Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Living with Depression [for those who do and those who don't]

I am supposed to tell you, the audience, of my unbelievable recovery. How the last 3 years, I knew where I went. That I did not billow into a strange Arizona cloud of desert dust. Yet, I cannot. I have been tucked so tightly inside myself, that growth and evolution are all but mirages in the heat. I think, for a time, maybe the words were on the tip of my tongue. Depression and confusion and isolation create amnesia, you see. I can't really recall if I was close or it was just a dream, a story I told to remind myself that I was not dead-yet.  I thought I was in love, I thought I was gay, I thought I was psychotic, I thought I was sick many times — and through it all, I kept scratching the surface and recoiling.

Why am I like this? Do all the pretty journal entries about birds and flowers and lovers kissing my spine matter when, in effect, I cannot recall the very next week? I can recall details, but mostly it feels like a macerated  hunk of meat that a dog puked on the road. I literally feel like nothing is certain or cemented except the unwavering illness I suffer with, and have since I was 14.

I am not sad. I wish I was sad. Because sadness, you understand, is a feeling I can identify and it is exactly 100% better than numb. Numb is an inescapable weight. It crushes with its silence and abundance of nothingness. Numbness has no sexual energy or orientation. It fears nothing, not even death itself, because even death would provide a feeling of overtures and success. Truthfully, the worst part about death is knowing I am not brave enough to give it a go.

I think that depression seems a lot like sadness because it can often follow long periods of grief. When a lover leaves, a parent dies. It can last and it can and does, take many people down a long, torturous road of emotional drudgery. But eventually, even with antidepressants, people usually come back and stand against the wall, and finally, come forward and join the crowd. Sometimes, they even dance.

I think with chronic, long-term, whole life-long depression… the feeling becomes less hopeful. Year after year, the crimes seem more against the act of living than of daring to let go. Who will I hurt this year with my inability to feel? When will that person let go because another night with the crying is too much? And can I fault them? But they will fault me. For an invisible disability. For trying again and again to dance with my broken and mangled legs. And every attempt, every year, it feels a little more awkward. A lot more terrifying… and as inertia and gravity become cruel, unforgiving mistresses, not even the impulsiveness of youth is an excuse.

I don't want to die. I have said this over and over, alone, at night. Holding an adopted dog, into journals and art and pillows. I want to feel that something in this life matters. I see my daughter and I watch her grow into a young woman who is brave and talented. Even in times of great anxiousness, she muddles through, stumbles and puts her head into the wind and works her magic. I admire it. Watching someone I created, teaching her to be brave, it's hard. Very hard. Maybe that sounds awfully selfish, but I forgot how to be that brave. Depression constructs a mythological world where the creatures are both heroes and evil monsters alike. Her brain is not a normal brain, either, as she has ADD. But hopefully, she can avoid the years of waiting for a depression cure like her mom. And her grandmother. And her great grandparents, and the great uncle who killed himself. The bipolar and depressives who fought and fought & waited on the storm… and waited until the inevitable parting of the clouds.

Let me tell you something you may not know. Depression is unbearable at times. I mean, there is not a person who has severe depression who did not just pray for a break, where no words, no guilt or shame or "friendly recruiting" to social events existed. There is not a single one of us who have been in the middle of the black sea abyss of depression and felt like fucking, eating, dancing, making art, doing anything. It's not for a lack of want, but a lack of connection to the purpose. The reward of life-STOPS. Like a cold death grip around the throat of living, depression cuts off the air, suddenly and without warning. Sometimes, it even feels like warning us, but it doesn't matter. 

Me, I write. I write down anything that makes me feel real. To remember I am not dead in the midst of this chokehold. Music makes it tolerable, if only to sink into something besides my mind. People can be good, too, if they get it. If they know the black dog. But if they can't understand the ebb and flow of what it means to be depressed and live with it- and God forbid if they ever turn their back in the middle of it-i just can't bear them. I also make art, walk, take a benzodiazepine. Believe me, it helps sometimes in that cold prison cell of the mind-to be allowed to just sleep or walk in a fog that doesn't reverberate with what a total fucking loser I am.

I don't think this way. I really don't. Most days I make dinners, I go out, I make neat art and craft pieces. I love decorating and shopping and dressing up and wearing makeup and fixing my hair. Most days, I cuddle my chihuahuas and I write the plan for the day- and I live.

But there are weeks, months where I can't tell you who I am or what I want-or what I did last week, nor why- or if it was in the least bit gratifying. I don't remember love or feeling loved. I do not want to say I can't feel or empathize, but after watching people be hurt by a mental illness I can't always control [nor can the unmentionable number of meds doctors have prescribed over my lifetime, which are always hit or miss] I have to put up walls. Not your average "healthy boundaries" but thick, heavily constructed walls to keep people away from the damage. They fall. sometimes I let them because I am human and like most humans, I love warmth. It feels safe and nice. But when they fall for me, hard- I run. That's to protect them as much as myself. Here's something else about depressed people you may not know: We do not want to run. We want you to ask us to stay. We want you to sit it out, knowing that is the most selfish damned thing we could ask of anyone with a normally functioning brain. So our gut reaction is to push you out of the boat before the thing overturns.

When you see a depressed person, when you think they have nothing to offer, I promise you, they are thinking within the asylum of their chemically fucked brain, ten times worse. Ten times the shame. Ten times the guilt over it all. And do we drink, do we get high, do we hide, do we write it or fuck it all away…? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it's how we survive. And while I have learned not to destroy myself in the sea, crashing from wave to wave in the storm, it takes a lifetime to navigate a tumultuous ocean. Seasoned sailors, then finally Captains of depression. That's what we become, complete with salty language, robust bellies and scratchy beards… and yes, weary eyes that have seen many of our crew swallowed up by the unfairness of the high seas.