Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Saga of Lessons.

Otherwise known as the Saga of D, part two.

The thing about Depression-with-a-capital-D, which, in my modest view, means you take pills, you see doctors, your life is adversely affected beyond feeling gloomy, is just that: you take pills, you see doctors, your life is adversely affected. It's a disease, an affliction, a condition. Point being, I'm sick, and I always will be sick--and fortunately it's manageable, but the mere managing can be just as rough.

Here's a slew of similes for you to chew up: it's like mono. Mono never goes away, but you don't wake up with a sore throat every day. It's like diabetes; you have to monitor yourself. It's like epilepsy because you have fits.

And when those fits occur--and they will--there's very little you can do except cram a spoon between your teeth and hope you don't swallow your tongue.

Some more bad similes: it's a rip tide because you can't fight it. It's like quicksand in the same way. And it's like vomiting, because you medically can't not vomit--there's no such thing as kind of vomiting (at least according to the sagely Dr. Snickerdoodle, otherwise known as brother-in-med-school). You're either hurling your guts up or you're not.

What this looks like to a depressed person is this: uncontrollable crying. Feeling about as fragile as the proverbial eggshell. Not being able to move. Thoughts that yell at each other to a pitch that becomes sheer noise, and logic that whirls--because you've trained your brain to do this, and you can teach yourself otherwise, but there will still be days that you forget all your lessons and regress.

When you're trying to get over an infection or a cold, you wake up and check your vitals: throat sore? nose clogged? aches?

When you're living depressed, you do the same, only you think: can I do this today? And this is simply getting out of bed. Then problems create problems--you sleep through work, your boss chides you, you're overly sensitive so a totally justified criticism becomes a personal attack, which you deserve--or so you think, because you think so insanely little of yourself that you deserve all the shit the world can dish out and then some--because you are a terrible person and wasting everyone's oxygen and nobody actually likes you, it's a vast conspiracy of politeness, and really, what's the point anyway, you've fucked it up all beyond all hope of repair anyway but dying is too tough so just go back to bed and stay there.

Pretty much every day this past week has been like this for me.

I'm hollering because last night, when the police man asked me from the other side of the glass if I had any conditions, I told him I was depressed.

And he said, "Aren't we all," and kept on with his paperwork.

So there's two lessons for you and a thousand for me in this. The first is that depression sucks, it's ugly, it's unavoidable, and cavalierly suggesting to a hysterical girl who's handcuffed to a wall that everyone is depressed isn't just a bad idea, it's plain wrong. I'm not asking for sympathy or pity or even understanding. I know that I fought a diagnosis forever because we have some collective myth that equates the word depression with simply feeling bad, and anyone worth their snuff can dig out of their own hole, right? "I'm depressed" means "I'm feeling sorry for myself and having a crummy day."

False, says I!

The second is this, and if I ever wanted to use this blog as a platform, now's the time--though I debated for a long while whether publicizing this would have any other benefit besides consoling me (because if it's an anecdote it's no longer a tragedy, right!?)--but hell's bells, here goes.

Don't drink and drive.

(So many d's!)

I was not drunk. I'd had three beers. I've been drunk before, and this was not it. But I also had an expired registration and a busted headlight and a lead foot on the gas pedal because a certain beast had neither had his dinner nor been let out to pee in about, oh, ten hours.

I have been crying so much lately that when the officer's car lights started blinking, I was dry-eyed. As I was when he made me walk and count and balance on one fucking foot and breathalyzed me, again, all of a block and a half from my front door.

When he handcuffed me in the passenger seat of the cruiser, though, it started, and continued all the way to the station, where I was walked into a plain and terrible room. He sat me on a stool. He asked if I was right or left handed.

"Right," I said, and he hooked my left wrist to the wall.

And it kept going as I exhausted every number in my phone searching for the one sober soul in Wilmington still awake at 2:30 who could come sign me out and take my pathetic ass home.

To say it took forever was an understatement, but you know all the cliches: the chummy other cops, "how're the wife n' kids" as you're sitting there, humiliated beyond belief, shocked, any buzz you may have had evaporated, and the slow paperwork, the ambling, all while you're sitting there with your hand stuck to the wall.

