I should be studying for my poetry final on Friday, but I don’t want to. It’s storming outside. My desk is in our dining area, pushed back against a window, which I open sometimes when it’s dark and I’m writing. The pitter-patter of rain is soothing. The rumbles of thunder are . . . ominous. A nice kind of ominous, because I know I am safe. Depression has been on my mind lately, because for the first time in three months, I feel like I’m not depressed.
My symptoms of depression: can’t get up before noon, shun the world, hide away from friends, no energy, no incentive to do anything, always feel like I’m on the edge of tears. I give up. I do not pursue Death, but if she did come for me and kissed me on the lips, I would not mind. I would lay down my pen, fold my hands demurely, and say, Ah, so you are indeed my one and only true love. I should have guessed it. All right then, let us dance away to thy kingdom of sweet oblivion. Or some such nonsense. I should say that when I am depressed, I don’t write. When my depression is on remission, one of the first things that happen is that I write. Hence, I’ve been writing a lot lately. Also, the tiny humorous tone of some of my sentences lets me know I still have a sense of humor. My writing is what lets me know that I am returning from my half-death. Years ago, I thought, ignorantly, that admitting to myself my love for women would mean an end to my cyclic bouts of depression, but no, I’ve realized that my depression is a constant companion, waiting for me. See that shadow behind the door? Yes, that’s her. She is a sorceress and her spells are lethal. Will I ever find the antidote to her poison? I don’t know. I don’t take pills, I don’t go to counseling, I don’t do anything to try to break the vicious cycle. Coward? Yes. Also, I have a sense that I don’t want to bother anyone with my problems. Comes from my Asian culture.
Hmm, how to describe my depression? How about a story? There is a dead squirrel on a mound of dirt along the path I walk to the bus stop. The first time I saw it, perhaps a month ago, it was freshly dead, sprawled on its back with chubby belly to the sky. Its arms and legs and fluffy tail sprawled wide, spread eagled, like, if it were human, it had drunk itself to the final stupor, laid down on this side of the road, and given itself up. Last, but not least, just before death, it had shat on itself. There was a wide black spot on its nether regions. You might say at this point in the story—Oh, how tragic! You buried it, right? Well, no. Maybe a heroine in my imagination might weep over it and give it a touching funeral, but I am nothing sentimental. Over these few weeks, I have watched the squirrel decay. First, the black area on its nether regions widened until there was a black hole. Look closer at that black hole and you would see things crawling around, feasting. In the first week, the golden brown fur was lustrous. It was beautiful in life, I’ll bet. April showers have pummeled it for weeks, and the fur has slowly lost its sheen. Its chubby body then became thinner and thinner, until its carcass was flat, its shape lost. Then, one day recently, its face was gone. Not eaten off or decapitated. No, just gone, like it had never had a face in the first place.
Well, this is what my depression feels like. Like I’m road kill, just unconsciously laying there while small creatures chew on my insides until there’s nothing left. There are days when I’ve felt like I’ve lost my face, my identity, my deepest Self. And just like death for some creatures, depression comes on suddenly, for no reason, no explanations, and there’s no way to prepare myself. Every time I pass by that squirrel, I am reminded of how precarious a life spent with depression is.
Well, I think that’s enough morbidity for one night. My depression is over. For now. The next step is a fun, delightful step: I need to remember how to be happy.