Why do they call depression “the blues”? Blue is such a beautiful color. My husband’s eyes are an ethereal light blue. The ocean, one of my favorite places to be near, comes in too many shades to be counted. And of course there’s the sky in summertime—a deep blue that promises a perfect day of unscheduled bliss. Blue is the very color of happy.
And yet it is the color of this affliction—this sadness—with which I’ve struggled for most of my life.
If you’re not familiar with depression, if the commercials for Cymbalta aren’t enough to give you a general feel, it’s like this: walking on the bottom of a murky, dark pond, able to breathe but really just barely, trudging through silt and sand that impede your progress with every step, knowing—hopefully, on some level—that it can’t last forever, that if you can just keep trudging, you will make it to shore.
In my case, it often settles in the darker months and can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. It’s difficult to get out of bed, let alone get dressed. It’s almost impossible to shower or brush my teeth or get to the grocery. I can’t write, and I don’t want to talk. I want to sleep. That’s all. I want to curl up in my bed and wake up when everything’s fine again. I’ve found ways to help mitigate the symptoms, from talk therapy to medication to meditation, and gradually, eventually, the cycle ends and my life returns. But not easily.
This last time, after weeks of being unable to muster even the smallest emotion, I cried so hard that I bruised. My entire forehead was dotted with purplish spots, to the point that when I lifted my hair away and saw them, I thought that somehow, all of my future age spots decided to appear at once and the fact that it was right after intense crying was a bizarre coincidence.
And while I’ve always rather envied the “traumatic breakthrough/breakdowns” As Seen On TV, where the person suffering a depressive episode Sees the Light and has a Profound Revelation that will cure his/her depression for life, this wasn’t one of them. My traumatic breakdown occurred because my husband asked whether I paid a credit card bill.
Once the crying began, he tried to say and do the right things with really no idea of what those right things might be (if I didn’t know, and I was the one having the breakdown, then he didn’t stand a chance). Then he closed the bedroom door so as not to frighten the dog, who was whining and pacing (or the kids, for that matter, who were also whining and pacing), sat next to me on the bed, and let me cry it out.
It didn’t put an end to my misery, but the next day I actually had moments where I stopped and realized I felt normal. Glimpses of my life started returning, and with them, hope.
And then one morning, I awoke to the cat biting my toes, and instead of the numb, “oh, the cat’s biting my toes” response of late, I shouted, “Do you FREAKING mind?!” I made lunches instead of forcing my kids to eat school food when I couldn’t get it together to make a sandwich. I showered and did the “look 10 years younger in one week with this magic cream!” routine on my face. I blow-dried my hair. I got dressed.
And here’s how I knew the tide had shifted: When I returned to bed after completing my tasks, I got back up. I didn’t want to sleep; I wanted to clean my closet. Yes, my closet. I’m telling you, it really is not all that dramatic. There are very few epiphanies. Depression isn’t like that. That’s all on television. In real life—in my life, at least—it hits very ploddingly, and it lifts very ploddingly. There’s a lot of plodding going on. In fact on paper, it’s rather dull.
Today it’s beautiful outside. I’ve always loved the summertime—the sweet smells, the warm breeze across my face, the feel of sweat running down my back when I’m playing ball with my kids. And I’m grateful that, at least today, as I look around at the blues that surround me, I’m simply looking up at the sky.
Maggie Lamond Simone is a book author, award-winning writer and mother of two living in Baldwinsville. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.