And I was angry and shocked and decidedly unhappy and thinking psychotic thoughts, but I kept quiet, and after eight hundred years and seventeen months and a few hours more, they let me go.

Even though my license is gone for at least a month and I've got attorney bills to pay, there were a lot of miracles in the whole mess. I called everyone--my friends, my co-workers, my boss--and, in my catastrophizing mind thought I'm going to have to sleep in jail because I have no friends. But, of course, this is crazy person thinking, and not only was my sober signer there, but also the girl I'd gotten in touch with who got in touch with her and--and!--another friend who'd called the station back and somehow deduced that Little Rachel was in the slammer.

In short, they came through, and there was a fucking committee of friendship standing outside in the cold waiting for me. Not only did they save me the unforgettable shame that would've been my boss driving me home (he would have, I know, but thank god the old fart was asleep), but it made me realize what a hugely distorted conclusion I'd made earlier. You don't stand in the cold in the middle of nowhere dealing with jackass law enforcers out of simple courtesy. That's just fact.

But this is the bigger one and the one you should pay attention to: I was two blocks from my house. I felt in control. My car is intact--albeit two blocks away--and my scarred psyche and your waning attention span are the only casualties of this whole shitshow.

It could have very, very easily been otherwise.

Which was what my family kept repeating when I broke the news today, all of them knowing that I'm gonna give myself more hell than the three of them combined could: no one was hurt. And we all know--you and me and my folks and everybody else--that there have been too many times when I was in worse states and didn't get caught. It's miraculous that when I did, it was last night, after three innocent beers and not, oh, say, nights of whiskey. And you've had them too.

Are you paying attention so far? Here's what we've learned: a) depression is a bitch. b) don't steer after beer. (I just came up with that!)

Here's what I learned:

Three beers is what I would have once called a nice, semi-buzzed limit. Three beers used to work when I was 45 pounds heavier, but also when I hadn't forgone dinner and slept til three out of paralyzing misery and wasn't, well, sick.

I have got to start taking care of myself. I know, if I'd eaten, that little number on the breathalyzer screen would have been lower. And it wasn't self-denial, it's not anorexia--I just didn't eat. My doctor told me this: "You don't have an eating disorder, but your eating is certainly disordered."

And that's true--and so is my laundry, and my sleeping habits, and how I write, and just about everything.

Another D, Disorder. And another: Determined, as in how I am about how I've got to go on--harder, better, faster, stronger!

Both my parents told me, at the utmost least, it'd make a good story. I hope so.

Go forth, young readers, and be sober and mobile! May you learn from my mistakes. And may you also please give me a ride.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Saga of Maintenance.

Hello friends. Long time no blog, as the kids are saying these days.

And that's because there have been remarkable days, but just as many mediocre, and far too many slightly disastrous. This is a problem: I judge my worth by how many catastrophes I avoid per day. Examples: Did I eat only cereal? Did Pinto make a child cry? Did I sleep 15 hours straight on a weekday? Was I reprimanded by some superior, either because I a) slept through work or b) neglected to pick up my dog's droppings (seriously, people--I know it's gross but it's not like I'm tossing used heroin syringes from my pockets like appleseeds) or c) fucked up something else?

So I'm maintaining. When the close of the week approaches, I think, oh, I made it. Another one down. And when the start is imminent, I brace myself, because the way I'm living is a little like standing in the surf during a hurricane, waiting for the big one to come knock me down and sweep me away.

Fortunately, I have very good soles on my shoes.

(I am an excellent metaphorist, clearly).

I'm not complaining, because I brought this on myself. Me and my brother are both somehow engineered to have this sadistic yes I will do everything all at once! mindset that's been hacking away at us since high school. To use other people's cliches: too many irons in the fire. Too many pots on the stove. Or, in the immortal words of one Mr. Bilbo Baggins: "I feel like butter scraped over too much bread."

And I still feel like it's some form of penance for the epic desert that was most of the previous year--the movie watching and beer guzzling and general fucking around. But it's detrimental in a lot of ways because it makes me blind to so much goodness--like my freaking apartment! It's amazing! Huge! Old! Hardwood floors and a working fireplace (okay it's gas but still!).

