Writing about depression I

It was a funny thing, that winter I struggled with depression. I seemed to stumble into sufferers all over the place. Love is all around us, sang the Troggs, but down here in dreary winter Canada, mental illness seemed to be. I ran into them at the phony-abc-problem solving workshops the university’s Counselling Services sent me to, where students with a Masters in Social Work tried to fix us with progressive muscle relaxation, and effective study strategies. We shrugged at each other across the table, in mutual commiseration. Our sadness went deeper than that. I ran into them at my new home, and in new best friends who’d lowered their standards and saved their own lives. I ran into them at the play my boyfriend- patient, persevering- forced me to audition for. They stomped across the stage wearing monocles, doing an English accents and playing carnivorous sentient plants trying to take over the world with a catchphrase of ‘Pip pip!’. Later on at night, trudging through the snow to the bus stop, they told me about struggling to get out of bed, and failing grades and dashed hopes and blow after blow after blow. I thought about waiting for sleep to come, then spending all day wanting to be unconscious, going through the motions, and trying, trying, trying all the while to put on the appropriate expressions, display the appropriate interest, be appropriately charming in conversations. It was all so bloody exhausting.

“Therapy cost me 200 dollars an hour!”

“He works at Boston Pizza now. Got kicked out of school. Life, eh?”

“Oh, great. You want my grades? You can have my depression too”.

I’m not a brilliant writer, and I probably don’t have an Ariel inside me waiting to be bled onto paper. Besides, all those stories ended with someone’s head in the oven and children hanging themselves years later, infected with the sadness they forgot behind. I just wanted to get through the winter and run for shelter to the sun. Write about it, my patient boyfriend told me. I didn’t really want to bleed my demons on to paper. I didn’t particularly want to remember them or record them. I only wanted to get over them so I could carry on with the rest of my life. I’d been waiting for this bout to leave me, like it usually did, as had always happened before. This time was different though. This time I said it out loud to different people, at different times. The counsellor, trying to wrap up our appointment over my sobbing into Kleenex, my roommate as she fed my unwashed, unfed, ratty-clothed body avocado-goat cheese sandwiches while I spent entire days on the couch. A kind boy I didn’t know very well who watched episode after episode of sci-fi telly with me, and lent me his sweater, his warmth. Professors who peered at me in surprise over their desks and told me to be proud of myself. My boyfriend, while I waited for him to run away. I said it out loud and watched people’s perceptions of me shift and waver. I admitted for the first time out loud: Yes I was ill. No, I couldn’t handle it on my own anymore. I knew that I’d been a good student all this while: motivated, ambitious, hard working- taking pride even, in my maniacal schedule and the constant barrage of stress I undertook. This was the first time that I had just stopped caring. I was four months away from graduation, from spring, and I found myself unable to care even the littlest bit. 

So I sought refuge in the company of others, trying to get away from my own head, and worried my mother as I refused to study, as I refused to care. I ate chowmein, wrapped up in fluffy blankets in my best friend’s bed, and told her over and over how glad I was that she was back.

A ragtag bunch of strangers, copers I ran into on every turning, and a couple of friends, who fed me and bossed me around and tried to bring routine into my life. It was all inexplicably heartwarming and wonderful, and I should have been grateful and come around, but I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion. Nothing but indifference and calm despair.

Blue

so clearly this is a very bipolar blog. i am better at writing about melancholy than i am at writing about happiness. it started out as a virtual rantspace for myself, but gradually acquired readers, much to my surprise.

today was a small annoyances kind of day. the type that makes you want to put a gun to your head and pull the trigger, because it’s just so fucking boring and long drawn and exhausting. i am a sentimental sap apparently because the first real thing to absolutely make me miserable was the strap of one of the hendrix slippers the hobo gave me unexpectedly tearing off. the slippers are filthy by now, and have gone from white to a dirty grey. hendrix’s afro is beginning to fade and you can barely see the writing, but it bothers me. there is no way i can fix it, and this was the first gift, and it’s only a pair of slippers, and if i told him, he’d laugh, but it bothers me.

