May 11, 2016
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.
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.