Saturday, October 5, 2013

Changes in Platitudes, Changes in Attitudes

I keep looking like an asshole.

A conversation with someone who knows me, really knows me, and I make a comment or a reply.  They pause and look at me.  "Was that sarcastic?"

"No, no, no..." I say, "I meant that.  That's sincere."  I realize that it's not the statements themselves, but the deadpan delivery.  It's not my bitterness, but a flat affect.  I'm depressed.  

The light is shifting again, and I feel it more this autumn than I have felt it in a while.  The last time it got this bad, I started Wellbutrin.  But then I couldn't sleep, and I kept sleeping too long anyway, and it got into a bad feedback loop that I didn't even notice until I accidentally forgot to fill the prescription, didn't take it for a weekend, and was surprised to notice how awake and good I felt.  I haven't taken it since then, but now I'm debating - how much is either side worth it when both sides suck?

When I don't feel it, I think I remember what depression feels like, although there's always a component of forgetting.  When the realization of that feeling hits again, it's a familiar type of shudder: "Oh, yeah."  There's always a few days, weeks of interplay - a back-and-forth is-it-or-isn't-it period of furrowed brow introspection.  Depressed or just tired?  Is this a problem that can be fixed with coffee?  If not, then what?


I'm better at identifying it now, but still so bad about talking about it.  At this point, I don't feel shame--just concern.  I keep my mouth shut not for me, but for the other person.  When I say, finally, out loud, "I'm depressed right now," the result is inevitably me comforting the other person.

"Hey, I'm going to be ok," I promise.  "The crying is just a...thing.  It's just a thing.  I'm going to feel better soon."  Keeping quiet, I only have to console myself.

It doesn't matter how likely I try to put it. "I'm not doing super-great right now," or, "I'm struggling" or "This time of year gets really hard."  When my reaction is the only thing that I can safely control, then I just shut down.  It's exhausting to talk, and it's exhausting not too.  

That's one platitude: "Choose your hard."  So I choose the one that's easier on everyone else.


Depression, like so many pathologies (especially those of the neurological type), is a word that has gotten co-opted and misused until it is almost meaningless.  Colloquially, it is used to denote sadness, which indicates to me that most people who use it that way have never been depressed.

Depression is an emptiness.  

It's a hole in your heart.  It wants desperately to be filled by something, and it's a black hole of longing that just can't be stopped.  It's a foggy brain that also can't be filled with any pertinent information; my lab mates ask me questions, and I start to answer and then trail off as I look helplessly in space.  It can happen two or three times in a row before I finally finish the thought, their faces captured in a barely-concealed mask of puzzlement (slightly lifted eyebrow, mouth agape).  

It's not that everything is terrible.  All through the day, I laugh and joke with the people I love.  I go out to bars and drink pints and watch football and cheer when my fantasy players get touchdowns.  At the restaurant near the school, my favorite waiter wraps me into a big hug and calls me beautiful, and it makes me smile.  I commute with my husband and watch him work his ass off and feel proud when it all pays off for him.  I am happy, and it's fine -- I'm happy, but empty, but I know that some day soon I'll be happy and full again.  The waiting is the worst part.  

All day, it's one question over and over again: "What the fuck do you want?"  And a brief list of answers: to not be here, to be asleep somewhere, to be lightly touched.  The best help I can think of in most of these moments is that what I want is to have a hand on the back of my neck, a reassuring pressure that, if nothing else, reminds me that I'm not alone.  It's not feasible, or even possible, but the longing of that thought just keeps falling into the emptiness.  


Everything is best when there's a catastrophe.  Given a goal, I can focus on it with a fierce singularity--pushing a hundreds-pounds-heavy freezer across the room, making plans for experiments and putting those plans into place, feverishly processing and analyzing the tissues for data we need to rapidly put together.  But when the task is accomplished, I turn and my face falls and I've got that flat affect again.  I am reminded that my eyes are heavy, and that things are hard, and that sometime my own mind is also my own worst terrible enemy.

So I specifically seek out the company of other people so I won't be alone with my flat empty mind.  In a few days or weeks, everything will even out.  Or it won't, and I'll make sure that's it's not temporary, and then I'll tell my psychiatrist and go from there.  Being treated for bipolar disorder didn't put me on a different road; it just gave me a better map.  But I've done this circle enough by this point to know that it's going to be ok.  

"Fake it 'til you make it," I keep telling myself.  And so I do.  


Blogger Allison said...

I unfortunately understand this post. I'm sorry you're depressed right now. I read this last night... it's accurate:

October 6, 2013 at 8:52 PM  

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