To the Unwanted Houseguest I Call My Depression

It’s 7 a.m. You’re awake. You have been for awhile. But you don’t open your eyes. Maybe if you don’t, you won’t have to see how the world has changed overnight. No, not the world. Just your world. Maybe if you lie very still and don’t move at all, she’ll go away. She’ll go stay someplace else. It’s too soon. Not again. Your brain turns to panic. How will you get rid of her this time?

You try to talk yourself out of it. She’s not really back, you just didn’t sleep well enough. Get up. Make some coffee. Take a shower. “You’re lazy!” she says. That’s all the confirmation you need. Last time she was here for months and she only stayed away for weeks. How long will it take, this time? Maybe this time she’s here permanently. You avoid starting the day with a foolish hope that you can avoid her. But it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do. You can feel her in the soul crushing heaviness upon your chest. You can sense her toxic presence by the churning in your stomach. She’s the pressure behind your stubborn eye lids.

She’s here but you didn’t plan for her. You certainly didn’t invite her. You never do. You didn’t wash the sheets in preparation for her arrival, didn’t make sure you were caught up on laundry. You didn’t have a chance to stock up on groceries. You always know she’ll come back, but you never know when. The thing is, it’s never convenient timing. Is there a convenient time? When could you afford to check out of your life? She demands every last ounce of your attention, your energy, your time. She also demands that her presence be kept a secret. You are to go about your day as if she isn’t there while she reminds you every single second that she is. You can’t hide. All you can do now is attempt to coexist with her while simultaneously hiding her. You get up.

It’s not like you haven’t tried to evict her. You’ve gotten her to take a long vacation with the help of your psychiatrist. You’ve gotten her to turn down her obnoxious music with the help of your friends. What you haven’t figured out is how to safe guard against her. You have yet to find a bolt lock she can’t break through, a security system she can’t disarm. Like a high maintenance, litigious tenant, she always finds a loophole. She has tools, you see. They don’t seem like much. If she tried them on someone with a more stable foundation maybe they wouldn’t even work. But she knows your every crack, she was waiting in the shadows when your house was being built. Now, it doesn’t take much for her to worm her way back in. A harsh word. An accusation. A conflict. A rocky relationship. She loves these things because she can couple them with the things she’s always telling you anyway. You’re inconsiderate. You’re worthless. Why would someone willingly want to spend time with you? You messed up. Again. And her favorite? It’s your fault.

She doesn’t need much to work with. She’s crafty. Resourceful. Relentless. A poor night’s sleep, a virus, a small change in nutrition, the heat, the cold, physical pain. These are the things she latches onto as she wreaks havoc on the utilities that keeps your house running. Before you can call for maintenance or fix anything yourself, your lights go out. Your water turns cold. Everything is cluttered, messy. Your energy is zapped. She wastes no time. She uses this against you.

Why don’t you put the laundry away? How hard is that? Look at it sitting there crumpled in the laundry basket. Put it away! You can’t, can you? Even that simple task you can’t complete. Why are your kids watching another TV show while you sit at the kitchen table staring into space? Oh, right. You’re a shitty excuse for a mother. Why’d you have kids, anyway? I think it was a selfish decision on your part. You had to have known you’d suck at this. Someone as selfish and lazy as you. Maybe you did it for a sense of purpose. Look how messy your house is. Look at the papers on the table, the toys on the floor. Is that laundry spilling out of the hamper? Of course it is. You don’t even have a job — you can’t even keep a clean house. If you were a better parent you’d be playing a board game with your kids. But don’t forget about me! I want to play, too. And I want to win. I want to be a part of everything you do. Look, it’s sunny outside. If you were a good parent you’d take your kids outside. But then you’d probably forget to reapply sunblock like that one time. Remember that sunburn? If he gets skin cancer later in life we’ll know who to blame. Then again, we always know who to blame, don’t we?

She’s exhausting and obnoxious.

But you also wonder if maybe she’s right. You sigh, flip off the TV, take the kids outside. You apply sunblock to their fair skin. You pull some weeds. Of course, she’s come out into the sun with you. Wow, look at your yard. It’s a jungle! None of your neighbors’ yards look like this. Everyone else can keep up except you. By the way, remember that appointment you forgot last week? That was really dumb. It was on your calendar. It was in your phone. But you still forgot. And if you hadn’t forgotten, you would’ve been late. When are you ever on time? It’s really not that hard for anyone except you. Speaking of forgetting, you forgot to defrost the chicken for dinner. You’ll probably just have your husband pick something up, using his hard earned money. After a ten hour day, you’d think he at least deserves to come home to a home cooked meal and a clean house. But he married you. Do you think he regrets it? I mean face it, there are plenty of woman who have more kids than you, better looks and have got this domestic stuff down, sometimes while holding down a job. Oh well, you got lucky. You know you’re lucky, right? You’re blessed. You should be grateful. Why are you feeling so bad when you have such a great life? Maybe God will punish you for your lack of gratitude. Why aren’t you happy?

And on and on she goes. By evening, you are exhausted from her relentless jabber, her heavy weight hanging on you. Why can’t she just leave you alone? Your arms are heavy as you go through the motions of giving the kids a bath. Your voice is hollow as you read them stories. Finally, night falls. You hope to escape her at least in your sleep, but she climbs into bed with you. It’s crowded. You squeeze your eyes shut and hope she’ll pack her bags during the night and be on her way by morning. You hope she won’t visit your dreams. 

She doesn’t need much to work with. She has tools. A harsh word. A conflict. A rocky relationship.  Loss. Change. A virus. Sleep deprivation. She has tools.

The thing is, you have tools, too. If she has her way, you won’t remember or won’t have the energy to use them. She’ll try to convince you that you don’t have them at all. But you do, you have tools. The support of family. Faithful friends. Your pets. Your counselor. The rainbow of pharmaceuticals you take every morning. Sleep. Good nutrition. Reading. Writing.

Yes, there’s writing. Of course, it’s damn hard to concentrate with all of her yammering in your ear and tugging on your sleeve. Then you get an idea. What if you write about her? She wants you to hide her, but what if you expose her? She gasps at this idea. You want people to know you’re “crazy?” They’ll think you’re attention-seeking. They’ll run. Your friendship circle will dwindle even more. You’ll lose more.

The thing is, she’s right, at least partially. Some people won’t understand. Some will roll their eyes and believe you to be attention-seeking, dramatic, whiny. She’ll agree with them. What she doesn’t tell you is some people will believe you, and these are the people you need in your life. Because, really, if someone’s not in your corner, you don’t need them in your life any more than you need her. Focus on those who are in your corner. There’s one more thing she doesn’t tell you: other people out there are living with an unwanted houseguest. Other people are hiding this houseguest in the shadows, believing her words, living by her rules. Other people think they’re the only ones. Maybe you can let them know they’re not. Someone understands. She’s a liar and a thief. She’ll keep talking, but maybe you don’t have to listen. She has tools, but you have more. Don’t be afraid to use them.

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Thinkstock photo via Edward Bock

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