This is one of my most transparent, vulnerable posts– a stream of consciousness description of a morning struggle with depression from a couple years ago. No pictures or jokes or videos, just my thoughts, jumbled and mangled as they are. Part of me wishes I wouldn’t post this. But the path of Christ is humility. The call of the artist is vulnerability. The work of the writer is honesty.
The brutal attempt to rouse myself from the den of irrational laxity fails again and again and again and again and again until I pull myself to a standing position. The fluffy dog who sleeps by my side day and night looks up with eyes as black as the shadows outside and joins me and stands up. Somehow I shuffle towards the pile of clothes in the middle of my living room and fling shirts, socks, shirts, pants, socks, underwear aside, looking for an unwrinkled selection, sniffing each of my options. Stale ones return to the floor, as do the bunched up, crumpled clothes that would be obvious to any observer I am wearing floor refuse. Finally, a decent t-shirt, unsoiled undergarments and socks that were worn last week. I slowly slink into each item until my nakedness is replaced with pathetic apparel. I find my pants buried underneath sheets and blankets and couch cushions as the dog jumps back and forth, eager to relieve herself outside.
“Hold on puppy,” I murmur, barely moving my lips. I step over to the bathroom, kick aside clothes and towels and grab the nearest brush on the counter. The mirror-me stares back at my nothingness and I stare back into disappointed eyes. Brush, brush, brush, and my bed-head (or more specifically, couch head) has disappeared and been replaced with a greasy attempt at a suitable hairdo. The dog weaves in and out of my legs as I cling to the counter, hoping that her leash is somewhere easy to find. A short walk to the couch, no leash. Peak around into the kitchen, no such luck. Bathroom, bedroom, den, there it is. The dog continues to dance, running from the door and back, door and back, door and back until I finally click the leash around her neck and realize my shoes aren’t on my feet.
Ok, shoes, where are you? Another hide-and-go-seek treasure hunt and the shoes are located beside the commode. Ok. I pat my pockets to confirm my keys are still there, and for once they are (instead of buried in the cracks of the black hole I call a couch). With the force of a jet engine my hand is pulled forward and my body follows. We break through the barrier that blocks off my apartment from the rest of the world and enter into the land of the living.
Light streams through high windows. Footsteps are heard above. The dog continues to pull my arm out of its socket and so I follow her outside. I peak around, making sure there are no other apartment dwellers or their dogs, no repairmen or police men or moving men or kids—if the pup even thinks she scents one of the above, all hell breaks loose and there is almost a zero percent chance that she will actually poop or pee because she will be too busy barking her lungs out of her esophagus and making me hate her with a burning rage.
“Come on! You’re fine, you’re fine, you’re fine,” it becomes a mantra less for her and more for me. But fortunately, there doesn’t seem to be anyone around. Crap, why did I even think that? A woman from a building at the other end of the parking lot is walking to her dog. She must be out to kill us with a death ray, the dog imagines, so I must protect the planet with my siren song. Insert a thousand “barks” and “woofs” and “I’ll kill you and your family” death threats emanating from a 25 pound cocker spaniel named Goldie and you have a pretty good picture of my hell. The mantra echoes from within my fractured soul and I try pulling her back as she turns human and begins to walk on two legs. I feel terrible she keeps choking herself with the leash all the while feeling a sick pleasure for being able to somewhat control the situation.
Finally, after ten thousand eons of battles between her and the evil dragon walking to her death caravan, the dog is satisfied that all is well. Squat, push, poop, step, poop, scurry, pee, sniff, sniff, wait for master to grab a bag, watch him pick up your wondrous gift and wrap it up in plastic, sniff, then head back inside. I trudge back into my cave, pull open the temple entrance, a door weighed down with gems and jewels and shame and fear, and slink back towards my safety net. The dog runs around the apartment with the leash trailing her like a second tail emanating from her neck. She jingles and jangles and pants and coughs and jumps onto the couch and looks at me with her 14 year old puppy dog eyes. I feel the gravity start to pull me back in. Her eyes whisper to me, “Thanks for the trip to the great outdoors, now let’s take a nap on the couch! You deserve it!” If only that was the only voice I hear.
The couch’s gentle poetry draws me in like a magnet and my own selfish desires call to me like gulls saying, “Rest! Rest! Enjoy yourself! And Rest!” I look around the pig sty I call my home and think of all that must be done. A thesis to write. A lesson plan to finish. Emails to read and reply to and compose. Dishes to wash and clothes to wash and counters to wash and hair to wash and towels to wash and bedding to wash and more dishes and clothes to wash. I feel the thin layer of oil that coats my skin and hair. I smell the stale scent of dishes sitting in the sink. The dog is still staring at me. But I haven’t yet eaten today. Now for an escape attempt.
