My husband says, “You okay? You look… defeated.”

Interesting, because I’ve put no small amount of effort into maintaining what I thought was a neutral expression. I almost say that I’m fine, just tired I guess, but then I hear myself say, “I feel defeated.”

“Why?”

I don’t answer him, because I don’t know how to explain out loud, and so he does what he always does: he guesses.

“Is it book stuff? Your third book is coming out soon, right? Are you stressed?”

YES! I SHOULD BE STRESSED ABOUT WRITING! YES!! THAT WOULD MAKE SO MUCH SENSE!

I am not stressed about writing. I am stressed about everything.

I tell my husband, “I just can’t seem to catch it all.” I hope these eight words convey the whole of what I feel. I don’t think they do, though.

Couldn’t I do better if I really wanted to? If I really put my mind to it, couldn’t I “catch it all”? In the past I have proven myself smart, energetic, tenacious, capable of astounding productivity. I used to catch everything.

I’m going to write about being inexplicably sad, now. I should write something funny and charming and irreverent, something that clues people in to my cleverness without also giving the idea that I’m self-absorbed. Something that quirkily abandons pretense, har-har. But lately, when I picture myself being honest with people, there isn’t anything appealing about that picture. Lately, honesty on me looks a lot like that old Debbie Downer character from Saturday Night Live. “Did you know that feline AIDS is the number one killer of domestic cats?” WOMP WOMMMMMMP.

Only an ungrateful loser could manage to be unhappy in the life I live. I’ve published two moderately successful and really quite highly rated books. We just moved into my dreamhouse, my children are mostly perfect, and my husband is so awesome he ought to be cloned so that other ladies can have a piece. WTF is my problem? It’s as though my life is so pleasant that I’m bored by it. Somebody, please, push me down a flight of stairs.

I don’t want to get messages from people telling me they’ve been there, or that I’m brave, or that depression lies. I don’t want to sift through those messages and experience that bittersweet human connectivity, that little blip of commiserative comfort that is a pale shadow of contentment. I don’t want to nestle down into this, make it my “thing.” Nobody wants depression to be their “thing.”

It’s not the books, dear husband. It’s not you. It’s not our lives together, not anything you did or didn’t do, not anything the kids did or didn’t do. I just fell apart a little. I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up, ha ha ha, like that Life Alert commercial from the ‘90s. I wish I could press a button and someone would come lift me by the armpits and plunk me back on my feet again.

When I think of what real, blissful, easy joy feels like, I cry. Because I know. I remember what it feels like. I know I am supposed to be feeling it. Why can’t I? This is called… there is a name for this, a name I know but can’t remember because one of the things depression does is steal your intelligence. It saturates your brain in the wrong chemicals and makes you slow. Like when you go out in freezing temperatures and all your blood pools around your vital organs and leaves your hands all hollow and useless. I’m using all my mental energy on going through the motions, trying as hard as I can to enjoy the enjoyable. But I am still present enough to know that watching myself do all the right things from over my own shoulder is not an ideal way to move through life.

What is that word? It’s not apathy… what is it? I won’t let myself look it up. It’s the opposite of joy… guiltless joy… sinful joy… hedonism… okay, I remember: anhedonia. The inability to enjoy activities which you previously found enjoyable.

What do I enjoy?

My children are gifts, and so is my husband. My life is outrageously wonderful.

I did not answer the question. If I were talking to a therapist, she would restate the question or otherwise manipulate me into answering it.

What do I enjoy?

The other day, I went for a run (endorphins!) while listening to the Audible version of Stephen King’s IT. It was late in the book, and there was this triumphant moment, some big climax in the plot, a courageous act by one of the kids, and I pumped my fist in the air and increased my speed a little. For that moment, high on endorphins and fantastic literature, I felt connected to goodness and truth. There was an Easter egg in there too, King referred to one of the kids as a Gunslinger, like in his Dark Tower series, I felt proud of myself for catching that one. I never know what I will remember or notice these days. I can’t be trusted to be quick-witted anymore. My mind is bathing in the wrong chemicals, I keep forgetting things, keep repeating myself, keep misspelling simple words. I have accused myself of having early-onset Alzheimer’s. Maybe I do, but the more likely culprit is depression. Anyway, I enjoyed that endorphin-filled moment, running and listening to that book.