i don’t know what to do with them, so for now they’re on the floor of my room confusing me as i wander around the cold january night barefoot. i unexpectedly came across Pino Bros. on my way back from visiting a prospective house. a tattooed, pierced bro stared at me in confusion, recommended gonzo and gave me their card. it snowed today and i walked around in it for an hour.

i’m having intense bouts of nostalgia and homesickness and self loathing. it would be absolutely sickening if it wasn’t so foolishly trite.

the hobo is going to be gallivanting around harlow and london in february. it’s brilliant that his company is sending him, and holy fuck, he gets to travel to the uk, and he’s excited in his own dry way, and i’m excited for him in my manic way- but holyfuck am i going to miss talking to him. yes, i am turning into that girl despite wanting to flirt with deadbeat baristas and harvard grads. whattodo. it’s an alvie singer kind’ve neurotic love. as the bengalis would say, as my grandma would say- dhurr, bhallagena.

Like a sadness I can’t shake. You were right. That time when facebook fucked up and I got all the consolatory and concerned messages, and you got none- you were right. People probably knew that you’d be okay, and you are. They knew I wouldn’t, and I’m not.

I’m going through my midlife crisis early it seems. I can’t eat because it’s too much effort to chew. I sat at a cafe for hours and hours today because I just couldn’t go to the big empty house and face myself. I tried to eat this delicious brownie and managed to finish only half; it made me nauseous. I’m such a cliche, it’s stupid. I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t focus on my work, I’m perpetually two seconds away from tears. I ordered a guitar today with my roommate. It’ll come in five days. I’m going to get a tattoo in March, my first one. I’ve already decided on the design.

I can do all of this. I can eat the mixed-berry ice cream that my roommate made at home, and I can sing along to Lana Del Rey and Augustana. I can change the wallpaper on my cellphone and desktop, and shift around files and rename folders on my laptop. I can try to hit on the deadbeat barista with a bandana. But all the while my heart beats a dull tattoo beneath my skin: I want you, I want you. Honey, I want you. So bad.

I miss you. You don’t miss me. It’s that simple really, isn’t it?

The thing is, it could be the time for a “nothing’s the same” post but it isn’t that kind of time. Apparently if you’ve suffered DMSO exposure, you start tasting onions and garlic. Now I can’t really smell so I’m just going to have to be very careful with all the strange molecules and drugs we like to play around with. “You belong here”, I was told. I felt like I should have been in a movie then, with quietly powerful music playing. There is a huge common area/ conference room with a huge sofa where you can expect to find people napping, glasses askew, shoes flung over at an angle, at any given time of the day. There are these huge glass walls and it’s a little surreal standing there, dangling my legs over the couch, reading- it’s the old penthouse dream I had.

I am the littlest thing. I am inconsequential. I am homeless. I am suffocating.

I used to think I liked the smell of smoke. It hangs around all the time and it makes me want to retch. Violence of emotion and then dullness. Please, please, please.

Please, please, please.

I am the most ungrateful wretch that ever was. Maybe it is the time for a “nothing’s the same” speech after all, but there isn’t anyone listening.

I can ask you to love me, I can indulge in fitful periods of unconsciousness and wake up disconsolate, but I cannot move you.

I turned twenty one, unhappily. I flew across the Niagara and shared breakfast and music with a driver from the sixties. I can barely remember him now, but he had kind blue eyes, and when I told him that I was unhappy he offered me kind cliches and tales of how he’d been arrested when he was my age. Here’s what happened- they were smuggling their friends across the border to go buy alcohol where it was legal. So there are these two guys in the trunk of the car, and then the police asks ’em to open up, and put ’em up, and don’t you know. I’ve already forgotten his name and I thought it was important to remember, so.

So there was that, and then I got into the airport and this strange, really disorienting thing happened. It so happens that my ringtone used to be this song by Dylan for various reasons. So I’m standing at the airport, filling out customs forms and suddenly I hear the song playing, with the distinctive train-whistle-like beginning. I look at my phone but it isn’t ringing, and the sound seems to be coming from elsewhere. I look around, searching, and briefly consider the possibility that I’m going mad. Finally I track it down to a speaker on the wall close to where I’m standing. This makes no sense, so I ask other people if they can hear it, and they can. They look at me like I’m a little insane. The song plays in its entirety and then there’s silence except for announcements. That was the only song that played the whole time I was there.

