"Because writers are, deep in their souls, didacts who itch to deliver the Unvarnished Truth and cannot help but unburden themselves of that which burns in their hearts."
I read this post by Heather from Dooce a few days ago, and quite literally, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.
Mostly because yet again, I have found comfort and solace in the words that she is so accurately able to depict with such perfection – it’s as if our brains are on the same wavelength. And lately, that’s something that I’ve been craving, even if it comes from the mouth of someone I’ve never met. But then again, sometimes that’s just exactly what you need, right? You need that bit of convincing that says it’s okay to talk about it, and that you’re not alone.
Well, it’s all I needed to get this out anyways.
When I was 16, I was “diagnosed” with depression. I quote that because even now, I still can’t be sure that it wasn’t just that normal (and horrific) imbalance of teenage hormonal angst that was causing my parents to wonder when Satan himself had decided to take up residence in the basement of our home. But then again, there is a difference in “normal” teenager crazy and waking up one day sobbing because you just slept for 14 hours (for the third day in a row) and are still just so tired. Where you can’t remember the last time you laughed or smiled. Oh and the fact that you can’t stop screaming “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND! I AM NEVER GOING TO BE HAPPY AGAIN!”
Suffice it to say, I shouldn’t have been completely shocked when my parents took it upon themselves to find me a therapist and withhold the option of asking me if I wanted to go or not.
Now my first ever therapist, well, she didn’t help me very much. I think it was due to the fact that I a) was a shithead teenager and didn’t want to go and b) I didn’t like her. I was never able to reach the point where I felt comfortable opening up to her to even attempt to figure out what was “wrong” with me. Because in my mind, I didn’t know why I was just so sad all the time but there had to be something wrong since people just don’t get sad for no reason. But I never got my answer. I was prescribed Prozac and then my twice weekly sessions dwindled to one and then eventually none. And then when Prozac didn’t cure me, I stopped taking that too. I may have been “better” but I was still angry. Oh, was I angry.
Unexplainable sadness. Irrational anger. Repeat repeat repeat. I’ve fought with this for as long as I can remember and to tell you that it’s frustrating would be the biggest understatement of my life. It’s almost impossible to put into words the frustration of being so sad that it’s all you can do to not curl up into the fetal position and sob just because it’s what your brain is telling you to do. It gets to the point where you’re almost wishing that something tragic would happen just so that you have a justifiable reason to be this upset. But at the end of the day you also know that even if that were the case, you would eventually move on from it and still be just as sad. So then you’re just all “what’s the point?” and you start crying anyways.
It’s taken years for me to accept that ever since I was diagnosed and clinically treated for depression, it is going to be something that I will battle for the rest of my life. Even with medical treatment, it will never fully go away and it’s scary knowing that I will never find the answer that I’ve been searching for. I am fortunate in the sense that while I am afflicted with this, it isn’t nearly as debilitating for me as it is for others. I’ve found ways to cope throughout the years that doesn’t include relying on therapy and/or medication (though I have found that both do make it easier, for obvious reasons) yet I also know that some people aren’t as lucky. To be clear – it doesn’t make me better than others or anything of the sort. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned throughout this journey it’s that this disease, depression, does not discriminate. Nor is it something to be ashamed of. It just happens and we are left to figure it all out from there. We start fighting and never stop, simply because we can’t.
So, this is my story. One that I don’t think that I’ve ever really told anyone, and also my open apology because I haven’t been myself for awhile. It’s been particularly tough lately and, as it was pointed out, September is specifically a rough month for “those of us who have those frayed circuits in our brains.” But then again like Heather said, after September comes October and then November and so on and so forth where I won’t want to hibernate and cry for no reason. And considering that tomorrow marks the first day of October, I can say with certainty that I too am looking forward to winter.
Allow me to be quite candid for a moment.
I’m feeling quite fortunate today. Today of all days where, from the moment I rustled myself out of bed, nothing has gone right in any way; though my heart seems to feel two sizes too big for my chest. It’s a good feeling, a welcomed feeling. A feeling that I take emotional stock of so in a month or two weeks or two days from now when everything has shifted yet again, I can remember.
I’ll remember the moment right before climbing into bed last night, my flushed cheeks feeling just a little too warm but I’m content and fuzzy and smiling on the inside, courtesy of a few glasses of good wine.
(I don’t mind, I prefer sleeping half in and half out of my covers anyway)
I’ll remember waking up a little bit earlier than normal today, and just existing for a moment. Stretched out on my back, hands behind my head feeling both of my lungs fill completely. I’ll note the hesitation before the strong exhale pushes everything back out again, and it feels right. And then I’ll remember the smile.
The smile that appeared unannounced but in an oh-so-completely genuine fashion, simply because I remembered.
The smile was there because I knew that my people, all of my people, were okay. They were breathing easier today for reasons to each their own but their own none the less. And knowing that makes me happy. Happier than well, most anything else I can think of. (Save for maybe a really good glass or twelve of wine, having clean sheets and white cheddar cheese puffs from Trader Joes.)
(I kid on that last part. Well, kinda.)
I can say this with certainty because yes, while I can be slightly overemotional and considered overdramatic sometimes (and by sometimes, I really mean quite often) my people are important to me. Not only because I care so deeply about them but because at the end of the day, it’s just who I am. No matter how many times I’ve tried to rationalize it (“you’re being such a baby, quit worrying about things you can’t control.”) or attempt to put into words just what I feel when this happens (“it’s just..it’s like..I think I just allow myself to FEEL too much.”) it just seems to fall inexplicably short of what I truly mean. And really, I guess, it doesn’t matter as long as I own my feelings, right?
But then sometimes words are exchanged that somehow put it all into place. Regardless of the situation at hand, all at once, the rationalizations and reasoning’s and whatever else comes with it just don’t seem to matter. People say things that flat out knock me on my ass and serve as a perfect reminder as to just why I care so much about my people.
“My family is my life, and I won’t be ashamed of that.”
And that, my friends, is the reason I’m smiling today.
I’m indulging today and allowing myself to listen to this regardless of my other plans which, if you’ve heard this song before, you know is quite a feat to take on. (especially when you have to be in public afterwards.)
I remember the first night I heard this song and it was one of those that left me feeling like there was no air left in the room. Never before had I heard something so emotionally raw to the point where it felt like someone was literally rubbing my insides with sandpaper and directing it straight to my heart. It hurt in that special way that even though tears were streaming down my face - there was a burning hopeful desire smack dab in the middle of my gut that left my entire body feeling like it was on fire.
This song isn’t for everyone, I get that. Even though if I had my way, it would be mandatory listening for everyone because at the core of it all - this song is for anyone who ever felt hopeless. When something happened where your faith (and I mean that in every sense of the word) was tested, and you don’t know how or if you’re going to come out the other side. And then there’s the anger, the frustration and the all-to-familiar loneliness because it seems like the one person that should be there, isn’t.
I could go on and on about this song for days, from the melancholy piano plucking to the raspy and gruff voice that is borderline howling and the lyrics - oh those lyrics. The picture these words paint is uncharacteristically beautiful (my favorite: “I’ll get eaten by the rust, you cremate and breathe the dust / and I’ll weaken your lungs / and I’ll bite off your tongue”) and not something that will leave your mind easily.
[post script: I truly favor the studio version of this song but this one from Bonnaroo is making me reconsider that.]