Anne Dufourmantelle, in Power of Gentleness: Meditations on the Risk of Living, reminds depressed patients looking for a quick fix that “medication only patches up the desire to live, or the heartache, or the professional failure, or the feeling of inadequacy; for nothing can sew up such a wound. Nothing except creation, what reopens the wound elsewhere and differently, but on less shifting ground” (86).
Two months ago, I published my third book, once again creating and re-creating myself through words. Writing it gave me pleasure, but it was a lonely endeavor. I write best when nobody’s around, but I don’t write for myself alone. Depressed or not, we all crave connection.
“When we are seized,” Dufourmantelle says, “by the feeling that nobody will ever come to us, that this solitude will not loosen its grip on us, ever, we must still find the strength to extend our arms, to kiss, to love. To say it, to start again, to hear the whisper of that wild voice that calls you from well before your beginnings” (98).
My books are an extension of me, a reaching out, a kiss. A wound reopened elsewhere, my writing is an expression of loneliness that challenges but never defeats loneliness.
I’m in the moment, longing to be the moment itself. I’m fully engaged in the Being-Me of being me, but being me is not enough. I want to be everything and every person I’m not.
Flawed, fragile, fearful—enough! I want to be right now.
Impossible, I remind myself.
After years of sorrow, I accept the truth of my flawed, fragile, fearful self. After years of mourning, I wake up in the midnight of my life, aware of everything and every person I’m not.
What I need, to let go (of) myself, is touch. I long to touch a body longing to be touched.
Still possible, I remind myself.
Three holes to fill: I’m lonely, horny and ornery. Or, in clinical terms, I’m depressed, (hypo)manic and anxious. In the end, I’m screwed.
To earn a living you have to quit dreaming. To fall in love you have to get over yourself. Working and dating: two chores I have no energy for.
I am not a recovering melancholic. I continue to overthink.
The recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain got me thinking about my attempt fifteen years ago and the struggles I still face.
People who don’t know me well don’t see the real me—the reeling me. Although I’m not actively suicidal, I must fight every day passive thoughts about wishing to die. Some days I’m so depressed I have to force myself to take a shower. Being with people hurts. I tell myself that life is meaningless and I’ll always be miserable, unable to work full-time.
Someone I hadn’t seen in years asked me recently if I ever thought about becoming a teacher. I’m well-spoken, she said, and full of interesting ideas. I told her she caught me on a good day.
“Check with me tomorrow morning,” I said. “You’ll see I’m a different person.”
Of course I’ve thought about becoming a teacher, but becoming a teacher feels impossible. I’m not confident enough to stand in front of a classroom. I’m not brave enough to make mistakes—mistakes I might learn from. I don’t believe in myself.
People of faith often talk about doing God’s work. They’re called to fulfill a higher purpose beyond themselves. I worry that my calling never came and never will. All I hear is my own voice, putting me down, on an endless loop.
There is a counter-argument. My writing—regardless of my mood—is a spiritual endeavor and writing about depression and suicide might save lives, including my own.
Writing about my depression briefly relieves my pain. The moment I describe what I’m feeling, I no longer feel (as) depressed.
As we say, write or read a word—the second we “have it”—the word slips away along with its meaning. I write down “depression”; depression and its meaning(lessness) slip my mind, only to return.
A pessimist might argue that writing about depression is a symptom of my depression. I say that as long as I’m writing about something I’m not lying in bed all day in a bad brood.