Depression Lies

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You’re not that good of a writer. You’re not ballsy like her or edgy or hilarious or hot or easygoing or poetic — like her (and her and her and her and her).

You’ve creatively flat-lined and will probably never write anything again. You poured your heart out this morning but there are certain people in your life you can’t share that with, so it will remain unshared. You have no idea where poems come from or where they go after they’ve seen the light of day.

You use cliches like “pour your heart out” and “light of day.”

You flit around so much, it’s a miracle you accomplish anything ever. You multitask despite all the studies and science and meditation and brain waves and smart proof that it’s bad for you.

You drink Diet Coke. You sit there torturing yourself. You have to look up how to spell certain words every time you type them, like “embarrassing” and “irresistible,” except weirdly this time, when you got them on the first try.

You worry way too much about keeping all the balls in the air. You overeat. You let yourself go. You wonder why so much of your childhood is a blank or a blur. You’re too serious, too cerebral. You go from comparing to falling short to the litany of toos.

You want to go to Santorini to that crazy gorgeous hotel you saw when you were mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and looking at things posted by people whose names you don’t recognize. You wonder who the hell gets to go to Santorini, anyway. Wah.

You feel touchy, like the way people smell makes you want to go in a different room. You find yourself wanting to hole up. There are almost tears behind your eyes but not quite.

You can’t articulate anything except napping, and not the blissful kind. More like the wake-me-up-when-it’s-over kind.

And then you remember: You need to refill your script.

Forty milligrams a day of Celexa, an antidepressant, and you’ve missed two now. Just two? Surely you couldn’t be feeling the effects of two missed pills. And if you are, what does this say about you? Does it somehow disqualify you from the running, as if you’re running for something, or from the race, as if anything in your life comes with bibs and numbers and starting and finishing lines?

You know the only starting line was the moment your head crowned and your first cry broke open and your skin felt the air for the first time and you opened your mouth wide and were blessed enough to be taken in quickly by the warm, soft, milky body of a mother who loved you and still does.

You know the only finish line will be the moment the last breath leaves your body. You don’t know if you will quake then or heave or shudder; there’s no picturing or predicting this moment, which could come without warning tonight or not for sixty more years.

But in this moment, you’re not sure if you believe even in the beginning and ending of birth and death. You have that slight vertigo sensation that’s part dizziness and part existential crisis, as if you’re very, very high up on a ledge looking out across vast, unbearably beautiful emptiness.

Yes, it’s possible. Anyone who takes antidepressants, or any other medication that stabilizes mood or any other bodily system for that matter, knows that you can’t just skip a dose or stop cold turkey without throwing things into havoc.

What if this is how I “really” am?  

I go to Mani with this question. She reminds me of all the right things: A diabetic doesn’t see it as a moral or creative shortcoming that she needs insulin. Someone who suffers from high blood pressure has to adjust his diet if he wants to have a full, active, healthy life.

We all know mental illness is not a failure. Is depression a form of mental illness? I admit that even now, I shy away from identifying myself in this way. And yet — I first went on antidepressants when I was in my early 20s. That’s 20 years ago now. My brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin by itself. Even with meds, my monthly hormonal cycles are a bear to weather.

I know I am a capable, contributing, creative, curious, and genuine person. I know I take risks and love soft landings and want more and say thanks all day long in my head and often out loud, too.

The truth is, I can also lose all perspective pretty quickly. Thankfully, it doesn’t stay gone for long, and I never go all the way away. But when it happens, when my spark feels dulled and I don’t know where it went, there’s very little to do but wait it out. And go to CVS to pick up that refill.

I’ve written about depression periodically on this blog; I actually typed “depression” into the little search box in the sidebar, and 17 posts came up (not counting roars by other people). Because I’m a dork and like playing with numbers as well as words, I did the math: 1.6% of the total number of blog posts — an average of 2.42857 per year since January 7, 2007 — includes the word “depression.”

But in these moments of not feeling easy, it feels like 100%. It distorts, bends, and clouds my self-image. It hisses in my ear about who and how I really am, implying that my work and being are fraudulent and unreliable at best.

Depression lies. And I know enough to know it. 

Tomorrow, I’ll rise up again, drink coffee and make eggs for Pearlie before the bus comes. I’ll go for a short run with an old friend. I’ll have a Skype coaching session with a woman in England who recently participated in my Mini Memoirs group. I can’t wait to hear her voice and see her face, after savoring her writing for the past three weeks. After that, another call, with someone from my inaugural Dive into Poetry group, who lives in California.

