I'm kind of struggling getting today's post started.
See--I've got something on my mind but I'm afraid it will come out wrong.
(By the way, I am now writing this post lying on the floor because my sacrum is tweaked. Tweaked is yoga speak for, "Bendy Yoga Teacher Girl is completely incapacitated by back pain. It is unclear whether I'll be going to work tomorrow but don't hold your breath. I have just taken two tylenol with codeine. I wonder if I can have wine with that...I wish I could reach that glass of water. This would definitely hurt much more if I didn't do yoga. I hope there's something good on t.v. after I finish this post...")
Maybe it will help if I tell you about my grandmother.
I've mentioned that depression is rampant in my family, right? My grandmother was the only grandparent who I ever knew. I called her Nooney. Nooney was probably the unhappiest person I've ever met. Instead of saying, 'hello' when I picked up the phone, she moaned. No joke. I would answer the phone, hear a moan, and say, "Hi, Nooney."
Poor Nooney. She had the same kind of stinginess granting a smile, or a kind word, that she had with the peppermint Trident that was always in her purse, but which she parsed out only half a stick at a time. Have you ever tried to chew a half a stick of Trident? Why even bother?
She also kept a plastic holy water bottle filled with Dewar's in that purse. When I think of my grandmother I think of rye toast, tea with milk and sugar and that holy water flask.
My mother tells me that, as a baby, I adored my grandmother but it didn't take me long to grow savvy enough to roll my eyes when she announced, for the thousandth time, that today was the very worst day of her life. Attempts to cheer her up were met with combatant scorn and hostility. It wasn't long before I never wanted to be near her.
When her relentless negativity drove everyone away, she complained bitterly of her loneliness.
It might not be the very saddest thing you've ever heard but it's pretty sad, right? The surge of compassion I feel is authentic.
It's not like I'm the frigging Dalai Lama. The way my grandmother lived her life doesn't just make me sad: it makes me angry. What a way to spend a life, insistently, belligerently focused upon the petty, the small, the mean. What a fucking waste.
I could shake her for the wastefulness of it. I could shake a tiny, frail, 96 year old dead woman who was all of four feet tall by the time she died.
In all the time I knew her, she never pushed back. I don't know if she would have beat depression if she had. Maybe she would have; maybe not. We'll never know. I never saw her try.
I don't know what happens to us when we die but, for her sake, I hope there's more. I hope there's more than the way she lived.
All those years ago, when I was clinically depressed, my psychologist asked me why I was objecting to going on anti-depressants. In truth, I didn't want to go on them because I thought they would work and I didn't want them to.
I didn't want to get better.
I was past the point of wanting to get better. I wanted to slide right down into oblivion.
Getting to that point didn't just happen overnight, though. It took some time, plenty of time, for my depression to progress to that point, and at no time did I do a whole lot of pushing back against it. I kept company with my own darkness. I sought it out in others. I went looking for it.
This is the thing I almost never say because I think it will come out wrong, because I'm afraid that it will sound harsh and judgmental to the extreme:
In the beginning I was complicit.
There was a time I could have pushed back but I didn't. Then it was too late. At first I wasn't in the grips of something bigger than me. Then I was.
The thing about depression is that you have to push back against it while you're strong enough to do it. Don't have a cup of coffee with it. Don't say yes when it asks if you'd like to dance. Depression can be seductive but ultimately there's nothing romantic about it. Don't tilt your head and listen when it whispers in your ear. Don't fall into its arms. Don't embrace it.
I'm not saying you can necessarily push it back with the sheer force of your will but I am saying that you have to push back. There's a window of opportunity for fighting back and if you miss it, the uphill climb will be that much harder. My grandmother missed her window.
I'll be damned if I'm ever going to miss mine again.
Don't miss yours, either.