Not to steal the line from the Cymbalta commercial, but I realize at times that really is the best way to sum it up. Now I’m no poster child for clinical depression, good or bad – I’m probably just average as far as these things go. When my old therapist first classified me as having postpartum depression, I think I fell into a DSM-IV category 296.XX – can’t remember the last two digits and I don’t have a copy of the book handy. But I was surprised to figure out that it landed under “Major Depressive Disorder”. And I think my level of depression at the time was classified as “severe”. Maybe I was worse off than I thought, apparently. Then again I have spent a lifetime living in some sort of denial of how crappy things really could be, but that’s a tale for another entry. I realized tonight that I was trying to give a mental image, a face, a name, a something, to that faceless void I call depression. Namely because it finally occurred to me that it is bothering me again. Takes me awhile to realize these things and even longer to actually fess up to them in my own mind. Why is that?
For one thing, I take medication for the damn thing. Effexor XR, 150 mg a day. I’ve been taking that particular med for almost 5 years now. Went through nortriptyline, Lexapro, Celexa, and Wellbutrin, I think. Might have been another one in there that I’m forgetting that’s no longer on the market. Ahh, Serzone, that was it. Got pulled off the market in 2003. That one was working for awhile but I think my therapist didn’t want me to end up losing my liver. A good thing, given how much lately I need it to process alcohol instead. My postpartum depression eventually morphed into a general diagnosis of clinical depression, still under that “major” category. My therapist realized over the course of our many sessions that my life had been fucked up long before I got around to having children (which wasn’t until my late 30’s) and that there was a lot of unresolved baggage there that was finally bubbling up to the surface, no longer able to be contained within the walls I’d built around it. I can’t say I’ve succeeded in dealing with it, either. Maybe I just succeeded in making the walls higher. Some things are too painful to address or are buried so deep that even I don’t remember why I wake up from nightmares with the feelings that I have. One repeating one is that if being forced to sit in a dark and lonely corner and feeling very small, quite young, and so very alone and unloved, and just wanting my father to love me. Which is odd, given how most of my life was lived with my mother after the age of 5, and that was quite the drama-filled scene. But every now and then that emotion breaks through, like lava seeping through a dried-over crust from previous eruptions, and it burns anew. And yes, depression hurts.
It hurts in a nameless, formless, shapeless, faceless way – like how broken ribs hurt beneath the flesh and yet from the outside you look fine. Like a wound that refuses to heal over, doesn’t bleed, but stings everytime it is touched or washed. Like the way menstrual cramps make you feel like your insides are being ripped up by a machete inside, but again, there is no tangible outward evidence. Every now and then I end up contracting pleurisy for some reason, I guess it’s one of those things that once you get it, you end up having a predisposition for it in the future – at least it is with me. And every time I get it, I feel like a dumbshit because I mistake the symptoms for something else – for heartburn, gas, a heart attack, a muscle pull, whatever. Until I realize what it is. And wonder why in God’s name I’ve been going around with this stabbing pain in my chest for days and not recognizing it as something I’ve had before. And again, there is no outward sign of the pain. I always wished such things as pleurisy and menstruation could be marked by outward signs on the skin, much like the Devil writing on Linda Blair’s skin in “The Exorcist”. Except this wouldn’t need words. Just searing red, raw, bleeding flesh, blistered and bruised. And people would shirk away in horror and run for a doctor, rather than patting you on the hand and telling you it’s all in your mind.
And thus is my own experience of depression. I wish that it looked like that, outwardly, so that even I would take it seriously and recognize it when it rears its ugly head in my life, rather than denying it could even be there – after all, I take pills to prevent that, how could it come back? Except that maybe sometimes the baseline mechanism isn’t enough to cope with things like losing my job, panicking about finances, finding myself in yet another relationship with someone who is still not readily available (and in this case, still married and on a family reunion trip in Hawaii this week, including the wife, even though they are separated) and feeling unsure of myself. My younger son stayed home sick with a cold today and by evening was bemoaning the fact that I told him he will most likely be fine to go to school tomorrow. And after the kids were asleep, it made me think to myself: Who takes care of Mommy?
She does, I say. She does. Or she had damn well better.
But Mommy can’t always cope and there are times where she finds herself feeling soulless and empty and sad inside. More like a hollowed-out shell than anything else, needing to be handled carefully and tenderly, lest she break apart from within. Those things that should bring joy instead only bring more of a burden of responsibility, and that burden seemingly grows exponentially as she stares vacantly ahead, wondering how to get through tomorrow.