There are many reasons why I hate writing about my depression, but the most glaring is that it sounds absolutely ridiculous when I describe what I’m experiencing out loud. When you get down to it, there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. I’m madly in love with my partner and we live a relatively easy, privileged life. I work at a place where I feel sincerely valued, in a position that could be accurately described as my dream job. I’m close to my parents and relatives and feel genuinely supported by them and my network of tight-knit, crazy talented and inspiring friends. On the surface and even below it, my life appears to be embarrassingly perfect.
And yet, I feel a deep and impervious sadness. And that sadness is real, however ridiculous I feel it might be. I carry it around like a heavy cloak that I can’t shrug off; one that becomes so oppressive that sometimes even my eyes seem to see the world a shade or two darker than it really is, as if I’m wearing sunglasses in the middle of the night. Sometimes it presses me down into my bed and makes me feel like I could sleep for weeks without ever feeling rested. Sometimes it sucks the joy out of the activities that I love most, making my greatest passions feel like unseemly chores. And sometimes it sneaks up on me at the strangest moments, like just now when I piled all the clean laundry on the bed and then burst into tears at the boring fact that all those demanding, unfolded clothes exist. They exist! And my arms can’t fold them because there I am, crying over nothing yet again.
I wear the cloak almost every day. It has become a normal and expected part of my day-to-day existence. The cloak has become such a reliable companion that my therapist (YES I’M IN THERAPY, and yes I hate the phrase “my therapist” almost as much as I hate having to have one) sometimes joins me in a laugh of relief when I fill out her mood survey and register as “moderately depressed” instead of “severely depressed.” “A good week!” we’ll both titter, because, ha. What other reaction are we supposed to have?
The heavier the cloak becomes, the fewer tears I shed. In my worst moments my brain completely unhinges from my body and floats above my head like a mylar balloon. “Get well soon,” the balloon brain says to the girl with nothing to cry about. The psycho-speak for this effect is something called depersonalization. Some days I’m so far away from my fingers and my gut and my heart that it’s a wonder I manage to write anything at all. Other days my brain only unhinges when I’m under a lot of direct stress, like when I’m about to go live on air. I’ve had moments where I snap back into reality the moment the green light flicks off of my microphone, and I have no idea what I’ve just said or done. “Good job!,” everyone always tells me. I nod my head, but their compliments never manage to penetrate the cloak. I have no way of knowing if I’m doing a good job or not. The velvet curtain keeps me clueless, and alone.
There are days when I can feel the sadness of the world pressing down on me. I think about the man who tried to jump off the bridge next to my house — he looked just like my dad — and all the lonely people whose cloaks have become so heavy and opaque that they’ll do anything to find a new source of light. I think about the fact that I will outlive both of my cats, whom I can’t fathom living without, and then wander on to the even more unfathomable idea of losing my grandparents or parents. I think about my friends with real, tangible, physical problems. Friends who are sick. Friends who have lost more than I can imagine. Friends who are dying. Friends who are so angry, or disappointed, or disgusted with the world that they’ve given up all hope.
I still have hope. Despite all of this seemingly melodramatic bullshit, I do have hope. Here’s a random story: when I was 18 and just figuring out what I wanted to do in this world, a sled dog racer came to my suburban hippie high school and delivered one simple, memorable message to the graduating class. Find your spark, and spend your whole life guarding it so it doesn’t burn out. Find your spark, and turn it into a fire. Some of my classmates laughed at how new agey the whole speech was, but I’ll never forget it. So many people lose sight of what they wanted to become. There are so many day-to-day worries that can distract us from pursuing our dreams. But I knew what I wanted to be, and then over the years somehow I became it. I’ve spent my entire adult life working toward a singular goal, at the expense of almost everything else. I left a whole entire marriage behind because my partner didn’t support my passion. I fought, and fought, and fought, and now here I am living my dream atop a fluffy whipped cream cloud. For the most part, I have become exactly who I wanted to be. What the hell do I have to complain about?
I can feel that I’m at a turning point in my life. And this time, for perhaps the first time in my life, that turning point doesn’t involve leaving anything behind. There is no unhappy romantic situation to flee from, or not-quite-right job to ditch. Everything that lies ahead is happy, and exciting, and real. A family. An enduring partnership. A promising and fulfilling career. All signs point to the notion that no matter how much I worry and no matter how far my head floats above my body, things are probably going to be ok.
I just need to find a place to hang up my cloak.
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