Red

Oh, hey. I’m glad you came by. Been a while, huh?

Well, you know how it goes. I get quiet when life is busy, when CC is out of town or I’m picking up extra work or cleaning the house. Heh. Heheheheh. Cleaning the house. I can’t even keep a straight face when I type that.

I’m also quiet when things blow up: We have a hurricane. We have a blizzard. A kid goes in the hospital. The Puggles get hives.

But this time I’ve been quiet because my depression took a joy ride.

Depression: Hey. Nice ride. Is this a 289? V-8? Sweet! I’m gonna drive for a while, mkay?

Me: Ummm, that wasn’t really what I….

Depression: WOO-HOO!

Hope you fueled up!
Hope you fueled up!

This round wasn’t terrible. I got up every day at a reasonable hour, I still went to work. I saw the kids, talked to my husband, walked the dogs, and ate my meals. If you deal with depression at all, you know that particular flavor of it is like winning the Depression Lottery. The jackpot this week is up to Functional Depression? Ten thousand tickets, please!

It’s been more of a constant emptiness. A lot of not being at capacity, and not being able to change that.

Two things I’ve not been able to do are talk to my family of origin (because they always see through that shit and I couldn’t talk about it), and write. Well, scratch that. I did write. I just didn’t write well.

Every time I put a pen to paper, I felt like I was recovering from a stroke- or at least from one of those nights with a case of Little Kings and that guy from high school you never really liked but hung out with because he always had the good drugs.

I assure you neither of those things happened.

Forming complete sentences was a real challenge. I’d get overwhelmed or angry or deeply sad or else totally ambivalent before I finished a thought. Sitting at the keyboard was even worse because typing is faster, so there was more time to hate myself in between words.

I can fix this, I told myself. This, too, shall pass.

Except I couldn’t, and it didn’t. And it hasn’t. And I’m getting through this post because I’ve sat down to do it nine times in the past two weeks and I have a playlist full of Iron Maiden, Queensrÿche, and Perfect Circle and I’m drinking too much caffeine too late at night and have given myself permission to suck. Out loud.

The lapse, the silence, the withdrawal from society is unfortunately timed because there are a lot of great things happening in my writing world and I sure would like to support them with a strong blog presence. My friends, too, have amazing things happening in their writing worlds and I want to support them as well. I overflow with blessings. But I’m all tap tap hate. tap tap hate. tap tap sigh. tap.

I always think I have a stronger measure of control over the big D than I actually do, and every time it ebbs away I convince myself it’s gone for good. I’m always surprised when it hijacks me again.

Depression: {knock knock}

Me: You again? I kicked you out, you sonofabitch. Go away.

Depression: C’mon, baby, you know you missed me! Let’s ride!

Me: Asshole.

Allie Brosch’s interview on NPR (which my husband, my source for all useful and interesting links, turned me on to) is fantastic, and if you haven’t heard it, here’s the link. She’s one of my favorites. She had a year and a half gap in her blog because of her depression (of the nasty, big-ass variety) and she said this:

“I think there’s a common misconception that depression is about something or depression is sadness or some form of negativity. It can represent a sadness or a self-loathing, as the first half of my depression did. It sort of circled back on itself and made me dislike myself more because I was so sad, and I didn’t know why, and I felt like I needed a reason. … It took me a long time to figure out that something was broken on a fundamental level. There was no reason behind it; it was just the way things were.”

I’ve had the I don’t think I’m pulling out of this kind of depression twice in my life. This isn’t that. I do live in fear of it getting that bad again, though I no longer believe that I am broken. I have promised that I will consider medication if it gets that bad again.

Meanwhile, I fight it. Have you ever heard the phrase: What you resist, persists?

How about, Surrender to win?

So after weeks and weeks of losing battles, trying to find the reason for it and fix it, I gave up. I accepted that it’s just the way things are right now, and there’s no real reason for it. I quit fighting it.

Me: Okay, big D. Let’s ride. Don’t wreck my goddamn car.

My inbox is in the hundreds; I’ll answer a few of them and eat a cookie if I can’t. There are seven unheard voice mails, some of which are two months old, and it’s highly probable I will delete them without ever listening to them. I’ve missed deadlines and I’m about to miss more, but I’m still writing. I’m plugging away, but in quicksand, with molasses, in a straightjacket.

