i think this is what you call irony

What I was going to say is that I used to suffer from
depression, but that is a lie. A lying lie coming straight at you from Lie
Town, population: Lying Liars. Who
are me. I used to suffer from depression, but also now I suffer from
depression, so what I mean to say is that I am a depressed kind of person.

It used to be much worse, though. I did not medicate; I did
not talk to anyone. In fact, I believed that medication would make me a stupid
zombie, and talking to someone would–well, make me cry. And I didn’t want to
cry. I just wanted to breathe in and breathe out, put one foot in front of the
other foot and then back again, and just keep going, eyes focused straight
ahead and me hoping I wouldn’t fall down, because then I’d never, ever stop.


What happened was that I fell down. I stopped getting out of
bed, and I stopped talking to people. I stopped talking entirely. With my
covers I made a little tent, and I waited inside there for all the things
outside to go away. An eternity of feeling weighed down, immobile, turning to
stone. It hurts, when you are turning to stone.

It sounds pretty funny to say that someone is so depressed
they can’t even muster up the strength to kill themselves. So much for survival of the fittest. But I had enough will to wish for things
to just stop, please stop, please, because I cannot feel like this any more.
Strangely enough, will is not so much a cure for melancholia. What helps
instead is someone, who still somehow loves you, taking you by the hand and dragging
you from your bed and bringing you to a therapy appointment they’ve made, where
you sit and sob helplessly because you couldn’t even do that yourself. You
couldn’t have possibly swung your legs over the bed on your own, and you wanted
to waste away and doesn’t that mean you are irreparably, irreversibly damaged?

No, the therapist said. And I said, Well, fuck you, and that
was the start back up, past the point where I sat on the bathroom floor looking
at a handful of pills and laughing at myself for being melodramatic, just in
case someone was watching, just to hang on to a shred of self-respect. Still
wanting to do it. Up to dressing and walking and talking and functioning and
that was all through talking about my goddamn feelings. She kept pushing
antidepressants at me, and I kept saying I am not taking crazy pills, until it
got to the point where I was getting nowhere, and I said, Fuck you. Fine, I’ll
take them
.

I started Effexor. I had been lying on the bottom of a
swamp for months. I had sat up, clawed my way closer to the surface, where the
light begins to break through, but finally, my head cleared the water and I
could breathe again, and I could begin to try to pick up the pieces of my life
and reassemble them. Cracks riddling the surface, but they’d just remind me I
could be fragile. That I’d have to protect myself.

When I ran across this amazing jewelry designer, I
found that she made an absolutely beautiful ring fashioned like a serotonin molecule, and I thought yes. That’s the way I’m going to
celebrate what approaches for sanity in my head, and that’s the way I will
physically, concretely remind myself not that I’m fragile, but that I need to
be happy.

I wore it all the time when I first got it, because things
were still tentative in my head. Things are always tentative, for me. But
slowly I got better ("I think I’ll go for a walk"), and I stopped needing to wear it compulsively, and
it stayed in my jewelry box and seeing it was enough.

After my surgery, I found myself wearing it more often.
Things are hard physically–you are exhausted, and you feel like you’ve been
beaten, and that you’ve been beaten by food. That everything is your enemy, and
things will never be right with your body, and that you are stupid to have done
it. It wasn’t conscious, ever, I know it wasn’t, but the ring kept ending up on
my finger, and I know it reminded me that this was my body doing this to my
head, and that my head wasn’t busted, this time. That these were physical
symptoms of trauma, of stress, and that they would pass.

I kept wearing it. I wore it everywhere. Again, not
consciously–but as I lost the weight, it felt like a friendly collusion. I am
happy in my body, and happy in my head and I need to desperately remember to
not backslide, because maybe it could all go away at any time. I needed to
remember that despite all the confusion and worry and the way I feel conflicted
and sometimes, like I’m teetering back on the edge of crazy, things are good.

I lost more weight, and then, I lost the ring. It slid right
off my thinner hand, one morning on the bus, or the street, or the coffee shop,
and it was gone.

I don’t generally like signs, or portents, and I try very
hard not to read into happenings, and do that irritating thing where you decide
from that moment on that Things Have Changed. I like emblematic things, because
that is you deliberately choosing a moment or a time or a thing or a place and imbuing
it with a very specific meaning. I like to be the acting person, not the one
sitting back and waiting for the universe to act for me–I’ve worked hard to get
here, to be that person. So you know already that I’m not going to say, "This was
a sign! This means that it is time for me to let go of being scared that I will
forget to be happy, and work actively to not only make my own happiness, but
live inside it, without fear!" Instead, I’ll say, "Man, it really sucks that I
lost my ring."

