Yesterday an acquaintance asked me if I was depressed. I am still very unamerican in some ways, and such personal probings generally elicit a bristly and horrified response. I happen to like this person and so replied as politely as I could (not letting the mask fall) that I had no idea why they thought that to be the case, and I was quite fine, just tired of the bad weather and the cold short days. A little, but insistent voice within me started up an alarming inner-dialogue diatribe:
“Depressed! I am not depressed, I am distraught! I am not ‘unwell’ – I am suffering from existential road-rash of dire proportions! Depressed? Oh I would like to be fucking depressed. Depressed and blue could be fixed with Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell, a hug and a brisk walk down to the Bay. What I am can’t even be fixed with music and mindless television shows where curiously unskilled but delightful people bake horrendous looking cakes that I can’t even fucking dream of recreating and eating because I have celiac disease and a dairy and egg allergy, so instead just watch them from the side-lines like a deprived abused vegan dog desperate for a bite of sausage.”
The voice would not shut up. I could feel the feared tears pricking at my throat and forming a lead ball in my solar plexus that I could not swallow properly down and attempt to digest, and instead just sits there filling up space and weighing me down. Depressed.
I forced myself to give an approximation of a chuckle, patted the kindly soul on the shoulder, and went home with my bunch of bananas, two pounds of apples and olympic-sized millstone around my neck in the shape of an albatross. There is an old feeling of panic that I know well. We have known each other since I was a child. It rises like steam and fills the space between my ears, rushing like wind through a tunnel, empty and vast and all-consuming. There is not permanent cure, but it can be managed, though, at least in part. Alcohol does the job to some degree. I have not had a drink since 2018. I can’t drink. Alcohol is forever off the menu. Anything rather than get sloppy and loose and turn into the dumb stupid spittle-flecked fool that it transforms me into. Some people get sparkly and fun when they are drunk, not me. It makes me dull and placid until I black out, then I get wild and out of control. No booze. Weed? Gimmie a break. Weed is an amplifier, I get stoned now and I will create a hurricane in my head, not just a squall of panic, fear and depth plummeting devastation that goes beyond the blues into something wild and untamable. I know what works, and yet I can’t touch it. I know what calms this terror and yet it is also off the menu. “Oh Sister Morphine, when are you coming round agaaaaain!” the voice in my head starts to sing loudly. I wonder if anyone else can hear its song.
No. There is no relief, no respite, no vacation, nothing to do except wait out the storm and see if I can get my internal radio to tune into something more harmonious with life. I have to white-knuckle it. I know the drill, even if this doesn’t happen very often. Hold on, jump into a warm shower, not dare to turn on music, or smoke some weed, or open a book. Don’t look at old photos, read old letters, dive into old emails or turn backwards to stare at the past. No. Sit here quietly. Write if I can. Breathe if I must. Put my feet under the blanket and stare at the untouched cup of tea which is rapidly growing cold on my bedside table. Wait it out. The storm is chasing me. I would be a fool to turn around and chase it back, but that is the only way out of this mess. Turn back towards the wind, the panic, the long dark cloud, and into the gaping maw of the grizzled black dog that is snapping at my soul. I offer it my arm. A foot. A leg. Anything. Eat me alive if you must but be sated and be gone. It doesn’t take the deal. I am to be chewed on and shat out like some damned toy of the Fates, only to reform and be chewed on once again.
Am I going to be blown over? There is a queasy sick feeling in my stomach from all the useless adrenaline that has been pumped in there to slosh around with yesterday’s jacket potato and this morning’s first cup of tea. My head spins. The very real possibility that I won’t be able to hold on much longer fills me with dread, and alarmingly I feel my fingers start to slide down the rock face. I do not have a good purchase on this handful of grass and rock that I dangle upon. I am tiring and to be frank letting go seems inevitable if not desirable. The only times I have felt dangerously close to The End (roll credits) I have felt that same sensation of inevitability, a loss of will, a slow and gentle slide towards the abyss. There is no anger, no fight, nothing to be done in The End.
Some small flame ignites despite the wind and I force my fingers to find a song. Joni starts to sing, “the last time I saw Richard was Detroit in 68 and he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday : cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café.” oh. Oh how I wish it was all that simple. These wings aren’t just a little ragged and torn, they have been amputated and left to desiccate in the Californian winter sun behind the glass of the windows of my apartment. I am not headed for some dark café blues, I am headed for an alleyway and a solitary end. At least there is that comfort. The end is always there waiting, some time in the future, with an end to the pain and suffering and my utter uselessness.
I think some bad fairy looked at me in my infant cot and blessed me with this bad replay of some past sins that are not my own, trouble is, I am not sure I care anymore. I was never going to be the kind to drink at home with the TV on and all the houselights left up bright, with my dishwasher and coffee percolator. I had a dream. It was a useless one to match my useless inability to ever save the fucking day – only my own wretched life. What a waste.
I will be fine. I will tell myself that until it becomes reality. I always am ok in the end. I hold on, breech the surface of the water and take a breath. I always carry on, crippled and dumb and untalented hack that I am, to try for one more minute with the people I love. I wondered what they would put on my gravestone, then I stopped and laughed. Gravestone? I ain’t ever getting no grave. They will shove me in a cardboard box, burn me to a cinder and throw me away with the other aborted babies, lost limbs and infected oozings that have to be disposed of so as not to infect everyone else who is still made of healthy living flesh.