There is a level of depression at which the mere act of chewing is such an exhausting effort that the only form of eating that can be tolerated is that of agonizingly creaking open a rusty jaw – corners of the mouth quivering with discomfort – just long enough for a kindly mother owl to drop in some pre-chewed tortilla chips and the necessary room-temperature salsa to wash them down.
I’m not quite at that level currently. But I’m near to it, perched on the next rung up, still capable of shoveling tortilla chips into my mouth with some idle force, still chewing them all by myself, eyes glued to the bizarre yet tempting fantasy unfolding one step down.
If this becomes too much, I’m thinking, at least I won’t starve.
It’s the same rung on which a listen to John Mayer’s “Shadow Days” incites in me an inappropriately personal brand of jealousy. I get that your shadow days are over, John, but there’s no need to rub it in. And your crooning is really becoming repulsive.
Anyone who knows me knows that my other fantasy (besides the whole never-needing-to-chew-my-chips-again one) is of being whisked away by John Mayer and his beautiful pillow lips.
So this definitely indicates that I’m depressed.
Boy is it hard to climb back up the ladder. My husband, Brian, has – a lot like everyone else – a handful of favorite talking points that he likes to repeat here and there to start conversation. One of them is that fire escape ladders are scarier than some people think because they are straight up, at a 90-degree angle from the ground, leaning against nothing. Every time we walk past one, he reminds me of this.
Depression is like being on a super tall fire escape ladder and needing to climb up it into the fire instead of down and away to safety. If you’re acrophobic – or you’re afraid of falling like I am – the stakes of this probably make sense to you. Climbing a 90-degree ladder is scary, especially when you’re afraid of falling and you’ve got the shakes. Going down naturally seems like the safer option. The climb is so hard, your palms are so sweaty, the fall you’re sure you’ll take will surely be deadly. But it’s the going-up that is necessary. The fire – the heat and the pressure and the shadow days – that’s everything that made you start climbing down the ladder to begin with.
You have to deal with it. You have to put that fire out. Go down, and it will keep raging. It will never go away.
Of course, it’s far easier said than done because this is a really tall, really vertical ladder we’re dealing with here. And going up it means defying every flight instinct we’ve already surrendered to.
And so my Mother Owl tortilla chip delivery service fantasy rages on, stronger than ever.
[Side question: Were messenger owls the precursors to delivery drones? Is JK Rowling the secret mastermind behind drones?]
Personally, I’ve never climbed an actual fire escape ladder. I have climbed the rock wall at Camp Bernie, a middle school trauma best saved for another post but also involving a difficult, seemingly impossible vertical climb. A lot of the time, my depression also feels like the Camp Bernie rock wall.
This blog has brought me back to what I love to do more than anything – to write. It is a part of my life that has brought me immense joy.
But, like its title indicates, it is about sharing the electricity of life, in all of its forms but always deeply felt. I feel the electricity of life so deeply in joy and anticipation and pride and awe – and for that I am fortunate.
But I also feel it – so deeply – in cutting fears, frustrations and sorrow, uncertainty, perfectionism, seemingly inescapable regrets.
I haven’t written a post since June because what feels like a big fire has broken out at the top of my ladder. I am scared of the uncertainties I feel suddenly surrounded by, personally and professionally. My self-worth has taken a nosedive. I am reacquainting myself with fresh grief for the first time in years. I am at a frustrating loss for the words I want so badly to put down on paper. I am scared of appearing pathetic in an attempt to keep trying at what I know I love but have no confidence in.
But I am feeling all of those things, and deeply. Their current stings and sings. They remind me that I am alive.
Writing this post feels like pulling myself up from the perch and placing my shaky hands on the rung above me.
Keep at it, I’m telling myself, and I just might be able to climb up out of this place.
Besides, there might be tortilla chips and guacamole at the top.