It may seem like a hair splitting difference, but there is something that I find funny but I don’t know if I find it funny yet. I see the humor that is inherent in it all. I was laughing when I told my brother, but I also crying and pretty much semi-hysterical most of the day, so my opinion may be skewered. My brother saw humor in the darkness, and I do trust his sense of humor. I guess the more accurate way to phrase it all is that at some point I hope to see nothing but the humor in it. Right now that’s not possible.
I’ve been learning a lot about a lot of things these last three and a half months. Sometimes the learning comes in fits and starts, other times it comes in dramatic leaps forward, with lots of information suddenly coming clear all at once. I have learned that many of times it happens that way, it doesn’t seem like much of a learning time at first but rather a big fuck you from the universe, but maybe you are best at learning and retaining information right after you’ve been kicked in the balls. I don’t know, but it is sure starting to seem that way.
One of the things that I’ve learned is that having clinical severe depression doesn’t mean you want to spend 24/7 in your bed. There are times that it seems that way, just like there are times where sleep is the last thing you can possibly seem to get. The analytical part of me, the observer Jack if you will, is fascinated by those moments and wonders what kind of physiological shit is going on inside of me to make that happen. (The rest of me just grumbles to myself, goes downstairs, makes a pot of coffee and starts writing his blog.) Most of the time, though, I just seem to be going through the same motions as everyone else with the depression just kind of hanging out in the background. We both know that it’s there, we both know at some point it’s going to take over, and we both know that at the worst times it will be making the decisions, or at least trying to. Some times it is predictable. I know that it makes its presence felt most at night, every night. I don’t know what to do with myself at night, because for twenty years I didn’t have to think about it. I went to work. Now I just sit alone, wondering what normal people do. If the road leads to dark places, then this is one of those times where the darkness is not my friend.
Other times the depression shows up unannounced, and here is, ironically, where it starts to get funny. We’ve all seen television shows or movies where the person has a meltdown over the burnt dinner or the bad haircut, when that isn’t really what the issue is. It’s the small thing that has become the linchpin for the greater dramatic action, and it is played for laughs just as often as it is for tears. There is something pathological about the fact that writers and performers can go there, which just goes to show how many people dance on the edge of madness. For me it wasn’t hair or dinner, but a pen. Specifically a pen that went through the washer and dryer.
I’ve done this before. When I was living in Key West I washed and dried a pen, which left a beautiful mosaic of ink all over the drum of the dryer. As unattractive as this is, I know it’s not the end of the world. The high heat actually melts the ink into the metal and clothes are fine. It was the fact that I had done the same thing again, which became in my mind the fact that I can’t learn anything and that I’m never going to get any better/smarter/more successful. It was the fact that my brother is making sacrifices to help me get better, and I already feel like a burden and inconvenience on him and my friends, and here I was repaying that burden by fucking up his dryer. And yes it was the fact that my car was in the shop, was going to cost me much money than I had, and it was another example of how I couldn’t be trusted to do anything right. I snapped.
30 seconds of cursing (thankfully nobody was home) turned into five minutes of sobbing turned into thirty minutes of being crouched in a corner, staring into absolute nothingness while tears and snot slowly leaked out and I faced the seeming reality that I had perfected the art of fucking up. They always ask you the same question, no matter who they are and why you’re talking to them. I have always had the same answer. This time, for the first time ever, I didn’t have that answer, and I sat there and wondered what it all finally meant. That was what I was staring at, this new possibility that my depression was trying to convince me was a new option. So I did what they tell you to do, when you call after hours and the message says “If this is an emergency…” I got in my brother’s car and I drove to the ER.
Three hours later all I had to show for following that advice was a fancy new bracelet, a promise to follow up with my therapist, whom they couldn’t seem to track down, and another financial obligation to stress me out. (You can see why I’m not sure if this is funny yet.) What it did point out for me though were two things, two ends of the same spectrum:
I wasn’t as bad off as I thought I was, and I was in worse shape than I was allowing myself to be.
I’m not going to get any better if I keep living like nothing has changed. I am my own worst enemy and it became imperative to me to get back to who I was as quickly as possible, in all aspects. I needed to be working, i needed to be productive, I needed to make it seem like I was just as “normal” as everyone else. One of my greatest issues, the root of why my self-esteem lacks and my confidence doesn’t exist, is as much as I acknowledge that I am different from most people, I hate, Hate, HATE being the odd man out. I hate recognizing that I don’t fit in, and so I push myself, without thinking or regard, a square peg obstinately trying to fit into a round hole.
I made some phone calls, I juggled some numbers, I talked to my brother and I made some decisions. I’ll have to talk to him some more and kind of set up some guidelines, because I need that sense of structure to assuage my guilt and help make me feel like I am pulling at least some of my own weight and not just being a burden on the state. I called one boss to get a sense of how much work would be coming my way, and then I contacted my other boss and resigned. I officially became the crazy uncle writer who lives in the attic.
This means there will be changes in my lifestyle, changes that I want to make and know that I have to if I want to honor the condition that I’m in and make myself better. ironically it means that even though I live closer to many of you now you might end up seeing less of me than before. (Beautiful Oxford, PA doesn’t hold quite the travel allure that my last place of residence did.) This doesn’t mean that I don’t want to see people; I do very much, although it unfortunately helps to reinforce one of the insecurities that makes me feel like an outside, the material inability to be able to do what I want when I want. One of the pluses to coming back to my brother’s was the fact that I would be so much closer to so many people who mean so much to me, but even in that I have been pushing too much, and in one specific issue looking too far ahead. One day at a time is an amazingly hard focus to keep when the luster of what is possible in the future feels you with the warmth you so often lack.
Had I been logical…., well, let’s face it had I been logical I wouldn’t have lost my shit about a pen exploding in the dryer…I would have been able to recognize that I have a therapy appointment on Tuesday and am finally meeting with the shrink on Wednesday. I appreciate the thoroughness that Chester County works to provide the help they are giving me and I accept that with that comes limitations: namely, it can take a while to see people. Before I started pulling my Nic Cage act, circa Leaving Las Vegas, the Effexor I was taking had been very effective, and so there is probably something like that in my future.
One of the bright spots, looking back at all of this, is that at no point did I find myself thinking that I needed a drink or that none of this would have happened if I had still been drinking. 100 days is in my rear view mirror and getting smaller every day. It’s a bitch to realize that solving my problems isn’t going to be accomplished by no longer drinking, but at the same time it helps restore faith in something that I always believed about myself, that drink was a problem, one of many, and not the problem.
As I wrap this up (1600 words, y’all still with me?) I think of Bruce Lee and the art of “fighting through not fighting.” I have been fighting for so long, but fighting with yourself only tires you out and accomplishes nothing. There are steps with my therapist and shrink that I will definitely be taking, actions (and probably other things) prescribed by them to move forward, but on my own front it is time to change my tactics. They say if you can’t beat it, join it, but instead of succumbing to the darkness, I will do what I always claimed to. I will create a light. In the past I have prided myself on being a beacon, visible for all to see. Perhaps it will be better to simply be a candle, one lone light in the darkness, not so bright that I can be sure that everyone else can see me, but simply bright enough so that I can start to learn to see myself.