In the course of my writing this whatever-it-is, I read through other things I had written over the years, stories and blogs and journal entries, and anxiety and depression always seems to be an underlying theme. It's not the center of my life by any means, most of the time I barely think about it at all, but it is always there, humming somewhere in the background.
I found this old blog entry from my second year in Israel, after I went off Paxil for the second time. I removed it from my blog the very next day, when I realized how despairing it sounded and that, um, people I KNOW were reading it, but it so clearly explains how I feel on the really bad days. I've been free of this feeling for a year, and like a person recently recovered from illness, I've forgotten what it felt like to be sick. I can't explain it when I'm healthy, it all seems so abstract. But today I can, today I remember. Here, for your perusal, before it ends up in my book, which it inevitably will I'm sure:
January 15, 2005
This morning I started crying over breakfast. Luise and Tammy and I were sitting around the table, innocently eating toast, and suddenly tears were rolling down my cheeks. I was talking about something mundane--the lines in the grocery store, the paper Luise has to write--and there they were, all these tears without reason. And so I know: I am here again.
I hate the stupid metaphors I have to use to describe what it feels like when you know you are entering into depression. I hate the words sinking and stagnant and slipping away. I hate the fact that I have to use them at all, have to try and make sense of something so utterly ridiculous, so completely unwelcome.
I used to be, in some small immature way, proud to be the kind of emotionally unstable person who suffers--oh how I suffered! When I was eighteen, I felt that it put me in league with the greatest creative minds in history, as if by having a touch of madness in myself, I had the potential to become any one of them. You start to coddle your own unique little agony, that piece of you that makes you different from all the dull masses of simple people who don't know what it means to truly feel anything. You start to use phrases like falling into darkness or sinking into despair. Having such grandiose expressions attributed to you makes you feel so unbearably special and important.
But after a while, when it finally becomes clear how unromantic, how utterly inconvenient it is to be really depressed--when you're not sad, or down, or blue, when you're just paralyzed, and helpless, and disconnected from everything around you. I don't understand things when I'm depressed. I can't make sense of numbers, facial expressions, how my feet keep moving, one after the other, on the sidewalk when I walk (When did I start walking? When did I leave home?) I can't match up emotions to events--am I sad because we got in a fight, or because when the teacher erased the board, tiny flecks of red pen remained there? Both things suddenly carry equal weight, bring equal distress.
This is what it is like to be me: I know myself so well, have spent so much time wandering around in my brain, critically accepting and rejecting parts of me, changing what I don't like, allowing myself a little pride for the things that I do, analyzing my emotions and motivations and hopes and hurts and longings to the point where whatever life gives me, I will know who I am. But this is when I am normal, when my brain is firing straight and even and I struggle only with the everyday problems of life. The trouble is this: at the first hint of something long-forgotten coming back to reclaim me, I lose it all. It comes up on me so slowly, playing a little game of advance and retreat, so that finally, when it strikes for good, over toast and coffee, I am caught completely off guard, and everything I thought I knew about myself vanishes in an instant.
I guess I write to find it again. I write because I am so tired of this. It does not make me special, or creative, or even interesting. It is trite, it is common, it bores me to tears. I write because I am so angry. With every year that passes I can see myself growing, changing, becoming the person I want to be--and all of it comes to nothing when I'm up against a few rogue chemicals. I write because oftentimes only words and reason can bring me back, only they can make me feel slightly normal when I am suddenly overcome by an almost physical sensation of hopelessness. I am in the thick of this right now. It woke me up at six in the morning, grabbed me mid-dream by the chest, sucked me up through layers of subconscious, and finally pulled me back into reality, only to fill me with irrational panic and fear and sadness. And now I want only to curl up into sleep again, shut down for a while, or run away.