I started a pot of coffee at three minutes after eleven on a Sunday night and as soon as I hit the start button my eyes were drawn to coffee grounds and sugar that had been spilled on the counter earlier in the day and I found myself stuck. I could only stand there and look. I knew I needed to clean that up. I wanted to clean it up. I just couldn’t make myself do it. Instead I felt a sense of vertigo like I was trapped in that moment, present and distant all at once. I had to fight back the urge to scream, or to cry, or to just walk out of my house and leave.
Don’t misunderstand me here. It’s not that I’m not a clean freak. I’m a single parent with three kids, two of whom are eight and ten, and still live at home. The ‘my house will be neat and clean’ ship has sailed long ago. But, that being said, I do like to make sure my kids live in a mostly clean house that is nearly clutter free. I spend many hours dedicated to that goal, in fact. And then other times… I’m under the clouds.
You see, my life is spent in and out of the dark, figuratively. It’s like I’m always walking down this long road, and there are all these dark clouds in the sky. Sometimes there will be good patches, breaks in the clouds that let the sun shine in, as I continue to walk. Occasionally these patches will last for weeks and on the truly rare instance for months. They always end, though. The Sun will fall behind the clouds and everything will be dark again.
That’s the way my life works, the way my mind works. Depression is by far my longest running relationship, and she’s loyal. She stays with me no matter how good things get. She sits patiently in the shadows in some corner of my mind. Waiting. Then something will happen, a trigger, coffee grounds and sugar on the counter, and there she is. She wraps me up in the dark and holds me tight. Assuring me that everything I do is wrong, and that I am most assuredly a failure – at being an adult, at keeping up with my house, at being a parent, at any and everything in my life.
I can go for months on end trapped in the same cloudy day. I can put on a smile like I put on a hat. I can make jokes and lighthearted conversation as easily as I can write any piece of fiction. I can even lie to myself convincingly for very short bursts. The clouds, though, they stay.
More often than not it’s just an overall feeling of failure. It’s a sensation that I’m out of place everywhere. I don’t belong. Nothing will work out for me. No one really likes me, they just put on a nice face, because they are nice people, and they pretend. Anything good that I have is undeserved. All pretty much standard fare. Other times, however… other times it gets bad. It gets painful. Down deep painful. It gets bad enough that I start to scrape against the bottom of myself and want things to end.
I can tell myself rationally that I don’t really want that. I know I don’t. But the argument in my mind is no less real, no less loud, no less exhausting. I can tell myself that I have people that would listen to me, let me vent, be there for me. As luck would have it, though, once I’m at that point my mind has already convinced me that they don’t really like me anyway and they would only be listening or pretending to care out of some sense of kindness or pity, and that it would only serve to make them not want to be any part of my life afterward. Besides, I tell myself, your problems are petty and small, not worth the time it would take to talk about… you need to just get over it… or just be done with it all.
I have a decent life. It’s been better than it is today. It’s been worse. I eat. I have a place to sleep. I have toys and clean clothes for my kids. When I focus on it I can actually feel happy for a while. I can concentrate on the good things, and I can feel good. I can walk in the sunshine and I can smile real smiles. But even when I do that I know that it’s just a break in the clouds, and my lifetime forecast, every day, is: mostly cloudy with a chance of pain.