Today is the first I’ve taken a shower and put on real clothes in, like, four days. You’d think that this is because I suffer from depression, but no. It has been in the 20s and 30s this week; when I went to bed last night, it was 25 (that’s in Farenheit, all y’all :P). There is absolutely no part of me that wants to take off clothing for any reason whatsoever. Also, my hair never looks better than after three or four days of bedhead with strong wax in my hair, and it chafes me that my best hair days come when I’m just about to wreck them.
Now, once I am in the shower with screaming hot water pouring down, I’m ok. But those few moments in the cold bathroom are not just dreadful, they’re more than dreadful. I would rather wear my skiing silks, my flannel pajamas, a t-shirt, a long sleeve t-shirt, a double-weight hoodie, and three pairs of socks. During the day, I also put on my snow boots (mainly because they’re warm, but also keep me from sliding down the stairs in wool socks). It’s a look.
Yes, we do have heat at our house, in case you’re wondering. I just get cold easily, and it’s hard for any heater to keep up with DC winter. Besides, the electric company has never charged me for putting on a sweater.
When I had my own place, I never heated it very much- maybe to 50 or 60- because with all the winter clothing I own and an electric blanket, I didn’t need it. I would rather have it cold and be bundled up on my own… except for when I have to change clothes.
I do, however, feel better now that I’m clean and smell really good… but it’s not just that. Laying out all my frustrations yesterday really put things in perspective, because depression and anxiety feel so real, but in reality, it is your brain lying to your face… and as my friend Phil so eloquently said, they know the very best lies to use against you. Going back over and reading what I wrote let me see those lies up close.
I am indeed so much stronger than I usually think. No one that digs a hole as deep as I did and then has a parent die while trying to dig themselves out isn’t. You can either get stronger, or you wither away. I’ve already gone the “withering away” route, and it didn’t do anything for me. I got stronger because there wasn’t a choice… anymore.
The lies my brain used on me at that time in my life were that I was a burden to everyone I knew and it was better to just disappear off the grid. It did not seem like a permanent solution to a temporary problem, because there was nothing about my illness (I’m bipolar, for those just joining us.) that said this is manageable, and you will improve. Everything in my life pointed to getting progressively worse, akin to terminal cancer but closer to alcoholism due to the strange and self-destructive behavior it presents. To me, the worst thing in the world was to have my loved ones watch the roller coaster, knowing it would never end.
It was during one of our legendary blowouts that Argo saved my life, and I mean this quite literally. My response to feeling that ill was to talk about it to my friends, hoping that they’d safety net me until I could function again. It seemed reasonable at the time, but it was leaving out a crucial piece- responsibility & self-reliance. We were talking (well, arguing) about everything that was going wrong and she said, can’t you see the common denominator is you? Why do you expect everyone else to fix you? It got through to me that I wasn’t moving under my own power, and within minutes I was on the phone to my insurance company and checked myself into the psych ward at Methodist Hospital. I wouldn’t have done that had it not been a real emergency. I didn’t have a psychiatrist and couldn’t get a new patient appointment for three more weeks, and I absolutely needed help that day, right then. My depression was telling me I wasn’t going to make it three more weeks.
So, if you ask me what really saved me from myself, it was a friend who was willing to kick my ass when it needed kicking. The treatment did not work overnight- it was not a miracle cure- but it definitely pointed me in a better direction. That being said, the group therapy I experienced made me vomit up even darker emotions than usual and the better direction came from everything getting a lot worse before it got better. The biggest regret of my life is the way I treated those around me during that time, because everything spewed at them was a direct reflection of how I felt about myself. The old axiom is true- hurt people hurt people.
By then, Dana wanted out and I needed a sounding board more than ever, but I’d used up every “get out of jail free” card I had with Argo and I didn’t trust anyone else. But panic attacks that presented as rage burned that bridge butt-quick. I feel more guilt about pushing Argo away than I ever will about Dana and I breaking up because Dana was in the room with me. She participated in 3D. Argo was just on the receiving end of words she didn’t deserve without my ability to see her eyes, her reactions, and know when to back the fuck up. There could only be so much in the way of damage control because of it… because I know the first time I saw her eyes flash in anger or sadness, I would have become a sobbing mess on the floor, all the fight taken out of me because I couldn’t just hear about the damage. I could experience it. I could see up close and personal what I’d wrought.
With Dana, I saw everything.
It’s not worth revisiting, but the picture was bleak. All the color in our world just bled out on the floor, and I ran. We were way past the point of reconciliation, and I knew within myself that if I didn’t run, I’d spend way too much time trying. We were past the point of no return, having alienated each other with mutually assured destruction….. robbing me of all but the deepest regrets. Yes, there were (and are) things I still have to get over, but it was also extraordinarily freeing to be able to walk away knowing that I’d made the absolute best decision I could make with the information I had.
When I arrived in DC, it was April and there was still snow on the ground. The weather matched my mood.
It was cold…. like those few seconds in a cold bathroom, angry in the moment and yet, knowing that warmth will eventually arrive.