Tina L Porter

Out of the Couch

Depression, Gratitude 14 Comments

A few weekends ago, my husband and I attempted (and accomplished) a Herculean task: we moved one couch to the road and another up the stairs.

This is on my mind right now because since then, I have had a constant soreness from the socket of my shoulder down the inside of my upper arm. It is also on my mind because every time I walked through the dining room that week and looked out the window, I saw that old, nasty, under-stuffed, hard-to-get-out-of, cat-hair-covered, couch still sitting out by the side of the road.

Even though, or perhaps because, it is a chocolate brown, the stains from a decade of use are all over it. The truth is I could probably live with the yuck a little longer. Because that couch has been at the center of many of our family gatherings, it has held three goofy girls and a dog; three goofy girls and their cats; and was the place where I would go in the middle of the night when my restlessness overwhelmed me and I feared I would wake my husband.

It was also the place I sought solace in these last several, reclusive months.

So, while I could have lived with its largeness, darkness, and uncomfortableness for a bit longer, what I couldn’t live with any more is what that couch has come to represent for me. I’ve spent way too much time of the last 15 months stuck in that space at the end of the couch, with my Facebook, and knitting, and ghost shows. Perhaps it is too much to share, how these last few months, especially, have been for me. It will make some people uncomfortable if I come out and say, point blank: I’ve been drowning in depression.

I recognized the symptoms. Depression isn’t new to me, but I don’t recall ever having been in it so long or so deep. It took me until recently and with loving prodding to realize how profoundly it had come to affect my family, my marriage, my career, let alone my own sense of self.

I’m getting help now. That’s the up side of the story–as in when you hit the floor of the couch, there’s no place left to go but up. And then back down; and then back up again.

Yeah, I get this. Like I said, this isn’t a new thing except for the depth of it. And I’m hoping with the medicine and the therapy and the support of my family and friends (most especially my husband who is learning a new way of being with me and deserves all the accolades for loving me through this), that the lows will not be as low as they have been all this time.

Why am I telling you this? Maybe because May is Mental Health Awareness Month and I’ve seen other people I know sharing what depression looks like for them. Maybe it’s because I see myself climbing out of the couch and toward something else. Maybe because I’m one of those bloggers who just can’t help herself from sharing all the dark and disgusting parts of her life (and I’m not just talking about the old couch!).

And maybe it’s because I finally realized that pretending is just too hard.

Pretending to be healthy when you are not takes way more energy than allowing yourself to not be healthy. I learned this when a friend in the 1980s finally, finally, revealed to me that her female roommate was actually her lover. Thirty years later, I still remember the relief she showed when she could finally be her whole self with me, and I remember that she was no longer taking one or two sick days per week.

It is hard to be what you are not. This would go for being on the autism spectrum and pretending to not be; to being undiagnosed with ADHD and trying so very hard to be organized and punctual when you just don’t work that way; or when your sex says “male” but your gender says “female” (or vice versa).

It is hard to pretend.

And for several months (years?), I pretended like I was on the mend, on my way to becoming whole and healthy like, you know, “normal” folk. Maybe it is too soon. Maybe I shouldn’t say anything just yet, but even on that rainy, snowy, sleet-y, blowy day when we were lugging that nasty old couch to the road, I could see the depression shifting from something hidden and wrong to something else.

Maybe it was just replacing the deep, dark couch with a lighter and firmer one. But, I think it was more likely that the meds had started to kick in and I was able to stop the pretense, at least in the familiar place of my home, and define a new “normal,” at least for me.

Maybe this is too personal to share. Maybe you aren’t comfortable with any of it.

That’s okay.

Maybe I can just let this hang out there, having been said, and move on, one moment to the next. But moving on is going to include being exactly who I am: kind, loving, funny, cranky, absent-minded, a little judgy, creative, apparently the slowest driver in the family and a lousy co-pilot, to boot. And you know what else it is going to require? Being outside the couch.

So, as Cole Porter would say, “goodbye, dear (couch), and amen“. Here’s hoping we don’t meet again.

Post Script:  Shortly after we took said couch to the road, I had two reminders from two people who let me know that I matter to them. One was a text from a friend, thanking me for reminding her that she does, in fact, love a mutual friend. The second was when a friend literally gave me the sweater off her back. Okay, almost literally. She dropped it off with a loving letter, after I admired it when we had lunch the week before.  I doubted it would fit me because she is quite slender and I am, well, not. But, like the traveling pants, fit, it did.

