Earlier this week, I wrote something on Facebook that was rather candid. The post concerned my struggles with depression, which has been rather difficult to deal with for the last several weeks. There were a lot of supportive things said by a lot of wonderful people I’m fortunate enough to call friends and family. One in particular, my dear friend (and fantastic author) Elisa Lorello, mentioned that the post would be validating for others.
So, I’m writing this because it might be useful to someone else. Not just for those who deal with depression on a daily basis, but for those who struggle to understand what depression is. There’s a common misconception that people who suffer from depression can simply “choose” to be happy, or that they can be cheered up. Those who are fortunate enough not to have bad brain chemistry have a hard time understanding how someone can just be sad or tired all the time.
My hope is that maybe this post will illuminate some things for those folks, while assuring those who are dealing with their demons that you aren’t alone. I’m right here in this trench with you.
This is my back yard. I haven’t mowed this bastard in three weeks. You can’t tell all that much from the photo, but the grass is ridiculously high. I don’t own a riding lawnmower. I only have a push-mower. The deck on the lawnmower only goes so high, and when the grass gets to be this length, I have a difficult time chopping it down. The blade gets gummed up, the chute gets clogged, and the whole thing chokes until the engine dies. The result is an uneven cut, erratic streaks in the grass, and a lot of raking.
I hate mowing my lawn. I’ve always hated mowing, period. Even when I lived with my parents, when I worked for my stepdad’s landscaping company, I hated mowing. And what I hate more than mowing, is mowing grass when it’s tall and thick. In the ironic scheme of things, if I have to mow, I’m going to do it often so that it’s easier.
For the last three weeks, I’ve known that I need to mow the grass. It’s there. I can see it getting longer every day. I know that every day I wait, it’s going to be that much harder to cut. I know these things…and yet I have zero motivation to do anything about it. Wait, even that’s not true. I’m motivated, but I lack the energy. I’m mentally exhausted, which makes me feel physically exhausted as well. It’ll be fine, I think. It’ll keep another day. It won’t be so bad.
And then the next day comes. The cycle repeats. The grass slowly gets longer, taller.
Let me give you some insight into my daily routine these last few weeks. I get up, I go to work at a job I hate, where the physical act of being there makes my skin crawl and my heart palpitate, and then I go home and sleep for an hour to an hour and a half. Then I wake up, I eat, I write, sometimes I read, and then I go back to sleep for seven, maybe eight hours. And then the cycle repeats itself.
On the weekends, I sleep until about 10 AM. I get up, I feed the cats, I go back to bed until noon or so, I get up, I write for a bit, I have lunch, I go back to bed, I sleep for three or four hours, I wake up, have dinner, maybe I write, maybe I watch a movie, sometimes I play a video game, and then I go back to bed, I sometimes read, sometimes watch a movie, and always sleep. And then the cycle repeats itself.
That’s been my life for the last several weeks. No, even that’s a lie. That’s been my life for pretty much all summer long. I can ramble off a laundry list of things that might have triggered this. The bitch of it is, by the time I started realizing that I’m dealing with a bout of depression, I was already in the thick of it.
Months have passed. My daily and weekly routines have suffered. Writing and my day job have been the two consistent things I’ve been able to keep up with, and I think that’s entirely out of necessity–one to pay the bills, one because I’m genuinely excited about it. Publishing projects with Precipice that I’d hoped to get squared away this summer have collected dust. Events I’d hoped to attend came and went. It’s like I’ve been in a coma all summer that I’m just waking up from.
This is depression, friends. This is what it looks like. This photo here isn’t the face of someone who isn’t sleeping. It’s the face of someone who is sleeping too much. I look at this and see a man who’s let things pass him by or fall to the wayside. I see a man who’s tired of feeling tired.
And the grass…well, the grass is really fucking tall right now. It’s out of control.
Yesterday, I started working on it. I gassed up the mower, raised the deck as high as it would go, cleared the chute, and started on my front yard. It did not go well. Even with the deck as high as possible, the mower still choked and died a few times. A ten-minute patch of grass took me almost an hour to clear. Even now, it looks shitty. The paths are erratic, there are some uneven streaks where the blade failed because it couldn’t cut fast enough, and there was so much cut grass afterward that I had to rake it up. The mower couldn’t mulch it on its own.
But I kept at it. I took it slow, one pass at a time. It wasn’t perfect, and there’s still a lot left to do, but the important part is that I broke the cycle. That’s the hardest part about depression, I think. It’s rediscovering the motivation to do something about it. It’s finding the will to ignore that voice telling you to let things go for another day. That voice is a liar.
Living with depression is a struggle. Some days ebb and flow. Some days you win, some days you don’t. And it never goes away.
All you can do is take it one pass at a time. Do it enough times and all those choppy places will start to even out. Try to stay on top of it, because the grass will keep growing, and mowing it is a real bitch.