Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Bungled & The Botched

Welcome to the 21st century, where scrolling down to read the comments on a Yahoo! news article is the New slowing-down-to-gawk-at-a-car-accident.

I can't help it. So much loony. Truckloads of very batshit. Big handfuls of whackjobby.
Like this guy:

I was almost totally convinced that this was a trolling Tom Cruise until I got to the Buddha part.

But yeah, anyway - the above was a comment in response to yesterday's suicide of Robin Williams, who hung himself at age 63. And I'm not even gonna lie: I've never been a big fan of the guy. He was always too manic for my tastes. And his hairiness frightened me. Not saying I didn't love The Fisher King, cuz I did. On the whole however, he just sorta made me wince. Not as much as Cruise does, but yeah There it is. Sorry.

However, despite the fact that I hated Mrs. Doubtfire and shut off Hook before it was half over because it annoyed me more than seven thousand shrieking toddlers at the height of a Pop-Tart high, I am saddened by Williams' death...if only because I know what it is to be clinically depressed.

I also know what it is to be told to "Cheer up" and "Snap out of it." I know what it is to hear that I have no reason to be depressed, so why can I not simply look around, count my blessings and stop wallowing in despair and self pity? It's been pointed out to me on many occasions that there are people "worse off than me." And whenever a rich/famous person kills themselves, I almost always hear: "He/She had all the money in the world, what did they have to be depressed about? They were just whiny, weak and selfish."

And you know what?
They're right.

I have everything to live for.
So did Robin Williams.
I should count my blessings. I am better off than a lot of people. I have no reason at all to be so bottomlessly depressed.

So why am I?

I don't know.

Which is why, over twenty years ago, I went to my doctor and asked him what the fuck was wrong with me?

At the time, I had a good job, a steady boyfriend, lots of friends with whom I went dancing on Fridays, a cute apartment with all of the furnishings and toys a girl could possibly want...and yet I was inexplicably depressed.

I don't mean "down" or "bummed out." I mean I felt like I was being swallowed whole by a darkness that was blacker than death. I felt absolutely empty. I felt like I could cut myself open and see nothing but howling darkness, shining up at me like black mirrors and reflecting every flaw in my soul 10,000 times larger. I felt physically heavy, lethargic and tired. I worked out every day and was at my peak of health, but still I felt weighted down. My limbs ached. I couldn't sleep. A storm of thoughts raced through my head at night. None of them made any sense or even seemed connected to me. It's hard to explain, but it was like being forced to watch twenty different movies that have been combined on one high-speed video tape, and it keeps looping over and over.

I started experiencing auditory hallucinations. It was like standing in an empty room and hearing a huge, loud party taking place next door. Jumbled conversations, no specific words, just a muffled surf of voices all talking at once. I couldn't turn it off or make it stop. Sometimes I'd hear music; songs that had never been written or recorded, playing in my head endlessly. Singing, riffs, drumbeats, everything, looping for hours and hours. It drove me half crazy. I'd clap my hands over my ears and scream but it wouldn't stop. It was coming from inside my head. I had no way of shutting it off.

I started having panic attacks. Out of nowhere, for no reason, I would suddenly feel short of breath. My heartbeat would accelerate. Suddenly, lights would be too bright, voices too loud, everything too sharp and close and looming. The first time it happened, I was at work. I excused myself and walked into the empty back room. I couldn't catch my breath and started crying for no reason. What the fuck was wrong with me? Stop, just stop, STOP! I couldn't think, or breathe or calm down.

Without thinking about it, I grabbed the nearest sharp object I could find: a fucking thumbtack, the kind with the clear plastic head. I started slashing at my arm in a frenzy, not understanding why, only knowing that I had to do something to make this inner turmoil stop. I had to get it out of me. Maybe I thought I could cut it out, I don't know. All I do know is that it worked. It was like being slapped across the face. Hard. The panic abruptly stopped, the voices shut off, my vision returned to normal and I could suddenly think clearly. I was bleeding everywhere. I bandaged my arm up and went back to work. I was still depressed, but the feeling of free-falling and never hitting bottom was gone.

This was before cutting was a recognized "thing." I thought I was going crazy. I never cut myself that badly again, but once or twice more when the blackness became overwhelming and too loud to bear, I would do it. It helped. At the time, I didn't know I had options.

I went to the doctor, not sure what the hell I was going to say. I told him everything and he listened without interrupting or reacting. I was half-fearful and half-hopeful that he'd have me committed to an asylum.

Instead, he told me I had a disease.
He called it "soul cancer."
He told me I would never recover from it, but that the symptoms could be treated and alleviated.
However, he warned me that - just like cancer - I would have periods of remission and then suffer painful flare-ups as the "cancer" would return and spread once more.

"It's a physical disease." he explained to me. "Your brain is misfiring, or not creating enough of the right chemicals, or too many of the wrong ones. You're not crazy, you just have an imbalance. And that can be corrected. Not healed, but corrected to a point where you will be able to function normally more often than not."

I take 200mg of Zoloft daily.
It is not a happy pill.
It simply balances out my brain chemicals and makes me able to see the depression for what it is: a tumor, an alien presence in my body, making me feel sick, whispering to me that I am worthless and would be better off dead. I will be on Zoloft for the rest of my life. And I plan to die a natural death.

But you see, I never really wanted to die. I thought about killing myself plenty of times, even wrote a couple of suicide notes and laid out the pills. But I never wanted to die. I just wanted to shut the world up and be left alone for a while. It never once occurred to me that suicide meant death, permanent and irreversible. Part of me believed I could come back when I was ready, healed and rested as if from a vacation. But I never truly wanted to end my life.

I don't think Robin Williams did either. I think the dark voices finally just swallowed him whole. I think he just wanted to shut them up for a while so he could fucking think. But they'd gotten too big and too loud. His cancer had metastasized and the sorrow was terminal. He wasn't selfish, or cowardly, or weak. He was sick. Think about it: he lived for 63 years with this festering darkness inside of him, suffering from the pain it caused all that time. He took it for as long as he could bear it. If he had died from actual cancer, we wouldn't fault him for not being strong enough to fight it off. Everyone dies eventually, and when you're sick, your body wears down so much faster. Depression is physical as well as mental anguish. It hurts and it just grinds you down over the long, bleak years.

I didn't want to be depressed. I didn't seek it out or don it like the latest fashion craze. I didn't want it. I still don't. It's fucking horrible, not knowing when that looming black ghost is going to come back and wrap you up in its arms, not knowing if today will be the day that a panic attack crawls up your spine and enters your skull like a daredevil race car driver, piloting you through an obstacle course which might very well kill you. And most of all, it sucks to try to explain to someone what's happening to you, and have them tell you to stop feeling sorry for yourself.

You wouldn't say that to a person with a visible illness, so why say it to someone whose illness you simply cannot physically see?


  1. Thank you. For getting it. And getting it right. Xoxo

  2. Thanks for telling your tale, it helps me feel less alone in the darkness

  3. Beautiful. I am so sorry you share in this darkness too. I wish you love and light and hope.

  4. Great post. Great writing. Thanks for being so honest. This should be printed and handed out on street corners.


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