So the truth is, about a month ago, I was pretty depressed. I hated most things about myself, including my toes and other things I usually like. I was almost positive it was only a matter of weeks before all of my friends stopped talking to me. Everything felt overwhelming, including loading the dishwasher. I had a panic attack that lasted for HOURS. For two days, I lay on the couch watching Hulu, and feeling like if I moved, my fragile life might shatter into tiny fragments that would then embed themselves in the soles of my feet and cause infections. I didn’t really write about it, then, because I was embarrassed. And also because I was willing to bet that I’d never feel like writing again.
I am writing about it now in order to send an important message to myself and other people: you shouldn’t be embarrassed.
I don’t know what caused the depression (lots and lots of little things building up?). It fell on me, like a heavy piece of old furniture that’s been looming there in the corner for way too long, but no one wants to try to move it. It became immediately clear that I was terrible. That I had failed at everything. That I would continue to fail at everything, forever. There was all this math involved. And for the first time in my life, I understood it perfectly.
Everything in the world=nothing. It sucks.
My goals+ my age + the chubbiness of my arms – irrelevant things I’m good at like cooking gumbo (the impressive accomplishments of everyone else)= I suck
My pathetic, scrabbling efforts to make something of my life X my utter lack of valuable skills/knowledge= yeah, the same thing. Sucking.
The things I should do before I think about having a baby+ the things I really want to do before I have a baby+the things I’m afraid I won’t be able to do after I have a baby(my total naivete about what it’s like to have a baby and what one is able to do and not do at that point)- the amount of time I have before I am no longer able to have a baby(the number of babies I might want to have if greater than 1)= sucking now and then sucking later, at being a mom, because I failed to get my stuff together before I had kids.
A pattern emerged through the fog of complicated equations. A simple, elegant pattern, that to the mathematical mind might have even been considered beautiful, for all its terribleness.
(the piece of furniture that fell on me. source)
And as I was hating myself, from the depths of the depression, I also felt crushingly guilty. Which then got mixed in with the hatred and the need to stare blankly at the screen of my laptop as the guys in Hot Tub Time Machine ran around trying to hit on girls while drunk in a ski lodge from the 80s. (How could that possibly be helpful?)
I have everything. I could list everything here, but it’d be really long. Summary: I have Bear, who I unironically, effortlessly believe to be my soulmate. I get to write ALL THE TIME, and writing is my favorite thing to do/I get paid to do things I love. I’m close with my family and they’re cool. I’m living in New York City, which is awesome. I am really not that bad looking. So what the hell?
Inevitable conclusion: I might be a bad egg.
I might just be biologically ill-suited for happiness. I might be a genetic mistake. I might be an accidental quirk resulting in an unfortunate and untenable set of neurological processes. What if I am never able to enjoy life the way normal people do? What if I’m constructed to self-destruct? Why are my brothers so normal and healthy? Why am I whining so much? Because! Because you’re destined to whine! Because you are broken!
I was sure I was a bad egg. Anyone else in my position would never be depressed. Anyone else in my position would have thin, graceful arms and a big white smile and a sunny disposition. When she got moody, for a few minutes, it would be because of her period. And then she’d perk right up again and go out to buy ingredients for the gumbo she was so proud of perfecting. The gumbo she’d INVENTED, by the way. With collard greens. And sausage.
(me, as I should be. note the arm. source)
Bear was sad. He didn’t know what to do about me. I was staring into space. I was nodding a lot without verbal elaboration. Nothing worked.
One day, he was trying to comfort me, and he pulled me onto his lap at the table. I stood up, picked up a glass, and threw it at the wall. I think I said, “No.” He held me for another minute, then went to get the vacuum.
That night, I told him everything.
“I’m depressed,” I said. “I’m scared.” I told him about being a bad egg. About failing at everything. About not making enough money and not being a big enough success. About being dumb enough to think I could follow my dreams. About being guilty for having everything and being thankful for nothing. I talked for a long time. I was using all of these mindless common phrases like “follow my dreams,” because I couldn’t think of a better way to say things. It was incredibly embarrassing. So I said that too. “This is humiliating,” I said, often. “This isn’t about you,” I said a lot, employing the mindless common phrase, because I didn’t want him to think that any of it was his fault. Because often when I am sad, Bear thinks that what is really happening is that he is failing to make me happy.
But he just listened. And then he said if I never accomplished anything, that would be totally fine. He really didn’t care. But that I needed to stop being so mean to myself.
I talked to a few friends. I told them I was depressed. I told them I was a bad egg and I was guilty. I felt like I was confessing.
They told me about the times they’d been depressed. The years they’d been on medication. The times they thought their lives were over. They told me I had plenty of time to succeed, and that maybe I’d succeed in unexpected ways. That people succeed (in both expected and unexpected ways) even after they have babies. Maybe I should stop trying to control myself so strictly. Maybe I should stop being so mean to myself.
And then one day soon after all that, I didn’t feel depressed anymore. As though someone– actually, I think it was Bear and the friends I talked to– had heaved that stupid old piece of furniture off me, and I was free to move again. I sat up and shook my head a few times. I was suspicious and wary. What had happened? I waited for the darkness to come crashing back down. It didn’t. Days went by and it didn’t.
It still hasn’t.
It’s seeped back, around the edges, some days. But that’s all.
Maybe it’s a trick. Maybe it’s waiting for the moment when I least expect it. But I kind of think that maybe I did something to it. Maybe when I admitted that I was a mess, that I was falling apart, something shifted. I faced the darkness. I claimed it, instead of just letting it sit there on top of me. I said aloud the worst things I thought about myself, and admitted to the worst things I could feel. And, almost like life is secretly something out of a fantasy series where there is magic and evil curses and corsets that make your boobs look amazing but are also somehow comfortable and no one ever has to poop, the darkness lost its power over me, and subsided.
(i would wear this one. source)
These days I’m making a lot of gumbo.
I’m looking over my shoulder a lot, too. I don’t think it’s done with me. But I won this one. And this was the worst one.
And I just shared it on the internet. So I’m hoping that will count for something, too.
And guys, Hot Tub Time Machine is not a good movie, even when you’re in a state of mental perfection. In case you were wondering. Since I’m pretty sure you were.
* * *
Not that I’m just making you make me feel less alone, like I’ve totally done before, but because I always like to hear about your experiences (and OK, it’s cool to feel less alone), tell me a bad egg story! Did you ever think you might be one? Or have you never felt like this and can share your secret with the world so that we can all copy you?
Unroast: Today I love my breasts. They’re comforting.