What people don’t get about depression

girlwithbirds

When I’m really depressed, I write long-winded notes on loose sheets of paper about what life was like when I was alive. What people don’t get about depression is that that’s the only way to describe it. Though I’m here theoretically, at least in body, I’m not really here. I don’t know where I am. Depression takes you to dark places and doesn’t let you escape scratch free.

What people don’t get about depression is it is not about being sad. It is the process of losing yourself entirely, of looking into the mirror and seeing a stranger in your clothes. Why is she so tired? Who is she anyway? Picture the saddest day of your life then multiply it by a million then have no reason to really explain it. What people don’t get about depression is it creeps up on you. It rears its ugly head in many ways and many forms and at any time. People with depression know depression is a snake. A boa constrictor. It strangles you and takes your life away just enough so you keep breathing.

When I was alive I used to write things that weren’t about depression. I used to laugh a lot. When I was alive my hair was shiny and my skin was clear and I was 21 and nothing could stop me because I was young and fearless. But then suddenly I wasn’t. Suddenly, or so it seemed, I was somewhere else entirely, a parallel universe, floating above myself, and I would reach my hands out so far but I would feel nothing.

And when the meds didn’t work and therapy didn’t work and I didn’t work, I filled time with my own medicine and sometimes didn’t write at all. Sometimes I had no words. Sometimes I had nothing. Sometimes I slept for days. Sometimes I didn’t sleep for days. Sometimes I didn’t know what day it was.

What people don’t get about depression is it is not pretend. Depression doesn’t forgive me for the things I’ve done, the people I’ve let down, the friends I’ve lost or the mistakes I’ve made because of it. The consequences are very real. Depression doesn’t care that I have goals and dreams. Depression doesn’t listen when I try to lock it behind doors and ignore it. It picks the locks so easily, like a criminal. As if the bolts are invisible. Depression doesn’t even blink when I scream.

What people don’t get about depression is it doesn’t go away, at least not without a fight. I remember the first night it hit me, like really hit me, like oh, this isn’t disappearing is it? It was New Years Eve several years ago now, the day before everything starts over. The last big hoorah. And I chose to go home alone after an unsatisfying restaurant shift when all my friends were off into the night making out and making mistakes. And I knew right then things had to change. And I thought they would. But they didn’t.

On the questionnaire they ask you if you ever think about killing yourself. What people don’t get about depression is even if you’re not suicidal you often think about dying because sometimes you already feel dead. Except if you were dead, you wouldn’t feel like this, and sometimes yes, that does seem more appealing.

On the questionnaire they ask you if you ever have difficulty making decisions. So you sit there and debate and go to say one thing but then change it to another before realizing, oh, yeah I guess this is an obvious one. What people don’t get about depression is sometimes the easiest things are the hardest. Sometimes no, I really can’t get dressed or make food or go to work today. I just can’t.

They call it a screening test and they ask you 18 questions and rate you on a scale. The higher the number, the worse you are. I was clinical the first time I wrote it. And the second. And many more times after that. But what people don’t get about depression is eventually things start to change. Eventually you find the right combo. Eventually you find something that works. Because if you don’t you might as well be dead, for a life with depression is no life at all.

What people don’t get about depression is this can take a really long time. Depression is a horrible, evil condition that goes into remission, like a cancer, which is maybe how I’d describe it anyway. It robs you of your soul and wellbeing. It takes you away piece by piece. What people don’t get about depression is we hate it more than you do and we know it hurts you and we hate this too. All we want is to put those pieces back together, and, after a while, we begin to.

When I’m less depressed, I write about being alive and I write this on anything and everything. What people don’t get about depression is how beautiful these moments are, even when temporary. We are soldiers in a constant battle of losing ourselves and discovering ourselves. We are progress lost and found.

What people don’t get about depression is sometimes you emerge from those dark places, scratches in tow and you feel so alive, but you no longer remember how to actually be alive. Even so, finally, the New Year begins.

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Fortune Telling In New Orleans

Shadowscapes Tarot

I started crying when I asked her the question. I don’t know why I thought a fortune teller in New Orleans could tell me something I didn’t already know. I’ve had many readings in my life and none have been particularly revealing, though I have learned a few things about what makes one better than the other. A good fortune teller has the gift of reaffirming all your worst fears without you having to tell them the gritty details. Some seem to further have the ability to look into your soul (or your eyes…eyes are very telling), to see something that you don’t—or rather something you don’t want to see—and then tell you for the cost of a couple twenties. This particular fortune teller was named Fairy, recommended to my friend and I by a painter in Jackson Square. She told us Fairy was the only fortune teller she would see in New Orleans. She said she was the best.