  9 comments for “i think this is what you call irony

  1. anon
    June 21, 2007 at 12:22 pm

    You are the coolest for writing this, for sharing this.
    And for your last paragraph. Those would be my sentiments exactly!
    Maybe someone will buy you a new one. (Guy, are you reading?)

  2. June 21, 2007 at 12:53 pm

    Your writing slays me. Absolutely kills me. There is not a single column you write that doesn’t, at some point, bring tears to my eyes. It is at times like reading a page out of my own journal. I’ve had bouts of episodic depression, NEVER like what you’ve been through, but I have a dear friend who I miss terribly who I fear is going through the “tent in my bed” days. I’ve reached out to her a million times, and I”m “this close” to driving over to her house just to make sure she’s NOT dead… I’m going to try one last time, I’m going to send her a link to this column.

    And as for the ring… I have a Tiffany ring that I bought myself at 60 lbs lost… it’s called The Love Knot, and ties a pretzle-like bow around my finger. I wear it daily, to remind myself of what I’ve accomplsihed, and never to stop loving myself. I’ve lost another 15 lbs since, and the ring is so loose it slides right off. I once “lost it” while picking up dog poo in my back yard and somehow managed ot find it again, which was miraculous, but it has slid right off and bounced away before… I”ve always gotten it back, but I wonder when the day will come when I think “Oh that sucks, I lost my ring.”

  3. June 21, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Fabulous post, as always. I so get the experience of profound depression, the wearing of a cherished token before, during, and after — and even of being able to reframe the losing of it later so that YOU assign its significance.

    Because I am actually only 12 years old and want to Copy You in All Things, I clicked on the link you provided to the jeweler. Great stuff. At this point I’d go for the caffeine molecule, as it’s my current Drug of Choice (along with Lexapro) … but damn, I like the *design* of the orbit ring better — only somehow that doesn’t have meaning for me, and golly, I’m all about making meaning. Perhaps I need to change my career path to astronaut.

    You are as quintessential in person as you are writing. ;) I’m so happy to have met you!

  4. June 21, 2007 at 7:13 pm

    It’s those little things that sometimes remind us of the bigger picture. Nice post.

  5. June 22, 2007 at 12:40 am

    Great post. I know medicine works differently for different folks but I can tell you that for Effexor was a blessing and a curse. It brought me out of a nasty depression and it brought my ass to epic proportions. Right now I’m doing a Wellbutrin and Strattera combo. (Google will tell you that combo should be making my head implode but my Doc assures me it’s cool.) I really like this combo. The Strattera is an ADD/ Antidepresant med. But they have been testing it on binge eaters and found it to be a great help. Personally, I have noticed an enormous difference in my eat the world cravings. So much better.

    But enough about me – I love following your progress, thanks so much for sharing with us!

  6. June 22, 2007 at 9:21 am

    I am speechless. I just wanted to say something to you, something that would be better and more meaningful than, “hey, we take the same drug” but I can’t think of anything that would even come close to reaching the level of how your post touched me.

  7. Dolley
    June 22, 2007 at 1:03 pm

    “It sounds pretty funny to say that someone is so depressed they can’t even muster up the strength to kill themselves.”

    No, it doesn’t. That’s why one of the first warnings to folks taking ANTI-depressants is to Let! the doctor know if thoughts of suicide are INCREASING! – because the anti-depressants can make you well enough to actually have the ambition to follow through on a suicide attempt. The doctors do not want this to happen. (What worked for me was Fear: fear that I would be punished (thanks, Catholic school!), and that my punishment would be to be returned to exactly the same life I was living – the same one that made me suicidal. I couldn’t think of anything else that would be a more suitable version of Going to Hell: enduring the same things in the afterlife that I endure now, only this time for eternity.

    For all the ringwearers with shrinking fingers, for goodness sake, go to a jeweler and have a Ring Guard put on your rings! It’s not obtrusive, it’s about three dollars each ring (as opposed to having the rings re-sized, which is more than three dollars), and it will make the rings fit again. Don’t let them roll away! (Also, if you’ve been wearing them on, say, the ring finger? Try moving them to the index or the middle finger, which is usually a couple sizes bigger. That’s even cheaper than three dollars.)

  8. June 23, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    I think I need a dopamine ring. Can I get a shout out for Wellbutrin!

  9. littlem
    July 9, 2007 at 3:59 am

    Kelly, I emailed the jeweler with a request for dopamine rings. Let’s all do it.

    (Anne, maybe you can get a “traffic driving discount” on your next purchase from that jeweler. Let your readers know in advance the next time you come to melty NYC — although you got out in time; it’s about to get REALLY melty — we can go to Arcadia and buy more rings!)

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