Depression, Part Two

A few hours ago, I called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. It was a number I had seen before — on TV, during commercials. On posters wallpapered to the guardrails of bridges. I'd even seen the logo — that green phone masquerading as the letter "C" — on the Red Line, just across the tracks.

I'd seen the number for years.

I didn't know it was one I would eventually end up dialing.

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Five weeks ago, I started a new job. Unfortunately, the only thing I've felt in regards to my new position is an overwhelming paralysis. I've yet to go to bed at night and wake up refreshed, ready to the conquer the day's challenges. Instead, I hit my snooze button again and again and again. I wait until the absolute last minute to emerge; all I want to do is lie, and bury, and nest. Quiet the world.

Today, I rode my bike home, wheeled it into the garage, unlocked my car, and climbed in.

And then I screamed.

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Before calling the national lifeline, I tired to talk to two different crisis centers here in Indianapolis.

My calls went unanswered.

When I dialed the lifeline, I was connected to a counselor, a woman named Angie. We talked for awhile; she listened. It became apparent, however, that she was actually four hundred miles away. I assume this occurred because the lifeline uses phone numbers to automatically route calls. Since I still carry a southwest Iowa phone number, I was routed to Cedar Rapids.

Regardless, I talked to Angie about what was going on, and she asked if I were suicidal.

"No," I said, truthfully. "See, it's not so much that I want to die. I'm terrified of that, and terrified of hurting myself and having to go through the effort. It's more or less that I ... just ... don't want to exist. That I don't want to hurt anymore, I guess. Does that make any sense?"

"Yeah," she said, "It does." And in those few words, I heard a genuinely soothing voice. In the months I had been talking to friends, family, therapists, and doctors, I found in Angie the understanding I needed to hear.

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As Allie Brosh depicted in her post "Depression Part Two", talking to others about mental illness — and especially about suicide — is wrought with emotion. "I was ... extremely ill-prepared for the position of comforting people," she says. "The things that seemed reassuring at the time weren't necessarily comforting for others."









I couldn't agree more. When describing my current state to others, I sometimes end up being the comforter, instead of the comforted. I've also had to answer questions like "Why would you even consider that?" "Don't you think drugs will fix everything?" and "Have you tried being not sad?"

One of the biggest "insults" I ever received, however, was from a dental assistant. Back in May, I went in for a cleaning. They asked the usual questions — "Had any surgeries since we last saw you?" "Any issues with your gums or teeth?" "Any new medications?"

"Yes," I said. I told them about the Zoloft. And the Wellbutrin. And the Klonopin.

"Are you ... depressed?"

"I'm, uh, actually not working right now. I'm on mental health leave."

"Oh. Well, you don't look depressed."






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At this point, I wish I had an eloquent conclusion to this post. The truth? I don't. Not at all. Mental illness isn't easy, and neither was writing this blog post. But at least you know I'm still here. That I'm still breathing. And that I'm still fighting, damn it.


Depression, Part One

There are six bottles of bills on my kitchen counter. I've herded them between the paper towels and the jar that holds spatulas, ladles, and those God-damn wooden spoons that have to be washed by hand.

I won't wash them, though. I don't even wash myself. Sometimes I go five days before putting a washcloth to my underarms; why the hell would I do dishes? All of the spoons and all of the bowls I got as a wedding present for a wedding that never happened are in my sink, and have been for two weeks.

I consider it a science experiment.

How long will it take before the ants come marching, one by one, and take my kitchen? Take the crumbs? Take my body? Take it, piece by minuscule piece by piece, until the ache succumbs? How long until they carry me to their nest, to their tunnels, to the ground?

I don't think of it as death; I think of it as a different form of existence—one of the earth. I don't want to die. No, not at all. I just don't want to hurt anymore.

On February 27, I cried in front of my supervisor. He, awkwardly, stared out the conference room window while I, awkwardly, stared at the buttons of my shirt and watched as small, wet spots darkened the fabric. I couldn't stop. I couldn't talk. I took off my glasses and pressed the palms of my hands to my eyes, hoping that I could reach through the sockets and into the furrows of my brain that could no longer separate fiction from dreams, dreams from reality.

"I'm only sleeping one or two hours a night," I choked. "I just … I can't do this anymore."

The depression had started in the fall of 2014. I was homesick and nostalgic, as I am every autumn, but, this time, the loneliness was paralyzing. My family lived two states over. And Ty and I were separated by one time zone and one hundred and eighty miles.

