Sometimes I find the words to offer you a glimpse of where I’m at, but usually my words are inadequate. Other times I withdraw, sinking deep inside of myself, and then the words don’t come at all. And still sometimes, I lash out.
This is not how I want to be.
This is not how I want to be with you.
So I am sitting quietly, trying to get this all down, to tell you everything I want you to know. It will not be perfect, but it will be real. It will be the best snapshot I can give you of where I’m at right now:
I didn’t choose this. No one would choose to feel this way, I promise you. It’s part of my brain chemistry, my DNA, along with a thousand other things about me that you love or that frustrate you. My eye color, my long fingers, my depression. So please know that though it might not seem like I’m doing enough to lift myself out of this, I’m not choosing depression. It chose me.
Please be gentle with me. I know I look the same, but inside, I don’t feel like me. Or rather I feel like the most uncomfortable edges of me; right now, I am made of all doubt and fear. I feel so—so fragile. I know this is hard for you too, but please don’t withdraw. Please don’t turn your anger toward me. Do take care of yourself—talk to someone who can listen. Tell them how hard it is.
I can’t think of much besides my own pain right now. This is one of the most devious parts of depression—it’s so selfish. The reason I’m acting selfish is because I’m in constant emotional pain. Imagine your leg was broken, your bones in shards, full of stabbing pain. When we’re in physical pain, it’s hard to think of much else. It’s the same way with emotional pain. My mind chases its own tail, coming back to the same stuck place over and over. I can’t stop thinking about how much I hurt, because I just hurt so damned much.
You don’t have to fix me. I know when we see someone we love suffering, we want to stop it. But you can’t. You can’t fix me. I’m not sure even I can fix me. Some mystery of time and medication, of self-care and chemistry will see me out of this. What I need from you is your patience—your love. I need walks with you in the sunlight. I need to sit with you and watch something funny, so that I can hear the sound of us both laughing, to remember the vibration of joy.
Pick up some of the slack. It’s not fair, and I hate to ask you, and I’m sorry. It’s just like when one of us has the flu and the other is left to pick up some of the extra work—I need you to take the kids so I can go to yoga or nap. I need you to do a few more dishes. I need you.
I am so scared. I know rationally that this dark period will end, and sometime—hopefully soon—I’ll feel more like myself again. But right now I’m so scared. I’m scared that this will be the time I won’t be able to claw myself out. I’m scared that the further down I sink, the longer the climb back up will be. Please know this about me—I am like a scared child in the dark who’s convinced herself there’s a monster in the closet. But instead of the closet, the monster is inside me. And I’m terrified.
Please be patient. I have always said that having depression is like being nearsighted. Everything is blurry, distorted, shapeless. I can’t see clearly right now. But I have been here before, and I will probably be here again. And I know it will shift. Maybe it will happen as quickly as we’d like, and I will wake up tomorrow feeling settled and clear-eyed and smiling. Maybe it will take time, and my vision will return in increments, painfully slow but steady. But I do know it will return. And the calm, clear center of me will reemerge. I can feel it now, just below the surface. Waiting.
Author: Lynn Shattuck
Editors: Catherine Monkman; Yoli Ramazzina