all the cliches describe it as something that, with the right tools and craftsmanship, can be fixed. just like that. we’ve all seen them, the images of the person in her pajamas, slumped on the couch, with a blank gaze fixed on nothing in particular. the doll in constant need of being wound up in order to keep moving. the sullen expression on a mother’s face as her kid pleads for attention. the man who can hardly walk his dog, much less toss a frisbee for it to retrieve. these images are weak echoes of the reality. they don’t speak to the smothering feeling of inertia that grips your core. depression makes you feel like your every move, every thought, every task, is one so close to impossible the distinction is easily missed. it’s like being in a hole that only burrows deeper with each effort to tread above sea level. a feeling of stuck-ness that wraps itself around your limbs like a shirt two sizes too small. depression is tuberculosis of the mind. it consumes each cell of your existence until you feel too weak to do anything more than just let it take over. eat you alive.
what those images on television don’t depict are the people who “look” happy but really aren’t. for some of us, we are masters of presenting the appearance that we have it together; my mantra has always been to look better than i feel. so i can do my makeup, and iron my clothes–with great effort, be mindful– and present an otherwise “normal” facade. i’ve mastered the “happy face” and the ability to look ready for anything the day may bring even as i’m ready to hide under the covers.
not everyone who is depressed “looks the part.” many of us spend what little energy we have keeping the appearance of strength because we have too much pride to let people in on the reality that we are in fact in a rut. i don’t even know if you can call it a rut after so many years. but the point is that perception is nine-tenths of reality. most people don’t see the sadness that frames my eyes; they see the mascara i’ve carefully applied to open them up. most people don’t notice the forced smile because it’s so practiced it appears natural. most people don’t think i could fathom the consumptive existence of depression, because i simply don’t look like someone who feels like shit. i’m good at that. if nothing else, i’m good at not looking how i feel. a master of the stage. thing is, i don’t know how to redirect that energy toward actually feeling better; i don’t know how not to put so much effort into looking the part in order to have energy to pick myself up. and the road to faking it doesn’t necessarily fork into making it.
There simply is no competition. Chalk loses unanimously to the LCD screen. I do not have a wi-fi connection, and you cannot plug headphones into me. I have no ringtone. Don’t speak in 160 characters or less. Facetime with me doesn’t stand a chance against an iPhone. So I stand there for hourly intervals, talking it seems to myself, because my dialogue with them inevitably is a monologue to an audience that has tuned me out. I’d love to give them reason to use those phones for something other than a slap in my face, but I’d be wrong, even if for once I got them to do something right. They won’t see it coming.
If only he knew that my soul has allowed hope to harden itself around what I once called my love. But he does not (wish to) see that for me, there is no point in hoping, for I have been but a remainder in his equation all this time.
I cannot be supplementary to anyone. Even him. It is not my love that has died but rather the foolishness that was hope. And I mourn for him, that he did not awaken to see what I unconditionally held onto until it could no longer breathe on its own. For he is now the fool I was, returning for what he was never willing to give unselfishly. But while I still hold on, I have also let him go. I am his remainder no more.
I simply refuse to make a martyr of my joy in order to save someone who is unwilling to reach for my hand. There’s madness in the logic that I–that we–must sacrifice our time, energy, welfare, and sanity to make a difference. The difference is often so microscopic it is invisible to the naked eye. The rewards are so infrequent they cannot be celebrated. The bitterness, oh the bitterness, festers like asbestos on the soul because no one wants to acknowledge the futility of it all. And there is no honor in the small victories when you’re always told you could do more, be more, give more, reach more. That is not to say no one can be saved; it is to say that even Jesus can’t save everyone from damnation, and I am merely a mortal with a piece of chalk.
Are we all so attached to our desire for acceptance that we must present the personalities we wish we had in order to receive it? It’s such a hindrance in building relationships when the other person is merely performing the show (s)he presumes you want to see. I don’t want the show; I want a backstage pass–I want to see how messy your dressing room is. Return the dog and pony to their rightful owners. Burn the script and dismantle the set. Time offers no refunds, so it’s best to spend it honestly, openly, with genuine dialogue rather than contrived monologues.
The judge need not bring her gavel to declare me guilty. As a personable person, I naturally take things personally. It does not elude my sensibilities that everything is not about me; however there’s a twitching little cell in my brain that says if (s)he responds to me unfavorably then it must be something I did. After all, kind gestures are accepted with the same merit. And often without conscious consideration. This is a guilt that writes its own sentence, for as long as I take successes, failures, miscommunication and misanthropy personally, I’m imprisoned by my own conclusions.
Every night I prepare with all I have to give them the best of what’s left of me. And I ask myself every morning, when their vacant expressions are the best they give me in return, what it is worth to keep on giving. How long, I wonder, before I resent their ingratitude, before I give begrudgingly? How long before I’ve run out of giving?
Some things are meant to be outgrown. Some homes are temporary. Right now I’ve mortgaged two homes, after forgetting my keys to the first one. Time will determine whether this will be my new home, or a home away from the former.