“And what were they anyway, sprigs of grass, things of blue? For a long time I wanted to use words, then didn’t.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey
Friday early evening, 80 degrees. Tropic Storm Andrea warning in effect.
I know. I know. The time between real posts seems to stretch on inexorably. The truth is, writing is hard at the moment. The truth is, I find myself in the midst of a major depressive episode, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many years.
If I knew, I might be able to find some kind of resolution, but there really is no why. Not really. I’m just kind of empty, kind of numb, kind of unable to string together words to form sentences, sentences to form paragraphs. Mostly, I can write about why I can’t write, and I’m not really sure what kind of post that will produce, but I thought that I’d at least try.
If you’ve never suffered from depression, you simply cannot relate. You might try to understand, but it will be hard. It’s hard enough for the person who is suffering from depression. And because it is to hard for her or for him, it is hard for anyone who might happen to be in the vicinity.
I can only say in advance, that I’m sorry.
“—You’re very poetic. —No, just sad.” ~ José Saramago, fromBlindness
I think that this started about six weeks ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that it started while Corey was still at sea. It didn’t abate once he returned home, and it (the depression) took a major hit when I held my small dog Alfie’s body in my arms as Brett dug a grave beneath his bedroom window.
In an attempt to alleviate my pain and sorrow, I convinced everyone that it was time to visit the human society from which we had adopted Tillie so that we could find a playmate for her, someone closer to her size. The reality is that it was too soon; I realize that now, but of course, it’s too late as we came home with two new dogs: a hound mix 8-week-old puppy I named Kopi, which is Indonesian for coffee (I had wanted to call her Gilly, but Tillie kept getting confused), and a 17-month-old named Jake, for Jack Kerouac (his name was Jack, but we all kept saying Jake, so that was obviously what he was supposed to be called).
You would think that the adoptions would have made some of the sadness go away, but instead, Jake reminds me of Shakes because he is an obvious mama’s boy who clings to me, and this made me think of Alfie, who was never loved enough because of Shakes, and it made me sad all over.
Add to this that the playmate we hoped Jake would be has not turned out as planned: Jake and Tillie do not get along at all; in fact, they seem to despise one another, but everyone gets along with Kopi.
And all of this has led to more guilt on my part for not waiting longer, guilt for bringing home two new pets without considering that Tillie might not like it even though we took her to the shelter with us, and she played with both of them without any problems while we were there. And of course guilt that life sucks for everyone when it sucks for mom.
“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” ~ Isaac Marion, from Warm Bodies
Depression is so insidious and unpredictable. It creeps up like a slow-moving fog, or it hits like a mighty nor’easter, all at once and unrelenting. This time, it was a bit of both. There was the gradual descent, and then the sudden appearance of a precipice. I was unprepared.
As many of you know, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers, so some of you may be confused as to why I am depressed. The truth is that there is only so much that medicine can do. The brain is a funny thing. Somewhere within mine, a switch didn’t throw all of the way, or a connection was broken, and now, there is this, this nothingness, this painful numbness.
Depression comes from the brain, but it is felt in the heart.
I try very hard not to let mine show too much, but I know that I’m not very successful in doing so. And now we have two dogs and a plus one, for whom a future is uncertain. I know that we cannot return him to the shelter; that would be too cruel, for him to live with a family, get lots of attention, have a yard in which to run and play, and then to find himself inside a cage? I couldn’t do that to my worst enemy. And so we are searching for a family that can give him love. Unsuccessfully, so far. Ideally, behavior modification would be possible, and we could live happily with all three dogs.\
Ideally . . .
“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain it must sometimes make a kind of singing.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Faint Music,” in Sun Under Wood
Outside, nature seems to be a perfect reflection of my state of mind: It is at once sunny and partly cloudy, and in the very next instant, grey with whipping winds. Who knows how intense this storm will be. We may have a fierce tropical storm or a short-lived thunderstorm, but I’m trying to pen this before everything hits and before Alexis arrives with the baby.
Even though my heart isn’t quite in it, we are taking Olivia for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night. It is going to be a task to continue to try to keep Jake and Tillie separated, try to watch over Kopi to make frequent trips outside for the potty training, and then, add to the mix the curious 11-month-old that Olivia has become, but I haven’t seen her in many days, and I miss her terribly.
Part of me thinks “to hell with it” as what’s a little more stress added to the mix, and part of me thinks this is another bad decision atop other bad decisions, and yet another part of me just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.
The air outside is like liquid as the humidity is climbing to 100 percent, and my sinuses are constricting with the climb. A smarter person would crawl into bed for the duration, but a smarter person would not have brought home two new dogs so soon after the loss of long-time pets.
If I only had a brain . . .
“I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have been dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.”—Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Wall
It all goes back to my first section: Why?
