It was dark times for me over the last couple of days. No matter how much I tried to amp up the self-care regimen, the level of bleakness I would occasionally fall into, I couldn't seem to crawl out of, no matter how hard I tried. Of course, I did find happiness and hope at times, but then--
It was gone.
When I fell into a low, I couldn't seem to climb out. Nothing gave me joy. Nothing gave me an incentive to reach out. On Christmas Eve, it was the worst. Everyone around me was with their families, and with several unexpected expenses for my dog and my apartment this year, I hadn't been able to make ends meet to afford the plane ticket and boarding to fly home to my family in San Diego.
But I normally like time alone. Last year, I spent Christmas alone, and it hadn't been so low -- because, I realize: I was safely ensconced with the buffer of antidepressants. In October, I decided to see what my life felt like without medication, and, now, here was the result.
So, through tears that didn't seem to end, I pulled out my computer and started writing. "My life is a failure," I began. And then I wrote a semi-manifesto on how unhappy I was in my life, how anything that anyone said that was cruel or disparaging about me must be true, and how all I longed for was something real and authentic in my life, and how deeply and completely alone I felt.
I'll spare you the entire treatise, but here are some highlights:
"Today was the first day in a long time that I have thought about suicide. As happens when I think about suicide, my brain does a little circle. I think: I would never kill myself. I will buy cigarettes instead. So I am smoking cigarettes on Christmas Eve next to my dog, and he is perhaps more depressed than I am because he is not feeling depressed. He is a dog who wants to go out and play. I suppose that is what I need to do more than anything else. It would be helpful for me to go out and play.
"I’ve read Internet commenters who write things about feeling sorry for me, that I must not have any real relationships, and lately, I think they are right about this one. I think they may just have called my number. I was supposed to meet a friend today, and so I sent him increasingly desperate and unhinged text messages that I could 'take the hint' until he apologized and said no, no, no, he had just woken up late, and that’s all it was. This is the transactional relationship dance of love. I am not someone who you want to take a phone call from. Definitely not on Christmas Eve. I would probably push myself through to voice mail if I could."
Holy crap, Mandy.
Get a grip. Or get back on antidepressants, which is what I did.
I talked to several friends that day, and the next day, and the more I talked the more good advice I received. One friend of mine who has been on antidepressants most of his adult life gave me wisdom: "You can't outrun your DNA." And he's right. I love my DNA, but it's also mixed up with a history of depression, and I'm done denying it. My DNA also comes from a history of alcoholism, and I stopped denying that three-and-a-half years ago.
As I said in my dark treatise, I really never would consider suicide as an option. I just wouldn't. It's never been an option for me, no matter what. But when I am severely depressed, I do things that I know are not valuing my life, like smoking.
I also picked up the phone, and I called my mom, and I read her the entire 4,000 words of what I wrote. It felt like a burden coming off of my chest, to let her know how much I was grieving being close to her, and how much I missed sitting next to her on the couch in San Diego, just being with her.
We talked for over an hour, and we made plans for when I would come home next -- and we talked about what I could do that would make me feel good about life right this minute, that would make me feel more in control. They were small steps, but here's what I did:
- I went back on the 100 mg of Zoloft that I've taken since 2007 (except with small breaks when I think getting off of them will give me more energy or clarity, which as this article proves, is always a mistake), and within days I felt better. I touched base with my shrink, and I kept her in the loop on what I was doing.
- I picked up the book proposal that I've sat dormant on for over a year, and I started at work on it again. I reached out and met with one of the agents who have approached me who seemed to genuinely care and who actually seemed to get me.
- I made plans with several friends, and I found that just seeing them made me feel a million times better.
It was a simple plan, really. But it turned into a beautiful Christmas after all.
I called my mom on the phone on Christmas day, and I told her how I was feeling. "I love you, mom," I said.
"Oh, Mandy," she said, "I love you so much, too."
And there it was.
My life is a success.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.