If Goldie sees me nearing the door, her brain tells her one message and only one message: “He’s taking you for a trip in the car!” That’s the only reasonable option, of course, so she believes it as gospel truth. But it rarely is true, so I try to distract her with foodstuff and treats that captivate her full attention. If I don’t, if she sees me nearing the door without her, betrayal of all betrayals, her brain goes all Code Red and sends her one message: “He is leaving without you and will never come back! Stop him at once!” This is immediately followed by a stampede towards the door and another attempt to break apart the atoms in said door through dog shouts and screams. She knows that if she barks loud enough, I will come back and never leave her again- so she barks with all her might.
Fortunately, if she doesn’t see my egress, then all is well. She dwells in a land of unicorns and butterflies as she munches down her (fill in the blank) and I slip out the door. This time the treat is a handful of dog biscuits. I throw them down the hallway, but the poor little puppy is a puppy no more and has near-cataracts on both eyes that prevent her from being able to detect exactly where a flying object lands. I guide her with hand gestures and nonsense language and finally she finds her prize. The chomping never lasts long so I make my departure as quickly as possible—and alas! I am caught!
She stares at me with eyes that sing the song of a million depressing operas and I freeze, hoping that her rumbling belly will compel her to return to her snack. We pause like a shaky VHS until she finally looks down. Hand is on the door knob. I pull it an inch. She looks back up! Another 20 seconds and she goes looking for the final treat. And before she has a chance to sight my back I close the door with a whimper and lock it with a tiny click. I am free. I am free.
I make my way outside, hoping that no one will see this mussed up stale smelling wrinkled attempt at adulthood stomp towards his car. I hear the muffled cries of my furry friend standing at the glass patio door. “Benedict Arnold!” she exclaims as her brain tells her that all is lost. Fortunately, I am beyond the zone of barking enchantment and I continue down the bird-poop sidewalk towards my silver Toyota.
“What to eat? What to eat?” I rifled through my mind Rolodex of nearby fast food restaurants. Taco Bell. McDonalds. Burger King. Culver’s. Steak & Shake. I never get a shake there, though. Hmmm. I cross broken clumps of grass, step down off the curb and double click my key. Beep Beep. Back to a seated position in my Ravioli (my attempts at naming my 2008 Rav4 have all but failed). Turn of a key and the engine hums, the radio playing at a talking volume.
Now where do I go? What do I crave? Fried food? Burgers? “Mexican?” Could I actually go inside a sit down restaurant? A glance in the mirror and my embarrassment shouts “NO!” (As in, “No, because you’d be seen by a hundred people who would all see how much of a pathetic failure you are, sitting alone eating ‘lunch’ at 3:00 all by yourself, and your sweet waitress would no doubt feel sorry for you and call you ‘sweetie’ or ‘hon’ or something emasculating like that?”)
So fast food it is. I’d only have to interact with one to two fellow human beings and restrain their window of judgment to a minute or two at the drive thru window. I back out of my spot, knowing full well that someone will be there by the time I return. Shit. Oh well. Where am I going? Minutes go by as I go catatonic/robotic, driving mindlessly until I get to North Rd. Here I actually have to make a decision. I turn a right for a trip down towards Fastfoodville. Surely I can decide from something there. Decide on something from there. Hmmm… I’d go to Subway, but only if I didn’t have to go in and stand before someone else. And what if there were other customers in line? Ugh.
Left turn onto Schmale. How do you even pronounce that name? What am I even doing? Why am I even here? I pass the headquarters of Christianity Today and Tyndale Publishers and countless others Christian powerhouses that have made their home in Carol Stream, Illinois, right down the road of the Wendy’s I have frequented more times than I can count. Wasn’t I going to be a writer? Get connected to someone from Wheaton? Start building a resume? Finish a book? Become famous or successful or at least something other than this? And where the fuck am I even going to get lunch? Fine. McDonalds will do. I wait in line for my McNuggets and Coke like a good little boy and wish with all my heart that I could cry buckets of tears and return to my childhood home in a twenty minute road trip. I check Google Maps—Nope, it’s still over 15 hours from here to Texas. Not that I even have a childhood home anymore, anyway.
Back to the couch. Back to my salivating old puppy girl sitting beside me, ready to share my lunch of losers at any moment. She gets a few fries and a nugget or two and gets to lick the crumbs and ketchup from my plate (the one I pulled from the cabinet upon arriving home to feel more like a grown up and less like a child pigging out on a Happy Meal). I drink my Coke down to the last inch and Goldie and I share the ice cubes, 50/50.
What’s on Netflix? Where is the Roku remote? And what am I doing with my life?
“Parks and Recreation it is!”
I apologize for the language and brutal descriptions of mediocrity. I hope this gives you a little glimpse into mindset of someone struggling with depression and anxiety.
Grace, grace, grace, grace for one more day.