It always sneaks up on me. Always.
I’ll be doing fine – better than fine even – and then one day, I’m not. And it’s not that it happens in one day, because it doesn’t. It’s sneaky, and insidious, and oh so patient as it wraps its tentacles around me, little by little, day after day. I don’t notice, until I do.
I wake up in tears, and suddenly realize I’ve been waking up in tears for the last 6 mornings in a row. And wait, it’s been what, 3, 4 weeks since I’ve actually gotten a good night’s sleep, or any sleep at all? And when was the last time I took a shower? And why did I stop listening to music, one of my very favorite things? Why did I stop doing all of my favorite things? And how long have I been messing with my diet… vacillating between eating everything I can get my hands on, or eating nothing at all? When did my body start hurting again? When did the bone-crushing exhaustion set in? When did it all – ALL of it: living, breathing, decision-making, interacting with people and places and noises, dear Lord the noises– get so, so difficult? So difficult that the mere act of existing feels like it takes a Herculean effort?
The weight gets too heavy and the shackles too tight, and I see nothing but blackness. Deep, suffocating, oily blackness. And finally I have to admit it, because it’s just too damn hard to deny anymore.
F*ck, I’m depressed again.
The world doesn’t stop for me either. Doesn’t give a damn about me and my depression. There’s still a whole house to take care of, and kids who need me, and a husband who tries really hard but doesn’t quite know what to do with me when I’m depressed. There are still errands to run, and plumbers to come, and appointments to keep. There are still kids’ activities and places to be and people to see… and it hurts. It physically hurts dragging around the cloud that threatens to drown me, threatens to swallow me whole. I can’t see. I can’t breathe. The breaths I dare inhale yield nothing but more blackness. Blackness and desperation. Fear and numbness, both existing at the same time. Do people see it? Do they know? Part of me feels like they can’t miss it. How can you miss a darkness this dark? A weight this heavy? But part of me knows they don’t see it at all, because they don’t see me. I never feel as invisible as I feel when I’m depressed. I’m wearing an invisibility cloak, completely encased in my own private hell.
I had to go to Walgreens today. And when I say “had to” it was because my choice was either that or sit in on a drum lesson. And drum lessons mean sounds. And people talking, and jokes, and TOO MUCH WORK trying to act normal.
So I put on some clothes (with no makeup, and a messy bun in my hair… when was the last time I combed my hair?), drop off my kid, and go to Walgreens. Walgreens carries Caramel M&Ms, my favorite, but they’re out. And I stand there, in the candy aisle, trying to decide if I want to get another candy instead. Some Milk Duds maybe, or Hershey Kisses, or a bag of miniatures. But the CALORIES. And do I want to gain weight or lose weight, because it’s always one or the other, and only one of them ever makes me feel better. And I stand there and I stand there, and I agonize as if my life depends on this very decision. It’s too hard. Too much. And then the tears are in my eyes before I can stop them. Tears in the candy aisle. But no one can see me beneath my cloak.
I slowly walk through the other aisles (sans candy), avoiding eye contact, looking but not seeing…. the makeup, the bandaids, the outdoor toys… until I get to the office supply aisle. I pick up a new pen and a cute little leather-like journal, tiny enough to tuck in a purse. I put them down. I pick them up again. I don’t need a new journal or a new pen, and I know they won’t fix anything. But they stand for … hope. Hope for when I’ll enjoy them. Hope for when I feel better. I take them with me.
Before I leave, I decide to get a soda. I’m not drinking coffee anymore, gave it up a week ago, and think a small jolt of caffeine will help somehow. Some sort of elixir to my hurting soul. I get a Diet Coke. I haven’t drank Diet Coke in about 20 years. The chemicals. Today, I don’t care about chemicals. Today I care about a memory of a different time, a time when Diet Coke was my drink, the thing that would get my newlywedded self through my late shifts at the mall. I see they have a caffeine free Diet Coke, and I take that instead. Maybe caffeine is a bad idea. But I put it back. And I take it again. And then I put it back again. And then I finally get the regular Diet Coke before I can repeat my candy aisle tears. It says Stephanie on the bottle.
