The thing is, my whole family’s depressed, and has always been depressed, for as long as I can remember. It’s just that I can force myself to function more or less to the standards of the outside world, where they don’t. I can drag myself to work, I can take a shower if it’s a weekday (and I have to go to work). I can slap on a smile and strike up a conversation. Sure, I can’t do anything else–can’t buy food for myself, eat, cut my hair, clean, read, pursue a hobby, buy a phone, or do anything other than shut down and become near-catatonic when I shut the door to my apartment in the evening. It’s not just the misery, but how the misery puts a fog over my brain so I can’t properly think about anything in the way I know I’m supposed to be able to. It’s how I’m more and more frequently gripped by a heart-stopping panic that makes me want to run for my life, stop sleeping, die. And yet, even through all of this, my family and coworkers think I’m just fine and well adjusted–of course they do, because all society at large really cares for is how smooth a cog you can be in the fucking capitalism machine. I can do my job. Only my job. That’s all that matters, huh? I can’t possibly be doing at all bad like my older brother still flunking through his classes in college, or my unemployed/barely employed parents. I have a paycheck!
I think I’m starting to cope a little better. It used to be that I’d get sucked completely under and nearly destroy myself in times like this. Then I got to the point where I could just wearily plod on with life, slow and difficult as the terrain is. The tide’s come in again, and I feel like garbage swirling in the sea, but I think this is the first time I haven’t been afraid of it. I can take a step back and think “This is just a sign I need to adjust some things; I only need to stay calm and find out what they are.” I’ve never thought this before. And of course it’s still hard–so hard–to get out of bed and do things. I still want to procrastinate and just let my life fall to pieces and die, but I’m getting better.
I have the ability to make myself an island. When I am an island I am apart from others, and their approval, their rejections, their problems and emotions have no bearing on me. I am keenly aware that no one really knows me, just as I don’t know anyone. No person can know another. When others think they know me, it’s really only a creative interpretation of fragmented evidence–actions they’ve seen me do, words I’ve said, which aren’t even a fraction of my lived experience. Even when I try to know myself, I fall short. My memory is limited, my attempts to describe myself biased, inadequate, contradictory.
Being an island makes me tough. When I succeed in my emotional isolation, I can withstand what people say and do, not just to me, but to others. I can stand unmoved in times of joy and tragedy. I can act when fear might otherwise paralyze me. I worry plenty that my boundaries are too rigid, that I’m missing out on the chance to connect deeper with others. Is that even possible? If it is, could it be a good thing? But there is one thing I’m proud of, when I’m an island and far away from regret or longing. It’s the knowledge that no one can tell me who I am, and I will never believe those who try. I will not be manipulated, I will not be brainwashed, I will not fall to pieces because of what’s happening around me. No one knows me.
You know what’s really fantastic is lying awake at 2:30 in the morning, trying to figure out why I feel like a piece of shit. I mean, I feel like shit, obviously, with the dizziness and the nausea that comes from not sleeping for a couple of days. But why do I feel like a piece of shit? I fed my cats. I went to work, didn’t screw up or underperform. I didn’t get into any arguments, I didn’t say or do anything rude or unethical. So why, god, do I still have this leaden guilty-and-wanting-to-die feeling without any outside circumstances to justify it?
When I was in elementary school I would deliver papers early in the morning. Neighborhood yards were expansive and alien at night. I often toyed with the idea of running past the porch I was delivering to and not stopping until I reached another town, where no one knew me.
I feel the same way now. I don’t really have a future ahead of me. I’ve failed at everything I’ve tried my hand at. If I cut off all ties, went to live somewhere quiet and slow-paced and isolated from my past, perhaps I could survive. I could play at being a different person, even if just for a little while before reality set in.
Or I could just find a gun.