Living in the Land of Anhedonia
The gray slides over me. It is neither friend nor foe. It just is. Like the autumn leaves, my edges curl in and I get as small as possible. I pull back from friends and family. I say less. I go dark. My life becomes one slow, forced choice at a time. Ah, depression, it’s you again.
When I talk about depression, I get a lot of well-meaning advice. Meditation, yoga, therapy, medication. Even in my brightest moments, I resent unsolicited advice. Medicine, in general, messes me up. I take half dosages of everything to prevent intestinal derision and buzzing in my head. I end up with half a headache, half a fever, half a cold, half pregnant (okay, maybe not the last one). Even my depression is half-assed.
For some people, this season kicks in a melancholia that eases at the first snowfall. Melancholy carries a bittersweet richness. It is, for me, a welcome feeling. It feeds my creativity, serves as fertile compost for my soul.
Where I’m at now, is neither bitter nor sweet. It is nothing. The landscape is colorless and flat, but not endless. This is where I am fortunate. I know there is an end. That it will pass. This knowing is a gift. It is my fallow time, like the fields that lay bare in anticipation of next season’s abundance.
I have a lot of friends who suffer from anxiety and depression. They work hard to find a balance of medication and therapy that makes life bearable. For some of them, it’s been years of trial and error. It’s been trial and error for me as well, except I didn’t go to the experts. I can be ridiculous that way. My experts were booze, cigarettes, bad relationships, food, shopping. Then I did the exercise, yoga, therapy thing. I learned new coping strategies. I now have a full toolbox. Which I occasionally ignore.
“Depression lies” is a mantra to remind people in the midst of disordered thinking, that they’re not hearing truth. My depression doesn’t lie. It’s just the worst spin doctor ever. Every thought is taken and turned into something that resembles the truth, with a negative twist. It’s a bad public relations consultant.
I sat through a Halloween event last night. Even on a good day, Halloween is my least favorite holiday. As a kid, while smacking into others on dark sidewalks, wearing my cardboard box/robot costume, I only wanted to go home and eat my candy. Now, as an adult, candy-eating feels like desperation. Let’s stuff those feelings down, until they feel like they might all come up at once. Yes, I’ve already purchased and eaten some of this year’s candy meant for the door. I feel sick.
Surrounded by little Elsas and grownups in Star Wars paraphernalia last night, I felt isolated and dull. My costume was that of a caring parent who delights in the laughter of children and the silliness of grownups. I wanted a drink, a smoke, a dark corner and potentially nachos. Anything not sweet. Anything that would allow me to sink into myself and be alone.
Fortunately, my brain has some off-roading neural pathways that don’t lead to self-destruction. I sent sardonic texts to friends. I watched little blue dinosaurs and witches spin around and giggle and bounce off walls. My isolation melted at the edges. A little color came into the room. I remembered all the costumes my daughter has worn over the years -a police officer, mountain climber, the ladybug, a giraffe suit that blocked her sight making her run into things, fall down and giggle. I breathed deeply.
This morning, it is apparent that the moment of color has passed and the weather has decided to agree with me. It’s rainy and gray. The irony of my dulled sensory perceptions is that we’re remodeling the kitchen. I am picking paint colors and lighting and a chef (well, in my fantasy kitchen). I’ve put it aside for the moment. I keep picking tans and grays. When I started the project, I was picking yellows and soft peach colors. Interior design seen through the lens of depression.
So I write here, hoping to let some light in, to relieve the build up of negativity, to say out loud that I know I’m depressed and that I know I’ll be okay. I’m reading a lot. I’m ignoring the phone and emails. I’m pounding nails out of old cabinets. I’m working on the darker scenes in my novel. One thing at a time, and then the next and the next, until the shadows recede and the world goes full color once again.