It was sunny and hot and it was the beginning of November. November is usually the month I attempt to swear off drinking, burdened by ten months of bad decision-making and gin. In November I realize how close or far I came from actualizing my new years resolutions, which for the most part constitute doing less of something rather than more. Less vices. Less sadness. I don’t like to admit I am sad. I work hard and have a decent career as a writer, it’s tough but I do it well enough that it pays most of my bills and takes up the majority of my resume. I am in love and I have the best of friends and I have support, three quintessential tiers of happiness. At 27 though, I know sadness and happiness are not mutually exclusive. I know that what you have on the outside cannot make up for what you lack on the inside.

I looked at Fairy part way into our reading and I heard myself say, “I just don’t want to be sad anymore.” I have been sad for so long I am exhausted by it and no amount of prescriptions or talk therapy seems to have changed this. When I looked at Fairy and said those words, I realized it wasn’t so much a question as it was a declaration. I just wanted someone else’s opinion that wasn’t my mother’s or my therapist’s or 3 am versions of advice from my friends. I wanted an outsider opinion from someone who didn’t know anything about me. I wanted someone to tell me something new.

She looked at me and she said I’m not sad. At first, I found myself rejecting the words that she claimed came to her from the universe and exited through her lips. What do you mean I’m not sad? I found myself rejecting these things because I have blamed so much of my sadness on all those blips on my lifeline that I’ve attempted to bury under passing years and empty bottles and new accomplishments designed to make me feel something other than this dull ache. She said I am not sad. Then what am I? I felt mad so imagine my surprise when she said I am angry, but my anger manifests as sadness.

It’s a weird thing to have a stranger tell you that, someone who has no idea of the things thing you’ve been through, your fears, your regrets, your failures, or your desires. It’s strange to have someone tell you that you’re angry and then when you want to hate them for it, to actually find yourself becoming angry with those words and realizing that those words are perhaps then at least partially true. It’s weird to realize that you never realized this before. It’s such a simple truth, why couldn’t anyone see it? Why couldn’t I see it?

What I do next is up to me and no oracle or tarot cards can point me in the right direction, no amount of meditation can calm this, none of those crystals I’ve bought while drinking whiskey out of coffee cups on cold Toronto afternoons can find me salvation. I need to do something about this anger and I need to take responsibility for it starting right now. A while ago I interviewed someone, a role model of mine, someone who has been through hell and back, and I asked her how she’s handled everything with such grace. She said she’s taken responsibility for it. She says she has a life to live. This is the blurry part, the part I need to take some time to figure out. I thought first I’d write about it, but what I do now remains, for the time being, a mystery.

Fortune tellers can’t tell you anything you don’t already know. I placed American tens in Fairy’s donation box and walked away with a heavy heart, but it was no heavier than it had ever been. I had a sunburn on my arms and chest from sitting in the heat listening to a stranger tell me all the secrets I had been keeping from myself. Then, I felt lighter. I remembered it was November and I closed my eyes for a minute, listening to the flurry of jazz music that surrounded me in the hot New Orleans air. I opened my eyes and looked at all the fortune tellers lining the square, all the people wanting so desperately to know their truths. I thought about the nights I had spent on Bourbon Street that weekend, I thought about the city I was in and the city and the boy I missed back home. I let myself feel the sun on my skin and the wind in my hair.

I felt happy.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Normal Girls Are Boring

normalgirls

“Normal girls are boring,” my boyfriend said, as he does on those lucid afternoons where instability swirls around us like sparkler streaks on Canada Day. In these fleeting moments my own delusions work in my favour and it dawns on me that being crazy is a hall pass. It’s a way out. Being crazy forgives me for things normal girls could never get away with. Sometimes its memories that go missing in the deep, dark crevices of my mind. Sometimes it’s too many T3’s and JD and not enough skirt on a Tuesday in winter when I should be writing or sleeping. Sometimes its door slamming and item throwing followed by confusion, crying and often hugs. Normal girls could never get away with that. But crazy girls? We get by just fine.

Crazy girls mean things stay interesting. I used to be self-conscious in my craziness, but now I embrace it whole heartedly so much so even the word “crazy,” as politically incorrect as it is, has brought with it such adventure, I am beside myself in gratitude.

