April 2010. Three years into my recovery for problem drinking and cocaine use. I am also in the midst of a major depressive episode.
I’ve dealt with depression since my mid-teens. Feelings of worthless and the overwhelming desire to isolate are familiar. I can’t put my finger on what brought this bout on or when it even began. Sometimes there is a specific trigger, but more often than not, there is no bright line moment. I am unable to calibrate the slide from normality as I define it. Working. Writing. Enjoying the company of my girlfriend. My beagle, Peanut. My cat, Useless. Family Dinners. Working out. None bring either happy anticipation or enjoyment of the moment.
This moment has covers pulled over my head; my face buried in the pillow. Here come the tears. Not random, scattered whimpers. Industrial strength death sobs, so deep and hard that I can’t catch up breath. My lungs so raw and constricted, it is like drawing a breath in sub-zero weather.
Why? I don’t know. I’m taking my meds. No one has died. My dog loves me. My girlfriend loves me. My family, of course. If I am around them, there will be concern and questions. I respond with my trademark, “It’s all good.” It’s not. It’s excruciating, but if I can’t articulate it to myself, why should I drag them into my waking nightmare.
The best thing I can do today is sleep. Make some lunch in a few hours if I can find the strength and desire to eat. I love to eat. We love to eat out. Our favorite Mexican restaurant, ten minutes down the road. The best grilled-chicken fajitas in Dallas. On a “normal’ trip, I can smell and taste them before we walk in. Today, the taste buds don’t work. If it’s cardboard, what’s the point.
Enough time in a self-induced zombie-trance and the day will be over. I can take a pill and coma myself through the night. The sun will rise. Rinse, wash, repeat. Each day slides into the next without a delineator.
My weekly appointment with my psychiatrist is tomorrow. I will cancel it. A library of lies at my disposal. I’m traveling. The stomach flu. Anything to not face the couch of guilt and lies. I’m not going to be vulnerable or honest, either with him or myself.
I am ashamed of my weakness, and shame knows no hourly rate. I must be doing something wrong. I am a weak semblance of a human being. All the features that define me on the outside are still there. The receding hair, protruding nose, and serious brown eyes that people recognize. The mandatory pleasantries. Once more, “It’s all good.” It’s not. It is the inside that is different. I am hollow, like a chocolate Easter rabbit on the inside and just as fragile.
Why the hell am I depressed? Three years sober! I posted it on social media. The accolades and “one day at a time” responses propped me up for a bit. If only my depression is a simple as my sobriety. Don’t drink. Done. Be happy. Be happy. Be happy. I am happy. I am happy. Self-talk…. not working. Pull myself out of it. Do something!
I know I have to fight. I have seen the alternative. A psychiatric hospital. Suicidal ideation. I’m human. I want to feel giving and receiving love. Who wouldn’t? It happens every day, every moment, across the globe. Why not me? Why not today.
Think! That is what lawyers do, right? We are a profession of thinkers. So many times, I have told myself I can compute my way through these mornings. Process information bytes. Spit out solutions. The real thinking is the realization that I must use the tools therapy has provided me.
I will start easy. I will take Peanut out for a walk. Getting out of bed and outside is often half the battle. The fresh air. The stimulation. Robin song. Peanut barking at squirrels, dragging me on her Pickett’s charge to the tree for control of the animal kingdom.
Pull up the number to my therapist. Spit it the harsh truth. I’m not, “all good.” I’m struggling. He reminds me to start small. Have you showered yet? Have you eaten? Be mindful of each moment in the climb. Take a little longer in the shower and think about what’s next on a “normal” day. Shower meditation and mindfulness work for you. Writing? Get out of the house and do it. External stimulation is important. Meds? Let’s talk about adjustment at your appointment tomorrow. Maybe we need to make a change. That’s how anti-depressants work. Don’t stop because you think they are not working. Keep climbing. Get that workout in, even if its ten minutes.
I climbed. I showered. I ate. I got through it. I can’t predict when I will have to rise again. Some days it will be a step-ladder. Others it will seem like Mount Everest. Each summit begins with a small step. Then the next.