I’m not thrilled to be writing right now.
Also, the chair feels harder than it used to.
This is totally the reason my writing is not going well, just like my tennis racquet screwing up my backhand. Also, I do not like today.
A month has passed since my passionate public declaration of commitment to my artist life, and sometime last week I started feeling like I have jack shit to show for it. Nothing is moving fast enough, I feel like I am two weeks behind on my algebra homework, but worst of all, I have a pretty good guess as to why I am feeling this way.
I’m in a bout of depression.
It is not a little blip of well-managed depression, where you look pensive, a person of depth and gravity. It is the kind full-blown low-energy immobilized stupor that comes to say “wake up dude” after I’ve been doing a shitty managing my program.
Okay, can I point something out really quick? See, the first major problem with starting Hello Humans is that because I am now publicly trying to create a space dedicated to vulnerability and celebrating our flaws, neuroses, and real existence as human beings, It now means I, especially, have to actually show up vulnerable, flawed, and neurotic, and share my experience as a human being. I have to let my messy insides show.
What a great idea, Sam.
But I digress.
Depression has always been a part of my life, to a greater or lesser extent. I’ve learned the hard way what it takes for me to live really well with it. I’ve learned the hard(er) way what it means to live unwell with it.
But you probably already know what I’m going to say works for me— there’s no new magic pill in this story. It’s the same tired old shit that we hate: Exercise, healthy food, meditation, and taking my medication. Also, in the case of this recovering alcoholic, not drinking myself to death seems to help. So well in fact, I sometimes forget what slipping into unwell looks like.
Which brings me to the catch 22 of depression: I feel so happy, that I no longer feel the need to do what’s making me feel so happy.
It’s maddening behavior like this that makes semi-hysterical depressives like me a particularly easy-to-love lot.
If you’re reading on behalf of a loved one: The bad news is we probably already know what we need to do. When we tell you we are feeling depressed, we are telling you, for you. So you can brace yourself if you choose to stick around that day, or kindly excuse yourself if you’re going to require anything extra of us, like the ability to snap out of it, or banter, let alone care much about what’s happening in your life that day.
As my mom puts it “Your helpful ideas are probably not actually helpful.” Although, in this case, depression happens to be the only mental illness I can’t actually blame my mom for.
Congratulations Mom. You get a pass on this one.
You can still take us out of the house for a walk, or keep us company while we binge watch terrible shows, or sit patiently with us while we groan and sigh our way through.
I’ve survived some heavy times with quality groans and sighs, and unobtrusive company.
This past week was a wash. There was no big stride or revelation, no big breaking development, nothing really interesting at all to report back on. There was just plod and lurch, elbow grease, junk food, staying sober, and starting over, again and again. But I’m forgiving myself for it, which is something I get a little better at with each try.
I mostly had to lay low and hide. I snuck away to cry in my truck for a little until my mom found me there, and we just quietly sat next to one another, allowing me to pretend I was just adjusting my mirrors.
I walked down the road a bunch, and sat on a park bench while the dogs ran around.
I watched some weeds blow back and forth in the wind, while taking a personal inventory to try to find what was missing from the equation. Eventually, the dots began connecting, and I slowly became ready—ready to find the energy to start doing the things that give me energy.
I’m on a journey, and it’s going mostly well, most of the time. But it’s a long journey, and If I’m going to have a fighting chance of getting where I’m trying to go, I’m going to have to stay in fighting shape. That’s why we call it a bout of depression. It’s a fight at times, but it’s one of the few fights worth fighting.
I’m going to have to take breaks for my workaholic, busy busy, go go go, there’s always more to do life, and make some time to take care of the only thing that I ever actually own in this lifetime. My body.
Over the years I have abused it, I have shamed it, I have treated it in ways you wouldn’t treat your worst enemies. And still, every morning when I wake up, there it is, reporting for duty, as eagerly as my little dog Gizmo, willing to do its best, and let me lead it for another day, and from time to time blow my mind with its existence.
My body has taken me everywhere I have ever been, and everywhere I will ever be. It is the loyal friend who has never left my side, and if this were a fair and just world, I’d devote my life to treating it as kindly as monks treat temple cats.
But since this is terrible, unkind, unjust, babies-being-born-with-cancer Earth, I’ll settle with just doing slightly better, and getting some run-of-the-mill exercise, No matter how busy or inconvenienced I feel.
Because when I feel my chest beating through my shirt, I am reminded how much heart I really have. And when my muscles quiver and feel weak under the weights, I’m reminded how strong I really am. And when my lungs struggle to get enough oxygen, I am reminded how lucky each breath of life really is.
So you know what? Last week was a wash, but the wash cycle is over. Onward.