I think I’ve been depressed, although not severely, for almost all of my life. Even my childhood memories are mostly dark, dreary, or fearful. Certainly there was love & beauty & fascination, but it was all ever over a backdrop of gloom.
Still, I honestly think I am lucky, & have always been.
In 2005 I got out of a relationship that had progressively chipped away at my self esteem, break up by break up (he just kept coming back), until finally there was nothing left. I’d started out quite strong & capable, but my Achilles heel was that I just really liked the guy. We were utterly compatible, & I didn’t think there was any danger in that, but there was. I believed every criticism, took to heart every disapproval, & every time he came back I changed inside. For him. That was the wrong way to do it but I couldn’t perceive it any other way. In retrospect, the only way to save myself would have been to never take him back, beginning with the first time. It wasn’t his fault; he wasn’t trying to hurt me. I destroyed myself by making excuses & following false hopes.
But I want to talk about the 2 years that followed.
There was not a happy minute in any hour of any day. In the beginning, all I felt was pain. After a few months, the pain faded to a dull, aching misery. There was never any cessation, at any time, for around 2 years.
I told myself this would pass. It was bigger than anything I’d ever felt, but it would pass, like everything. I didn’t say it out of self love or hope. I had none. I said it out of logic, because logic was one of the only reliable things I had left.
So every day, I got up when my alarm went off. I would spend a few minutes sitting on the edge of my bed because part of me was confused that he wasn’t there. I would literally have to explain to myself that he was gone. We had broken up. I was alone. The stinging near my solar plexus would start up again. Familiar. This happened every morning for several weeks.
Like a robot, I would go to work. I behaved as normally as possible; I smiled when I perceived I should smile. I had no access to any emotion but pain. I couldn’t even really feel anger. The times when I perceived that I should feel affront, I could act it, but I didn’t feel it. Like the smiling. But really, every minute of every hour, all I was ever doing was crying. The physical stinging in my chest was me keeping it on the inside.
Every hour of every day, I had one goal. Reach the end of the day. Go to sleep.
When I had been in high school & something bad had happened, my mom had told me about one of her unhappy times. She had said that she just pretended to be happy. She went out with her friends, & she faked it until it became real.
At this time, my group of friends were crucial to me. Not because I needed to talk to anyone. Talking didn’t really do much for me. I needed my friends because I needed proof that I was still worthwhile to another human being. Being part of a group gave me evidence that I still belonged here. It was one more item to add to my folder of commitment to sticking around.
I had a group of friends that I went out with & met for coffee several days a week. Outings were generally planned by my housemate, who would send a when & where text to everyone. As luck would have it, my housemate, who had been annoyed with my yo-yo relationship, found herself disenchanted with me as well. I stopped getting texts, & no one in the group dared to invite me out themselves. Although she & I eventually came to a truce, my bond to the entire group was severed & I had no interest in trying to rebuild it. I am admittedly still bitter about it. Out of that group of friends only 1 continued to talk to me on a regular basis, on the phone.
What followed is unclear; I can’t really remember. I know I was even more lost at that point. My WoW guildies had a get together every Monday night, & I think it was around this time that one of them, who had actually known me pre-WoW, somehow noticed something was wrong with me. He showed up where I was bartending & talked to me after work for some time. It was a pep talk, & it worked, not necessarily because of anything that was said, but because it was proof that someone thought I was worthwhile. I had proof!
In the summer of 2006 I realized that it had been a year & I was still in hell. It was actually a pretty creative time for me; my writing was in full bloom as my emotions weren’t. I was keeping busy socially, & although great times were had playing WoW & at my new bartending job, I was still dead. Every day I felt as if my feet were blocks of concrete, & as if the entire world was just a long, endless stretch of desolate, barren wasteland. And every breath was one more heavy, leaden step. Take one step. Take another step. Feel nothing but the ache & the stinging in my chest. Smile when I should smile.
I went to see a psychologist. She diagnosed me with clinical depression. She offered to refer me to a psychiatrist, who could prescribe me medication, but I chose to take a non-medicated route for the time being. I’d had a round of antidepressants during my marriage & found them to be ineffective (eliminating the marriage had solved the problem). She said that I had completely severed my emotional being from my intellect, & that I should try doing work with the physical side to bridge the gap. In other words, get my ass to the gym.
I did. And guess what. It helped.
It took another year, but little by little I began to feel glimmers of pleasure at things. I began to mean it when I laughed, just sometimes at first. Over the next year we also identified some of my antisocial behaviors as manifestations of anxiety & OCD, which, in retrospect, I’ve had since childhood.
It took 5 more years for me to trust someone. But that’s another post that I won’t want to write about for some time. May never want to write about. I don’t know yet. We’ll have to see if I survive it.
This was an extremely difficult subject to write about. It hurts to remember certain things. While I was writing, I’m certain my facial expression was neutral, but my dogs kept approaching me at intervals, just to stare up at me. I think there is still a significant store of pain in me, & bits of it are seeping out through my fingers on the keyboard, & through my eyes as I read what I type.
One of these days I’ll have gotten rid of the last of it.
Take another step.