So a brave internet friend (I’ll call her Alice) has been dealing with a hideous and heartbreaking mess, the place where medicine stops helping the depressive mind. I’m so sorry she’s going through hell (symptoms, side effects, seriously unpleasant stuff). And another friend was inspired by Alice to talk about her own struggles. This company makes me feel a bit braver about my own hell.
I started this blog to talk about the empty spaces left behind when I left my job, when both my parents died, when my son went into a crisis, when my boyfriend moved in and things got hard, but I haven’t talked yet about what fills those empty spaces in the absence of certainty, direction, engagement, purpose. What comes in instead is fear. And self-loathing. And depression. And then the wine—oh, the wine!—to try to hide that cursed trifecta. Which is followed by many empty and pointless calories, filling myself up to fill in the blanks. Except it doesn’t work. It just leaves me more empty. Empty and fat. (I can use that word. The number of pounds I’ve gained makes it a genuine statement.)
When I see friends and former colleagues and they ask how I am, I always want to point to myself and say: Isn’t it obvious?
But of course it isn’t that obvious, because I’m a coper. (And, not incidentally, because I know how to dress myself at this size. But dressing myself three sizes smaller is much, much more fun.)
I hate this public display of my weakness and my pain. And it doesn’t help matters that I wrote a book about a triumphant moment in my life where I faced down weakness and pain, and found the part of me that is both weak and strong at the same time, forgiving and loving even in the face of disappointment and heartbreak. I know I lived the wisdom of everything that I wrote in that book, but I’m still sorry that the triumph left me so quickly, aided by a series of losses in such short order that I’m still stepping out of a cave, blinking into the sun—even though I feel like it’s been too many months of me getting back on my feet. Truth is, I am on my feet: working, writing, consulting, being a friend, mother, girlfriend. But the depression drains the feeling of accomplishment, of worth, out of all those actions, and poses a magnifying glass over my every failure.
I joked with my team at Redbook the day I resigned more than a year ago when my family was in chaos that my next book would be called “Everything All At Once.” A pause. With the subtitle: “A former optimist says Fuck That Shit.” (The subtitle of Falling Apart In One Piece is “One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce.”)
But I don’t want to live that way. I don’t want to be jaded, undone, cynical, expecting the worst. I don’t want to be dark.
But I guess the truth is I have to stop being afraid of the dark that lives within me. It’s not a character flaw. Even gaining xx pounds isn’t a character flaw. (The cellulite that comes with it? Definitely a flaw, but not one of character.) I’m always afraid of being discovered to be a fluke, a fake. But I have to remind myself, this pain is real. And so is my strength. In the end, I have to believe in and accept both, in order to overcome.
So here I am, admitting to both.
Wish me luck. Because I feel like I need it. Though I don’t think I deserve it. Because the depression does that, too.