As soon as I opened this document to write, the telltale burn radiated in my throat and my eyes filled up so the screen was just a blur. I ended up just sitting with my face scrunched in my hands, alternately fighting tears and irregular breaths, until a few minutes later everything regulated again.
This has happened three times in the last 15 minutes or so. Fingers go back to the keyboard, then fear, hopelessness, and shame surge forth, overpowering my body and leaving me more tired and defeated each time. Until it no longer feels worth trying again.
So I've learned not to.
Except this time I am, but that's not because I'm suddenly stronger or have turned a corner. In this moment, I don't have anything to say. I have no idea what I was going to say before. The concept of translating any thought or feeling out of my head and onto a screen or page, even just for myself, makes me feel so entirely vulnerable that it keeps breaking me. I have no ideas that warrant fighting this hard.
So I don't. I haven't. I don't know when I will again beyond painstakingly putting together this post.
Thankfully, working on my book isn't as physically triggering. I don't want to analyze why that is. It does, however, require motivation and stamina and creativity that I haven't felt for months now.
Because I'm depressed. Again.
Months. I've said it. I've avoided putting an actual time frame on it, even somewhere in the back of my mind, because that feels official, and I'm not ready to mourn yet another thing I've abandoned. I've avoided thinking about all the work I already put in — also months. All the ideas, enthusiasm, even the questions I kept returning to and trying to solve seem like a distant dream that may as well not have happened. I don't mean to speak about it with such finality, as if it's really dead, because I don't want it to be. Despite all evidence to the contrary, a part of me still wants to believe I can do it. Someday.
Sigh. My head has just emerged from my hands again. More crying. More breathlessness. Why am I trying to put this out into the world? Will it help me or make me feel worse? Almost certainly the latter.
I know this from experience with previous musings elsewhere. Also because in this case, I don't feel up to discussing any of this with my family, some of whom are subscribers. Thinking about it floods me with anxiety. I'm trying not to let fear stop me from doing things as much (ha). But to those family members and others, I'd like to say this is the way I'm capable of expressing what's happening right now, and I'm sorry, but talking is not.
Still, it would be much, much easier for me if I could imagine that this post won't concern anyone. I'm not writing it as some kind of cry for help; I'm just stating facts. Moreover, this dipping in and out of emotional quicksand is perhaps the single most consistent and reliable pattern in my whole life. That doesn't make it feel like any less of a failure every single time.
Here's the thing I guess I'm trying to get at: I don't want to lose my pen while I'm in the quicksand. I'm desperate not to, in fact, but it feels out of my control.
I may not be the best writer. Sometimes I'm pretty good at it, sometimes not so much. But putting words on paper comes as naturally to me as breathing. Always has. Anyone in my life who communicates with me in any written form — perhaps involuntarily — will tell you I'm essentially incapable of using four words when I could use 27 instead. It may surprise them to know I do self-edit. It's not that I don't know how to be concise, it's that I don't like concise. All those words, that level of specificity and detail, they actually matter to me quite a lot.
Lately I've become increasingly concerned that my words, whether four or 27 of them, whether written or spoken, don't matter to anyone else. I'm honestly not sure if this belief caused my current mental state or if it's been caused by it. But one thing is certain: I don't know how to not write.
So instead of channeling those words and details into my book or a blog, all I've been capable of recently is lengthy and often unsolicited texts, chats, and emails. It has to go somewhere. Anywhere but where it might actually be inferred that I want someone to take notice or that I think I deserve to be read.
Now, as in the past, the pressure to make my writing worthy has left me paralyzed. Even in more mentally healthy times, I'm an incredibly harsh self-critic, and "worthy" is essentially unattainable. It also changes. Some days it means witty AF, some days it means profound and relevant at this moment; almost always it means unique, necessary, and utterly original.
(I blame journalism school and the process of pitching stories for teaching me to expect nothing less than those last things, but it's possible I take it a bit too far.)
(But also do you know how many more articulate and impactful pieces about depression you could be reading on Medium right now instead of this?)
I think the truth is there's not much I, or most people, can say that hasn't been said already. There's room for some things to be said over again. Or at least believing that's true could help me muddle through enough to keep my voice alive.
It's just... it's a job to convince myself of that even in the good times. And these are not them. I just don't know where that leaves me. I'm a writer, but I'm not.
So. Depression is not laziness or a bad attitude. It can be fleeting, or it can be with someone for life. It can be a terminal illness. I'm not having those feelings right now, nor have I in recent memory. But while I don't expect to lose my life, every time this happens — these episodes — I wonder if my voice has been permanently yanked from my body, so that I'll never do this thing again that feels so essential to who I am, that I treasure so deeply. It would be a different kind of loss, but a devastating one all the same.
These may the only words I put down today, this week, this month. They're not much, but they're me trying to hold onto my pen.