Monday, June 10, 2013

MISSION FIVE: Incorporation

Clinical depression is a very different animal than people imagine it to be. One typically envisions its gloomy victims as lost souls who are bereft of both energy and will power, not to mention broken to the point of not getting off the couch. (Thank you Zoloft commercials).

The truth is/was very different for me. The burden of a CD-sufferer comes from the pressured, outward masquerade of normalcy not, as one would assume, the internal pessimism. This is because the brain is one Hell of an incredible machine. 'Before,' I definitely knew that this organ, which controls the functioning of an entire human being from the hair-follicles to the toes, was impressive. Yet, it wasn't until my 'After' that I came to understand the baffling and awful intricacies of the mechanism. It is awful both in the most amazing way and in the worst. It is a Yin-Yang battlefield of your worst victim and your best friend.

By whatever act of God or Gorilla, I just so happened to inherit a certain genetic trait that made me a little... different. A negative situation, which would be irritating but easily passed over by the so-called average citizen, would instead burrow itself deeply into the caverns of the "I hate the world" part of my brain. I would grit my teeth and simmer in frustration at whatever trigger had set me off. If there was not trigger, I would still find a way to attach myself to a random thought and take it to a dark or otherwise unnecessarily complicated place. There was no sacred haven in life untainted or impenetrable from my scrutiny, and over time, I somehow purposely yet accidentally buried myself in my own venom. Essentially, life was an unsolvable puzzle that I was determined to figure out, but-- as such a thing is impossible-- I got tangled and tripped up in my own hypotheses. There was no answer, there was no point. All of life was meaningless. You live and you die. That's it.

With a little chemical aid, I suddenly got those negative, ever-surfacing triggers on lockdown. Instead of allowing myself to contribute to my own downfall by allowing a sinister intuition to snowball out of control, I used my reason to overpower the urge and brush it aside. There is no longer an impulse to "go there." A frustrating situation will still occur, of course, and I may cringe for a brief second on the inside when faced with it, but now I know that I can segue around it. Which I do. I simply move on. Sure, I could stop at the store having a huge sale, but do I really need to spend precious time and money going through racks of clothes that I can't afford are probably faulty? Nah. Drive-by. The pathways in my brain lead me to a safer place. So, 'there is no point.' So, 'you live and you die.' So what? All the more reason to embrace the moments you have and make them amazing. Why sit and pout when you can dance-- sometimes alone in your room while listening to your favorite song and sometimes in this modern ritual of public dry-humping known as "clubbing?" (It does not involve seals, don't worry). As you can see, pre-pill, my motto was , "F*ck me..." Post-pill, it's, "F*ck it! Strum the Hell out of it, Fruciante!" [Annnnd commence singing in the car].

Yes, depression is an animal. When you have it, you don't think you have it. You may know somewhere inside that the squeaky wheels of your apparatus aren't quite what they ought to be. Still, you think you're normal, although you probably consider yourself a bit "deeper" than everyone else. I mean, you get it. They don't. Depression is sort of like being possessed, because you aren't 100% in control of yourself. Of course, the demon is not an actual demon. It is a heavy, wet blanket wrapped around your head.  You can feel it, but you think nothing of it. It is all you ever felt.

As such, before my treatment, I managed to interact with friends, go to work, and even laugh hysterically despite myself. I could be funny. I could make astute observations. I could play musical instruments. I could memorize a monologue and perform it onstage. I could be there for friends and family. I could do pretty much anything. I just wouldn't feel good about any of it nor proud of myself at the end of the day-- and this despite the misdirected and isolating pride that I had built around myself. Yes, I was able to perform all of these outward functions, I was able to be active (and not on the Zoloft couch) while revealing no inner issues, because just as my mind was my own worst enemy, it was also my best friend. As 'crazy' as I was, I was just as equally rational. The brain is a fugitive from its own comprehension. It is a beguiling mystery: trying to make sense of itself while being too complex to be made sense of. This is proverbial 'tree in the woods' type stuff.

The error for me came when I suddenly ran out of tricks. When something didn't work out or when I got down in the dumps in the past, I would temporarily break (in silence), take a mental breather away from the world, and come back under new but lesser steam. Few people knew the reasons for my occasional, literal vacations from society or my figurative staycations-- wherein I was present physically but not mentally. After a good fight, I ran out of ways to look at "the bright side." I ran out of reasons to believe that this hump or that hump was something that I would get over eventually.

You can only lose so many battles before you give up on the war. I didn't just throw down my gun, I was literally volunteering for my own execution. "Kill me, Nazi Jesus! I give up!" I had valiantly plowed my way past all of my generally invented obstacles in my giant tanker of Grau toughness, but I ran out of gas. Then, I popped my head from the top of my monster vhicle, looked around, and saw oblivion. Where the Hell am I? How did I get here? Then, I dejectedly hanged my head in defeat, because there was no Shell station in sight, and I didn't for a moment think that any of the passers-by would be willing to help a fool like me out. (This was one of the 'F*ck me' moments).

