Do Not Read While Listening to Leonard Cohen

…you might open a vein.

I’m slowly but surely removing myself from the world right now. That’s what I’m doing. Isolating myself like a motherfucker. I quit my job, which was already isolated enough, working from home, but I severed my last ties to a corporate community. I’ve severed my ties with my best friends, using their kids as an excuse, however valid of an excuse it might be, thereby ensuring that I don’t have to explain my increasingly irrational behavior to anyone. I’m isolating myself from my wife by refusing to be a part of the one and only thing she’s doing right now—her bar. I say I’ve taken this time off to find my passion, but I’m not using this time to explore new ideas and the world around me at all. I’m sitting in a coffeeshop for a couple of hours in the morning, then spending the rest of the whole fucking day lying in bed on Facebook—my last lifeline to the outside world, which just feeds me nothing but horrible news of what an awful place the outside world is and serves as a justification of my behavior to isolate myself in my house even further. I drag my feet on this podcast, fearful of putting myself out into the world lest to world tear me down like it tears everything else down, fearful that my fragile ego couldn’t take it right now, fearful of failure. I don’t do any of the things I know I should do—eat right, swim, meditate, socialize, fuck my wife.

And I continue to blame it all on pain. Maybe it started out that way—my brain so jangled and raw from the constant pain signals it was sending to my feet that it genuinely needed time to learn to cope with this new set of circumstances of all stimulus all the time!—but now I’ve just chosen to be a victim, given up on my own life, refusing to seek out solutions to being a full person again if my life can’t be exactly as it was before. I go through all of the motions right now, motions that I know people expect of me so that I seem like a semi-functioning adult and so that they don’t worry about me too much. I meet friends for lunch, I make dinner with my wife, I post witty things on Facebook, I go on trips. But inside everything is gray and heavy. There’s no joy to be found in any of it. It’s like that video that’s been going around of the color-blind guy who puts on the glasses and watches a sunset for the first time. Everyone else is in the sunset, and I’m not wearing the glasses. All I see for the rest of my days is a lifetime of those bland sunsets. And the awful part is the self-flagellation that goes along with it. “This is your fault. Why don’t you just pull yourself out of this? You have everything handed to you. No real problems to speak of. You and The Wife could have a happy life, but it’s YOU who are ruining it with all your bullshit. Why can’t you just snap the fuck out of this?”

And I’m one of the “lucky” ones whose depression is tied to chronic pain. I was never a depressed person, then I developed peripheral neuropathy in my feet, and like night to day, followed the depression and the anxiety and the withdrawal from the world. I can see a direct cause-and-effect, and in my most charitable moments, when I’m able to stop beating myself up for a half a second, I can say “This is NOT all in your head! You have a reason to be depressed! You’re in fucking pain all the time!” What about all of the people who are simply clinically depressed but who aren’t able to pinpoint it to something? I would imagine the self-torture would be so much worse. And no one who suffers depression should have to also suffer guilt for it as well.

I consider (or considered) myself one of the strongest people I knew before this shit, and this disease has absolutely leveled me. It’s made me weak and pitiful and it’s made me fucking hate myself—an emotion so new to me I didn’t even recognize it for what I was when it first appeared. Self-loathing wasn’t in my vocabulary before depression came along, and now I wear it like a goddamn Snuggie. And I’m pissed as fuck at depression for that. It’s robbed me of my forties as that time in a woman’s life when she’s supposed to finally Have Her Shit Together. If I was confident as fuck in my twenties and thirties, I couldn’t wait to see what I was gonna do in my forties. But nope. Here I lie, in bed, bitching about shit on Facebook, and giving away spoons.

And if I was one of the strongest people I knew before this and I sit here and I continually spin my fucking wheels with therapy and meds and life coaches and doctors and blogs and apps and whatever the other fresh fuck I can think of the stave off depression and I slowly slip from the three-dimensional world anyway, then Jesus. What is the point?

Then what can I say except that it’s now half an hour later, and I can sit here and type that I’m a thousand times grateful that I get to spend this sunny Sunday afternoon with The Wife making a leisurely breakfast in our cozy house that we share with our fucking adorable cat? That I’m awash with gratitude that I have a partner that gets it—that is helping me navigate the morass of insurance bullshit and doctors and meds, that understands my horrible moods and is patient with me as she sees pain wash over my face and body. That I’m full of joy that I had parents who gave me the tremendous gift of a happy childhood and that sacrificed of themselves so that I grew up safe and happy. I see so little of that in the world now to realize what I precious gift that is.

That I can also type that the other day I bit into a ripe peach so sweet and delicious and stood there with my eyes closed letting the juice run down my face and knew fully then what it meant to be alive. That the other night, as The Wife scratched my back and I felt goosebumps rise up on my naked skin in the late-summer breeze coming in through our bedroom window, that I also felt a stir of life’s richness. That, driving across the Richmond Bridge the other night as the sun set on the ocean behind me, the supermoon arose over Oakland ahead of me, Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” blasted out of the car’s speakers, and the wind rushed through my hair, I saw a brief glimmer of the person I used to be—confident, alive, searching for the next Big Thing.

God help me if I ever stop recognizing those moments as they drop into my life. They seem to be the only bits I’m clinging to right now.