No, no, no.
My husband rolls over and smiles at me; I force myself not to slap him. Who does he think he is, smiling at me like that at 6:30 in the goddamn morning?
The dogs bark and whine to be let out. I hate them. I hate everyone and everything.
What is happening to me? Why do I feel like this? How can I make it stop?
I get in the shower and stare at the water running down the drain. I get out and don’t even have the energy to put on clothes. I lay down in my office in my towel with the door locked, hair soaking wet, contemplating the long grey hours of the day that stretch out ahead of me.
Do other people feel this way?
Depression—it’s like a band of termites, swarming my insides, riddling me with holes, breaking down my internal structure, leaving me empty.
The stupid thing is, I have no reason to be depressed. I have a great life. I am blessed.
But still, the termites come.
I know enough at this point to know that no matter what antidepressants I take, no matter how much yoga and meditation I do, or roses I stop and smell, or glasses of wine I drink, or vacations I book or any of the other things that are supposed to make me feel—finally—better, there will be times when none of them work.
Not even close.
Those are the times that frighten me. I become a juggernaut unto myself, casting shadows that are long and dense across my own path and the path of everyone who has the misfortune of being close to me, unable to diffuse the darkness or soften it in any way.
Usually I try to operate “as if.” I don’t remember where I heard that sage counsel—probably in some cheesy advice column—but it’s pretty good as far as that kind of thing goes.
For example, if I don’t want to teach yoga today (much less move from the mound of blankets in which I have entombed myself, inside a shuttered room with the phone silenced), I can still act “as if” I do. Before I know it, I’ve shaken off the demons and all is well again.
But when I go through hour after hour, and the hours stretch into days, where the acting remains just that—acting—and the reality is I can barely stand the thought of uttering a single word, much less leading a whole sun salutation, I begin to lose hope.
I say the same mantras to myself over and over: “This too shall pass,” “Breathe,” “I am not my thoughts or emotions,” “I will not dishonor my soul with anger,” but they are just dead sounds dropping like so many pieces of gravel kicked disconsolately off a tar papered roof.
Should I ask for help? But who could help me? What could they do?
I imagine I am lying in a soft bed next to an imaginary someone, someone who isn’t threatened or hurt by my pain. I can absorb this person’s energy without draining them; it is like the sun, endless, renewable. I close my eyes and feel the solid heat of my companion. I feel the blocks of ice inside me unstick, loosen, and start to jostle against each other in my icy veins.
If I can rest here for a while, I will be alright.
Maybe I can be my own imaginary someone. If I could split myself in two and be the sun to my shadow, perhaps I could unlock the secret of the darkness. From deep inside I could search out a tiny point of light, somewhere, it has to be in there somewhere, and I could use this light to project a whole other version of me.
This second me would be insubstantial at first, a see-through image like a faded hologram, but she would grow in strength. She and I would lay side by side, and I’d notice her electric blood sparking and firing beneath her luminous transparent skin.
From inside her I would hear a high pitched buzzing, like a radio station that can’t quite be tuned in, but which contains a well loved song behind the static. Her entire body would vibrate and where we touched—our fingers brushing lightly—a static shock would pop against my cold, damp hands, leaving a rosy mark behind—a small circle of flushed aliveness.
If I lay there long enough and still enough, like a hunter in his blind, perhaps I could coax her to move a little closer. To inch toward me, to bleed into me, and finally to fit snugly inside, crossing live wires to dead, jolting me vigorously enough that I can feel my spirit once again.
With this other girl inside me, I could stand, perhaps still flickering like a light-bulb just before it burns out, but lit. I could move and talk and eat and sleep, and no one would be able to tell it wasn’t quite me, not the me they know anyhow.
When depression strikes, will I even have the wits to call upon this irradiated phantom to try and help me plug back in?
l send this missive out to myself as a reminder—whatever I need to do to see the light inside, I should do. Because it is always there, no matter how flat and unforgiving the winding hollows of my soul seem to be.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Travis May
Photo: Wiki Commons