I read an interesting piece about Stephen Fry, who I love in every single thing he does. Apparently, while working on a project in 2012, he had a major episode and attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills with vodka. Fry, who suffers from bipolar disease, described it better than I could, although I must emphasize that I am in no way feeling suicidal:
“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”
I mention this only because of Fry’s phrasing that there is no reason, and while he may have been talking about someone who is thinking about committing suicide, I apply the words to my own depressive episodes: There is no reason. Sometimes there is, but more often than not, there just isn’t. And so people on the outside sometimes think reductively, as in, “it’s all in her head,” and funnily enough, it is—in a way.
I’ll try to put together another post in the next few days, and maybe by then I’ll be able to express myself a bit more cogently, until then,
Image theme: Blues
Music by S. Carey, “In the Stream”
The Truth the Dead Know
For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
“When it hurts we return to the banks of certain rivers.” ~ Czeslaw Milosz, from “Bobo’s Metamorphosis”
Corey and I have been watching “River Monsters,” which has made me think a lot about water, flowing water, river water, water of life . . .
“So lasting they are, the rivers!” Only think. Sources somewhere in the mountains pulsate and springs seep from a rock, join in a stream, in the current of a river, and the river flows through centuries, millennia. Tribes, nations pass, and the river is still there, and yet it is not, for water does not stay the same, only the place and the name persist, as a metaphor for a permanent form and changing matter. The same rivers flowed in Europe when none of today’s countries existed and no languages known to us were spoken. It is in the names of rivers that traces of lost tribes survive. They lived, though, so long ago that nothing is certain and scholars make guesses which to other scholars seem unfounded. It is not even known how many of these names come from before the Indo-European invasion, which is estimated to have taken place two thousand to three thousand years B. C. Our civilization poisoned river waters, and their contamination acquires a powerful emotional meaning. As the course of a river is a symbol of time, we are inclined to think of a poisoned time. And yet the sources continue to gush and we believe time will be purified one day. I am a worshipper of flowing and would like to entrust my sins to the waters, let them be carried to the sea.
NOTE: For some reason, WordPress keeps deleting the images that I have put in this post. I will try to reupload later because this is driving me crazy………..Later: Seems to be a Ghostery problem…………
“After all these years, I am still involved in the process of self-discovery. It’s better to explore life and make mistakes than to play it safe. Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life.” ~ Sophia Loren
Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and humid. Pending storms. High 70’s.
Very strange day emotionally. I have had an epiphany, a very unwanted epiphany: I have closed off my heart. I did not realize just how much until today. I mean, I knew that I was deliberately not allowing myself to feel things so as to not let myself become too wounded by Corey’s absence, but then I realized that in so doing, I have put up a wall. I can only hope that it is a wall that I can take down as easily as I erected it.
I have done this before, of course, put up walls so as not to get hurt. I know that before Corey and after the ex, in that in-between time, I deliberately did not let myself feel too much, which is why I was taken quite by surprise when I began to feel emotions towards Corey.
Part of me thinks that my efforts not to feel too much have arisen in part because he is so emotional right now—an attempt at balance in the universe, I suppose. However, that rationale only goes so far.
I don’t like feeling like this, or rather, feeling little if anything too keenly. It’s a very hollow sort of state in which to find myself.
“Can you understand being alone so long you would go out in the middle of the night and put a bucket into the well so you could feel something down there tug at the other end of the rope?” ~ Jack Gilbert, “The Abandoned Valley”
Don’t misunderstand. This feeling nothing does not meal that I don’t feel anything. Rather, I am trying to feel only the minimal, as if my heart is rationing just how much it can hold in this interim between his going and coming. Did I send my heart with him when he left? Possibly. If only it were that simple or that obtuse.
If I revert to that state in which I placed my emotions in a kind of stasis, if I go back to that state in which I cloaked myself in a kind of thick emotional armor, will I be able to make it through, and more importantly, will I be able to discard this armor upon his return?
After my ex and I separated, at first I was in a state of hyper emotions, fancying myself in love with anyone who paid me passing attention. It was a very manic phase, which I realize now. I wasn’t in love with anyone, but I was starved, completely starved for attention, so I made bad decisions in my attempts to sate that hunger. It was a short-lived, temporary state, and I was able to pull myself out of it mostly because I worked all of the time and had very little time for personal reflection. I was in survival mode: single parenting, working 60 hours a week, split in so many directions that looking for any kind of balm for my heart was only done wistfully and with little to no effort.
What was the point?
So I muddled along alone except for my children and my friends, and I was fine. I had no desire for personal complications, having made my life far too complicated once upon a time.
And then he came along, and everything changed, and I had to let go of my fear and let down my guard. A line from Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” (my anthem) immediately comes to mind: “So afraid to love you, more afraid to lose, clinging to a past that doesn’t let me choose.” It might seem trite, but it is so accurate.