Little things in my arsenal make me feel better. I always considered them weapons against the bad feelings coming, but it turns out they work just fine if you’re already down: Doing something decent for someone even if it’s in a teeny-tiny way; A good story and a strong-ass cup of coffee with cream (not milk, not half & half); Laughing, which this madhouse that I live in gives me ample opportunity to do; Chocolate and heavy metal; A brisk walk under the fall canopy amongst the dead (in our cemetery, to clarify) with the Puggles.

DSCF6826

Oh, and red. Red lipstick in particular. Red lips always make me happy.

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I took this ridiculous selfie when I got to work a couple weeks ago after my writers group told me I looked glamorous, which I thought was hilarious and sweet.

Because I look crazy.

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Does anybody hear Patsy Cline?

I don’t mind; looking like a whack job comes with a tremendous amount of freedom. Especially in New York.

Does the big D hijack you, too?

Where do you find freedom?

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14 thoughts on “Red

  1. I’m often found in the Big D’s sidecar so I can totally relate. Allie B is great and her Depression post is the best description I’ve ever read on what it feels like to be depressed. Unless you’ve felt it yourself, you can never understand. Be strong and just ride it out!
    P.S. I agree with your writing group, you look very glam.

  2. Ug, I’m so sorry to hear you’re going through this, JM! You are one of my favorite writers and people, and I genuinely admire your bravery in sharing this.

    You said so many things that struck a chord with me – letting yourself suck (which you never do, incidentally) and giving up the fight. I was just given ‘permission’ (by my magical new therapist) to feel what I want to feel/think what I want to think, and it changed everything for me. She kept saying “Try to stand up” until it finally registered. You can’t. You can’t TRY to stand up. You can do it, or not. You can’t try not to feel or think what you feel and think.

    Love you, woman!

  3. Oh boy. I wish I could say that I have no idea what you are talking about and just commiserate with the perfect thing to say to get you through it. But if I knew that perfect thing, I would have tried it long ago. I like your whole “ride the ride, see where it goes and if it eventually ends” mentality of letting go of the stranglehold of normal. As if, maybe if you just accept the crazy (me, not you, but you know that’s sort of how you feel when everything crumbles), it will get tired of you and go away? Yeah, I don’t know.

    I’m glad you gave yourself permission to just write. Even hating it and sighing, your writing is strong and has deep meaning. Yours is the 3rd post I’ve read this week about depression, so I think it shows that you are not alone, and that people are being braver about admitting their darkness. Thanks for the Allie Brosh link. I had not come across that. I love her, and will need to hear it. Her posts about depression were brilliant.

    If you need to talk, you have my #. So much more that I can’t keep writing here. But I feel you in every way. You are not alone. Which you know.

  4. If blogging taught me one good thing, it’s that many people suffer from some kind of depression. Not that depression is good, but knowing you’re not alone is so good. I only have mild depression, but it cycles around two or three times a year. Blogging about it has helped, but like you said, I’m not really able to put down a clear thought for a while. Even with my little d, I recognize a lot of your words, like emptiness for sure, and ambivalence. And anger with myself because “what the hell, self, you’ve got no reason to be sad and I thought you were stronger than this!” Not being emotionally able to do things my mind wants to do is particularly frustrating. I hope your Big D passes soon. Thank you for writing about it, and whatever you may feel, I have to tell you that your writing is as great as ever.

  5. It helps to read something like this. It always feels like such a personal failure, that I’m the only one, that no one else ever feels the way I feel, that I am a horrible, awful, dreadful, pathetic person because I can’t get any work done, and that it will never change.

    I too have noticed that it’s best to surrender and ride it out, because it does pass, but I find it so hard to surrender because of that good ‘ol American, Puritan work ethic that tells me that there must be something, anything I can do to fix it, fight it off, or otherwise make it go away. I am in charge! But not really, ya know? I am at the mercy of my hormones, and they are putting up a tremendous effort to kill me.