I made a mistake the other day, some little slip with something on my website. One of many slips though, the hundredth or eight hundredth slip, the final straw of slips, the final damning bit of evidence to prove my mind is a fetid wasteland. And then I slipped again… and told a friend about the mistake, how it made me feel. How it really made me feel. And once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. It isn’t just that I made a mistake, I told her. It’s that I do nothing but make mistakes. It’s that I used to be smart and now am not, or never was smart and only deluded myself into thinking I was, and now I am lucid enough to notice the frequency of my errors or maybe I’ve just slipped into a goopy kind of mental slovenliness that makes my errors so egregious they’re impossible to miss.

I was not upset about the one mistake. I was upset about the many—that their sum is proof that something has always been wrong with me or has recently gone very wrong. These mistakes are proof that I can’t be counted on, that I am stupid, that every success to this point has been a fluke. That mistake and all the ones before it negate every positive review, every kind word, every Kristen, you’re a genius. People are either unintentionally dishonest in their kindness or I have done a better-than-mediocre job of behaving as if I have something to offer. At least I’m moderately good at that one thing, the pretending, but see, the problem with pretending to be smart is that it takes LOADS of energy.

I’m going to run out of energy, and you all are going to see who I really am. Self-absorbed, as all the preceding clearly illustrates, and not smart or talented or worthy at all.

Objects in Motion is with my editor now. I think I may have cross-stitched that book onto a long spool of fabric rather than typed it on my laptop. It was that kind of slow, burdensome, hand-cramping work.

This essay isn’t going to be clean and logical, with a form that makes sense and a clever ending paragraph that circles back to the opening thought. I just… haven’t written the truth in a while, and… I don’t know. Some of you seem to care. If you don’t? Eh. Oh well. Fuck off, unfollow me, whatever (Buy a book first—therapy is expensive). Maybe one positive side effect of being depressed is not having even remotely enough energy to deal with people’s bullshit. Heh.

I saw a new doctor last week. I hadn’t been to a physician other than my OBGYN in a decade at least, and when I went to my OBGYN a couple of months ago, I wrote on the form that I was struggling with anxiety and depression. The nurse didn’t ask about it, and neither did the doctor. At the end of my appointment they asked if there was anything else I wanted to talk about, but I’d already waited for 45 minutes in my paper gown and really had to pee so I said no, there wasn’t anything else I needed to talk about. I mean part of anxiety is being too nervous to speak up. That’s what the fucking forms are for. Jerks.

So I researched this new primary care physician, and though I couldn’t be completely sure about her, her profile seemed promising. I showed up for my appointment and there was no wait at all, and the doctor immediately asked about the anxiety and depression I’d written down on the questionnaire. She sat with me for forty-five minutes and listened as I blubbered my wild, snotty thoughts into half a box of tissues. She seemed not to think I was a total nut job.

We’re getting bloodwork done first, to check for hormonal imbalances or vitamin deficiencies, but after that I might start taking antidepressants. I’m scared. I’ve read about side effects, brain zaps and loss of libido and all that, and I’m scared. I’m even a little scared I might get so happy I’ll forget how to write, which I know sounds extra crazy. Except that I’ve already gotten to the point of not being able to write, and I’ve also gotten to where I am more scared of my own mind than I am of medicinal side effects. Even as lethargic as my thoughts have been lately, I am capable of recognizing this as telling.

I haven’t been writing on the site the way I used to because… what would I say? I’m supposed to be funny. I don’t want to be the poster-writer for anxiety or depression, don’t want to perfectly express what this feels like so all us depressed people can snuggle down into our gross slimy feelings and commiserate and bond over how much this fucking hurts. Isn’t it just kind of gross how good that feels? Ugh. I am so sorry.

The other day when I was telling my friend how dumb and pathetic I was, letting her witness my spiral even though I knew I’d hate myself for it later, she called me on it. She said she wanted to punch depression square in the throat and piss on its corpse. It made me laugh, imagining her doing that, but I had my phone in my hands, texting, crying, and I kept typing and deleting the same text: Make it stop. I didn’t send that, though. I sent: I hate this.

