Parenting

I'm Not Myself When I'm Depressed

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Trigger warning: suicide

February 27, 2019

I feel physically sick. My head aches. I have no appetite for the shrimp pasta my husband cooked for dinner tonight. I’ve been on the verge of tears all day. I picked up my six-year-old son from school and he asked if he could make a bomb out of LEGO. I calmly explained why he shouldn’t make anything that resembled a bomb or was called a bomb. He got mad at me and said, “You’re not me! I get to name it whatever I want!”

Depression manifests itself in different ways for different people. For me, it’s like being held down by something really heavy that I can’t get out from underneath, no matter how hard I try. Darkness settles around me and I can’t see beyond it. My face goes expressionless. I want to cry, but I can’t. You know how doctors take a tongue depressor and stick it in your mouth and hold down your tongue so they can see your throat? That’s what depression is like for me. I can’t move. I’m not me.

All I want to do is curl up in bed, go to sleep, and not get up again. I think about the different ways I could go. I think about sharp objects. I think about swerving my car off the road. I think about stepping into oncoming traffic. I think about pills. I’ve tried that before. Then I think about my sweet son and what he would do without his mama. And I stop myself.

With bipolar disorder, I never know when depression is going to come over me. The change of seasons often sets me off, but winter is just plain hard. I long for the warm summer months. The times with boundless energy and creativity. Working long hours for a purpose, a goal. Needing less sleep. Feeling all the range of emotions. I milk those times for all they are worth, knowing they won’t last. What goes up must come down.

Whether up or down, I survive on music.

I get Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings newsletters delivered to my inbox. Brain Pickings is filled with wonderful quotes, excerpts, and links from great thinkers, artists, musicians, and writers. In one particular newsletter, Popova relayed Dr. Oliver Sacks’ experience with surviving a harrowing event through the power of music.

I felt, with the first bars of the music, a hope and an intimation that life would return to my leg — that it would be stirred, and stir, with original movement, and recollect or recreate its forgotten motor melody. I felt, in those first heavenly bars of music, as if the animating and creative principle of the whole world was revealed, that life itself was music, or consubstantial with music; that our living moving flesh, itself, was “solid” music — music made fleshy, substantial, corporeal. The sense of hopelessness, of interminable darkness, lifted… A sense of renewal grew upon me.

When depression hits me, I need to raise my voice like my son and say “You’re not me! I get to name it whatever I want!” and detonate the bomb of music within to destroy the darkness. To explode into light and fire and spark. To sing once more and bring to life the notes on the page until the chorus upholds me and the music lifts me out of the abyss. (Or, the “a-bisque” as my son pronounces it.)

I follow the writer Amber Sparks on Twitter. She tweeted, “You have five minutes until the world ends and you can put anything on speaker or headphones. What do you want to go out listening to? Think fast.”

I didn’t even have to think about it. The song, ever since I was a teenager, is “Tear in Your Hand” by Tori Amos. Tonight, I’m going to turn out the lights, shut my eyes, and listen to the music. It’s all I can do right now.

January 5, 2021

Winter again. We’re in a pandemic. It’s dark at 5 o’clock. Last night my son randomly asked my husband to make shrimp pasta for dinner, even though at this point he refuses to eat the shrimp. I didn’t say anything, because I’m not the one who does the cooking. How can I complain? How can I explain how the smell of lemon and butter and garlic and seafood makes me remember?

This Christmas, I gifted myself a weighted blanket, which holds me down in a different way than the tongue-depressor depression. I knew I needed the blanket when I started to pop out of bed on time and began cleaning my house like Monica Geller on speed. Also, as of Christmas, my son has accumulated enough little pieces to make the world’s largest LEGO bomb, which has indeed detonated all over my living room floor. Those little pieces just might be the end of me.

Yesterday, I talked to my psychiatrist over Zoom. She told me to ride out the wave of my current rise in energy. She told me that I know what to do. Embrace the waves. Enjoy my organized closets and the inspiration I’m feeling on overdrive. Because soon, one day, maybe even tonight, my spark will dim. I told her that I know I’ll be okay, because I live under that tongue depressor most of the time. I’ll be okay.

Tonight, though, I’m going to sit here alone in my makeshift, working-from-home office for as long as I can. I’m going to listen to a new song. My coworker recommended “What I Needed” by the band Dark Dark Dark. I’m going to feel all the feels. Soon my husband will send my son down to get me to come upstairs for dinner. I just overheard that it’s Taco Tuesday. I take a deep breath. I have to be me. It’s all I can do.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or the SAMHSA National Helpline or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

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