“And I should mention the light which falls through the big windows this time of day italicizing everything it touches . . .” ~ Billy Collins, from “Ballistics”
So today I came to the realization that my heart it cocooned? Asleep? Bereft? All of them?
The last time he was gone, I counted the days. This time, I have deliberately not paid attention to the calendar. I don’t know how many days he has been gone, and I only know that he will be back in port here some time at the end of the month. It’s September, and August is a complete blur. I honestly don’t remember the date on which he departed.
But why does it have to be this way? Why must I be too keenly aware or unaware, one or the other? Stasis. Now that’s a concept with which I am totally unfamiliar.
Okay, let’s back up.
I have known for most of my life that I exist between two poles: high or low. I have never been able to coast comfortably in the middle. Never, and I mean never. Even as a child it was one or the other. But as a child, it was much simpler. If I was in a lull, I would simply stay inside and read. The headaches hadn’t appeared yet, and I could read and read and read and simply close out everything else.
I have a keen memory of being in high school psychology, and the teacher was talking about manic depression (the old term for bipolar), and I thought to myself, “Wow. That’s me. That’s completely me. Happy one minute, and crying the next.” Now I know that a lot of people hear about a disease or disorder and immediately have the symptoms. That’s not what I’m talking about here. When I heard about this psychological disorder, I felt such a sense of relief. Other people felt this way too. It wasn’t just me, and it wasn’t just growing pains. There was a name for what was wrong with me.
But of course, mine was not a home in which such things were discussed, at least not then, and I hid this knowledge from my mother and father. It wasn’t until I was an undergraduate that I actually approached the idea of counseling, and then it was at the free counseling center on campus. Real treatment did not come until years later. I lived with my extreme highs and lows, and I did it while married to a man who cannot abide any kind of illness, viewing it as a weakness.
“This is the moment in which we live. Alienated, unmoored, we seek our salvation, one by one, from the artist who brings us the comforting news: I see you. I weep when you weep. The mystery, and the miracle, is that you exist.” ~ Francine Prose
And I survived, but only just.
Then the long trial with medication began, and it took years to finally find one that actually helped, that allowed me to be more even, to sleep, to have my mind not racing all night long. But even with medication, then and now, the highs and lows still came, only more controlled, less acute, allowing me to have a life that was on a more even keel, even if I did list one way or the other at times.
Have I ever told you that I thought about dropping out of college when I was a sophomore? Yep, actually considered it as a real life choice. Stopped going to classes for a few weeks. Made all C’s one semester. I cannot remember why I thought this was the right things for me, just remember it happening. Why mention this?
Only because it is yet one more indicator of how my life has gone from one extreme to another.
How did I get here, in life, in this post? Hell if I know. It seems that I have been searching forever—searching for the right career, the right person, the right time, the right major, the right circumstances—to do what exactly? Go to graduate school? Apply for a job? Move? End my marriage? Date again? Remarry? Have another child? Get my doctorate? Write that book? Write that book? Write that book?
You get the point.
“Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances . . . There are moments when the body is as numinous as words, days that are the good flesh continuing. Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings, saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Meditation at Lagunitas”
So many questions, so few answers.
I need . . . mountain air, a running stream, the smell of fallen leaves and loam. I need not to be here, not to feel this way, not to always be wondering.
Another moment of truth: I’ve been waiting for the right time to move, and now I don’t know if it will ever come. Now that Olivia is here, can I leave here? How can I not leave here and still be true to myself? Of course, the desire to move is purely selfish, but I just don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this house, in this city, in this state, even in this country. I still want to spend some time in Ireland, some time in Australia or New Zealand, some time in Oregon.
The means to travel, wouldn’t that be nice? The wherewithal to make a plan and stick with it, wouldn’t that be a change?
Waiting, still waiting, mostly for myself, for my soul to finally say, “Enough! Enough of this blathering. Do something, already.”
Veronica, I know what your mean about mojo. Mine has taken an extended holiday.
More later. Peace.
Music by Radiohead, “Street Spirit”
for women who are difficult to love
you are a horse running alone
and he tries to tame you
compares you to an impossible highway
to a burning house
says you are blinding him
that he could never leave you
want anything but you
you dizzy him, you are unbearable
every woman before or after you
is doused in your name
you fill his mouth
his teeth ache with memory of taste
his body just a long shadow seeking yours
but you are always too intense
frightening in the way you want him
unashamed and sacrificial
he tells you that no man can live up to the one who
lives in your head
and you tried to change didn’t you?
closed your mouth more
tried to be softer
less volatile, less awake
but even when sleeping you could feel
him travelling away from you in his dreams
so what did you want to do love
split his head open?
you can’t make homes out of human beings
someone should have already told you that
and if he wants to leave
then let him leave
you are terrifying
and strange and beautiful
something not everyone knows how to love.