Recovery In Perpetuity
And Other Fun Hobbies for Depressed People Over 30
I got a lot of good things going for me right now. A new car, new job, stable home. I am not worried about food or money or shelter or where my next paycheck is coming from. I am not running from anything, not hiding from anything. I have good friends who adore me and a supportive partner who is kind to me in all the right ways. I have made massive changes to my diet and begun keeping myself on a rather tight schedule that includes shopping days and meal prep days and becoming the primary chef of the household, therefore getting us all healthier.
And yet, here I am at 1 in the morning getting ready to whine to strangers on the internet about my depression, when in all reality I have it pretty fucking good right now. I wish my brain would get that memo and get with the fucking program. I have been wishing that for most of my life. I'm going to get into some of the nitty-gritty here folks, and before I do, I want to give some content warnings.
CONTENT WARNING: Mental health talk, mentions of suicide, suicidal ideation, eating disorders, and recovery.
Ok, now that we have gotten that out of the way, let's get some history.
I was six years old the first time I remember thinking of killing myself. It wasn't the dramatic passing flare up one would normally expect from a child, no one took my toy and caused me to yell something dramatic like, "well I guess I will just go die then!" Or anything like that. I was in my room, at my mom's house awake late at night, already plagued with my lifelong insomnia even then. I was laying in my bed, nestled into flannel sheets purchased for me by my Great Grandma Mary. Holding my favorite stuffed animal, a sawdust stuffed, yellow felt banana that my dad had won me at a fair when I was three or four. I in a sweeping wave of childlike creativity had named Mr. Banana Head. Staring at the textured ceiling of my room and letting my brain lazily pick out patterns and shapes from the mess, I remember very clearly thinking, "I don't think this life stuff is for me, I think I want off of this ride now."
Now my childhood wasn't a walk in a field of roses with some orchestral sweeping music as a backing track. There are skeletons in the closet of my family just like everyone else's that we just absolutely don't talk about unless very drunk or very angry, I had no context for thought like that. Later when I was older, I began devouring media filled with suicide. I must have read Antigone, and Romeo and Juliette a million times. Also filling my time with books like Violet and Claire, and other dark teenage melodramas that we largely centered on suicide. I am a little too old to catch the 13 Reasons Why train, but I can assure you teenage me would have been very into that book.
Lest you think I was romanticizing suicide in any way, I wasn't I knew full well the implications that suicide had on the people left behind. Freshman year my best friend was found hanging from a belt in her closet, and Junior year my girlfriend killed herself in her bathtub in a way that I don't care to discuss. I knew that I would be hurting everyone who loved me but I also felt that maybe, it would hurt them less in the long run. By the time I graduated high school I had three overt attempts at suicide under my belt and 100 small and subtle ones.
The thing with parents like mine is, they love you so fiercely that they don't notice what is right in front of them. They don't notice with the bottle of advilPM goes missing for the third shopping trip in a row, and has to be replaced They don't notice when their daughter starts only eating side salads with old and vinegar at restaurants and only wearing very baggy clothes to hide how much weight she has lost because the only time she eats is when someone is watching. They also don't notice that she gets up early on trash day to take all the bags of vomit out of her room and put them in the trash cans on the curb. They certainly don't notice when she quietly gets addicted to benzodiazepine and checks out of life for a year, or the binge drinking, the gratuitous drug doing or the fact that she is being groomed by several adults for future abuse.
They do notice, however, when the aforementioned daughter tries to go for a walk and somehow disappears for several hours, coming back with bleeding wrists and no idea how it happened. Those things they notice. So there is outpatient therapy, and group therapy, and pills and pills, and pills. And everyone has an explanation but no one has a cure, and so it goes, and so it goes.
I'm not a child anymore. I have been in and out of recovery for eating disorders for most of my adult life, and they are pretty well managed now, despite my struggles and missteps. Despite my tendency to make not eating a challenge for myself, I know the signs to look for. I got explanations and reasons for the weird shit that I do, and the way that I think from doctors and therapists who listen to me now. I am no longer on the pills that make me feel like an emotionless marshmallow or the pills that make me feel like I am walking underwater but everyone else is on the Autobahn. I have learned to say no to the intrusive thoughts, but that grip on myself is tenuous my dear readers. Tenuous, and fragile, like a bomb made of glass.
When I was starving, I thought that a full belly would cure me. When I was homeless, I thought a home would. When I was penniless, I thought money could fix me. When I was abandoned I thought finding a family could. But none of them can fix me. What I am while not broken, is more akin to a factory defect. I am the radical product of two people who should probably not have had sex recklessly. But they did, so I am here. And here is where I should be, I think.
I had a revelation about a month ago. For the first time in my life, I have decided that I want to live, to grow old, to mature fully and experience menopause, and seeing my children grow up and out of my home into their own lives. I want to live in a way that I can't remember wanting to live since that night in my bedroom hugging Mr. Banana Head. But a lifetime of planning one's exit dance from mortal responsibilities does not go away in a blink, or a snap of one's fingers. No, even now as I write this, my brain is filled with all the ways I could self destruct, slowly, or all at once.
Even with the pills I take now, and the therapy I go to, and the doctors I see, I still have to remind myself that life is an ok thing to have to happen to me. That there are things I want to do and experience, and taste, and touch, and feel. I think it's ok that I am not perfect. I think it's ok that at 33, I am still figuring out how to do things because I never expected to be as old as I turned on Tuesday. I think it's ok that I still occasionally think about the satisfying sound my neck would make as it snapped, as long as I come back from that thought with the knowledge that I would not be able to hear the sound and therefore maybe, I should just make the fucking coffee and get on with my day.
I guess the point of this rambling late-night essay that poured straight from whatever passes as my brain at this hour, is to say, recovery from anything is a process. It doesn't matter if it is drugs, or alcohol, or sex, or suicide, or an eating disorder, or just plain old depression. Recovering is never a thing you are done with, you will do it forever, or for as long as you care to, and when you stop caring too, you relapse. You are never all better, but you can be better than you were. For me, better than I was, is all I could ever hope for.