Lots of things happened, and didn’t. Family is a strange thing, distant family even more so. Living in the suburbs of Massachusetts is another experience altogether. I have my own sadness, man; I don’t need yours. I have not asked for your frustrations or anxieties or hopes. I am not as nice as you would like to believe, and I do not care. I do not ask anything in return, except to be left alone.

Going on a completely unexpected trip through my head. Everything appears slow and all at once. The universe is a whole and also fragmented and disjoint. I’m in a videogame and can’t feel my face. A speeding car and lots of nightmarish christmas lights and deconstructing absolutely everything. Boston at my feet, I’m in a car that’s turned into a plane. Prepare for take-off. It’s a sea of lights. I will never do this again. Knock on lots of doors, make lots of calls, find soulmate- whoops, something totally random and unpredictable says that you can’t have it.

I travelled up a lonely hill, through scraggly trees with only moonlight and someone in the distance. I stood on a bench and looked down at Boston. It was a lot darker than I expected. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. Thewoodsarelovelydarkanddeep. I walked on water.

Chocolate covered Macadamia nuts made with aloha. Funny eared, frightfully important men. Virtual piles of ‘awesome’ papers. Two days and I’m reeling. Nightly phone calls that last for hours and stretch out over miles on foreign soil. Forcing concentration on talks that are strangely comprehensible and interesting. Being told that the future may not be exactly as I’d anticipated. Certain closed doors begin to swing open again, and certain open doors seem to never have been.

Lots of random chances. Lots of emotion. Blank. Give up hope. Blank. Overwhelming anger. Blank. Nervousness. Weakness. Comfort Seeking. Blank. Blank. Blank. Intimidation. Mind numbing exhaustion. Blank. Blank. Blank.

Retreat into self. Read,read,read.

I had a prayer. I said it over and over and it came from the deepest part of my soul. It went: please. please, please, please. please.

Please.

Things fall apart. It’s going to be a sunny week in January. Eighteen degrees- Celsius, not Fahrenheit. There’s a lot to get used to these days- inches, miles, pounds, ounces, gallons. The overwhelming presence of certain people, the overwhelming absence of others. I feel more Canadian than I’ve ever felt before. I miss Timmy’s. I miss –

“You belong here”, I was told today. Looked me straight in the eye and said, “You’ll do great”. My knees were trembling and I had confessed that I was intimidated by Harvard and MIT. “You belong here”.

Some things fall together, others fall apart. Slowly, and then all at once.

i am sick of waking up every morning with swollen eyes and a heavy head. i feel my heart these days- it gets too heavy for me to carry around. swollen, and aching and bruised. 

i am sick of reading about the rape. i am sick of reading about every inane comment that every idiotic politician makes afresh every day. i am sick of watching you on my newsfeed on all hours of the day. i am sick of waiting for you to call. patience was never one of my virtues.

My friend came out to me today. We were talking about her picket fence fantasy from long ago. I confessed to her that these days increasingly, I was beginning to seek comfort in that fantasy for a few minutes. When all the stress of school, and advanced genetics courses and job interviews gets too much, I’ll think about chopping carrots in the kitchen one evening, all grown up. I imagine a faceless husband who will come home and put his arms around my waist and kiss my neck. “Hello, babe”, he says. I smile back and we have a happy, quiet, relaxed dinner together. I think about this while I’m washing the dishes as a break from studying. Then I wipe my hands on my pants, go back to my desk and study Human Molecular Genetics for the rest of the evening.

So I told her this, and she said , “Oh, I don’t want a husband anymore.” “You don’t?”, I said. “Why not?”

“Oh, haven’t I told you about this summer?” She waited till we were outside, and told me she was gay. “Oh”, I said. We kept walking and talking and it was all very unmomentous and ordinary. It was like she’d just told me she wanted a coffee. Ohwell.