    The war wages on, and though I am the only one fighting my battle, it helps to know I am not the only one at war. Maybe I’m not so crazy after all? Yeah, probably I am. 😉

  6. J.M., I’m proud of you for writing this post. I can relate because I find it easy to get down on myself and blame myself for anything and everything. I want to feel like I can fix it all, but that’s probably a bigger problem. I just keep plugging away at my imperfect existence. Even if things were different, I would still have some challenge to deal with. Good for you to keep going. Sometimes I think it’s just a matter of getting past it. It will pass and another day will look brighter. Hang in there! – Amy

  7. You DO look glamorous, not crazy at ALL. You are a wonderful writer and I always look forward to your posts (and that’s not all that common)…. and I’m wishing you lots of seasonally adjusted joy. I heard that story about Allie on NPR, too, and I thought she was very lucid about her depression — and very brave to talk about the depth of her sadness. I’m glad you shared this; I missed your posts while you’ve been away. Steady on, girl ….. xoxoxo b

  8. Thank you. THANK you. You are one of the coolest people I “kind of” know. I’m sorry the Big D is part of your life. Mine, too, for as long as I can remember. For no apparent reason–just like Allie B describes. I wish there WERE a reason sometimes. I’ve tried to ride it out like you’re doing but I’m weak and have to rely on Prozac. It keeps me from being suicidal and self-harming. Hang in there, and thank you for being you. I love red lipstick, too!

  9. Brave, brave, brave piece. I am proud of you for writing it, because “Sitting at the keyboard was even worse because typing is faster, so there was more time to hate myself in between words.” YES.

    I’m leaning into a theory in which all writers deal with depression on some level at some point. The way I used to deal with it has changed now; I used to wallow, listen to sad or tenuous music – oh, hello Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Amy Ray & Emily Saliers… how are you? Lovely. Have a seat in my psyche. When it got REALLY bad, I didn’t listen to music at all. If you knew me personally, you’d know that’s pretty horrific, given that I’m a singer, for Christ’s sake. But now things have morphed. I’ve gotten wiser, maybe…? And, since depression has gone and what I deal with now is much more along the lines of anxiety that I’m trying to keep from developing into depression, I DO take meds (do it. just… seriously), and my taste runs toward the opposite approach. I listen to music REALLY LOUD. I have a specially designed playlist for it. I came up with it when I got dumped a few years ago.

    Yes. Yes, that’s pathetic. So what?

    Do your thing, mama. Just keep coming back to the surface so you can see us all with our hands out, waiting to grab hold and pull you out when we can.

  10. Thank you for writing this, for getting yourself to tap those keys, as hard as it was to do.

    I’ve suffered from the Big D (and anxiety) off and on all of my life. It’s hard to describe or put it into words this sadness that blankets me and takes control. But someone told me something recently that really forced me give myself a break. He said, “we all get sad sometimes, Life can be sad and painful and that’s okay to feel that way. Don’t fight it and don’t beat yourself up because you’re not ‘happy’…” I’m starting to give myself permission to feel these overwhelming downs because they do help me appreciate those blissful highs in life. I think there’s beauty in the sadness.

    Anyway, enough rambling, you ARE glamorous and sweet and kind and don’t you ever forget it, JM.

  11. Living with D most of the time has taught me to fight. Just because he’s hanging around, stalking me,waiting to take over, doesn’t mean I let him win.
    I force myself to go see friends. Go to a museum and get in the presence of greatness. Get lost in a crappy movie. Eat better and exercise more. Go drive fast iin the sun. Just fight the fight and keep D at bay.

  12. I’m way behind the curve myself. How behind? Well, I don’t remember the last time I actually picked up my camera. Yeah. I’m that behind. I have plenty of reasons (excuses) to pick from: Seven eye surgeries in one year. (Hell, by the time that adventure had ended I’d forgotten how my damn camera worked.) Really bad light. No way to sneak out of the house at zero dark thirty with three dogs who go off the second my breathing pattern changes. Then there’s the horse who continues to not only confound me, but now has a professional thoroughly stumped. Yeah, that’s going well … not. Oh, and all those plans to paint the house, exercise more, get more shit done? Um, not gonna happen. I’ve come to the conclusion that when a hawk circles on the thermals it’s not always hunting. Sometimes it’s just circling. I think they’ve got it right. So go ahead and circle, or do whatever it is that you gotta do. We’ll wait.

  13. Oh girl, I feel ya’! During those days/weeks/YEARS, I took wise counsel from Dory: “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”

    Also, I am convinced that strong coffee, Jane Austen and ice cream are legitimate methods of therapy.

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