Sunday, February 19, 2012

I Do the Best Imitation of Myself

The crickets have been chirping on this blog for almost 2 months. If you're one of the handful of my readers - whom I really (truly!) appreciate - I am dreadfully sorry for the lull and I am even the more smitten with you for still clicking over to this vomit-bucket of internet words from time to time. Fortunately, there was no good reason for the disappearance, and unfortunately, as well.

I was diagnosed with depression and and anxiety a little over 4 years ago, although I suppose I've known and avoided admitting it well before I finally broke down in a doctor's office in a strange torrent of relief and fear. I have not advertised this widely - many friends and family members who have known me for years and sometimes lifetimes don't know - so this is about as close as I could come to broadcasting such an intimate personal fissure. I still think of myself as a generally happy person, and if not happy, I am for sure at least unfailingly silly, which is close enough to happy most days. As it is, sometimes I wake up and the silly stays asleep, and I can't bring myself to want anything more than to get back under the covers to hide and spend the hours in stillness. When I can't do that or I find the strength to refuse to do it, I draw on Ben Folds and do the best imitation of myself. (I'm apparently pretty good at it, and I hate that it sounds so deceitful. I promise it's less to do being deceitful and all to do with trying to resemble a functioning member of society.)

Contrary to how it's usually portrayed in terribly melodramatic antidepressant commercials, I don't actually mope around in a sagging robe, forlornly staring out the window. There is some moping, but there's also a lot of numb paralysis punctuated by anger and frustration, flailing and fear, tears and hyperventilation. As Jemaine's character explains in Eagle vs. Shark, "It makes me pretty intense" and makes you punch innocent cake boxes (and if you haven't seen it and know Jemaine from Flight of the Conchords, see it already!). Practically speaking, there is perfunctory grocery shopping and productivity, there are breaths of fresh air in the form of casual drinks or dinner with understanding friends when I can summon the courage and calmness to enjoy being social. There is preoccupation with the inevitability that Eliot will die one day* as I watch him sleep in my lap, wonderfully stupid to it all, which then extends into selfish preoccupation with my own mortality and such questions as what the hell am I doing? What the hell are we all doing?

I tried Lexapro for the better part of a year, but the sad numbness it was supposed to ease just blanched my world of any color at all. Before, if my depression relaxed its grip for a few hours or even days or weeks, true responses to life would stir inside me - I could laugh easily, and I could stand in the Seattle sun and actually feel the warmth spreading on my skin, and gladly internalize the glow. Medicated, I wouldn't feel sad, sure, but I wouldn't feel anything else, either - I couldn't. I simply couldn't care about anything. The bad bouts were gone, but so were the glimpses of joy I savored when I could force myself to recognize them. I wouldn't notice at the daffodils yawning into life along thawing sidewalks as winter began to shed its barren coat. My creativity withered. Adam would sneak up behind me while I did dishes and kiss that spot only he knows on the back of my neck and my insides didn't involuntarily dissolve into wobbly bits - the instinctual melt never came, and I couldn't even will it to happen as I stared blankly at my soapy hands, waiting. And that was the worst. So I told Lexapro to shove it in 2009 and haven't looked back, and instead I now have some just-in-case-I-start-to-lose-my-shit pills for the anxiety (and, of course, a semicolon). They help me even if I don't take them; just knowing they're within reach can be a balm when I start to spiral. I see that Prescription Bottle Orange (there must be a crayon with that name somewhere) and it's all:

Hey, good buddy. You know, I bet you'd feel a whole bunch better if you started breathing. Now, I don't have lungs, so I can't say from experience, but I hear it's pret-ty nice. Go ahead, grab ahold of some of that sweet sweet oxygen with your mouth parts and if you have a hard time getting the hang of it, I'll be right here to give you a hand. See? Look at you, breathing like a pro. Don't you look pretty as a peach with a little blood circulating back into your face?

(My bottle sounds a lot like Kenneth Parcell from '30 Rock' coaxing a cat down from a roof.)

Anyway, coming out about depression is a scary thing, but maybe less scary than, say, ghosts or bad grammar (and definitely less scary than ghosts with bad grammar). It is less scary thanks to people who capture how it feels so perfectly, like Jenny Lawson, one of my loudly-sung heroes better known as The Bloggess, and Allie of Hyperbole and a Half, both of whom write words echoed in my own heart and elevated to a glory unbeknownst to my own feeble attempts. Until recently, the mind-fog was heavy, and that heart seized up like in my chest cavity like a stapler in Jell-O. I've been doing the best imitation of myself that I can - that alone is hard. Expressing myself at all is harder, and writing here feels like T-Rex trying to change the batteries in his smoke detector. So here I am writing, and that must mean something.

This bout of depression has to be one of the worst I've ever experienced. It came from nowhere and came at me roaring, so these past several weeks have been a very long, quiet slouch toward myself again. I am lucky; I have an incredible support system for which I am grovellingly grateful and without which I'd be in trouble. Adam is a saint and his unending supply of love and patience astounds me. But I feel like my tiny rebellion has begun because I feel. My laughs aren't hollow and I've left the apartment (the fact that my unemployment enables me to wallow in sweatpants and Downton Abbey is a mixed blessing). Kristen Bell's love for sloths killed me a few times over. I am meekly playing my guitar and finding my voice again for the first time in a very long while and am embracing the callouses and vocal strain every day. I am taking inspiration from Killian and blasting what I call "happy-yelling songs" in my headphones - mostly from the likes of The Mountain Goats, Cloud Cult, Frightened Rabbit, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and Matt Pond PA - and while the lyrics may be heart-wrenching, they're determined, and damn it, we're going to dance. Screw you, depression. Suck it, anxiety. I'm taking a holiday, and don't expect any postcards. I will be furiously happy whether you like it or not.

*In the midst of this craphole of a time, my dog passed away. I meant to make this tribue its own separate post, but here it is:

His hearing may have weakened, but his ears never stopped loving rubs. His muscles withered and his eyes clouded, but he would always light up and struggle to his feet to greet a friend. He aged happily, even when he lost his tail and couldn’t wag more than the nub to show it. He grew so tired, but never unwilling. He hated being apart from his humans – even if we were just in the next room – and now we will always hate being apart from him. Over the years of college and after moving to Seattle, I only saw him intermittently, which made each progressive glimpse of his condition appear that much worse. But he never forgot me, and I’ll never forget him. I love you, Riley; you’ll always be my good boy.

**I am in love with this drawing of one of my favorite characters in literature - the fox from The Little Prince. Perfect.


  1. Thank you for your honesty, Kait. I'm so sorry to hear you've had such a hard couple weeks, and especially that Riley passed away. I know that when things are at their worst, it can feel awfully lonely; that no one could truly understand the pain and frustration of struggling to smile at or respond to loving gestures -- things that would normally seem like obvious remedies to sadness. But reading stuff like Allie and Jenny's personal struggles (not to mention the thousands of understanding comments from people who have felt the same or similar), it's comforting to be reminded that depression doesn't have to be a polarizing battle, despite how debilitating it can feel. Friends and family (and strangers, too -- thanks internet!) will want to stand with you in love and support of whatever comes your way.

    Let them, and there's nothing you can't face.

    I love and miss you and I can't wait to see you this week.

  2. I'm way behind on reading these days so I just read this post, and just wanted to briefly say how proud I am of you for writing this Kait. It must have been extremely difficult for you, and as I read it I could see you writing, and rewriting, and typing bravely inward even though your courage may have waned. Let's chat very soon. Ps sorry for the errors, my phone isn't letting me edit :(