Off and on for the past five years or so, I’ve gone to therapy. Often brief stints of me feeling low, sometimes lower than low, and not quite knowing what else could help besides a cake with one fork and an empty room. And so, I find a psychologist in my area and I spend a few months articulating the lowliness I’ve felt all my life, the one that hasn’t gone away even in times of thinness and health, success and wealth. Inevitably I decide that we’ve done all we can do, we say our goodbyes- my therapist and I- and we part ways. Lots of times I move states or countries and begin to feel a momentary betterment. Some geographic distraction.
The thing is, it has never quite gotten better entirely. I haven’t shaken that feeling of anxiousness, sadness, loneliness, utter boredom despite plenty to do. Not in twenty seven years.
The first time I called my mom to tell her of my shade of blue, I was 20 and standing out front of my college dorm.
“I just feel down. Everyday. Just…so lonely” I told her, standing no more than 15 feet from a group of my friends. Irony at play.
The heaviness, that foggy feeling felt familiar. It felt as though the sadness, the depression I was discovering- that it had been with me forever; I just hadn’t been able to articulate it until now.
I lived a full year in an outwardly happy, inwardly unsettled sort of way. I wasn’t sure what could be the matter. Other than an alcohol-soaked girlhood, a dad who’d died, and morbid obesity, I just wasn’t able to pinpoint the root of it. So I met with my first therapist. I can’t say it helped, but it felt proactive, and maybe that was enough to feel like I was getting somewhere.
Over the next seven years, two and a half of which you’ve known me here, I’ve felt a wavy up and down. It’s always progression and regression, peace and panic, a forever tingling of ants in my pants. If I were to try to describe my depression, I’d echo what Sarah Silverman wrote in her book, “The Bedwetter.” She described it as a feeling of homesickness when you’re already home. This description is the only sentence I’ve read in all seven thousand self help books I’ve bought that actually makes me sigh, long and relieved, like someone gets it.
And what I’d add to this feeling of homesickness, is that so much of what I feel is contradictory. I feel deeply lonely, even with friends. I feel like I’m losing, even if I might have won. I feel like I’m struggling, drowning, even though I’ve got nothing nagging at me, nothing weighing me down. I feel tired, chronically, despite any stretch of sleep. I feel utterly, utterly bored but without enough ambition to seek activity. Hopeless. Like everyday is a struggle to get through, even the great ones. As though I am all alone and always will be, even if just in my head.
And really, it feels as insane as it sounds.
Maybe the fact that it’s so beautiful and I can’t quite feel its beauty is what makes me even sadder. There’s guilt in not being able to just wrap my arms around everything and absorb what happiness it could give me.
The thing is, I get through the days. I get through them very, very well. I wake up, I go about living in the way I’d want to live if I felt better. I try to be the person I’d want to be, were I more naturally inclined to being her. Mostly because- what else is there to do? The world, the show, they just go on.
It’s not that I’m not letting myself be who I truly am, it’s that I’m fighting against all urges to tuck under my covers forever. What’s interesting, I imagine, is that I seem happy. I seem light. And there are moments, lots of them, where I am happy and light. It’s just the other times, most times, when I’m working toward contentment of any kind.
My belief is that some of us have a happiness balance gone wonky. Our serotonin levels, our dopamine levels- whatever it may be- they’re just not quite up to par. And maybe medication restores some of the natural balance. Maybe it sets us at the same starting line as the rest of the world’s race runners, rather than twenty feet back. It doesn’t make us happier, not better, all by itself. But it lets us shake off a bit of that hopelessness, so that at least momentarily, we see that life won’t always feel like trudging through quicksand.
This week I’m starting to see a new therapist. To talk about life and anxiety and to ask her why, despite two book deals, traveling the world, and all the charming parts of my life, I’m still blue.
I believe in therapy. I believe in the experience of articulating feeling and thought. I believe in hearing myself say those things- crazy and non-crazy- and having someone else hear them, interpret them, too. It’s freeing. It’s validating.
I’m not sure this post has a purpose other than doing what I so love to do: letting my hair down, showing you that even if it seems as though my life is all manner of lovely, it isn’t always. So if you’re struggling, with anything really, I guess I want you to know that I struggle too. And that it’s all okay.
*Though this post is about depression, it isn’t meant to be sad. I don’t want anyone to worry about my emotional state or to think I’m floundering. While looking at my calendar this week, I saw the therapy appointment and I realized, as I often do when I toss out one of these types of posts, that this is the kind of honesty I like to share. Because I like empathy. And I really like thinking that we’re all in it together.