I have never slept well—I've been an insomniac since the age of twelve—but, over the next few months, whatever sleeping "pattern" I'd had dissolved. I was taunted by the gray of early morning, by the racket of birds. Showering became a chore; eating became a burden. My hair became limp, thin. Breakable. The shadows under my eyes were as dark as an addict's, and I gasped for existence just as the dying choke for life.

"I can't do this anymore."

On February 27, I applied for short-term disability.

I have not been to work in five weeks.

Admitting that I was depressed was … hard. I can think of a dozen other words that describe what it is like to admit that you're depressed: Difficult. Challenging. Uncomfortable. Embarrassing. Painful. Awkward. Weird. Arduous. Tearful. But, in the end, it's both all of those things and none of those things. It's just … hard.

I didn't want to tell anyone about my condition because, well … because I didn't want them to worry.

I did, however, find some comfort in the words of Allie Brosh, author of Hyperbole and Half. Brosh has struggled with depression herself, and has discussed it on her blog. She even talked to Terri Gross about anxiety and suicide in a 2013 interview on Fresh Air.

In a post titled "Depression Part Two," Brosh writes, "I was … uncomfortable about how bored and detached I felt around other people, and I was still holding out hope that the whole thing would spontaneously work itself out. As long as I could manage to not alienate anyone, everything might be okay! However … when you have to spend every social interaction consciously manipulating your face into shapes that are only approximately the right ones, alienating people is inevitable."

I spent months pretending that I was okay. In reality, I would come home from work and sit on my couch, catatonic, for hours at a time. I wouldn't even bother to remove my winter coat. No, I would just sit there, on my floral-patterned couch, and sit and sit and sit until it was completely dark. And yet, I still wouldn't remove my coat.

I didn't care.

Everything was futile.

And I believed that no one loved me.

In January, I started screaming. I would find myself on the floor of my apartment, damp from tears, snot, and sweat. Obsessive, I'd hug myself, rock myself, and say, "I don't want to be alone anymore."

If only Glinda the Good had appeared via her violently pink bubble and said, "All you have to do is blink your eyes three times and say to yourself, "Home is wherever I'm with you."

January and February were incredibly hard, and some of my more violent episodes were witnessed by Ty. Once, he had to throw his hand behind my head in order to prevent myself from slamming my skull against the headboard. And other times, when he saw me clawing at my own skin, gasping for reality, he pulled me to him and refused to let go.

"Dawn," he'd say. "Dawn."

He'd say it again. "Dawn." And again. "Dawn." And again, until I came back to him.

On February 27, I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder. It was noted that I also suffer from anxiety and sleep disturbances. I was prescribed some medication, but the first one didn't work, and the second one didn't work, either, and, five weeks into treatment, we're still playing medication roulette.

It's still … hard.

I'm still not sleeping. I still cry. I still feel alone. And I'm still overwhelmed. I still have to force myself to brush my teeth. Or change my clothes. Or call my mom. Or take thirty seconds to answer an "Are you okay?" email someone sent two weeks ago. And I still have to remind myself that depression is a lying bastard.

I'm drawn to the words of Jenny Lawson, yet another blogger who openly talks of depression, anxiety, and illness. In a post titled "The fight goes on," she writes, "When depression sufferers fight, recover, and go into remission, we seldom know, simply because so many suffer in the dark … ashamed to admit something they see as a personal weakness … afraid that people will worry, and more afraid that they won't. We find ourselves unable to do anything but cling to the couch and force ourselves to breathe."

My couch would certainly agree with Jenny. If it could speak, it would tell you of all the nights I cried my soul into its fabric. (Which, by the way, is a sort of dirty beige that I like to believe is the original color, and not a color acquired from the Salvation Army where I purchased the couch in the first place.)

To be honest, I wasn't sure if I would ever discuss my current fight with depression. But, for as hard as it is to write about, it is more difficult to not write about it. Depression is not something we should be embarrassed about. Despite that, admitting to my co-workers that I needed help was distressing, because, for some reason, saying "I'm depressed" has become both a cliche and a taboo. Even my own grandmother, who suffers from persistent depressive disorder, will only admit that she is and has been "not well." But the fact is this: millions and millions of Americans suffer from depression. Some of us smack our heads against the wall. Some of us try to control our emotions through self-harm. Some of us stay up all night, sitting in the dark. Some of us stay up all night, crying into the sheets. Some of us pray. Some of us medicate. Some of us do all of the above. And some of us decide that the fight isn't worth it.

