No company's more hateful than your own;
You dodge and give yourself the slip; you seek
In bed or in your cups from care to sneak:
In vain: the black dog follows you, and hangs
Close on your flying skirts with hungry fangs.
I lied. And I would like to explain and apologize.
This week, I finally admitted to myself that I am suffering from depression. Not your garden variety blues, not your mean reds, but prolonged, underlying, never really goes away depression.
Those of you who know me well may be thinking, “Fucking finally?” And to you, I say, “Fuck off.” No, really. It hasn’t been easy. I have struggled with depression my entire lifE -- well, at least since I was about 8 years old. I have seen therapists, read every self-help book known to man, self-medicated, denied, denied, denied, and denied. In short, I’ve done everything but admit to the fucking problem.
Now, I have.
I thought I had it beat this time, but I think I had actually just pushed into a state of meta-depression wherein I was so depressed, I was numb. Nothing really hurt anymore, but nothing really felt very good, either. I guess I should have known the black dog was preparing for ambush back in October. I had 10 days off, and normally for me, this means travel. Traveling is one of the things in life that brings me the most joy. I love everything about it, from the packing to the airport (well, I don’t love long flights or flights in small planes because one of my myriad issues is claustrophobia), but when I started planning a trip in October, all I could think was, “Ugh. I’d have to go to the airport. I hate going to the airport. Then the flight is so long. I hate being on long flights. And then I have to worry about getting someone to come sit the cats. Fuck it. It’s not worth it.” Doing something that is one of my top 3 favorite things to do in the world was not worth it. Warning sign? Maybe?
For some people. I wrote it off as being tired.
And then, about three months ago, I had a pretty wicked depression, but it only lasted a couple of days, and I went numb again. And in truth, it wasn’t that bad. It had just been so long since I had a bad one, I forgot what a bad one feels like. But I remember now.
What does a bad one feel like? How to explain without sounding like I am going to go slash my wrists? It feels like nothing is worth it. It feels like every good thing you have in your life is shit. It feels like nothing will ever be good. It feels like there is no reason to anything you’re doing, and there never will be again.
Even things you love go bad and cause you pain. Last week was one of the worst weeks I have had mentally in a long, long time. Every time I looked at one of my cats, I thought, “I am going to have live through them dying. I am going to have to be there when they are put down. I cannot do it.” Every time I spoke to one of my parents, I thought to myself, “I am going to have to live through them dying. They are going to get older and older and sick and I am going to have to sit by helplessly and watch. I cannot do it.” Every morning on the way to work, I would hit traffic and think, “If this is really going to be the rest of my life, I cannot do it.” Anytime I didn't have an email waiting for me from a friend, I thought, "No one cares about me. Why fucking bother?" Each night I would sit down to write, and I would think, “I really, really suck at this. Why bother? It’s so much work and stress and anguish. And no one is going to read it anyway. What is the point?”
Are you starting to get the idea now?
After last week, I decided I have had enough. I don’t want to be this person anymore. I’ve tried being positive, I’ve tried “faking it,” I’ve tried it all. Being positive only made me more depressed, because I realized I had no fucking reason to be depressed. Great. My doctor has put me on meds that scare me shitless, and I am trying to feel hopeful that they will help. And yet …
And yet, I feel like I’ve lost something in admitting this problem. I feel shame. I feel weak. Now, if you or anyone else I care for came to me and said, “I am depressed, and I am seeking help, and I feel ashamed,” I would tell them they had no reason at all to be ashamed. I would tell them that asking for help shows character and strength. I would hug them and tell them I had their back. I would admire them, and be thankful I had them for a friend. And I would sincerely mean every single word with all of my being.
But this is not one of you. This is me. And I feel defeated. And I feel ashamed. Maybe part of it is my culture. Here in the South, we might put our crazies out on the front lawn and show them off (thank you, Suzanne Sugarbaker), but you know what we don’t do? We don’t tell them to seek help. We don’t tell them to see a therapist. We don’t tell them to take medicine. In fact, we would say, “Hell, Uncle Bubba’s been a fucking nut bag loony toon his entire life, and he ain’t seen no head shrinker. He ain’t taking no Prozac.” What we also don’t do is acknowledge that Uncle Bubba is maybe an alcoholic (like 2 of my uncles), a drug user (like my cousin), a person with violent tendencies (like my father, my other cousin, and myriad uncles), or the member of the family who shot himself on the front lawn (like my other, other cousin). And while logically I recognize the stupidity of this outlook, I guess some of the attitude crept in, because I still feel how I feel. Maybe my magic pills will make that go away, too.
I also feel defective. Maybe it’s just the straw that broke the proverbial Angela’s back -- with all the other fun issues I bring to the table, I just can’t believe this, too. This is one people aren’t so understanding about. It’s one that gets thrown into the “crazy” category. It’s one that gets the “Did you forget your meds?” comment when you act in a way that someone else doesn’t like. It’s one that makes you weak in ways others are not.
But, it is what it is. I can’t keep fighting because, sooner or later, the big black dog wins. The mother fucker never backs down. He gets tired, he slinks away, he hides out in the shadows, but he always comes back. Always.
So I am going to throw another pill at it. I can’t keep telling myself that my periodic sadness and hopelessness is a symptom of something bigger wrong in my life, like my job, or my financial situation, blah, blah. I know tons of people who deal with these same things each day, yet they don’t wonder why they bother. And frankly, my life is pretty good. I’ve accomplished so many things these past 2 years that I have always wanted to accomplish, things I thought I would never do. I’ve got a lot, and I mean a lot, to be thankful and feel blessed for. And yet … well, you know the rest.
I’m not, btw, writing this so that all of you will send me outpourings of love or fret. This is as much acknowledgement of the problem as I want to give it. Rather than have this conversation over and over with different people, I am writing this. And I write to sort things out. I always have, and I imagine I always will. I don’t want to talk about it anymore, I don’t want to bitch and whine and moan and be self-indulgent. This is just to put a big “I am here” arrow on the map of my life so that you can all see it. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I always do when this shit hits; I am going to withdraw and quietly soldier on until it passes. Having to talk about it or act like I am fine so people won’t worry is too much effort currently. Having to ignore the look of pity in people’s eyes would only serve to piss me off. I don’t have the energy. All I can really manage right now is getting out of bed, and most days, that’s a fucking struggle, honestly.
So, to answer all of you who have asked: No, I’m not okay. But hopefully I will be. I am sorry I lied. You deserve better. If I’ve been an asshole, or distant, or flat out silent, I apologize. From the bottom of my heart. I will let you know when I'm back, and I hope you don't write me off in the meantime.