I get to do this. I get to do this! I get to spend the morning talking with people I’ve met through writing. I could not love this more. It is not a fluke. It is not a flash in the pan.

I am not a fluke or a flash in the pan.  

In the other room, I hear Mani chatting away with her youngest daughter; lately, they’ve been having these marathon calls, and hearing Mani laugh and tell her 16-year old funny stories about her fearless antics as a toddler brings me joy. We are lucky in love and life and work.

Depression sucks. It does. I didn’t sit down expecting to write this post. But I did.

I will not let depression define me. Ever. I’ll keep taking pictures of tulips. I’ll keep reaching out and reading and writing and showing up and making friends out of strangers and doing my damnedest to tell the truth and be good to myself and others.

Not the end. 

35 thoughts on “Depression Lies

  1. writer553 says:

    Dear Jena:

    We will not let it.
    We will fight with all we have. With all the tools we know.
    We will not let it take the best of us.
    Not let it take our wit, our heart, our laughter.
    Our fire.
    We will not let it.
    And we will rise.

    I am proud to know you, Jena Schwartz.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. narrowwindingroad says:

    You are a gifted writer and seem to so easily articulate words into the most beautiful sentences. I have suffered from anxiety/depression for years and years and years. I finally went off of my anti-depressent meds for good about a year and a half ago, and so far, I’m okay. (The anxiety is a different story). But, I still have days when I wake up shaking and quaking and when I’m afraid to lay down to take a nap because of the extreme UNease.

    Thank you for this. I needed to read it to know that I’m not alone. You’re correct in how you describe getting in a tailspin and not being able to see the forest for the trees, despite our best efforts. We do our best and sometimes that’s not very good. But, that’s okay. At least we show up. And that’s everything, really. I still haven’t written a single blog post, but for now I’m going to appreciate what you’ve written instead of comparing myself to “her.”

    Liked by 2 people

  3. narrowwindingroad says:

    And WHO KNEW? I have written a blog post! I forgot about that time a few months ago when I TRIED to write a post and couldn’t for technical reasons. After I left the above comment for you, I had to sign in and there it was!! It made me cry to read it, but that’s okay! I’ll figure out the correct way to blog soon. In the meantime, I have words on the page. Thank you! — Lisa K.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. universalgrit says:

    lies indeed. like looking through a horrible, fun-house turned nightmare lens. smudged with vitriol, distortion and lack.

    you are a light. even in the dark, your light links with my light and all the lights, flickering in the dark. we link hearts and words and living and walk this path together.

    lonely soldiers, hopefully lifted in the knowing.

    i know you know i know. love love love [your words, this piece, you.]. xo

    Liked by 2 people

  5. invisible2theeye says:

    “You wonder why so much of your childhood is a blank or a blur” could have come out of my own head. My biggest worry is that this, now, will also become a blank and a blur one day and I try so hard to be fully present so that it doesn’t happen, but it’s hard.
    Sending hugs, and can’t wait to talk to you today.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lisa Sorensen says:

    the being human bit…it’s just so hard…and we get up every day and do our best….it’s exhausting to think what we’re all pushing up the hill…it’s miraculous…what happens when we let the rock roll and the ball drop?…. sometimes we get wise, courageous honest words like yours….thank you, Jena.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Ideaphilosopher says:

    Lovely, lovely post. Thank you for being brave and giving a post for others to feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable. 💜💖 I just finished “Furiously Happy” by Jenny Lawson and really think you would enjoy it! 💙💚

    Like

  8. Nina says:

    Thank you for writing about how depression affects us in the most mundane and existential ways.
    “You feel touchy, like the way people smell makes you want to go in a different room. You find yourself wanting to hole up. There are almost tears behind your eyes but not quite.”
    Brave soul living out loud. I too am 20 years into my relationship with antidepressants, self acceptance, blame, and appreciation for how my tender heart affects all parts of my life “depressed”or not.
    The latest step on my travels includes this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Mindful-Way-Workbook-Depression-Emotional/dp/1462508146
    The biggest message in it is kindness, self-compassion instead of the usual figuring out, trying and trying and trying again to talk myself out of whatever I’m feeling (“falling short or too much”).
    Take care dear tender unknown friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jena Schwartz says:

      Talking ourselves out of feeling feelings is a circuitous road to nowhere, for sure. I appreciate the book recommendation! Be well and thank you for reading and taking the time to share such a kind comment.

      Like

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