I'm still sick. I'm still depressed. But I'm trying. I'm honest-to-God-trying. Two days ago, I was on the floor, legs pulled to my chest, and wearing only my underclothes. Four weeks ago, I took a prescribed sleeping pill and then proceeded to hallucinate for the next five hours. Yesterday, it was 5:00 before I finally decided to shower, brush my teeth, and put on pants. It may have been toward the end of the day, but, by God, I put on pants.

It is, as my therapist says, "moment to moment." Some days, like yesterday, are good. Some days, like today, are bad. Some days, I meet my "Instagram friends" for Thai food and a photo walk in Fountain Square. Some days, I stay in bed from dawn 'til dusk, save for the forty-five minutes that I spend napping on the couch. 

It's not entirely safe for me to be by myself—not because I self-harm, but because I don't bother to take care of myself and my basic needs if no one is around. I'm not interested. That, too, seems futile. I'll admit that I'm most like myself when I am around others, which is why I plan on being in Iowa, at home, for a little while. Escaping the madness of my apartment sounds like a comforting idea and, come to think of it, "There's no place like home." 

Rainy Day at the IMA



A few weeks ago, on a rainy Saturday, Zoë, Ty, and I visited the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). We had hoped to spend some time at the IMA while it still offered free admission. (Come April, the IMA will start charging general admission.) In past museum explorations, we stuck together, the three of us. This time, however, we ventured to different floorsZoë, to the second floor, for American art; Ty, to the third floor, for modern design; and me, to the fourth floor, for contemporary art.

While the other two are far from passionate about contemporary art, I'll admit that it is my favorite. Some of the pieces are delightfully abstract. And while I'm not particularly interested in performance art, or that random piece of string, I am in love with Julianne Swartz's Terrain

The installation was actually commissioned by the IMA in 2008 and installed in the museum's entrance pavilion. (Here's a video showing its interactivity.) Since then, the installation has moved to the fourth floor, where a series of speakers and wire and hardware create, as the piece's description says, "a delicate net of wires." As soon as you step into the room, you are surrounded by soft murmurs, the voices of thirty-seven different individuals. (To create the installation, Swartz asked the individuals to think of someone they loved, someone with whom they shared a tender relationship. She then recorded the individual whispering his or her recitations to his or her loved one. The result is an incredibly sensual experience, as the whisperings are indistinguishable.)

Other popular pieces include Tim Hawkinson's Mobius Ship and Robert Irwin's Light and Space III, which illuminates the wall behind the escalators. The IMA also has some Hoppers, and some O'Keeffes. There's Monet, too, and van Gogh, and several Neo-Impressionist pieces (my favorites in the European art section).

If you live in Indy, and have never visited the IMAor are visiting the city and enjoy art and beautiful gardens and groundsI highly encourage a visit (especially when admission is still free)!































The Haircut



I sat in a hairdresser's chair, bangs combed over the front of my face. My nose tickled with the brush of hair, but I hardly paid heed to the split ends my stylist was trimming off. No, my attention was turned toward Ty, who sat in a chair just behind me. 

The stylist had taken his auburn locks and banded them into pigtails. Scissors in hand, she asked, "Are you ready?" 

But it was menot Tywho half-shrieked, "Wait!" 

I pulled out my camera from under the hairdressing gown. "I'm sorry," I laughed, "but I have to."

Tywho knew that I would be documenting the haircut one way or anotherwas unruffled. 

My stylist graciously turned my chair toward Ty. I readied my camera, and Ty's stylist turned back to him.

"Okay," she said, meeting his eyes in the mirror. "Ready?"

"Ready." 

She began snipping and, one minute later, Ty's thick locks, which had been almost as long as mine, were laying on the hairdressing table.

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It had been two years since he'd had his hair cut, three since he'd shaved clean. Though I wasn't always a devoted fan of the lengthy hair and bushy beard, I had gotten used to the look. I'd gotten used to running my fingers through Ty's hairwhich was quite luxurious, honestlyand brushing it aside as we kissed. Whenever he was driving, he'd use the back of his left hand to push it aside, tuck it behind his ears. And when we hugged, his cheeks would meet my neck and shoulder with a familiar, bristly tickle. We—he and Zoë and I, that is—would even talk about lumberjacks, the Brawny Man, Yukon Cornelius, and Ty's alter ego, Gerald Brewster.

When someone would ask Ty, "Why the long hair?" he'd wave a hand.

"Bah! I'll cut it once I'm a square member of society."

Zoë did confess, however, that she found Ty's hair "truly magnificent."

