Last night, I was having dinner with a friend — and realizing that I didn’t want to eat anything that I had ordered — when I told her that I was concerned about developing an episode of depression.
I had been writing down the symptoms in my journal earlier that day, trying to assess whether or not I was, in fact, in the early stages of a depressive episode. You might think, and rightly so, that after living with depression and its comrades for decades, that I would be able to tell without having to look it up. But there I was, holding the DSM criteria on my iPhone in one hand, and writing down examples of my symptoms in the other. Weight loss, negativity, frequent crying, low mood, and so forth — it was certainly possible. I hadn’t reached the two-week mark yet, but I also know that sometimes it’s not worth waiting to meet the DSM criteria.
“But,” I told my friend, who was wearing a beautiful blue coat, and taking a break from taking care of her new baby, “I’m also not sure if I’m feeling depressed because of illness, or just because a lot of shitty things have been happening this month.”
While she ate guacamole and I sipped at something called a La Rosa, I began to tell her the saga of only two of the many “shitty things” that had happened that month. She listened. She was sympathetic. She offered suggestions.
Finally, she said, “Es, I don’t think you’re depressed. I think you’re having a totally normal reaction that anyone would be having if all of these things happened to them. Especially all squeezed into one month.”
When she said it, I knew she was right. I took my untouched food home. I wrote in my journal for a while, and then I went to sleep.
At two in the morning, Daphne woke me up. She was barking hysterically, meaning that something was happening outside. In my half-asleep stupor, I thought that she was barking because Chris had come home, and I staggered into the living room, holding Daph in my arms, staring out the front windows. After a few minutes, I realized that it was the police. And I knew why they were there.
Our neighborhood has been having an issue with a woman living in her partner’s home nearby. Without getting too much into it, the police and medics have come numerous times in the last few months — either to try and calm her down, or to take her to what I’m assuming is the psychiatric hospital. Every time this happens, we are told that she will be removed from the apartment if this continues. It appears that this is what finally ended up happening last night.
As I went back to the bedroom, holding Daphne in my arms, I could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs: “Don’t take me away! [ ], save me! [ ], don’t let them take me! I can’t be alone! I can’t be alone!” She was screaming so loudly that I could still hear her as the police car drove down the street, away from my home.
I was terrified. And my heart was breaking. I’ve never been forcibly removed from my home, and I’ve never been an aggressive person even at my sickest, but I know what it’s like to be horrified at the prospect of being alone, while knowing that I have actually been completely alone all along. I went to my bedroom, shut the door, and called Daphne to bed with me. I shook for at least an hour, trying to calm down, singing songs to Daphne about Daphne.
I know that this post is, ostensibly, about what to do when everything sucks. And it is. This is what you do when things have been bad, and more things keep happening, and finally, you’re lying in your bed at 3AM with your dog, unable to sleep because you are faced with so much sadness and injustice and unfairness and anger that there seems to be nothing to do but weep forever. But I will warn you that it’s not a list, and it’s not a formula, and I don’t have a worksheet for you to download. Perhaps this will come as a disappointment, but there is no list in the world that can possibly solve the problem of a difficult time.
This is what I did. I fell asleep. I woke up later than usual, but still early. I did a podcast interview with Hannah Braime about restorative journaling and Radical Sincerity, which reminded me of what I do in the world, and why I do it. I met up with my brother and his wife, and we talked about meaningful things and pointless things. I played phone tag with my insurance company. And that is where I am, now. I am sitting at my computer and telling you that it is another day, and I am still here. You are still here.
I’ve actually been journaling a lot more than usual since I began developing the lessons of my restorative journaling course, Rawness of Remembering: Restorative Journaling Through Difficult Times. Perhaps it’s apt that I’m going through a difficult time as I’m building the lessons. Regardless, I am deeply honored by everyone who’s registered. There are still open spots for registration, which ends on October 11th. I welcome you to join us.