… you don’t talk about fight club.
As if I needed a gag order about something I know NOTHING about thanks to the fucked up system I want to leave.
Let’s rewind a bit. Last Wednesday was Valentine’s Day, a notoriously shitty day for those of us who are single because the whole world throws our lack of a romantic relationship in our faces and judges us as “less than” for reasons unknown. I usually opt to spend my day slutting it up with two gentlemen who always satisfy: Ben and Jerry.
This Valentine’s Day, however, I woke up feeling really good about everything. It was an active recovery day in My Peak Challenge, the fitness regime I’ve been sticking to, meaning there was no specific work out, just stretching and about 60 minutes of light activity to keep the blood flowing to the muscles I’d worked the last two days. I went for a four mile walk and stopped for a mocha about half-way through. I checked my email while getting my drink and found that I was accepted to a month-long program in Galway, Ireland that will teach me about the Irish education system. AWESOME! I took a different route home to hit the grocery store for the ingredients to a recipe I was going to try. Please note that I do NOT cook, so the mere fact that I was planning to is a coup. The recipe was Thai peanut chicken zoodles (zucchini noodles), and my friend made it when I was playing house in Texas. It’s delicious and probably easy for someone who cooks all the time, but I don’t. I was revved up from my four miles and getting into the Irish program, and then the grocery store had everything I was looking for, which doesn’t usually happen. I skipped past my Valentines Ben & Jerry, checked out, and headed home excited to get cooking.
And I should have started cooking right away because the day turned to complete shit when, instead, I checked my work email. Remember that I’m on a leave of absence…. have been since the end of last school year. Okay, so on the books, the leave officially started on September 5th, but we all know the summer was part of it. I’ve been off payroll since mid-October. I have seen several of my colleagues because we’re friends outside of school. I’ve talked to my supervisor a few times about being a reference for the various jobs I’m applying to. I have had no contact with any student who is currently enrolled in school except via email to help with a college essay and to answer questions about the fundraising event I advised for the last three years. So I haven’t been checking my work email very often, maybe every four or five days. It was a fluke that I happened to check it that day to find what I did.
I am living in some absurdist play though because the email was there in earnest. But I don’t know anything except what very little the email said, and that much I am not supposed to talk about.
Two things happened.
First, my brain broke.
Second, every shred of body and soul screamed BURN. IT. DOWN.
All of it. Burn it down. Torch it. You should have torched it in June, but you wanted to be prudent. Fuck prudence. Burn it all down.
With my broken brain, I somehow managed to stop my body and soul from acting on their instincts. Instead, I called my mom and a friend. They agreed with the assessment that I’m living in an absurdist play. They also helped me remember that I have no control over it, so I should just forget about it until I know more, and even then, I should laugh at its absurdity.
I wanted to be anesthetized. More than anything, I wanted to be completely unconscious so everything would go away. But I also had all these wonderful ingredients and no power to change anything about the email. So I cooked. I shook with rage the entire time, spilling ingredients when I tried to measure them… the peanut sauce was sweeter than it was supposed to be because of my shaking hands. And I was a little impatient, so the final dish didn’t turn out very pretty, but it tasted good. Except I didn’t want to eat it. I wanted to be anesthetized.
Luckily Wednesday is my regular therapy appointment. And I’m blessed to have really good friends who have good things to say. I was a mess on the way to therapy despite a calming phone call from a friend who was full of perspective and reassurance. I didn’t end up banging my head against a hard surface until I passed out. I didn’t literally or figuratively burn it down. I didn’t even get shitfaced. My therapist and I agreed that of the destructive things I wanted to do, getting a bunch of mini cupcakes was the LEAST destructive thing to do, so she gave me permission to do that even though I was pissed that it sort of defeats the point of my fitness regime. And the pesky fact that the cupcakes won’t actually change anything or make me feel better for more than about half an hour. I did take the maximum amount of my anti-anxiety meds before bed.
And on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I successfully convinced myself to get out of bed, to be productive, to do my workouts, to be social, to work on applications, to keep perspective, to not get totally drunk, to not burn it down literally or figuratively. What I didn’t do so well with was my sugar intake, but again, of the things I wanted to do, eating too much sugar is the least harmful to myself and others. I also continued to not literally or figuratively burn it to the ground. GO ME. Honestly, I cannot put into words how proud of myself I am for getting through the rest of Wednesday and the next four days so beautifully, so healthily!
Now you’re (maybe) going to learn something about what depression is really like, how it’s not “just pull yourself up by your bootstraps!” or “mind over matter!” On the sixth day, Monday, I couldn’t COULD NOT do it. I couldn’t get myself to put on workout clothes and do the day’s exercises. I couldn’t take off my PJs and put on sweats to go for a walk down the block. I couldn’t laugh at the stand up comedians I watched on Netflix. It was even hard for me to text a few people and say that I’d hit a wall, but at least I did that. And God bless them for understanding depression enough to not push the “just get up and blah blah blah” on me, for agreeing that I was dealing with some serious bullshit. Monday was what depression truly looks like. I knew what to do – get out of bed or get off the couch, go outside for even a short walk, put clothes on, brush my teeth and hair, do at least ONE of the chores on my list, don’t overeat – I KNOW all those things, but I was unable to do them because I had done them for four and half days already. I could not bring myself to do them again yesterday. It had nothing to do with what I wanted to do, what would make me feel better, making a good choice… no. It wasn’t about just shaking it off and getting to the day. I would have if I could have. But what people don’t understand about depression is that you honestly cannot function more than the bare minimum some days no matter what you want, what you know. You are low, down, dark… whatever word you want to use… and you cannot get high, up, light no matter what. If it’s really bad – luckily for me it’s not anymore (or wasn’t this time) – you can’t even see or feel a way back to being high, up, light again… the low, down, dark is all, and it is infinite. Like I said, I’m at a place in my lifelong depression that I don’t get so low, down, dark that I can’t see and feel that there is a way out. I’m grateful that I have meds, doctors, friends, and family who have helped me get to this place. But people NEED to understand that depression is more than feeling sad or sorry for yourself. And some types of depression are not temporary.
Yesterday I couldn’t do anything. I told myself I would sleep and reset for today, that my feelings of doom and gloom were being compounded by PMS. I’m happy that today I got up before the alarm, waking from a dream wherein Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo, Aquaman) was a construction worker on a project I had something to do with – he needed help opening his hips… I helped him open his hips reeeeealllllll well thankssomuch – and I did my quick morning yoga before another four mile walk, with a mocha stop halfway in. I decided that writing about the gag order wouldn’t “get me in trouble” if I say as little about it as I actually know (which is next to nothing).
Aside: “Getting in trouble” reminds me of a coworker from my first job out of college. We had a boss who delighted in watching people cry after saying something horrible to them. Some of us were greener than others, more susceptible to not knowing how to handle the deliberate cruelty. This coworker told us something her husband said when she’d come home from work complaining about getting in trouble. He told her, “honey, you’re a grown ass woman. You don’t get in trouble” or something to that effect. She told us the next day, and it was quite a revelation.
I have an ambitious plan for the rest of the day, and week for that matter, so I hope I can stave off another day like yesterday. But I also know that even if I do have another day like yesterday, it’s okay because I haven’t burned it down literally or figuratively. And I won’t.
Not literally at least.
And not figuratively just yet.