"When I am snarky," she said, "it stems purely from envy because my hair is rarely, if ever, luxurious."

Ty received plenty of flak for his shaggy appearance, though, even from strangers. In South Carolina, at a combination gas station-Blimpie, a middle-aged man stared and stared, crinkling his nose with silent judgment. The man's distaste was nothing compared to what happened in the French Quarter, however. While Zoë and Ty and I innocently stood on a sidewalk, a mule-drawn carriage passed by. The carriage was occupied by a couple of tourists who pointed at Ty and proceeded to snap photos of him as the mule clip-clopped, clip-clopped his way down the cobbled street. We laughed about it, but wondered what the tourists' intentions were. Perhaps they thought Ty was someone from Duck Dynasty?

As Ty's hair lengthened, his cowlick became a center part. He wore a ponytail. He wore a headband. His hair grew. And grew. And grew. And it becameas some things doa safety blanket.

Once, when visiting his grandparents, his grandmother pulled me aside. "With all that hair, I feel like he's hiding something," she told me.

For a brief moment, I thought of Mean Girls. "It's full of secrets!" I wanted to say. Instead, I shook my head. "No, he's not hiding anything."

She looked at me quizzically.

I stared at my feet. Inhale, exhale, sigh. "He's depressed."

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Depression is a sneaky bastard. At first, it drapes itself over your lap like a blanket, protecting pieces of you from the cruel world. But, after awhile, you realize that you're still vulnerable, that you're still cold, and that the pain might subside if you just pull the blanket up a little higher, a little closer. You actually don't remember when you pulled the blanket up under your chin, or over your head, but it's there. You don't remember when, exactly, you started to suffocate.

Depression is tricky, too, in that you can feel some things, sometimes, but not have enough energy to carry yourself through the necessary actions. This includes showering. Eating. Wanting to talk to an old friend. Getting a haircut. Feeding your pet pterodactyl.

At other times, you can go through the motions, but not feel a damn thing. You have no self-esteem. You have no self-confidence. You think you're not a good friend. You believe you are worthless. You believe you are nothing. You are afraid to try anything, anyway, because you fear you will fail.

Ty's fears kept him from taking action. Furthermore—and in his own words—Ty was "emotionally crippled." He quit cutting his hair back when we used to Skype until four in the morning, when he'd text me and ask, "Can we talk?" Back then, he told me that he needed to "sort out [himself] first, before introducing anyone else to [his] madness."

"Ty," I said, "I want you to know that both Zoë and I are here for you. We're your friends. We're whatever you need us to be, and I promise you that we won't give up on you. No matter how broken you think you are, or how broken you actually are, we're still going to love you."

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In her post "Depression Part Two," Hyperbole and a Half author Allie Brosh wrote, "It's weird for people who still have feelings to be around depressed people. They try to help you have feelings again so things can go back to normal, and it's frustrating for them when that doesn't happen."

Brosh, who has suffered from depression herself, knows that the illness is devastating for both an individual and an individual's loved ones. Her description reminds me of those old Cymbalta commercials, the ones in which a woman's cool voice asked, "Who does depression hurt?" (The answer? Everyone.) The idea that depression hurts everyone is a painful catch-22. When someone is depressed, their misery makes their parent/sibling/partner/roommate/child/pet pterodactyl miserable and frustrated as well. In turn, the depressed individual feels guilty for making their parent/sibling/partner/roommate/child/pet pterodactyl feel such frustrations in the first place. Personally, I have felt forgotten and unimportant, too. Really, though, it's almost expected. It can be difficult to have a relationship (romantic, familial, or otherwise) with someone who is unable to fully return affection.

A few weeks ago, my struggle to remain patient culminated with a phone call to Ty's best friend.

"Well, you obviously still love him," he said, after listening to me cry over the phone. "But let me ask you this. Given everything you just said, why are you with Ty?"

With the back of my hand, I wiped the tears from my cheeks. "Because I know who he can be."

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I met Ty five years ago, when we both worked at the student newspaper. He kept his hair short, then, and his facial hair to no more than a few days' scruff. He was skinny, too, and tall, and, my God, was he pretty.

The newsroom was located on the second floor, and you could always hear the echoing slam of the ground-floor door, which meant that someone—or a group of someones—was mounting the stairs. I remember working the copy desk one night, at a computer that faced the door to the stairwell. I heard the familiar bang of the door, and the trudge of shoes on steps. When the door opened, I found myself looking at a dapper sort of young man wearing a herringbone coat, and I thought to myself, "That's a good looking gu- oh my God that's Ty." Had he noticed me right then, he would've seen me blushing, cheeks as red as ripe strawberries.

