I could start with something clever, but that would involve thinking of something clever and I just don’t have the energy.
What, then, do I have?
I won’t say “inspiration” because that just feeds the bullshit that depression “fuels my art” and that I want to be depressed so that inspiration strikes.
No, what I have are words, spilling out of me like a river out of its bed in a torrential downpour. I have words that have filled me up over the past 72 hours until I was bursting at the seams and I bypassed all of the drafted blog posts to start this one because I need to chronicle this spiral for myself–and I need to leave the conclusion here as a reminder that I have gone down the rabbit hole one more time and climbed back up. Maybe re-reading this someday will help me find the ladder more quickly.
72 hours ago, Thursday afternoon and the end of my work week, I felt alright. Tired, sure, and a little defeated–that has been my general mood over the past month or so. Constant exhaustion and dejadez, which the dictionary tells me is “neglect” but that does not seem quite right. Dejadez in the sense of “whatever happens, happens;” dejadez in the sense of “I am tired of swimming so I’ll drown instead.” Dejadez because I’d given up on fighting.
And then, in the space of maybe three hours, that feeling became something else entirely.
First, it was the conversations that made me once again feel like I don’t belong at my job–like I don’t belong anywhere–like I cannot trust anyone, like I don’t deserve to be there, like everyone thinks less of me than even I do. I am more than my job, I tried to tell myself, but Depression spoke back. I hope so, because you’re not particularly good at it. I shook it off as best I could, but my last class of the day found me on edge, snapping like a beleaguered wild thing.
Then, the “news” brought to me by someone who wanted to delight in my surprise, and my shock, and my hurt. I managed to pretend I was unperturbed and unsurprised and managed to see the wind go out of her sails–but the act was just an act, and I was left wondering whether I had once again made it all up in mind… whether I had once again told myself that someone cared about me significantly more than they did because I couldn’t face the alternative. That he cared more about someone else does not mean he didn’t care about me, I told myself. Depression shrugged. No, but it certainly means you have once again put all your eggs in a basket that isn’t even yours. My hands shook as I struggled to concentrate and finish everything before I could go home, and the façade began cracking while I was talking to coworkers about unrelated things… and feelings I wasn’t even sure I had spilled out to them. Go home, I told myself. You need space from people.
The dam burst as I talked to a friend after work. He said “I don’t believe that,” and he meant I am in disbelief and shock but I heard You’re lying. And all of a sudden he became every person who had ever disbelieved me about anything, and I became crushed under the weight of almost 27 years of being questioned about my own feelings. I am tired of being told that the way I feel and the way I see things is wrong, began the rant, and the rest is a blur that I am pretty damn glad I don’t remember.
As I walked home in the rain with Megan, who found me sitting in my car outside but more adrift than I ever was at sea, I committed the grave mistake of asking what else? with a look at the thundering clouds.
I had just sat down on my bed when Facebook told me two things I did not want to know.
The Facebook post that told me that someone who was dearly beloved to someone I dearly love had suddenly died, and the comments were filled with wonderful words about this person whom I never met but whose loss hit me like a tidal wave. Will someone remember you like this, someday? Will you have a legacy? Depression asked. Of course I will, I replied. Even if I do not yet know what that legacy will be.
I had just taken a deep breath after that when a Facebook message told me that someone I love was at the bottom of the rabbit hole, struggling with the same demons of depression and anxiety, and that he wanted to die. “I love you,” I said immediately. “It gets better. It’s not always pretty but it’s worth it.” And then I listened, and supported, and he assured me that he felt better just knowing I understood.
Depression laughed. You, of all people, telling someone else to live? Telling someone else that it gets better? How can you say that?
It does, I insisted. It has. It doesn’t feel like it right now, but I know I’m not the broken person I was five years ago when I started going to therapy. I’m not even the broken person I was a little under three months ago when I wrote that other desperate blog post.
But the hypocrisy of it all could not be unseen. I, who had spent hours at that point wishing for my own demise, had just talked someone off the proverbial ledge.
But I don’t actually want to die, I realized finally. I just want to… disappear. Sometimes. I just want to be somewhere else.
Where is here?
Chicago? Illinois? The U.S.?
But you don’t know where to go, or how, or why? What if you’re trying to “move on” because you think the grass is greener on the other side? What if there is no other side?
There has to be. I have to be able to live someday–not just go through the motions and shut my eyes and wish things were different. Or wish I were different.
What if you get there and it’s all the same because the problem is you, same as it’s always been? What if you never get better?
I’ve done it before. I know it gets better. I know I get better.
Yes, but what if?
I slept that night, fitfully, and awoke obnoxiously early on Friday–but stayed in bed. I read, I cried, I dreamed, I told social media I needed a break to find more spoons. Megan and I spent most of the day apart, each in our cocoon… she, sick in body; me, sick in mind.
We reconvened Saturday morning and went to play with a friend’s dog–I’d promised we’d look after him for a while so she could get her work done. We walked almost four miles, Megan and I and the dog, and the sunshine and the lovely company reminded me of who I sometimes am. It’s the same damn thing, Depression said. You always feel good when you’re doing things for other people–because they deserve it more than you do. I thought on the words as Megan and I had lunch, her treat. If that’s true, then why do so many people I love treat me with kindness? If I’m worth as little as you say, why don’t people agree?
Some people do, Depression reminds me.
I am more than my rating. I am more than my job. I am more than your words.
The response was enough to quiet Depression until Saturday night moved closer and closer to midnight.
But what if you’re not? What if this is all there is–if this is all you are?
I can’t lie–I’m a sucker for the rhetorical approach and it’s a damn good question. What if?
What if there is no better? What if the past seventy-two hours are the blueprint for rest of my life? What if this constant and inevitable spiral is all there is?
I didn’t have an answer then, but I do now.
Today, Sunday, Megan and I attended a funeral. Surrounded by all of those people who loved her, and those of us who were there because we loved someone who loved her, my mind kept going to the Hebrew response when mentioning someone who has passed. Zichrono/a l’vracha–may their memory be a blessing.
My legacy is not whether I was happy or not, Depression, although I’m still shooting for that.
When I am gone, I want people to say three things: She fought, she loved, she gave of herself.
There are many things I want to accomplish and many ways in which I want to grow. There are many days I hope for, days that will not be marked by the swirling darkness that makes me think I am not-so-gracefully descending into madness. But what Depression needs to understand, what I need to understand, is that it’s not necessarily about me. Depression might give me tunnel vision and make me think that the world revolves around me… but I am a tiny human in a pale blue dot in a vast universe.
My legacy will not be that I lived my life–my legacy will be how lived it. My legacy will be the ways in which I helped to repair the world. My legacy will be the lives I touch, in and outside of the classroom. My legacy will be the paths of those whom I love, who–for better or for worse–will be changed for having known me.
So whether an episode lasts 72 hours or 72 days, I know that there is more to life than that because there is more to life than me and damn that feels amazing because even if I were as terrible as Depression sometimes makes me think I am still doing something right just by wanting to be more than a pawn or an automaton–I am doing something right just by wondering if I’m good enough and wanting to be better.
So take that, Depression–and then take a hike because I’ve got shit to do this week.