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." 


  1. Sending you one giant hug! ❤️❤️❤️

  2. Keep trying, Dawn, keep trying. I wish for everything in the world to help you through this tough time and that it will get better.

  3. I love you. I really do. I know we haven't met, I know we only chat on the internet, but my life is better for having you, your friendship, your photos, your writing and your presence in it. I'm sorry I dont tell you more often. I know its hard. I often struggle as you know - and although I often feel like perhaps my struggle isn't as hard as others, its still mine and its still hard. You're not alone or unloved, and this will pass, things will get better. You will learn to look after yourself again and you night even want to again as well. I make myself shower every day and make myself brush my teeth too (though Urgh I hate it ha) and the want often comes after the action, I realise it makes me feel better even if I really didn't want to do it. Habits and routine help if you can just start to form them. I had to tell myself to ignore the feels and just so things somehow, one moment, one action at a time. Moments become more and actions do too. You know where I am if you need me xxx

  4. Dawn,
    You have many admirers. A lot of them you do not even know about. I came across your Instagram account last summer and I have been a devoted follower of your adventures ever since.
    You are a very brave person. I just want you to know that you are important and have the support of lots of people; even people you have never met that value, respect, and support you.

    I put in that Oxford comma and hope I used it correctly.
    Please keep being you.

  5. I love you, Dawn. I'm proud of you for speaking out about your experiences and illness. I'm proud that you keep fighting and are getting treatment. Keep fighting!

  6. Dawn my friend, you are such an amazing human being and thank you so much for sharing this. Have a good time in Iowa and if you ever need a place to stay in Chicago, my door is always open. Do your best, keep taking photos (even if it is hard to start, for me its the one thing that gives me a little distraction), and take care of yourself (do the best you can). Missing you lots and sending good vibes your way.

  7. Dawn,
    A friend suggested reading this post after I reached out to him -- after admitting to him that I, too, struggle. How thankful I am that I've read your post. Your courage to be this raw, this vulnerable, moves me in ways I can't describe with words. Thank you. I just wanted to tell you that I hear you. No one knows exactly what you're going through, but many can relate to the experiences you've poignantly described here. You have many gifts -- as a writer, as a wonderful human being, as a person whose spirit speaks louder than any struggles you may be going through. You are not your struggle, you are so so much more. Some days are harder than others, I know. Some days it's a struggle to take a shower, do the dishes, move from bed, I know. Take it one day at a time, one hour at a time if you need to, hell even one breath at a time. Take all the time you need. Your struggle is felt by many, and I thank you again for your words. They helped me -- more than you know. It might not feel like it right now, but you are an inspiration. You are amazing. Keep going.

  8. Dawn, I admire you for your words and your strength. The former because you have perfectly articulated the strangely precise workings of a depressed mind; the latter because, contrary to what many believe, I think that the depressed are the strongest among us. I am lucky to be out the other side and to have had the most incredible therapist who helped me unpick the way I thought about things and turn it around. Depression scares me, partly because I know it varies from person to person like a fingerprint, so my having been down there before doesn't necessarily mean I can pull another person out. But I hope to God that it at least has given me the ability to empathise more with others and understand that sometimes it seems impossible to fix and so really all that is needed is another mind, listening and sharing and connecting. I hope you can continue moving forwards in life, slowly but surely, celebrating each achievement but also allowing yourself to have those days when it's impossible to do anything but sit and wonder. And then one day, I hope you find you're able to skip through life and enjoy its beauty once more. Keep writing xxxxx

  9. Dawn, I was just going through my emails and found our conversations from last year. You were such a comfort to me and I wish to be that for you. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, send me an email, vent, send me an empty email just so I'll send one back, whatever. I am here for you as you were for me. I am praying for you and sending you lots of good and happy energy. Enjoy being home, I so know how comforting that is. Just breathe and life will begin to flow back in. <3


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