I was all set to write about the cats and the bathroom today. The bathroom is finally finished, and Finn has taken to sleeping in the sink, so I was ready to write something funny and throw in a bunch of pictures, and be done with it. That was the plan. The plan changed this morning when I found out my post The Slip had been linked in an article from CNN.com.
I had no intention to write about depression today. In fact, I’ve been actively avoiding it for quite some time. A little background: I’ve been in an intensive outpatient program for the last six weeks to deal with my alcoholism and mental illness. I finish that program tomorrow, and will go on to an 8-10 week step down program afterwards. I’ve been inundated with therapy for the last month and a half, ever since I got out of the psych ward, and honestly, I wasn’t too keen on writing about it. You see, the thing is that for the most part, I’ve been feeling better. The meds they have me on have been doing their job, I’ve been sober, and most of all, I haven’t been sitting in group therapy rolling my eyes and thinking about painting my nails. I’ve been working, and working hard. My therapist even introduced me to a non-12 step program to help with my addiction, which has been helping as well. So for the most part, things have been pretty good. And I guess that I had convinced myself that instead of writing about it, I’d keep it to myself, lest I jinx myself. I didn’t want to write about depression. I wanted to live in the moment and keep on keepin’ on.
Enter CNN. I was shocked – I had no idea they were using the post, and when I read the other names of writers who were also included in the article, my jaw dropped. Allie from Hyperbole and a Half. The Bloggess. Dooce. Stephen Fry. David Foster Wallace. William freaking Styron. And…me. ME? What?! I was gobsmacked. Suddenly I was at the cool kids’ table on the psych ward. It was humbling and truly mindblowing. So I steeled myself and decided that it was high time I wrote something new about depression. *cracks knuckles* Here we go.
Like I said, things have been really good lately, for the most part. But depression is wily and mean, and it sneaks up when you least expect it. Let me give you an example. On Tuesday, I had the day off. I planned on cleaning the apartment, which has been left in total chaos since the workmen have been in and out building the bathroom. I made a pot of coffee, and got ready to do some work. But I felt…off. My stomach was bothering me, and I was sleepy, probably due to residual effect of my sleep meds. I got on the computer and vowed I would start working soon. That didn’t happen. My stomach was churning, almost definitely due to the gross Starbucks coffee I was swilling on an empty stomach, and I was getting more and more sleepy. I decided to lie down for a while and see if I felt better.
Once I was in bed, curled around my body pillow, depression hit me with a baseball bat covered in barbed wire. I went into a full-blown flashback of the days before my hospitalization, the days when I would try to detox off the booze myself, going cold turkey and getting more and more violently sick, puking up even the tiniest sips of water, shaking and sweating, barely able to walk. I would cower in my bed, in the exact position I was currently in, begging any and every deity I could think of to please, please make it stop, I’ll do anything, please, please God, please don’t let me die.
Of course, I wasn’t drunk, or detoxing. I had too much coffee and my Trazodone hadn’t fully worn off. I just needed a little nap and I would be fine. But the sense memory was there. And depression took that moment of weakness to strike. The flashback to being sick was now accompanied with the cruel voice of depression, leading a tour through all the things that scare me, that hurt me, all the bad decisions I’ve made and most of all, the deep, dark chasm of self loathing. I huddled into my pillow and started to cry. I cried for my actions, the relationships I’ve hurt or destroyed, the little girl inside me who I try to keep safe and hidden away from the pain she feels so acutely. I cried for the past. I cried because I can’t live in the moment. I live in flashes of the past, white hot lightning bolts of pain, fear, shame, guilt. I cried.
Eventually I fell asleep, and after about an hour, I got up, washed the dried tears off my face, ate something, and I was okay. I had managed to shove all the ugly feelings down again for the moment. But I knew they were still there, lying in wait, chomping at the bit, waiting ever so patiently for the next moment of weakness. That’s depression. Always there, always waiting, ready at a moment’s notice to attack. It fills my head with lies, laughing the whole time at the abject agony it throws at me like bricks. It wants to win more than anything, and it will do anything and everything to do that. We with depression are David against the Goliath, standing small and afraid, with only a slingshot and a stone, against the beast.
But David killed Goliath. And we have the weapons to do it too. We just have to learn how to use them. Until then, please stand beside me in the face of this monster and hold your ground. We might not be able to sink the fatal blow yet, but we’re not alone. You are not alone. I’m scared, I’m sad, I’m confused. But I’m right there beside you, holding your hand. We can do this together. After all, we’re ALL the cool kids at the lunch table of depression. And we have to stick together.