I never wrote to purge. Perhaps this has been my weakness. No great glots of self loathing or chalices of hope. I meditate on every word and there is little room for play. Even my earliest journals (grade 4) were sarcastic or ironic and I was never willing to fully bleed glitter and crocodile tears on the page. Maybe this was my practiced blockage; I hold back, I am unwilling afraid to explore, to make a mess, and I am embarrassed about the messes (Oh spilled glitter and macaroni and strands of dusty glue) I have put down. I want to be dignified, but I want to write too, and I hold myself back and that is a road block but it is also the reason I am working toward change.
Yesterday, I was leaving to take my son to a birthday party. We were running a little late and I managed to back into my garage door, breaking it and rendering it inoperable. Today I was cutting into a pomegranate when the knife jumped and sliced deep into two fingers. I was holding them in a (reddening) washcloth when the man came to fix the garage door.
“What happened?” he asked when he saw my hand.
I told him and laughed as I pointed at the garage door. “I’m having a rough few days,” I said.
This man, who spoke with a heavy accent answered, “Yes, I know how that is. We all go through black lines. I recently went through a black line myself. But you know, you can’t stay in the black line. You can’t put your head down and…” he mimicked crying. “Because then…” again, he made motions with his hands, like trying to grip a dribbling ball.
“You attract more of it.”
I love that. I took it inside with me while he repaired my garage door. I hold it still. A black line. Like a strike-out covering your life like a palimpsest.
So I will take this lesson: Be mindful. Slow down. Pay attention. And there is this: If I hadn’t broken the garage door, I wouldn’t have connected today with this sage. And that, I think, would have been a shame.
I stayed in Simi Valley longer than necessary, especially since when it was time for me to go, I saw that my driving time had increased by over an hour. Also, my route changed, freeing me from heavy traffic on the 210. I say the 210 because I’m originally from Southern California, and Southern Californians place the article before the highway name. I still say the 10, the 405, the 605, but I say 80, I say 50, I even say 5 because I never drove that highway until I was a Northern Californian, and Northern Californians cut to the chase when it comes to talking about their freeways. My GPS took me through what to me has always been uncharted territory: Pearblossom Highway, straight through the town of Pearblossom. My husband had warned me that the drive would be bleak, and indeed the drive home, along the 10, was trafficked and uninspiring, aside from the dinosaurs in Cabazon, which I hadn’t expected, surrounded as they were by outlet malls and casinos. But that came much later, after the weekend, after hours of yoga and offerings of bliss.
The town of Pearblossom exists along a cool strip of desert: a shock of early Joshua Trees and yuccas, wooden structures, brown-skinned white people with long beards and cowboy hats. In retrospect I might have stopped, but at the time I thought if I kept driving I might still make it to the early check-in yoga practice, which turned out not to be the case.
No worries, I kept driving as the road became a smooth series of dips and undulations. I don’t like driving. I was in a pretty bad accident several years ago and it has made me shy on the road, not even to mention all the asshole drivers and the police cameras at every intersection, but this road was lovely to drive along. I went fast, cresting and falling. The road like an ocean, like a heartbeat. I stopped for gas. I thought this might be the last gas station I would see, as it seemed as if I was entering deep desert.
Then suddenly, the desert spit me out. I was near San Bernadino, surrounded by fast food chains and traffic and strip malls. I got out of there as fast as I could and was happy when I turned onto the 62 and the landscape again began to settle itself. I was listening to Like Water for Chocolate on my CD player and I pulled over to read my screenshotted directions, and I read the word Kickapoo Trail at the same time the audiobook reader said “Kickapoo Indian.” That kind of thing happens to me sometimes; I drive a lot and listen to a lot of audiobooks when I drive and there are moments of synchronicity where I see a sign that says, for instance, “Wholesale,” at the exact moment the reader reads the word. But Kickapoo seemed random as hell; it had to mean I was heading deep into something magical, and indeed I was.
The sun was setting when I arrived in Pioneertown. I was alone on the road, or maybe I was alone on the moon. I ejected my audiobook and found a classic rock station (or anyway it was a station that was playing Aerosmith) and I drove along this dirt road on the moon with my music and my sleepy exhilaration. It had been a longer drive than I had counted on, but I could see the lodge up the hill. I paused for a jackrabbit, and then I made my way past the windmill and the Joshua trees.
