I spent the majority of those 31 days curled up on the couch watching Pirates of the Caribbean for the sake of nostalgia which sometimes fights the blues.
I got dressed every morning; I showered, but didn't eat more than once a day. The hunger for everything was gone. I mostly felt sick. I confided in a friend that the over-whelming feeling was "large parts of my life are missing, and they have been for a long time. At this point, I don't know if I'll ever get them back". She didn't know what to say.
I think mental health gets talked about too much in some spaces, and in others not nearly enough. I know people much more empathetic or concerned for society have written about it with more care than I have access to (even now as I, however temporarily, sit on the other side of it), but on the off chance it helps to hear it here, too: I'm depressed. I have been for a long time.
I work with a woman named Maria. God, what a gem, Maria. She wears rainbow Vans and bucket hats because when you're eight-five you can do whatever you want and no one says a thing about it. She's not been feeling well recently: Headaches, pain all over, insomnia. When she confided in the nurses, they attributed the symptoms to arthritis. "But I know how arthritis feels, I've dealt with it for years. This isn't it."
When I was sixteen, I had been sad before, of course: I'd listened to beloved friends gossip at my expense, lost family members, been stung by unrequited love. It was a shallow and familiar sadness. It's often so fleeting, you never question whether it's temporary. You just sort of know that it is.
Then, suddenly, I'm filling the bath-tub, and I'm considering something. It's dark, and it's heavy, and it's brand spanking new. It's like I'd just found the Devil in my closet.
I imagine white-tailed deer feel this way at the first glimpse of headlights. Or maybe it's that pang in your stomach when you've looked at the ocean for a little too long: You're so aware of your size, your minuteness, your completely inconsequential existence. It's not all for some grand prize at the end of the game - Princess Peach only lives in a video game - it all amounts to a swift fizzle out. So what's it all for?
This is not familiar. This is not fleeting. This settles in like a tape worm. After a while, it feels almost comfortable. I wonder how I lived with the free space in my gut for so long. Didn't I feel hollow?
I don't know what brought it on. Maybe it was loneliness. Maybe it was Texas. Maybe it was looking at my father's abandoned night-stand. All of the above and a few other things. Either way, it's lived here for awhile.
We've gone through several iterations together, Tape Worm and I.
There was the Mask Phase in high-school where no one could know how dark my thoughts were or they wouldn't love me anymore and there's nothing worse than showing your true colors to your friends and having them say "Thanks, I'd rather be blind".
There was the Seasonal Phase where I felt fabulous in the fall, suicidal in the summer.
Rage Phase. College.
There's this phase Now, which I'm thinking of renaming Every Day is an Evil Clone. I can't wait to see what's next. *digs nails into chalkboard*
There is no rest; that's the worst part. Weeks turn into months without any glimmer of joy or interest in anything. Eating is a chore, showering a math quiz. I feel sick in the morning, hopeless in the afternoon, and angry at night. What a fun person I've become - can you believe I called myself a goddamn comedian?
It's difficult to live like this, but it's especially difficult to forgive myself for being such a lousy partner. When we were just dating, I could turn it on for a few hours: I could dress up, tell my good stories, make fun plans. In the early days, we would walk along the fences of empty playgrounds with bagels in our mouths and laugh so easily with each other. I was free and brave; I was liberating to be around. Now we live together, and things are shut down because the world is run by chimps with syphilis, so we can't go anywhere. Poor Kevin is stuck here whether I'm jolly or not. And I'm definitely not. What a boost of confidence it would be if I could be fun now. Anybody can be fun at a 21st birthday party, but if I could make light of this very difficult situation, make now great for someone? That would be something special. I want that for my partner. I want that for myself. And I can't provide it. It's a miracle I'm drinking water.
I have a short fuse (surprise - Irish). But a phenomenon that makes it even shorter is this: "Just get up and do something. There's no reason to feel like this."
Yeah, why don't alcoholics just moderate themselves?
Why don't paraplegics just try pole vaulting?
Why don't you get a girlfriend?
I WISH, man! What a dream! But that's the whole thing: Paraplegics can't walk, let alone run, jump, and launch themselves over a pole 20 feet in the air. Alcoholics can't drink without blacking out in London and waking up in Morocco. And you can't get a girlfriend because you're just not that smart. We're all born with weaknesses.
If it were as easy as pouring myself a glass of wine and watching Bill Burr's stand-up special for the 40th time, I wouldn't feel this way. I've tried it. And everything else. At some point, you have to look at the common denominator, and that is imbalanced brain chemicals.
I'm convinced these advice columns - the "drink some water" ones - were written by golden retrievers. Do they even know what they're talking about? Because it sounds like they're trying to cure patchy skin, not a deeply complicated neurological disorder.
Here are some things that actually work for me. Results may vary.
1) Watching Pirates of the Caribbean
2) Finding new and delicious ways to prepare my coffee
3) Going to Trader Joe's
4) Doing the NYT crossword every day with Kevin (you can borrow him if you want)
5) Video calling close friends - texting just doesn't cut it
6) Answering honestly when someone asks me how I'm doing; they usually follow up with kind words
7) Cutting back on my true crime obsession (I recommend replacing with Chuck, Danny Gonzalez, and cheesy 80s family films)
8) STOP TRYING TO LIKE PHOEBE BRIDGERS. The girl is gaseous sadness.
9) Unfollowing people I don't like on Instagram
10) Painting, not trying to be good at it
I hope those help. If they don't, find your own things. I had to try a million changes that didn't work before I found ten that did. I hope you find yours sooner.
I would be willing to bet pretty good money that more people are feeling depressed now than ever before (in recent history). It's cold and always dark and we can't see the people we love. Recognizing that the herd as a collective is schlepping its way through a tunnel might offer solace. Depressive thoughts convince us that we're special and no one has ever felt the way we do, but there have been a lot of people, man. A lot of terrible things. Our ancestors starved and watched their sons march off to wars they knew nothing about and died of typhoid fever at 29. We're not all that unique. Suffering is a family tradition.
Anyway, welcome to February. My birthday is coming up and I'm expecting all of you to send me meaningful compliments. Minimum length is ten pages.
Good luck out there.