It’s hot out today. My toddler is naked and filling his watermelon shaped pool with ice cold hose water. I love him. I love the way his dirty blonde hair curls around his hat and the way he walks with purpose when he is going for the “aqua” (water in Italian). I love how he points to every single bird in the sky, even the ones so far away they’re just black dots, and how his mouth opens all the way when he’s excited, and how he squints to follow a squirrel scampering across a power line. My heart is full even if my brain is cracking.
Three months of social distancing has started to take a toll on me like I worried it could. Chronic depression has come back, like a lurky, draining old friend, and brought the usual suspects along for the ride: Irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and negative thoughts on a perpetual loop. Before years of therapy, I didn’t even realize that the exhaustion and cloud and fog were depression. I thought that I had a whole list of health problems from a hormonal imbalance to allergies. But it turns out, in my case, my body was just responding to my mental state. It took years but I learned how to fight it off with therapy and vitamins and yoga and acupuncture and occasionally meds and staying social. Everyone experiences depression differently, their symptoms are different and so is the cause and ways in that they’re able to cope with it. My anxiety and depression are trauma triggered and being alone triggers the trauma. Kind of a problem during a global pandemic where I can’t see friends or family and my husband works the hours of a seven-year-old factory employee from the 1920s.
I’m doing my very best to cope right now but it’s really hard. I don’t have much “me time” for self-care. I can’t go see my therapist and while I can call her (and need to) it’s really hard to talk to her while I’m trying to stop my toddler from scaling the stove for the ninety-fifth time. So I’m fighting the depression by putting all of the energy I can muster into playing with my son to at least keep me out of my head. It takes a lot of effort to act okay all day long. I cope in small ways that I think (and hope) are undetectable to him even though I know that everything we’re doing is laced with my brain icky. We dance, take long walks, and read books. But the music we dance to is music I’m drawn to when I’m in a dark place: The Psychedelic Furs, Love My Way, for example, because it’s melancholy and charged with dark energy because artists have a witchy way of pouring their emotions into their art and it overflows into the rest of us. Sometimes I feel like feelings and energy are as infectious as Corona itself. When Leo naps or goes to bed at night, I try to meditate a little, journal a little and cope by escaping into fantasy which is usually vampire related and I blame my mom for letting me watch Fright Night at age five for this. In the past two weeks, I’ve obsessively watched Interview With the Vampire, Buffy, The Vampire Diaries and will surely move onto the Originals. Movies have always been soothing but so are design and art and music.
When I’m struggling, I’m the most drawn to the arts because I can escape reality. The problem with depression pulling towards creativity is that I’m often really inspired when I get chronically depressed because escapism is how I cope. This leaves me feeling that at times my depressed self is my most interesting self. Because it’s when I create the most, care the least about what people think, and IMO write the best. Sometimes I want the darkness to go away but wish that I could keep parts of it around to add some quirk to what I believe is my lackluster personality. But also, depression lies. And I have to remind myself of that over and over again. Sometimes I say, “you lying little bitch” out loud and my son is like WTF is wrong with you, woman? And I just smile and laugh and point to the window and say “oh, is that a bird?” So he doesn’t think I’m a complete psycho yet. YET. Eventually he’ll read the blogs or the books and well he hangs out with me all day so he’ll know. But at least I’m hoping he’ll think I’m a lovable psycho. Right? Right.
I’ll be okay. I’ll call my therapist and do the things and slowly claw my way out like I’ve done a handful of times before. But for right now I just needed you all to know that if you’re struggling right now, so am I, and you’re not alone.