I went to my GP recently because the goblin that lurks in my lower back has woken from sleep, and I need a referral before I can see a physical therapist. The nurse practitioner has asked if I take any medication, and I tell her Excedrin and Welbutrin.
“And why are you taking the Welbutrin?” she asks. I hesitate, then say, “I’ve been having trouble adjusting, feeling lonely and homesick.” I see her hesitate and then she types “depressed” into my computerized chart (side effect of digitizing medical records: those of us who can read upside down and spell as you type know what you’re saying about us). I felt a flash of annoyance, because I’ve been resisting the term “depression” for months, because “depression” is not what I said, and she should ask before rephrasing my words. Depression isn’t my problem, it’s my symptom. Because I know people with depression, and because I’ve known people who have committed suicide because of long-term, unbreaking depression, and that’s not what I have.
Dammit, it’s not.
At least, until recently it wasn’t. The water rose, I guess. Before it was low enough that sometimes I could forget I was in it, but now it’s pressing against my chest and lapping into my ears, and it hurts to slog through.
Now there’s a cat perched in the back of my throat, twitching its tail, swiping at words before they can escape, grabbing them, pulling them back down, stuffing them back. Sometimes I talk in spite of him, but he’s always there.
Now there’s my aerobics class, which I’m taking in an attempt to drive away the goblin in my lower back, full of enthusiastic people exercising and getting their heart rates up, and I’m trying to engage in it, I need the exercise, but each step feels like a lie. My body moves in spite of me. My mind is elsewhere. I stand at the back and hope that nobody notices how unenthusiastic I am, because then I’ll have to explain that this is as enthusiastic as I can be right now.
I’m the ghost that sits in the back of class and then slips away as soon as the class is over.
Now there’s timetables that I can’t keep, because hours are slippery and abstract things. Now there’s classes I’m behind in and papers I have to care about writing.
Now there’s the unutterable frustration of knowing that the reason I’m failing is not because the work is hard, but because moving is hard, because schedules fall through my mind like water through a sieve, because I can’t even remember to go to the grocery, let alone remember that form that needs filing.
Now there’s Law & Order: SVU or Firefly, left running on my computer, because if I allow the silence to sink in around my ears I’ll cry instead of sleeping.
Before, I was depressed but I was looking for ways out of it. You just moved here, I’d tell myself. You just need to adapt. Friends told me that being homesick was entirely normal. It takes awhile to find friends. I don’t make friends easily, I tried to be patient with myself. But it’s been a year, and I’m still just as isolated as I was a year ago. So I give up. Let me just finish this program and go back to Denver. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve learned about being adventurous not paying off.
I’m not looking for a way out. This is how it is. I just need to get used to it.
When I was in high school and depressed, it made me want to scratch myself out of my skin, to peel back my flesh with cigarettes. It made me want to batter my way through brick walls.
Now I just want to sleep.
I guess on the one hand I’m lucky that I’m not processing my depression by hurting myself, by drinking too much, by driving too fast, by thinking about jumping in front of a train. But then again, the people who obliterate their moods with alcohol are at least trying to proactively combat their situation. I’m not. I’m just wallowing. Or I’m stuck. When you’re standing on your tip toes, the water washing into your ears, how do you shift your weight to start to walk to shallower water? Especially when you’re sure that if you lose your footing, you won’t float, but will sink like a rock?
How do I explain myself to my professors? “I’m sorry I didn’t write that paper, I was sad.” That is not a valid reason that anyone should accept, least of all me.
What was the music I listened to as a teenager to feel better? I can’t find it.
When’s the last time I sat and enjoyed the sunshine?
When’s the last time I wasn’t pathetic and needy and insecure?
And if this is how I feel when I’m on anti-depressants…well, crap.