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Back at the salon, Ty's severed pigtails were still on the hairdressing table, as limp and feeble as a pair of deceased ferrets. His auburn locks were practically no more; the stylist had cut, buzzed, and scissored onto the floor a carpet of hair.

Ty watched the stylist in the mirror, his face set, unflinching.

He'd told me, just hours earlier, that he was planning a haircut. He'd told me, too, that he was going to shave clean.

At the time, I'd said nothing; I was stunned into silence. When I had managed to speak, my first word was, simply, "Why?"

"It's time," Ty had said decidedly. "I want to do it before I change my mind. And I thought you might get a bang out of watching."

I had been surprised. I'll admit that the comfortable rut in which Ty had settled worried me, and that I thought change would come gradually, perhaps glacially. But the haircut seemed ... well, it seemed like a step. With each snip of the scissors, Ty's face resembled, more and more, the narrow, handsome face I'd first seen five years ago.

I closed my eyes. "Because I know who he can be," I had said.

I thought of our shared past at the student newspaper. I reminisced about editing sessions, when we'd accidentally-on-purpose sit next to each other, stealing glances at each other's work and throwing rolled-up candy wrappers at each other's foreheads. There were the nights that we ended up at Harry's, too, just the two of us, sharing conversation and sweet tea vodka over the sticky, dark wood of our booth. As a hater of straws, Ty would bend his over the edge of the plastic cup, fingers pinching it into place. In contrast, I would hold mine between my middle and index fingers, like how you would hold a cigarette. Like how you would inhale nicotine, not Firefly. And, oh God, there was that fish net thing, too. That little green fish net that the photo desk had for some reason, and that Ty and I used to pass to each other, alongside notes and flirtations. I'd slide it under his office door, after he'd gone for the night. He'd slip it into my backpack two days later, with a cheeky pun.

I shook my head a little, smiling at the memory. When I opened my eyes, I saw that Ty had been watching me in the mirror. His stylist was finishing up; she trimmed one side, then the other.

Almost done.

Ty and I found each other in the mirror's reflection. He smiled, albeit a bit sheepishly. I smiled, too.

And blushed.

As full and as red as the night he'd walked into the newsroom, I flushed. 

Christmas at the Zoo



While scrolling Facebook, I saw a Fowl Language comic that depicted "the two stages of winter." The comic described December as a "magical wonderland of lights," and the rest of the season as "a cold, gray, bucket of suck."

Said bucket of suck is currently dumping snow, ice, and hatred upon the streets of Indianapolis, and has been since yesterday. Last night, while carrying the Christmas tree back out to the garageand nearly dropping an ovary in the processI slipped on the ice. By desperately flailing my arms in a windmill-like fashion, I managed to stay upright untilWham! My feet flew up and my back hit the ground. I lay there for several moments, regaining my breath and cursing the snow, ice, and hatred that bled through my coat and jeans. My fall was similar to those seen in Home Alone, except in my version of the beloved classic, there are less tarantulas and plenty of toothbrushes approved by the American Dental Association.

Okay, so, January has been a little unpleasant so far. We've had, I believe, just two days of clear skies since the month started. (Because nothing says "Happy New Year" like gloom, doom, and seasonal affective disorder.) But December? I'll have to agree with the comic; it was pretty magical.

A few days after Christmas, I invited friends Lizzy and Raina to "Christmas at the Zoo," an annual event held at the Indianapolis Zoo. According to the zoo's website, the Indianapolis Zoo was the first zoo in the United States to feature a holiday lights event. (The zoo started the event in 1967, just three years after it opened.) Since I had acquired a few free passes, I thought it would be fun to head across the river and admire the twinkling glow of lights.

It was cold that night, too, and windy. Fourteen degrees, tops. We were bundled in hats, scarves, and gloves, and, beneath our jeans, we wore leggings and two pairs of socks. Oh, it was cold. It was cold and crisp and my nose ran and my fingertips went numb and I didn't care because the zoo was beautiful. It twinkled and sparkled and flashed, and we laughed at the playfulness of the penguins and sea lions. We spied on sleeping orangutans. We paused at a light display that resembled a hot dog stand and wondered, "Why? Why a hot dog stand?" ("Why not a hot dog stand?") We allowed our frozen toes to thaw in the conservatory and said, repeatedly, "It's so stunning! Everything is so amazing!" And we reveled, childlike, in the magic of it all.
















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