Crazy girls mean things always change. It means no plan is set in stone. Ever. It means talk of R&R but trips booked to Vegas. And once you become one with your craziness suddenly life seems different. New. Like everything before was rose tinted. Like we all had blinders on. Like we’re older now and more grown up. Improved versions.

Two point oh.

Normal girls know themselves, or maybe they don’t, but the normal girls I know do. They go to work and make lunches in advance and take on the world prepared, effortlessly almost. My normal friends do normal things like buy popcorn AND candy at the movies. And they drive cars like normal. And they dress normal. And they buy houses like normal. And they fuck normal. And I used to envy normal because at least there is structure in normalcy, something every crazy girl needs now and then. But there is also discipline. And explanations. And accountability. And I don’t always have those answers or even know the questions to begin with.

And I used to feel bad, horrible even, a guilt conscience that ripped at my heart and made my insides bleed and spill all over the floor, through the drains and into other dimensions, every time I couldn’t explain myself.

Sometimes crazy girls get confused, I’d say. Forget the day, forget the time, forget meds.

Sometimes crazy girls get lost and found and lost again.

Sometimes crazy girls don’t get it, any of it, ever.

Or maybe that’s just me and I’m the only crazy one or perhaps not even crazy at all.

Maybe he never even said that.

Sheena Lyonnais is the founder of Blonde. Follow her on Twitter @SheenaLyonnais.

Now You Know… No You Don’t

Shelby-Blonde

How do you deal with a friend’s suicide? How do you move on when a person that you have slept with, have been your most intimate self with, decides it’s no longer worth it? You could do what I did and run away, again and again and again. In the span of a year, I ran away to Barbados, the other side of Canada, Montreal, Antigua, and took a five-week train trip across the USA alone. This week marks a year since his death. Here I am, back where I was when he kissed me, sleeping in the bed where we watched movies from and sipping coffee on the balcony where we would gaze down to stare at the drunks walking by.

I’m just as stuck now as I was then, or possibly more so. Beating myself for walking on that plane in San Francisco where I ended my USA adventure instead of staying in a place that filled my lungs and allowed me to breathe. Coming back from my last trip to the USA, I never expected how painful it would be to come home again. There is nothing for me here. When you’re away from home you sometimes feel that way, but deep down you know it’s just the vacation talking. When you come home, no longer on vacation and still feel there’s nothing for you, that’s when depression sinks in. No job, no boyfriend, at times feeling like not even a friend in the world since everyone is all caught up in their own lives. Everyone is out spending their well earned money and you’re left alone, at home, because you don’t have a job, you don’t have a man… why are you here. Then you think about him. That friend who saw it was no longer worth it and you’re at home, looking at nothing, feeling nothing and you just don’t know what to do.

After I came home from my five weeks on the road, everyone has been asking me how it was, wanting to see photos and expected me to tell all. It was amazing, it was perfect, I will say that. It was also an immense healing process, one that I don’t want to share. My trip was a personal journey and not something for me to make light of or present with a slideshow. You don’t know how depressed you are until you leave your comfy bed and face the world head on. I was depressed before I left (my counselors could tell you that), and I can say I am doing better now that I’m back. While I was gone though, I was never so happy. It felt like that’s how my life should be, a lone wanderer. Since I was a kid I could never keep long nails; I have a nervous nail biting habit. On my travels my nails have never been so long in my life. Back home, it would be impossible for them to be any shorter.

How do you deal with the suicide of a friend? I have no idea. I know sex is now more terrifying than it was when I was a virgin. It will probably remain terrifying until I find the answer to my question. I keep pushing away any man that tries to touch me, since I have no idea what that touch means anymore. Eric wasn’t the first man I had been with and we weren’t romantic when we were together, but he left me with so many unfinished conversations. I’m left not wanting another man, not trusting another man, though still longing for another man. Why did I ever come back? How do you deal with the suicide of a friend? I don’t know. I don’t even know if we’re all in this together anymore. I do know suicide can’t be the answer. If you have ever been left behind and know how this feels, then you know also, it can’t be the answer. Apparently the strong prevail. I’ll let you know if that’s truth or bull shit.

Shelby Monita is a freelance writer living in Toronto. Her writing mainly focuses on music, more specifically underground and punk rock. She welcomes the travel bug with open arms and loves to share her stories. You can read more of her work on her site casamonita.com.