I started this post a week ago. If you had asked before I opened the draft, I would have told you it had been maybe two or three days, so warped is my sense of time. The hours between 7 am and 6 pm seem to stretch into half-week chunks, and there isn’t enough sleep to be had, no matter how long the nights. I never understood that aspect of depression- the sleep that seemed endless and never enough. I’ve never been a napper, and 8 hours of sleep nightly has always seemed excessive. Lately, though, I’ll sacrifice almost anything in favor of more sleep. Plans with friends, activities with the kids, packing and moving my two-bedroom apartment? All of it out the window if it’ll get me an hour or two under a blanket with my eyes closed.
‘Home’ is an idea I’ve been toying a lot with lately. I haven’t quite flushed out what it means to me exactly, nor can I identify a time or place that felt truly like home to me. In my imagination, it’s maybe a house I own. Jack and Carolyn are there, and there are bikes on the front porch and old, checkered tiles in the kitchen. There’s a giant couch with tasseled pillows and cable-knit throws that spill onto the hardwood floor. There are toys in the bathtub, blueberries in the fridge, the grass needs to be mowed but it’s okay because it’s nighttime and we’re all inside watching a movie before bed, myself and the kids and maybe some Human X that I didn’t even know I wanted until I met someone who makes me not want to eat breakfast alone. But that’s for later.
‘Home’ has never really had an exact location or definition for me, but lately it’s begun to take shape. I’m certain that this will change- after all, changing is part of growing, and at 27 I’m certain I’ve got a wealth of growing ahead of me- but presently, ‘home’ seems to be a particular point in time in which I am, to a degree, at rest in certain areas of my life.
All that is really just musing. Here’s the guts of this post: I moved myself and the kids out of the apartment that has felt so much like a grave for the past seven months and am staying with my Mum until I get my head together. No one is particularly thrilled about this arrangement (aside from the kids- they love their grandparents), but the alternative is for me to continue pretending that I’m in a position to function independently in the world (surprise: I’m not). When I’m at my best, I’m the kind of person who fights through adversity. When I first moved home in 2011, I was single, Jack was a year old, I was pregnant with Carolyn, and I was enrolled in two simultaneous full-time semesters at Bucks. I ended both semesters with a 4.0, and had Carolyn somewhere in the middle. I ran, maintained a regular yoga practice, and was an active participant in a local CSA. Go me. That was probably a high point in my thus-far short life. This right now, this dark hell of endless sleep…this is my low point. I have never been this depressed in my life. I didn’t even know it was possible.
Depression is the strangest, most perplexing problem to have. I hope that one day I will have the wisdom to see it as something other than a problem. I hope I can come to a healthy point and see some kind of meaning in these low moods, but I’m just not there yet. For me, it’s still a problem, something that has the power to take my life and flip it, like a game board, all the pieces flying off in different directions. I don’t understand it and I don’t know how to harness it. I’m just now learning to accept that I’m going to lose people and things that I treasure. This time last year, I could fill a swimming pool with all of the people and things I felt were concrete in my life. Today I can count them on one hand. A phrase I’ve heard repeatedly from my friends is that I ‘expect too much of people.’ I now know this to be true, and in the process of falling apart I’ve also released many of my expectations. I’ve heard on more than one occasion that I was just too much to handle. That I was bringing people down. That they just couldn’t do it anymore.
I’m not certain I know what that feels like. I can identify one time in recent memory that I felt overwhelmed by the amount of support I was dishing out, and I remember talking to a close friend about it. This was also at the beginning of my breakdown. I have not, however, felt that any one person was more than I could handle. That doesn’t mean that I can’t honor and respect the notion that I would be just too much for one person to want to wrestle with.
Do you know what it takes to be friends with someone who is miserable, selfish, needy, demanding, helpless, irritable, inconsistent, and a host of other unpleasant qualities all at the same time? Magic. It takes magic. Frida Khalo said, “Take a lover who looks at you like maybe you are magic,” and while I love this quote, lately I’ve taken the liberty of reversing it and applying it to my friendships. Take friends that YOU look at like maybe they are magic. A friend, for example, who knows you well enough to take you to your favorite University campus on a night when you are feeling your darkest, and lets you wander around outside touching the stone archways and ducking through passageways, each one opening to a different courtyard…
Moments like that do so much more than just bring a few hours of relief. Walking around Princeton reminded me that I am me, Liz, the girl who LOVES Princeton, who thinks of it as her real-life Hogwarts, who wants a Princeton PhD- who wants a PhD at all! Because most days, Liz doesn’t want to get out of bed. Liz doesn’t even want to boil water for tea, or meet her best friends for a beer, let alone have the balls to have such huge aspirations. The time I spent walking around that magical campus was a reminder to myself that I still exist. It’s a difficult feeling to hold on to.
I still exist. Right now, it’s in a pretty frustrating capacity, but as miserable and exhausted and confused as I feel, I don’t feel hopeless. I’ve struggled with the feeling in recent past, but lately it’s occurred to me that while things are so far from where I want them to be, putting things back together isn’t impossible. Am I up for the work it’ll take? Who knows…but that’s no reason not to try. That all sounds so much more optimistic than I actually feel.
Here are the things I am capable of (read: the things I’ve been able to get myself to do): writing this blog post (it took me two weeks). Going to the movies tomorrow night, at a friend’s suggestion. Watering my plants. Going to a job interview tomorrow afternoon and not acting like Wednesday Addams. Cooking simple meals for Jack and Carolyn. Laying on my yoga mat and staring at the sky. Finishing my first packet for Graduate school and sending it off for feedback. Spending this weekend with my incredible bespectacled boyfriend. Crossword puzzles. Showering (sometimes). Loading the dishwasher. Finding Waldo.
Here are the things I am not really capable of: feeding myself (seriously). Getting myself out of the house for any kind of social interaction. Organizing my thoughts. Remembering to call places and people to set up appointments and sort out obligations. Keeping myself calm for more than a few minutes. Getting out of bed in the morning.
Every day is a struggle. Every morning I wonder how I’m going to make it through the day, and often it’s through a fair share of tears and hours curled on the couch. Each night I wonder how I’m going to get up the next morning. The anxiety is crippling. I’m afraid to leave the house alone. I’ve gained 40 pounds since January. I have lost my connection with my yoga practice, my running, my passion for food and gardening and intellectual pursuits. The bark of my life has been slowly stripped away until all that remains is a skinny core the width of a sapling. In some ways it makes me very sad. I don’t like goodbyes. But in other ways, it makes me cautiously optimistic. If all that excess has been shed and I’m still here, still existing, then there’s been much room made for new growth.
I want to believe my life will sprout anew like a Birch cut back. I want to be optimistic about my friends, my future, the boyfriend I feel such wild affection for. I want to be the engaged, enthusiastic person that lived two summers ago in the same skin I’m dying in now. For me, I guess, that’s home- being the best version of myself.
I’m hoping I’ll be there soon.