The testament to my self control and the remaining vestige of my rationality-- which was by now fully overwhelmed by the self loathing side of my brain-- was that I did not hurt myself. I didn't hurt anyone else either. At least not directly. My fatal flaw and my dead giveaway was that my disappearances increased in length and breadth. My presence among friends or the incidence of me talking to another human being became nearly non-existent. I was wound so tight, trying to keep myself from exploding into a thousand pieces, that I became irritated by invitations. I didn't want to put the mask on. I didn't want to pretend for everyone's benefit that all was cool in the world of Meredith. I also became paranoid that people actually hated me or thought I was weird-- which they reasonably did, due to my overly odd and non-communicative behavior. Friendship, smiling, strength... They were all taxing things that I could no longer be bothered to exhibit. I faded and faded and faded, until I was nearly gone.

Now, suddenly, I'm back! Or rather, here for the first time. The painful brain freeze is gone. The wet towel has been discarded. I am wide open, happier than I've ever been, and ecstatic to just wake up in the morning. My brain is even-- at least, for the most part. There naturally are still hiccups on my road to recovery.

Due to incredible the distance that I had created around myself, my real battle has simply been returning to the world of humans. My close-knit friends have taken me back. My family was on board with me even when I wasn't. But, general society continues to evade me. In a way, it's as if I don't understand certain social cues. Things that are standard are foreign to me. I have been forced to truly push myself. I am trying to go out more. I RSVP "yes" to invitations, instead of "no." I am opening up my personal world and also discovering other people, the functions of their existence, what makes them interesting, and this makes me want to know them more.

I now participate much more on Facebook-- a place that I had long avoided for fear of the eye-burning selfies that were one of my former triggers: "Narcissism! Ugh... Everyone suuuuucks!!!" Hell, I even Tweet now! I'm on Instagram too. I don't get it. I honestly don't get it. All these technological options are strange and somehow impersonal in their interpersonal motives. But then, I don't get just "hanging out" either. I always feel as if I am doing something wrong. I feel myself holding my position, afraid to move, or otherwise moving around a lot so people think that I am "totes" comfortable with my surroundings. I am confused by all of it, and I admittedly still find all of these Genghis Khan-like media outlets a bit annoying. BUT, what I can appreciate is the exchange of information. I feel more a part of the discussion. Marvin Gaye, I finally feel closer to knowing "What's goin' on."

Still, it's rough. Old habits die hard. I know how to extend my hand, shake someone else's, offer my name, smile, and mean it. After that, I kind of run out of objectives. I occasionally get lost in my head a bit, which instigates the old sensation of paralysis: "Mmmm, what do I say now... Nothing. I have nothing to say. Don't attract attention, so no one will make you say anything!" When someone I know is near me in these recently embraced public situations, I do better. In a room of unknowns, I tend to shut down. I'm not fully certain that people want to know me. I don't want to bother them with my me-ness. So, I let them approach me. I am still learning to approach others first and to initiate conversations, instead of participating only when asked a direct question.

I'm getting better, though. I keep pushing myself. I am no longer my own separate company but a piece of a larger and more laid-back corporation. It's like my pals finally got me a job at the same, cool place that they have all been working for years. I am being introduced to people, living life among them as one of them, and having a good time. Unfortunately, the nagging and insecure part of me is so awed by this sudden shift and its seeming ease that I get too nervous to dive right in. I tend to sit on the edge and relaxingly kick my feet.

In a certain way, my depression has softened to a more manageable inferiority complex. I feel so far behind everyone else. I'm the" new girl," and it's the first day of school. Everyone seems nice, but I haven't entirely "cliqued"-in yet. I have no protection. I'm trying to find a place to fit or a way to navigate different realms while maintaining myself in the process. In reality, this is probably a remnant of the way I always felt. Certainly, I felt inferior. I did not deserve companionship or public participation. I did not deserve love. I did not deserve a good job. Therefore, it would seem that I am currently trading in my martyrdom for a personality that I would have previously considered self-righteous and arrogant: the belief that I both belong and deserve to be the happiest bastard in the room. The ability to say, "this is mine" or "I am here."

Confidence has always been in me, but I left it un-watered and unattended for a very, very long time. Allowing it to grow feels a bit uncomfortable and strange. I'm just sort of letting the branches do their work and force me to expand my horizons, take shape, and stand. I still wear a mask to the masquerade, but it is only the tiny one that all shy people wear. I put on the guise that I am 100% certain of myself and secure in what I am saying and to whom. I'm not. I'm so not. However, I am inclined to believe that this "fake it 'til I make it" situation is much, much better than the former alternative. I may be faking, but I'm not flat-out lying. When someone new meets me, they are really meeting me. I'm there, not my shadow. I am speaking to them. I am listening. And 'f*ck it,' I may even be so bold as to "Friend" them on Facebook.

Hello world, I never knew how much I missed you until I met you.


  1. Meredith,
    I have always felt I that I just blended into the background. Wondering if they all were talking about my gawky appearance. Never being the cute girl just the skinny girl. Never starting conversations only to feel important if included in the cool kids circle. Only to tell myself you don't have what it takes! Some how I moved past that and try to always find something good to hang onto, feeling it's better than throwing my self in the dark deep hole. I feel like each and every person has a story they just choose not to share.
    I Love You,
    Auntie Paula

    1. So true. Why do we let ourselves get caught up in our own heads? No wonder people on hard drugs don't have a care in the world. THeir brains don't function properly! Hahaha.


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