Today, I fed my depression.
I gave it a huge plate of steaming, saucy pasta with cheese and tender meatballs. After that, I let it consume the remnants of a crinkled bag of chocolate chips, one after another. I gave it a bowl of frozen yogurt. I tried to stuff it down, to cover it, to push it away, but I failed. What I “forgot to remember” is that sometimes it is stronger than me. So I let it sip Chamomile tea, mixed with milk and honey and I put it down for a nap. I gave it everything I had, everything I could think of giving it, and then I politely asked it to leave. But, it remained, and has remained.
When depression comes knocking on my door, it likes to linger. It isn’t invited, but it does not care about invitations. For years, I’ve managed to keep it from seeping back into my life. By deftly dismissing and successfully ignoring it, by waiting out the waves of discouragement, I have somehow kept it away. On this day, though, I opened the damn door. I dropped my sword. My inner warrior hunched over, then buckled, and I let that sneaky bitch back in.
An old familiar feeling washed over me. It bathed me in a gray and foggy melancholy I could not shake. It started with a little bit of the overcast weather mixed with something else, an undefined sadness of sorts. It began innocently enough, with moping, some putzing around the house, and a little bit of boredom. Knowing full well that it would not work, I still ventured down that tricky path and tried to fix it the way I used to – I fed it.
Just yesterday, I triumphantly ran what seemed like a hundred miles. I proudly wore my new, sleek sneakers and I felt strong and powerful. I felt accomplished, and light, and all was seemingly right with the world. That feeling, though, lasted but a moment. Here and now, on this particular day, I am blindsided. I am reminded, once again, of how quickly things can change.
Depression. /dəˈpreSH(ə)n/. Noun. “Feelings of severe despondency and dejection.” I want to put my finger on that word, that stupid noun. I want to squash it and flick it. I want to wipe away its splayed out guts. But that’s not how fighting for my life works. Fighting for my life isn’t about wiping things away and pretending they don’t exist. Fighting for my life involves the “long game” which is about endurance sprinkled with messy, mini battles.
I know my feelings were triggered by the massive fight I had with my daughter. Our arguments are something we have avoided for quite some time. I thought we were “making progress” and figuring things out. But it was the kind of fight I won’t recover from quickly. The kind of fight that will stay in my belly and in my head. It will stay in my bones, too. And though my words were chosen carefully, they were still somehow wrong, as they always are, and they damaged us both, as they always do, in ways I can not ever seem to learn from or understand. It was the kind of heart-breaking fight that felt like punching and pecking. It felt like kicking and spitting and gouging. It was dirty and wild. It left me feeling hopeless about our relationship for the very first time in my life.
And then I received an e-mail from an online publication requesting that I edit a piece I submitted before they could run it. And this is not unusual, and the feedback was not off base, but it hit me the wrong way, on this particular day. Why isn’t my free content good enough the first time? Why does it suddenly feel like what I do, or write or say, isn’t good enough the first time?
Pursuing my writing is lovely. It is creative and fulfilling. But it has also become, in a way, something else, a thing I don’t want it to be. It has become pressure. And sometimes I feel censored by the opinions of others. And I can’t help but wonder if the thrill is gone. And if it is, where did it go, and how can I get it back?
My depression has its triggers and it happens when I expect it most. But it also comes knocking when I expect it least. It does not care if I am ready for it or not. And it feels as though nothing, not one thing, will light my fire. Not running, nor writing, nor cooking, or working. Not gardening, nor friends, nor bicycling, or even something as comforting as a creamy cup of coffee. Stuck in bleakness, and a sense of defeat I can not fully expel, this recent sadness, it seems, is a drenching wave I must ride until the tide changes.
Where I was once so sure, I now flutter with uncertainty. Where I once bravely stood, I now seek to hide. Where I once felt endless energy, I am now blocked and lethargic. And where I once had a vision of myself moving forward, moving across finish lines, my future looms blurry in the distance – an uninspired mess. At least that is what it feels like today, here and now, in this desolate moment. So, I wait. And I ride my wave.
And the conclusion I will draw is such: I can do everything in my power to change who I am and how I handle things. I can put my health and my quest for happiness first. I can slay my monsters day in and day out, fearlessly and with passion. I can create new goals for myself. I can maintain my weight loss and my motivation. I can smile at the world and flit from one activity to the next. I can marvel at sunsets and share my thoughts. I can keep telling the truth. I can look vibrant and strong to anyone who happens to be paying attention. I can do it all with vigor and discipline, but the invisible cloak of despondency will sometimes descend anyway, and all of it, all of everything I do, and say, and write can quickly mean nothing at all.
This is the depression that belongs to me. It is part of my personal human condition, though I am not special. Millions of people feel this same way. They ride waves similar to mine, big and small swells, triggered by life circumstances and bubbling brain chemistry without a tow line in sight.
But there is one miracle worth mentioning. My depression is something I recognize now. Where before I was numb, today, I can name it. I know it. And I can yell expletives at it all day long.
In recognizing exactly what is happening, I can strive to do the strong things I always write about. I can be present enough to push myself up and out. Here and now is the time for mustering courage (yes courage) to follow my own advice. And I know, from dealing with it, both effectively and not, that riding even the smallest wave of darkness will indeed be a goddamn battle that requires honest courage.
Today, though, I fed the beast. I gave it pasta, and beef, and chocolate, and a frozen treat. I let it sleep. I let it pin me down, under the covers, on pillows soaked with tears. I let it win because I am human, flawed from sun up to sun down. And that’s okay. That was today.
Tomorrow will be a different story.
Tomorrow, my depression will be an unwelcome guest. Tossed to the curb it will go, out with all the other garbage that needs tossing. That is the plan, anyway. At least it is worth a try. Because one day with a heavy, broken, disillusioned heart, is one too many for me.
It is exactly one more than I care to bear.
And I believe that in this lifetime I have already carried my fair share.