I’ve just read an article by Abby Norman on Medium called Teach Me How to Feel. It’s one of several ones I’ve read lately that make me feel a little less alone in my struggles. Not less alone in the world physically, but less alone in knowing that depression causes awful pain and suicidal feelings, and that the antidepressants doctors prescribe can shadow you into a shell of yourself that you barely recognize and sometimes despise.
I would include a link to Ms. Norman’s piece for those who would be interested, if I knew how, but Medium is, so far, a strange little place on the web, a strange little club of sorts that I don’t quite understand and don’t think its creators understand yet. I don’t care about explaining Medium’s whys, whats, and wheres. I don’t know yet if I even want to belong there, but I got an invitation a long while ago (marketing ploy, I now understand), so I belong well enough for them to send me reading suggestions. Ms. Norman wrote about the thing I’ve been wanting to write about and trying to share with my friends in these past few months of waking up. She wrote about it so well that I’m resisting the urge to copy large blocks of her piece right here. We all know how wrong that would be.
If I want to say something about depression, I have to write about my own. It’s as similar as all deep bouts of depression are. It’s as different as they all inevitably are. I used to take solace in the fact that I could kill myself if my mental pain got any worse. The closer I got to it, the calmer I felt until the realist in me really understood what it would do to my daughter and my sister, my closest family. There were times when I called myself a coward because I couldn’t leave my daughter that way. I’ve said that to myself lots of times. “You fucking coward.”
A doctor prescribed an antidepressant when my cancer diagnosis came in. I had tried a couple before then, but they always stopped working for me. Cancer was like the ultimate iron rod stuck in the gear. I was in no position to resist trying something new to ease the pain. This new medication pushed me farther away from myself than the others had. It made having to pee my ultimate motivation for getting out of bed. The doctor said it was working because suicide wasn’t foremost on my mind anymore. My writing seemed to slip away before the date came for my surgery.
Knowing I wasn’t allowed to have reconstructive surgery because my insurance wouldn’t pay for it made me feel useless. Our money-based society makes me feel useless. Doctors inadvertently make me feel more useless.
“You have to get out and do things.”
“I don’t get out and do things because things to do aren’t close and I don’t have the $2.00 to get on the bus and the $2.00 to get back.”
“You need to get out and see friends.”
“My friends are in other states, and another country.”
“You need to get out and make new friends.”
That’s when I agree with them, usually in tears, in order to stop what feels like an onslaught, not only because of my lack of money, but probably because of the depression.
“You have to get regular exercise.”
“I try. I know how, but I have so much trouble getting started. I didn’t use to have so much trouble getting started.”
“Just do it.”
“The medication makes it so hard to just start.”
“That’s not really true. There’ve been studies.”
“You should get back to your writing. It’s what you want to do, right.”
“I want to.”
“Then start. Just do it.”
“The medication makes it so slow, so hard. I have trouble getting ideas out of my head and onto the paper.”
“I’ve begun a million times.”
I’ve been writing the last few months because I ran out of the meds around Christmas, and I don’t want to find a doctor I like and then have to change again on June 1st because my insurance and my medical providers parted ways. I can go back to where I was reasonably comfortable and where my records are on June 1st. But really what’s worse? Me feeling so much pain but actually able do the work of writing? Or me walking through jello, anesthetized and reaching for words that slip away behind thoughts of inadequacy as a writer, as a friend, as a person, as a mother?
I’m not sure how well this all communicates. It just feels like more than enough for now, for anyone who wants to read it. It didn’t come out the way I wanted, but I don’t want to edit the heart out of it and I don’t want to read it over again. It’s true and it’s not me holding the important part inside like I usually do. For now, that may be all that matters.