I think I have to admit that I’m depressed again.
That’s right, this post is coming from inside a deep, dark cave of my own sadness and self-loathing! And it’s not because Hostess went bankrupt. It’s only partly because of that. I gots to have my snack cakes.
You wouldn’t necessarily know it, even if you spend a lot of time around me, but depression is a part of my life that I have to manage continually, like my weight, and my sobriety. I am a happy person, a smiler, always getting into trouble for looking overly friendly and welcoming to the crazy people who inevitably approach me. I make the best of things. I believe in positivity. I try not to burden others with the pendulum of my moods.
But like a lot of people I have known who are loud and funny, I wrestle with darkness. Yes, I am the stupid sad clown they talk about. (Not to be confused with a sex clown.)
It always catches up with me this time of year, creeping in slowly until my world is as colorless as the sky outside. I don’t know if it’s chemicals misfiring or just the weight of everything I’ve been through causing my brain to slowly sag in the middle like an overloaded bridge.
But it always starts the same way.
One day I wake up and find it very hard to get out of bed. This morning I didn’t make it into the office until 1 p.m., because I just kept not getting up, minute by minute, until it stretched into hours. The idea of taking my clothes off and getting into the shower, even making it to the bathroom, feels like walking down stairs while stoned, like a huge daunting journey I can’t fathom completing. If I do make it out into the world, I feel as limp and wrung-out as a dish towel, devoid of any feeling or personality.
Even as I’m trying to describe it to you now, I find I can’t connect to my talent as I normally can, can’t bridge the gap between what I am feeling and the words I put down. This disease, this sickness; it’s between you and me.
There are a lot of depressing things going on in my life right now: My relationship with my family is tattered, holding on by thin threads that I am struggling not to sever while we work out our issues. I continue to process my sexual assault and the ensuing years of retraumatization and addiction in therapy. I still strongly feel the presence of a hole I long to fill with food, drugs, and sex. My finances are unmanageable, and I haven’t yet learned how to do this job healthily. I just pour myself out into it day after day after day until I have nothing left to give.
I have a friend, a recently divorced father who has a high-pressure career in a round-the-clock industry. He works all night, then picks his kids up for school in the morning, then goes back to work, grabbing an hour of sleep here and there. He’ll live like that for weeks, oblivious to what everyone else around him can see: that he is hurtling toward disaster. Eventually, he relapses on his substance of choice.
I too sometimes live inside that bubble, sometimes believe in the power of my control over my immediate universe, sometimes believe I can keep going long past the point of safety. I juggle a lot of balls. Eventually, I drop them.
But even when everything is perfect, I these crashes are something I will probably always have to deal with. Whenever you tell someone you are feeling depressed, they inevitably ask, “What about?” which always struck me as ridiculous. If you were depressed about something, it wouldn’t be depression; it would just be sadness in response to something bad that is happening.
My depression doesn’t feel like sadness, anyway; it feels like a void, an absence of emotion. I don’t feel joyful or devastated. I feel nothing, except maybe exhausted.
And it’s just the way it is with me. My family tree is poisoned with melancholy right down to the roots. Some of us manage our depression through alcohol or pot. Some of us don’t manage it at all, just wallow in it while simultaneously denying its existence.
I am lucky to be managing mine with medication, but my depression can be cunning. Every once in awhile, it outsmarts the formula. It figures out how to weasel its way through the chemical barriers I have in place. When I can’t get out of bed anymore, we tweak. We raise some dosages or lower others. We try a new drug.
A part of me wishes I could live my life free of medication. I would like to be able to drink responsibly, too, and it took me a lot of trial and error to accept that I couldn’t. Today I have learned to work within the confines of reality, to respond to what exists instead of desperately trying to force the situation to conform to my desires. To walk through the unlocked door instead of pounding on the locked one with futile fists.
And the feeling when a new medication start to work is like a window opening on the first day of spring, all fresh air and the sunshine hitting my brain. It’s somehow a great relief, like finally throwing up after nausea, and completely natural, like slipping back into myself.
When I grasp for salvation and brush it with my fingertips, I don’t worry about where it came from. I just feel grateful. Here’s hoping we all get out of bed tomorrow.
By Emily McCombs, xoJane