I feel like it’s time for me to start being honest. I have a hard time keeping up my blog because I have a hard time with the whole idea of the public persona. I once had a blog where I wrote weekly, at least. I deleted it because I was about to publish a book, and I didn’t want pictures of my kids to be quite so accessible. Then I started a new blog, and it was filled with my writing. I liked it, but I had chosen an expensive web builder and I took it down after a year. I started a blog here on WordPress, but then I reformatted my website and took that down too. Since then, I’ve just been thinking about this piece of the web I’ve been keeping empty.
Here is the truth. I am so depressed. I was diagnosed with depression 20 years ago when I was in grad school. I was lucky. Before that I had been travelling with my boyfriend, who is now my husband and the father of my children. We had a blue 1971 Volkswagen bus and we were driving it across America. It overheated, so we had to travel at night, then try to sleep in the heat of the day. It was uncomfortable and sometimes scary, and I was living my dream.
I had just come back from Europe, where I had spent a semester abroad, then taken a bit of time to backpack alone on the continent (That’s what people in the UK call the rest of Europe). Now I was back with the love of my life and I was traveling with a guitar, a few books, and a journal. It should have been bliss. Instead I was crying all the time. I was having panic attacks and waking from my sleep completely certain that I was going to die. My boyfriend, who like me, didn’t know anything about depression, would tell me to “lighten up.” This would make me cry harder, feel worse. Most of all, I remember mourning for my old self, because she was gone, and had been replaced by this heavy husk. I felt asbestos and chalky dust in my lungs with every breath.
But then someone, it might have been my boyfriend, suggested I go talk to a therapist. I did, and she was lovely, and she sent me to a psychiatrist who prescribed me Celexa. I was reluctant to take it, but finally they convinced me and I started it. I will never forget the feeling, about two weeks later, when something awful inside of me clicked and died and just like that, I was myself again. The drug didn’t make me happy, but it made me me. It was wonderful.
I will always be grateful that the first drug I was prescribed worked. I went off it during both my pregnancies and I felt that infiltration of asbestos and chalk, but I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel because at 35 weeks, I could go back on and become me again.
Luckiest of all, I never experienced post-partum depression. That, I know, was a great gift.
But then something started to happen. The Celexa stopped working. In a panic, I bounced from drug to drug. Sometimes the drug would help and I’d be able to feel numb, which was preferable to flat out depressed. Sometimes the drug made me so sick I’d have to stop taking it after two nights. Once, I took something that numbed me out but also brought me deeper into darkness. Suddenly I found myself contemplating things I had never before considered. Not suicide, but a certain longing for relief, in whatever form that came.
So here I am, today. Still on Celexa, which keeps me stable, but experimenting with the help of my psychiatrist, trying to find that perfect “cocktail” that can bring me back to me. I don’t even know if such a cocktail exists. Sometimes I think about going off everything all together. Maybe it would help with my writing, I tell myself. But it wouldn’t help with my parenting and that is always my number one priority. If I can be a decent parent and never write another word, I’ll choose being a parent every time.
So. I sleep. I cry. I have terrible anxiety and an occasional panic attack. I feel partly dead inside. I am living a blessed blissful life and I hate that I feel this way. I count my blessings and keep a gratitude journal. I practice meditation, yoga. I walk. I have crystals for fuck’s sake. I make my singing bowl hum. I tell my kids I love them. Depression hasn’t taken that from me.
Last night I was talking to my husband about depression. He mentioned my writing. I thought he was going to say that I should take a break. Several weeks ago, my mom suggested the same thing. That the writing, the pressure to write, was making me miserable. Both times I began to panic. The writing is my food, my fuel. Only I don’t always know what to do with it, because I am such a private person.
So as I was falling asleep, I decided to start writing it all down. Here. No more holds barred. No punches pulled. Just me, pressed flat against the wall. Asbestos and chalk dust in my lungs. My heart a butterfly trapped in a glass.
Ready to start being honest.