My total comes to $17 even, and on another day, in another time, in another place, I would have enjoyed that. That almost never happens. But today it’s just a number, taunting me on the little screen. $17.00. $17 isn’t enough to cure depression. I pay the nice man at the register. Might have even smiled. Normal, normal. See, I can do normal.
“How we doing today?” the friendly, if somewhat overly aggressive, voice greets me as I leave the store. There’s a table, and some sort of donation jar, and flyers, and a multitude of other things I can’t deal with.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry. But I don’t say it out loud. I don’t look at her. Can’t look at her. Stare straight ahead through my tear-stained sunglasses. I’m rude and I’m never rude. But I can’t make myself do it. Can’t make myself interact with another person. I’m not invisible, and she sees me. Sees me try to look at her and instantly turn away. Sees me walk past her and walk to my car. She says something to my back, but I can’t hear what it is. Can’t hear it over the thumping of my own heart.
I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.
I’m ready to fall apart, need to fall apart, but I’m not done yet. I need to drop something off at UPS, and I need to get my kid at drum lessons. The clock tells me that the rest of the lesson only takes a half an hour, but my head tells me it takes about five. I sit in the little room, waiting, listening. I read a book, not seeing the words. I look at my phone, scroll through Facebook, respond when spoken to. I can do normal.
Home. I just need to be home. The thought beats a steady staccato in my frantic chest. I can do this. I just need to get home.
And then I’m home, as exhausted as if I’d just run a marathon. Reality tells me I just dropped off a kid and ran a couple errands. 12 whole miles from home.
But I can’t breathe.
And everything hurts.
I know that alcohol will temporarily numb it (and seriously, WHAT THE HELL with all the Facebook memes that outright encourage moms to self-medicate with alcohol?), but I stopped drinking alcohol 13 months ago.
I know that Klonopin will temporarily numb it, and I have it – too much of it – in the cabinet with the rest of my meds. But I don’t take that either. Take it twice a day if needed, my prescriber tells me. But if I take it more than every other day, I lose somehow. Just like I lose if I buy the candy and the regular, non-diet Coke. Today I choose to be a winner. I choose to be a stubborn, miserable, winner, and I’m not sure I like what I’ve won.
I know that if I stopped to think about it, stopped to remember, that tools from my therapist would help too. My therapist that I’ve seen for 13 whole months now – not that I’m counting – who’s simultaneously helped me and angered me more than anyone else in my whole life, ever. I literally can’t even think about how much he’s helped me without tearing up.
But today, screw his tools. Screw the sunshine and fresh air and exercise adages too. Screw the “just think positively!” tripe. Screw the “Have you tried this essential oil?” panaceas.
And you know what else? Screw depression.
So I sit here, and I do the one thing, the only thing I can make myself do. I write. And I write and I write and I write until my heartbeat slows, and my breaths come more easily.
My soda is gone… I drank it too fast and it gave me a stomachache. I find the stomachache oddly comforting. It tells me I’m here. Reminds me that I’m still alive.
My mind is fighting to answer the question of “why?” Why depression after having done so well, for so long. But I know the question is unhelpful and invalid. (That’s my therapist talking).
The “why” doesn’t matter. It just …. It just IS. And knowing that, truly accepting that, makes it just a tiny bit easier to carry. It doesn’t make it better; doesn’t make it go away. But it softens it, smooths out the edges, makes it more manageable to live with for one more day. And that’s important, because tomorrow? Tomorrow I’m going to get up – even if I’m crying while I do it – and I’m going to put one foot in front of the other, and I’m going to breathe in and out. And as counter intuitive as it sounds, I’m going to try not to try so hard. I mean yes, I’ll continue to try to get rest and exercise and all that good stuff. And I’ll continue to do the personal work I need to do to get well. And I’ll continue to take my meds. And so help me, the next time I’m in a Walgreens I AM buying some candy. But the mental gymnastics I do to try to figure it all out, the unrealistic pressure I put on myself to just hurry up and FIX IT ALREADY?
Never helped me. Never will.
So instead I’ll focus on self care (That’s also my therapist. Seriously, how my mind can simultaneously carry so much gratitude and so much annoyance at the same person at the same time is beyond me.)
I’ll trust that it won’t be forever. I’ll trust that I’ll feel better.
I’ll trust that when I feel this bad again, I’ll find a way to stay home, and have the good sense to avoid drug stores completely.