In my head I composed this lengthy, articulate post about how it feels to be ill in the way that makes questions like “Are you feeling suicidal at this moment?” into tiny, one person inside jokes. Recently I answered one of those questions with a link to a post a guy wrote where he compared crying all the time to other facts of life. It’s a great post. I’ll wait here while you read it.
Anyway, I composed this post. I wanted to tell the internet that some people don’t ever feel anything BUT suicidal, but not in a throw yourself in front of a train way. I’m speaking more of a low-grade fever of death wish, here. The measure of happiness is in the degree, on that day, to which they crave death.
Some people’s depression convinces them that they’re worthless, ugly, talentless, or a bad person. Mine does not. I inherited my father’s logical brain. (but alas, not his BRAINS) I know that I am influential; I am aware of my talents, though when I’m in the deep hole I want to stress that talent is irrelevant without momentum. I am confident that I affect change, that I am a nice person (mostly), a good person, an honest and an empathetic person.
What, if we are all these wonderful, important things, could be so terrible that it would keep us bedridden for days or months or years. Why, if our logical brain can analyze what has happened to us chemically and discard the weak attempts of our disease to discredit all that we’ve accomplished, can’t we just be happy? Because depression doesn’t fall to the defense of logic.
What depression does to those of us impervious to its first line of attack, the self-worth opening volley, is it sucks the joy out of all that we are-all that we know we are. And then it comes for our family.
The next line of offense comes in the form of a tailored attack. For me, the attack centers around burden. The burden I place on my family. The silent suffering of my husband. I’m not able to full participate in my children’s’ lives, and what long-term suffering must they be condemned to bear? This attack, handcrafted by my own mind, comes close to working. This is a full mental and physical assault. I get literally worn out. I sleep. I feel sick. Since I quit drinking, there’s nowhere to hide, even.
This is not cause for alarm, though. I hate to lose intellectual arguments, even ones I pick with myself. The point; my convoluted, free associated point here, is that there may never be a day when the answer to “do you wish you were dead?” is “no.” We are part of your population, and we walk among you as regular people. We pull minuscule moments of joy out of endless days in order to bank the will to climb out of bed in the morning. We get on with our lives. It’s hard to toe the line with these posts between “OH MY GOD RECOGNIZE US! WE SUFFER AGONY IN SILENCE!” and “Whatever, we just are what we are. No big.”
I had composed this amazing post about mental illness, and then I lost it. It was about how during hard times you can’t move but you can’t sit still, and everything you do is ridiculous and too hard but has to be done exactly right now or else. Today was a really, really hard day.
I can look at my hands, which are nearly immobile, and know that arthritis (and its relationship to gluten, which has been back in my life for one week) is a lot of why I feel this way today. My brain is dominated by logic, so even though my depression is saying “DO IT DO IT DO IT” I know, based on my analysis of the world and myself, that this is just an instant in time. An impulse, like a wave of rage, requires no action, just my notice and respect.
The post was written inside my head, as I drove futilely from hardware store to hardware store looking for boards for a project. I can’t make headway on the project, because it’s too BIG. It’s the WORLD, and the obstacles are insurmountable.
Luckily I have a support system and they get me. My husband took the kids to a birthday party and my dad’s on his way over with the boards.
And then this happened, just when I thought I might actually go mad if I had to walk into the dining room ONE MORE DAY and look at my current dining room chairs. I hated those chairs. That’s what happened to my amazing post about the SUFFERING, OH THE SUFFERING. The new chairs make me so happy.
It seems trite, doesn’t it? Getting joy out of a set of chairs? It feels insulting to my family to write something like that. I write these posts and I think “Jesus, one day they’ll read this and be so insulted that changing my living space kept me alive and I never once mentioned the musical sound of my daughter’s laugh or how my son has facial tics that he imitates from my brother.”
There’s a reason for this-for the reliance on simple, tangible pleasures. Depression can’t turn my chairs into a weapon. Depression isn’t equipped to convince me, even for a second, that rearranging the house makes me unworthy of life. Not in the laser sharp way that a thought about my daughter’s laugh can turn into a projection of her life lived with a disabled parent, a mother who can’t even predictably cook dinner.
See? That’s how quickly this happens.
The secret: thoughts come, thoughts go. Thoughts and feelings require no action. REQUIRE NO ACTION.
This illness is a fact of my life, as sure as my eyes turn black when I’m angry and my height will never be above 5’1″. There are so many of us. We are living. We get on with it.
Little things bring us great joy.