Saturday, September 21, 2013
The Dark Hand
It doesn't matter if the story on the 5:00 news is big or small. It doesn't matter if I'm being fired or if the boss just growls at me a little. It's like I have a trapdoor inside my heart, and if I step the wrong way, down I go.
Depression is something that I live with. I don't think about it very often, but my mother was bipolar. My brother was almost certainly bipolar. Manic depressive, that's what it used to be. Manic highs and lows. You go up hard, you come crashing down like a plane that's run out of fuel.
I have had my bouts, when it was hard to focus or concentrate on anything except the sadness. After 9/11, I crashed hard for a few months. I was in a funk. I couldn't stop listening to the news, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't concentrate. I would cry unexpectedly, unpredictably. I went to therapy. I got better. But it never goes away. The dark hand never stops reaching for you. It's just that, for a while, it can't reach you. That doesn't mean it's not still clutching.
Anyway, sometimes I don't even know what causes my funks of depression. Sometimes it's just a collection of small things, inconsequential in themselves, but the combination of them just seems to set me reeling. And I'm in the cloud. The dark cloud, the cloud that follows me around like Pigpen's cloud of gloom. And nothing can snap me out of it.
When I'm depressed, it's like a horribly sick game of chess. I see how one thing can lead to another, can lead to another, and pretty soon I'm imagining how easily I could end up sleeping in my car. Or declaring bankruptcy again. Or maybe I'll lose this job, too. I can see everything going completely, awfully, catastrophically wrong. Every blue sky looks like a looming monsoon.
There are days when all I want to do is sleep, when anything else just seems to be too much effort. There are days when I don't think I can stand the effort of doing my job, talking to other people, being part of the world. And I just want to pull the covers over my head and go away. When I was younger, that was a solution to the petty aches and pains of teenager-hood. I slept a lot. I'd come home from school at 3 in the afternoon, go into my room, and nap until dinnertime. It's easier than feeling.
I could be an alcoholic very easily, I think. I can see that the cloud of alcohol haziness would be a comfort in times like this. The blur of not seeing straight, of not quite being able to hold your thoughts together. The comfort of not holding onto things. Like time. Like memory. Like feelings. I can see the appeal of that. But I don't drink. Not really. I don't let myself. We keep only a small amount of liquor in the house, and I only drink one or two drinks when I'm out. I don't drink at home. Maybe a beer. That's it.
Mostly, it's being aware that I have this tendency. I can get depressed. I can sink hard into despair and sorrow and sometimes I don't even know it's happening. So I try to check myself. I try to evaluate where I am and whether or not I'm sinking. When I am, sometimes the best thing is to tell my wife what's happening. It's not her fault. Depression isn't anyone's fault, anymore than you can blame cancer on your obnoxious neighbor or your sister who never calls anymore. Depression is a condition that exists in my body. It's a biochemical defect, an error in the coding, and sometimes it flares up. If I know it's there, I can watch for the signs. And if I watch for the signs, I can pull myself up out of the nosedive before I fall too far.
You, dear readers. Thank you for listening when I just need to talk things out. This blog, after all, is mostly so that I can say things out loud. This - this depression thing - is a thing that I need to talk about sometimes.
If you experience this too - if the dark hand reaches out for you sometimes, talk about it. Let your loved ones know that it's a part of your life. Because it's a part of theirs, too. And they care about you, and they can't know how to help you and how to be there for you if they don't know what's going on. So talk to your friends. Let people know. Educate yourself and take care of yourself. Start a blog, hell, it's still legal. Don't hide. We don't need to be ashamed. We didn't do anything wrong. Don't be ashamed that you suffer. It's hard enough just suffering, without feeling like we're somehow failures too.