So here I am. I remember what happiness feels like, but… I just can’t seem to catch it (OMG I circled back anyway–I am SO predictable). I’m going to try to figure it out, probably with the assistance of modern medicine. Blood test results will be back mid-January, and we’ll go from there. If you got this far, thanks for listening. 🙂

20 Comments

  1. Absolutely not alone. I felt like all the joy was gone. But I shall not start coloring on your paper. 🙂 I will go color my own damn paper. I wish you healing.

  2. Good on you for getting help. That takes guts. I have anxiety and depression too, so I know what a shit-show it is.

    This piece of writing brought me comfort. It’s just so real. Even if you don’t want to hear it – thank you.

    Meds are scary, but it’s so worth it. You got this.

  3. Just last night, my husband told me he can tell I’m forcing myself to look happy. So he sees it, too.

    You are not alone. In your thoughts, in your struggles, in the conversations you’re having with yourself. Please let me know how the doc appt goes. Thinking of you…of us! xo

  4. Carolyn Myers Reply

    I know how you feel, my husband passed away 3 years ago, I’ve been on antidepressants for years due to chronic pain, but they aren’t working to well. I’m going to talk to my doctor abou it at my appointment at the end of the month. Good luck,I hope you can find a way out, you’re definitely not alone.

    • I’m very sorry to hear about your husband. I hope your appointment at the end of the month offers a path to feeling better. xo

  5. I was going to tell you you’re brave and that depression lies and I know how you feel and that it will get better but then I realized I actually know exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it.

    Kristen. I will be back on facebook soon, okay? I know you miss me. Let this comment stand as proof that even without social media I am always lurking nearby keeping an eye on every single thing you do.

    Okay, all that aside. You’re a badass and you know why I’m saying that, but it’s also more than that. Fingers crossed and three cheers for lab work and better doctors and friends you can always text.

    All the ooshy gooshy woo woo,

    Aussa

    PS yes I just signed my comment like a text from someone’s great aunt

    PPS let me know if I need to destroy anyone for you

    PPSS literally anyone, I have a lot of time on my hands right now

  6. Kristen, I’m thinking of you. Stay strong. I love reading what you write. 💗💗💗💗🎈

  7. ‘Sad’ is a much better word to describe feelings of ‘depression’. That word has a negative vibe to it; it’s not ‘liked’. Sad is much more accurate. If we can feel happiness, why can’t we feel sadness? If we can gush about our happiness, why can’t we gush about our sadness? I’m feeling profoundly ‘sad’; through events beyond my control; illness; grief. I’ve wondered if it’s Aspergers and if it’s early onset Dementia. I have Fibromyalgia and ME. I have a ‘cognitive imbalance’ due to Fibro. Cognitive Imbalance is a nice way of saying ‘early onset Dementia’ from what I’ve recently read. Why wasn’t I told this 3 years ago when first diagnosed? You’re far from alone, that’s for sure. Stress has to be linked to imo; stress is probably the biggest killer of all. Sad that.

  8. Roberto Gelleni Reply

    Kiresten, thank you.

    So… there are others like me out there, I am not alone in this..
    And tomorrow is the worst day of the year, hell on earth, the “Christmas Party at work, with white elephant gift exchange”.
    Somebody shoot me now please.

  9. It takes courage to share feelings like this, especially when you feel you’re “supposed to” write certain things or be the entertainer. Remember you have lots of followers and lots of friends who are here to listen (or read). Reach out anytime you need help- most of us have been in the same place!

  10. Things that still make me happy:

    I pretend sometimes my girls (heelers) aren’t drinking beer right out of my glass.

    I like that I understand nothing around me when I’m getting a pedicure.

    Beyond the Break. Sofa king good.

    That’s all for now. Cheers to you — an antidote to some of life’s anhedonias for sure.

  11. Why is the process of asking for help so shameful? How many times have you heard that you should tell your doctor if you’re feeling low and then you do but… nothing. I remember having an hour long conversation with my PCP where he lectured me about why he wouldn’t prescribe antidepressants and why I shouldn’t consider them. Mind you, I thought I was there for thyroid issues. Lab work suggestioned otherwise. I told my OBGYN about the same issues and she referred me back to my PCP for treatment. The whole process makes an already defeated person feel helpless and I am so sorry that any of us have to go through it.

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