It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Maintaining my blog has fallen down on the priority list as of late– neatly wedged somewhere between getting a chihuahua and signing up for LinkedIn. The truth is, I’m just now clawing my way out of what has been a 16 month long depression. I imagine that it is the kind of depression that only privileged, affluent white people suffer from, but nonetheless, I’ve fallen ill. It’s the kind of depression that afflicts those of us who have enough time on our hands to go deep into the tar pits of our own psyche and compare our findings to those who are busily toiling away at life– the perfect recipe for an existential crisis. It’s the kind of thing that happens when there is a high degree of internal dialogue, and there’s no better way to really turn up the volume on that noise than to bury yourself in country after country where you don’t speak the language and isolate yourself from people who speak your own. I’m writing this not as a means to receive sympathy from my droves of followers, but as a way to bring some light to a dark topic, a topic we tend to look away from.
It couldn’t have been a more cliché place to become pseudo-suicidal. It was November in Paris, in a 4th story apartment, and I was chain smoking the last bits of my George Karelias from the previous month in Greece. Soaking the same tea bag, cup after cup, reading dumb old Hemingway, listening to 90’s Chicago house music, and watching a marathon of Modern Family. Ok, fine, that last part might not be so typical of a Parisian depression, but it was what I was doing when I thought, “What would it be like if I just weren’t here anymore?”.
It took me all day to get showered and dressed, like I had been heavily sedated for weeks. Something about a Christmas episode set me off into a crying jag that prompted me to finally get up off the couch and into the bathroom. After taking off the 3 full day worn saggy pajamas, I looked at myself in the mirror, thoroughly disgusted with my own face, my own body and my own presence. I remember saying “Ugh. You again?”. I looked around in a half curious, not at all determined way for something sharp or something poisonous. I realized that I would have to go out of my way to off myself and I was too unmotivated to even do that. I didn’t actually want to make a bloody mess of myself, I just didn’t feel like existing anymore.
Now, when I look back on it, I realize I would have had to been way more convicted and determined than I actually was if I really wanted to die in that apartment. I just don’t have the kind of resolve it takes to commit suicide. It’s the kind of thing that takes just that– commitment. For those of you that know me, you know that lately commitment isn’t my strongest suit.
I pulled myself together enough to call a friend, a friend who knows my propensity for darkness, and had a chat with him. I told him that I wasn’t getting out of bed until noon or later, had to force myself to get dressed and out of the house just to choke down a pain au chocolat as my daily bread. He confirmed my self-diagnosis saying, “Yep, that’s depression.”. I went on for some time talking about how everything is completely meaningless: “What’s the point? Is this really it? I’m not satisfied!” And he said that maybe the answer lies in actually making a commitment to something. “Something besides suicide, Cheri.”
I knew this was more than just my usual existential crisis when my behavior started to affect other people. I went home for Thanksgiving and I noticed that my friends and family were thoroughly turned off by my sadness. It’s not a good look for me apparently, and it makes people very uncomfortable. Instead of tolerating my doom and gloom with a light heart, there was a now lot of avoidance, a lot of changing the subject and superficial, conversational distraction tactics. I was being treated with kid gloves, and I could tell they were just waiting on the edge of their seats for what I was going to say or do next. I noticed that denial is very prevalent when it comes to the Big D. Nobody asked me what was going on inside of me, because nobody really wants to see what’s down there in the dumps. Seeing a loved one grapple with the demon of their internal tar pits, reminds us that we, too, have a tar pit of our own to reckon with.
Having said that, I think the majority of us would be kidding ourselves if we said we had never thought about escaping the endless churning of a dissatisfied heart. Or maybe, like me, fantasized about what it would be like to just not exist. Sadness, pain, grief, loneliness, purposelessness, and suffering are a part of the human experience– one that we have very little practical skill in dealing with. We have more skill in shrouding the dark and nasty bits with rays of contrived positivity. We get spooked by anyone who openly reveals a struggle with the basic day to day existence. For me, the day to day sadness had become a pattern, the pattern became a habit and the habit of being depressed became calcified and imbedded into my personality.
Before this all gets too awkward, I’ll end by saying that I realized that just because I am willing to metaphorically jump into at the bubbling, oozing black, does not mean everyone around me is ready to do the same. The more maudlin and didactic side of me is tempted to advise you to go on with your happy sunshine lives and when you are ready to meet me in the dark, I’ll be here, in my pajamas, comfortable in the sticky mess. But, as luck would have it, I’m on the upswing, climbing out of the chasm one bone at a time. I’m almost there- I just need a few more footholds; commitment, service, and gratitude.
Depression and suicide are serious issues, folks. Seek help.