A friend recently asked me how my depression was, and the question stumped me. It’s not something I talk about, and I didn’t know quite how to answer. I said something like, “It’s better than it was before. I’m sleeping more, but I’ll probably have to deal with it all my life.” This is technically accurate, but it’s not the whole truth. I don’t like talking about my depression because it’s boring as fuck–much like the bronchial/sinus shit I’m experiencing right now. Who the hell wants to hear, “I’m depressed. I can’t get off the couch. I want to die.” over and over and over again? I certainly don’t, and it’s how I feel a lot of the time.
It’s tricky because on the one hand, it’s absolutely true that I’m much better than I was twenty years ago. I can sleep more than four hours in one block, and I don’t have the death nightmares that used to pepper my dreams on a weekly basis. I don’t constantly see all the ways I can die as I move along in my daily life, and more importantly, I don’t have to continually fight myself not to ram my car into a concrete lane divider or anything like that. I don’t spend days catatonic on the couch, curled up in a ball, wishing I had the courage to kill myself. I don’t hate myself or think that other people hate me, either.
These are all good things, of course. In fact, when I think of how far I’ve come, I’m amazed. I’ve done a lot of hard work, including three decades of therapy, medication, and taiji (and writing), but the depression has alleviated despite myself–not because of anything specific I’ve done. I say despite myself even though I’ve worked on it because the lifting of the depression has crept up on me inch by inch. Here’s the thing about being marinated in depression for all my life. It’s my life. It’s what I know. It’s all I’ve known. It’s my norm as oppressive as it is. I got used to it, and I didn’t notice as it changed little by little.
It’s a truism, but change usually isn’t a big bang. It’s a minute more of sleep a night, rather than an extra hour. It’s sleeping with only four interruptions rather than six or seven. And, because I have anxiety as well as depression, it’s not freaking out when I say something I perceive as stupid to a complete stranger, or only freaking out for a minute instead of the rest of the day. It’s making a mistake and not berating myself for an hour afterwards, but only for fifteen minutes.
Because the change is so minimal, I don’t notice it at the time. It’s only when I look back that I can see how different I am now than I was even five years ago. I give a lot of credit to taiji, and I’ve recounted the ways it’s helped me in past posts. I’m pleased with my progress. But, and I bet you knew a but was coming.
My life is still shit. I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going or how I’m going to get there. I don’t want to do copy editing any longer, and I would love to write for a living, but we all know what the chances of that happening is. I’ve also thought about going back to school in psychology to either get my MA in counseling because it would be practical, and I could get a job immediately after, or a PhD/PsyD in clinical psychology, which is more my passion, but wouldn’t be immediately useful. Also, am I capable of going back to school? I don’t know. I’ve looked at online courses, which may be more my speed, but going back to school may actually provide me with a community. At the very least, it would get me out of the house, which is something I need to do more often.
Here are the downsides to my so-called life. I’m still depressed. Every day. All day. Just not to the extent I once was. I can get off the couch, but I still spend most of my time on it–especially since I’ve gotten sick. I don’t truly know the meaning of the word happy. It puzzles me because I don’t feel it. Not really. I have moments of it, of course, but my baseline feeling is…numbness. I know it’s not an actual feeling, but it’s how I feel most of the time. The sad part is that I’ll take it over anxiety any day or that vague sense of dread that lurks in the back of my mind when I think about things too hard.
My sleep is better, yes, but, sadly, it’s the best when I’m sick. I can actually sleep for seven hours when I’m sick and only wake up once or twice. I have a half-baked theory that one of the reasons I stay sick when I get sick is because my body wants the sleep. For whatever reason, it won’t allow me to get truly restful sleep when I’m healthy. I don’t know if it’s a punishment thing or a balancing act or what, but it’s annoying as fuck.
When I was seriously ill, I slept for ten hours one night. That is unheard of. I have never slept that much in my life, at least not that I can remember. Even as a little girl, I never went to sleep before midnight, no matter what time I had to get up in the morning. Fuck sleep. I hate it and the fact that I have to do it. I will admit I get jealous of people who wake up feeling refreshed or who don’t want to leave their bed because it just feels so cozy. I know I need sleep, but I resent it. If I never had to sleep again, I’d be so goddamn happy.
I also don’t want to die, necessarily, and I don’t have to stop myself from giving in to my impulses, but I don’t necessarily want to be alive. Or, rather, more to the point, I don’t see why I’m alive. I don’t have any reason to be alive, other than my family, friends, and Shadow, my cat. By the way, it’s OK to live for external reasons. I know everyone says you should live for yourself, but what if you can’t or don’t want to? Then, find something else that makes your life worth living. It’s triage, but that’s life sometimes.
I have other things in my life that I love, obviously, including taiji and my writing. Without them, I don’t think I could go about my day-to-day business. Is it enough? I don’t know. Here’s the thing. I’m better than I was, but I’m not good enough. Still. Yet.
I’m still sick, but slowly getting better. I think being sick for so long has kept my depression higher than it has been in the past year or so. Before the sickness, I mean. The depression is higher as well because of Raven’s death, which was almost six months ago. I don’t talk about it much, but it cuts me deep every damn day. When I go out and smoke, I glance at where Raven is interred, and it hurts my heart every time. I still can’t believe he’s gone and that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Shadow and I are slowly adjusting. He’s more vocal than he’s ever been, and I think it’s because Raven used to be the one to let me know when it’s treat time. He would come up to me and meow, demanding his treats. And, of course, since he gets his treats, Shadow would get his as well. Now, with Raven gone, Shadow feels he has to let it be known when it’s time for treats. He’s manning up, even if it’s unnecessary, because he’ll get his treats no matter what, but he doesn’t know that.
I have no pithy end to this post, other than to say, this is my life. It’s better than it was, but it’s nowhere near what I want it to be.