’t blame Chris for committing suicide. I don’t consider it a selfish act. Chris was sick. He didn’t choose to kill himself because he was a quitter, he was standing in a painful fire and he needed to be at peace.
The year that followed was a tough one. The toughest year I had, the girls often slept in the bed with me. Sometimes all three of them and the dog too. I drank a lot and smoked a lot and hid a lot. I kept a cloak of fog around me.
But this is not a story of despair, this is a story of triumph. It is a tragic story of triumph, but still a story of triumph. Losing Chris, losing my husband, losing the father of my children and the person I once planned a lifetime with was devastating. That’s part of the reality. But the other part is I discovered my strength, my independence, my resolve to survive. My love for my girls and my admiration for their strength is endless. They are my super heroes everyday. Our bond as a family of four is undeniable, unbreakable and unstoppable. We are who we are because we have suffered deeply, not in spite of our suffering. We still cry, but we also laugh-a lot-and we love each other deeply. That is the gift Chris left us.

Bodies in motion

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Bodies in motion

I spent some significant time this morning scrubbing a corner in my house with bleach. My house is inhabited by three children, two dogs, two and sometimes three cats and me. We could qualify as a hair and dust factory with a side classification for manufacturing dirty clothes and dishes. Granted, cleaning house was only a priority when I lived alone in my apartment in Atlanta. God, that place was so clean. And if you could ignore the gunshots and the domestic abuse, very quiet. But life is different now, different priorities and so many more hairy bodies, junk mail and old yogurt cups. And at least once a day there is an accident, of the spilling kind, the throw up kind, the fecal kind.
And it’s January, the shittiest month of the year. Sorry January, you just are. It’s after Christmas, it’s cold, it’s dark and it’s the anniversary. I really just want to hunker down like a grizzly bear and sleep, under the quilt. I do not want to make dinner, I do not want to exercise, I do not want to bleach the cat vomit out of that corner.
That’s the one, two gut punch of depression. I don’t feel like exercising, I don’t exercise, I feel less like exercising. I’m staring at my iPad, and getting plenty of high scores on puzzle forge. I want to eat gravy, on buttered cheese biscuits with a side of French fries, but I want them delivered to my bedside, getting up seems very, very difficult.
Thankfully, I have kids, they seem to need feeding everyday and I seem to be responsible for that. I made pizza last week. I turned on the oven.
So, Am i going to blob myself into February, will you find a a Jabba the hut sized greasy stain where my body should be? No. No you won’t. I’m putting one heavy foot in front of the other, taking a breath, and then putting the next heavy foot down. I am forcing, with great resistance and internal whining, myself to drink a big glass of water every morning. Im making a menu and a grocery list, those pictures of homemade granola were inspiring. I’m listening to my kid bug me to get up and do something with her (we planked together), I’m writing it all down, purging, I’m bleaching the effing corner.
I need a little nap now, cause it’s exhausting, but I’m doing it. January will pass and I will be a part of it. There’s no curse, just a moment of relative silence.