I sit in the pleather chair, wearing a tie-dye sweatshirt and fuzzy socks. An IV tube is attached to my elbow and the machine beeps as it starts to pump.
This is my first ketamine infusion, a regimen I’m trying for my treatment-resistant depression. It stands in a long line of ways I’ve attempted to address this chronic illness: traditional talk therapy, antidepressants, antipsychotics, mood stabilizers, inpatient hospitalization, a stay at a residential treatment center. I’m a marathoner and hold multiple fitness certifications. I’ve changed my diet, my environment, my lifestyle. I’ve significantly cut back on alcohol. I feel more…
I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. (Check.)
I wanted to be an illustrator when I grew up. (I can’t draw a stick figure.)
Nobody says “I want to be depressed when I grow up.”
Nobody dreams of stints in psych wards and residential treatment.
Nobody dreams of needing to travel with a gallon-sized Ziploc bag to house the cocktail of psych meds they need to take to feel kind of OK, sometimes.
Nobody dreams of having a secret emoji with a friend to say you’re feeling suicidal without saying you’re feeling suicidal.
I used to tease…
*Content/trigger warning: this post discusses self-harm/suicidal ideation.
Super Bowl night, I found myself in the ER again, squirming in a hospital gown with no underwear. There, again, of my own doing, chasing the Super Bowl drinks I’d had with pills, giving into the voice in my head that said I was better off dead, where I wouldn’t feel that deep, paralyzing emotional pain.
They asked if I wanted to admit myself, and I politely declined. Having been down this road before, I know that the psych ward is for stabilization and safety. I believed I was safe at the moment…
The woman with the walker with her friend or maybe a caretaker
I would have looked at her years ago with pity, poor lady in the walker, with the wide plastic sunglasses shielding her cataracts
But no, she’s out here in Madison Square Park, leaves crackling under her tentative footsteps
She doesn’t know what tomorrow brings
But neither do I
Neither do you
But walker be damned, she’s out here
I never dreamed I would have wanted that
Elderly can be cranky
Softened around the edges by age can be a lie
But it would have been mine, ours, sitting…
From the din of the hospital’s fluorescent lights
To the crisp, cold sunshine sparkling over the budding tulips on Park Avenue
Light filtering in through apartment windows marred with the city’s grime
Shedding the heavy winter coat of depression for something lighter
Joining the human race on the sidewalks
The cataract of despair extracted
Its source no longer worn as a protective armor
But rather, a shiny, gritty, crystal talisman reminding me of where I’ve been
Its presence in my pocket, permanent, though fading into the fabric over time
Organic or conventional?
Lingering over trivial decisions at Trader Joe’s, because…
The reaper didn’t take me
Though maybe he should have
The days, long, dark, lonely
Yet surrounded by love
That I could not see
Could not feel, though I knew it was there
I didn’t think it could be true, who could love this?
Retreating from the outside world into your own fortress
The key relinquished to just a few
The pain, piling up until you can’t take it any more
Sipping that sweet, sweet wine
It slips down your throat, tricking you into thinking the pain is gone
Banished, lying dormant, ready to…
Last May, I asked “what is strength, anyway?”
My sweet dog had just been kicked out my apartment building, and my mom had Stage IV ovarian cancer.
I had a job.
My mom was alive. Very sick, but still alive. At the time, my dad said “where there’s life, there’s hope,” a phrase I only now understand.
I hadn’t yet entered the summer fling that would end six weeks after my mom died.
I hadn’t yet fought my own battle, as my previously mild depression diagnosis got upgraded to major depression, and a night of popping pills after drinking landed…
“You’re doing so well,” they say.
“I don’t know if I could be as strong as you,” they say.
I was raised in a wealthy suburb of NYC, attended a private university, work at an interesting job for a company I believe in, live in Manhattan and have a larger support system and group of friends than I could have ever dreamed possible. I am a white, blonde, cisgendered, heterosexual woman.
By all means, I was raised, and frankly still live, a life of privilege.
Cancer doesn’t know privilege.
Depression doesn’t know privilege.
Eighteen months ago, my mother was diagnosed…