These acts–a kind word, a meaningful gift–remind me that I am of the living, connected, across time and space, to a wealth of amazing people who love and care about and for me. And for all of them, I’ll keep living one moment into the next wherever those moments lead–up or down or sideways–because I know I’m being buoyed by love.

And I am grateful for everything–from love and support, to therapy and meds–that got me out of the couch, at least for this day and the next. (Though, ironically, I’m writing this from the exact same location on the new, lighter couch. Progress, friends, doesn’t always look like we think it should.)

Post Post-Script: On trash day, before the men came to take said couch away, two women came to my door and asked if they could take it. “It’s nasty!” I said. “We have an upholstery cleaner at home and we have a friend leaving a bad situation–she has no furniture!” I was glad to see the old girl going on to help someone else.

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  • Kelly on May 11, 2016

    I’m glad you shared! I hope you start to feel better soon! I’m on meds, too, and done therapy off and on since 2007 for mild bulimia and an anxiety disorder. Therapy changed my life and my meds keep me sane. I hope you feel the same benefits! Mental health is often shamed, hidden, and stigmatized, but you have nothing to regret by sharing. Didn’t realize it was mental health month in May, so thanks for pointing it out! Love and hugs!

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 11, 2016

      Thank you for sharing, Kelly, and for your kind words. Love and hugs back at you!

  • Alice blogcomment on May 11, 2016

    If we lived close to each other, I would want us to hang out often. I love you.

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 11, 2016

      I love you, too. And yes, yes we would.

  • Alisha Allen-Pratt on May 11, 2016

    Tina, what a deep story! It really touched me, as I went through the same pretend game for years. My spot was the bed with mounds of pillows. I did finally seek medical help when my call-ins began to threaten my job about a year ago. Like you, I am also on the mend. And blessed that I am loved and needed. Thank you for sharing. Keep up the fight, and live the dream. Hugs, Alisha.

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 11, 2016

      Thank you, Alisha. I’m glad to hear you are on the mend. Hugs to you!

  • Theo on May 11, 2016

    Great post, Tina. So many will relate to this one!

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 11, 2016

      Thank you, Theo!

  • Ellen Bell on May 11, 2016

    Tina, I don’t know if you even remember me. I was one of many students who passed through your capable hands.
    Your post touched me because my beloved Marlene lived with severe depression for the sixteen years we were together before she unexpectedly died in her sleep just over three years ago. Since that time I have been floundering in grief and depression which is slowly going away. I am fortunate to have much support from friends and family, especially my two children and their spouses. That said, I have had a very close relationship with my couch so I can identify. Best wishes to you.

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 11, 2016

      Yes, Ellen, I remember and am so glad to hear from you. I’m so sorry for your loss. Grief is so complex, isn’t it? I’m glad you have been supported and know you are in my heart. Love to you

  • Carol Key on May 15, 2016

    Hi, Friend,

    I just now read this (10:30 pm on Sunday night), because my fb “management” skills are spotty to say the least. I did not know about the depression that was weighing upon you, but God did. He gets the credit for nudging me to show you that I love you.
    I am grateful for our friendship and I love the beautiful creation that you brought to ME! John has put the little solar light in it each night and when we turn out the lights, there is a lovely glow in the living room. It makes me warm just to see it. May I just pray briefly for you now? “Dear Father, Thank You for Your amazing love and Your great wisdom. Please let Tina know how much You love her and help her rest in that love. Please show her the purpose that You uniquely created her to fulfill. In Jesus’ name. Amen

    Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31

    For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 (Some versions say “God’s masterpiece.” 🙂 )

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 18, 2016

      Thank you for your friendship, Carol, and your prayers. Love you, Tina

  • Julie Kessler on May 18, 2016

    Tina, I’m researching the Porter County Museum. There are lots of exhibits mentioned, so I don’t know why I clicked on yours. Perhaps it’s because it was a poetry reading, something I do, too. How glad I am that you released the burden of pretending while in depression, and that you honored so many people struggling with it by your wonderfully written post about it. I am so sorry that you know first-hand the oppressiveness of it. Medicine, therapy, and a supportive husband got me through my bout with it, and thankfully, these many years later, I am fine. I wish the same for you, and am glad you have the resources I had. Good for you for tossing the couch–what a great step! I wish for you the lightness of spring.

    • Author
      Tina L Porter on May 18, 2016

      Thank you, Julie. I’m so glad you found my blog and for your hope and encouragement.

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