Sadly I am usually scrambling to find my keys to get to work only marginally later than expected and the floor is covered in dog hair. Seriously. How can one beast produce so much?

But! To drag this already terrible metaphor even further, here are the cleats! Those little wonderments that miraculously prevent my daily drowning! (It's late! I should nap!)

My friends, because they are, miraculously, mine. I realized this in an unfortunate context, but I've learned something about myself--I don't think anybody should like me. I am kind of astounded when they do. I think it fitting that today, while being graciously watched by a friend, Pinto went a little happy-berserk and proceeded to use his torpedo-strength tail and knock over some guitars; it's fitting, because I said to Pinto, "Ah, we make a good pair. Everyone tolerates us." And then the owners of the guitars told me that was false and gave me dinner...again. And some Halloween candy.

(Halloween, incidentally, was a veritable hullabaloo. (Apparently there are only three l's in hullabaloo.) I went as Carrie, aka, I went as a terrifyingly bloody prom queen. It. Was. Awesome.)

My dog, obviously. Because he might have taken to vomiting whenever he eats (only a little), and he might bark like the world is ending when I leave him in friends' backyards for a moment of peace, and he might have eaten pretty much all my shoes, but then he sits on my feet and looks up at me and I'm like "Oh, you son of a bitch--literally--I still love you more than everything and anything."

And I know it's a rerun in terms of this blog, but this place! Wimmyton! My god! I never, ever tire of looking at the houses when Pinto and I go on walks. (I also never tire of the people who are very kind when Pinto leaps the fence to say hello to them even though it looks like he's about to eat their jugular.) The beach, though I haven't seen it in weeks, is right there! (A friend tonight said she was sorry she was late--she'd been drinking whiskey on the beach). And how could we not mention THE SERPENTARIUM!

But, moreover, the little microcosm I'm enrolled in, though lord knows it makes me grind my teeth at night at times, and my poor father has to suffer through my deranged, caffeinated phone calls when I'm feeling especially out of sorts with all that is MFA and literary and--Lord help me--workshopped. (Not that I dislike workshop, but I think their shine is dimming considering this will be my sixth year straight sitting in them).

This week was Writer's Week where classes are canceled and a whole slew of nifty events replaces them. I told my brother this and he got very pissy because there's no such thing as Doctor's Week for med school students. My attendance at such events has been patchy (see the above 15-hours-of-sleep mention) but oh, my little heart starts thudding when I'm there. Partially because it's a glorious thing to hear writers talk, to think I could someday talk so eloquently and, more importantly, deservedly, to get the cold bucket of water over the head that reminds me, Oh right! I like doing this! Writing is great! The world is amazing! Hooray for us all let's have more wine!

But also: Pinto.

No, that one was a joke.

But also: here. North Carolina. The South. The coast. The fringe. The sea and the drawls and the barbecue.

There was a performance a few nights ago of Dusty and Ace, aka two of my professors who flirt with guitar-pickin' and mandolin-strummin'. I went. I was sleepy. I sat at the front. And just as it happened a year ago at one of the first functions I attended, when the kids broke out the guitars and started singing, the lights went down and the music came on:

oh daddy won't you take me back to muhlenberg county

What happened next was an hour of songs I knew and couldn't say how I knew--cowboy tunes, slide guitars, fiddle solos. And, as I found out today, the man in the fanciest cowboy shirt up there is a native Delawarian. Delawarer. Person from Delaware.

And I called my dad as soon as I got home and said, "You would have loved it."

Likewise, tonight there was a reading that concluded in a piece about the ineffable glory and atrocity that is Free Bird. And I wrote in my friend's notebook - "I want to shout hallelujah."

What I mean is this--there's a reason I came here. Something is right in all this mess. Otherwise my blood wouldn't retain the lyrics to songs I never listen to; I wouldn't be here if I shouldn't.

So maybe it's the saga of hallelujah, actually. It's just good, so very good, to know that I can make things as bad as I possibly can for myself, and something, someone, or somewhat is out there to remind me that there's a method to this mayhem, that I'll probably--more than likely--actually definitely--be all right.