A Letter to Friends, Family, Dogs and Future Lovers About My Depression
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because few of us understand depression — even if we all know someone suffering from it.
By Maria Yagoda
Maria Yagoda is a writer living in New York. Her work has appeared in People.com, The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Hairpin, and you can find her on Twitter here.
Dear friends, family, acquaintances, dogs and future lovers,
I am very depressed, and it is not because anything “happened” to me, though things undoubtedly have, as is often the case with things that breathe, and even things that don’t.
Last night, I cried through the entirety of Frances Ha, pausing intermittently to put Twizzlers in my mouth. In high school, I danced my way on top of a sewing needle, and it was stuck inside my foot for a week. Every so often, I’ll pay too much for a sandwich I don’t connect with, leading to days-long bouts of self-condemnation. Brie and olive spread were never going to work together, you imbecile. A few nights ago, I journeyed to the McDonald’s under the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, miracu-tragically located next to my apartment. I asked for an ice cream cone, clutching $1.09 in exact change because I am my grandmother, only to be informed they were out of soft serve. I got teary as I left the store because I saw a French bulldog in a red sweater waiting so earnestly, so hopefully, for his owner to return, and because I was still emotional about the ice cream thing. I had put on clothes for the excursion and that felt like such a loss.
This is all beside the point, because depression is something altogether different from the highs and lows and god-so-low lows and god-so-fucking-low lows that make up a life.
I don’t want you to worry about me, because my depression is the same as my round cheeks, my wide thighs, my calloused toes, my routine mispronunciation of “mantra” and my visceral distrust of people who have first names for last names.
To think of my depression as fixable or troubling is not only futile, but also destructive. I can treat my depression and myself with kindness, tact and medication, but I cannot negate it; it is as real and forever as the hair on my left arm mole; I pluck it and I pluck it, but still it rises.
I live with depression every day — not because anything happened to me; it is me.
If you suggest I “just try exercising,” I’ll throw this jar of peanut butter — yes, I’m holding a jar of peanut butter — out the window, and then I’ll jump out the window after it, because it’s peanut butter.
Which isn’t to say exercise doesn’t help.
Let me explain something.
Sometimes gravity feels so heavy on every inch of my body that I feel like a sports mascot without a human inside the costume to move the parts. Here’s what can almost defeat me: the lifting of a leg, then swinging that flesh hunk forward and putting it down; the lifting of another leg, then swinging that flesh hunk forward and putting it down; elevating my chin off my chest and lifting my eyes from the cracks in the pavement; resisting fantasies about what it would mean to be a crumble of concrete, breathless and still, so as not to be dragged down by it.
Sometimes I’ll prepare large dinners, with vegetables and chicken and bread with good butter, like a rom-com heroine putting on a show of self-sufficiency. I go out to dinner with friends too; we order drinks, we laugh at in-jokes and knee fat and bedroom quirks of hookups who’ve wronged us. We say things like, “I would get a dog, but it just doesn’t seem fair in the city, you know, with how little space there is.”
But then I’ll come home, filled with hurt and dread, and not because anything happened to me. I love you for asking “What happened?” but I don’t know what to say.
When I am belly-up in bed, I stare at the yellow Babar et Ses Enfants poster I’ve had since childhood. It’s taped crooked to my adult wall, a hasty gesture of space-claiming, about as Martha Stewart as I get. (There are hairs in the tape, thick ones, mine.) I study the images, and that curvy whimsy of foreign text. I worry about things like decades left to live and the question “What happened to you?”
The elephant babes wear the horizontal stripes we’ve come to expect from the French. Joined by an assortment of monkey friends, they goof with dice, balls and shapes that simply float. I memorize them. I mouth, “Goddamn.”
If you think I’ve veered off topic, you may be missing the point. I may have missed it too.
Here: A fly has been dying in my room for seven days. I think he died last night; I don’t see him around anymore, hopping from patch of bed to patch of book, rubbing his tiny stick limbs together, as if plotting but dying instead, a quiet end-of-life ritual.
I should have killed him sooner or at all. I assumed he would escape through the crevice where he made that first fatal trespass. How beautiful to have the memory of a fly. Upon entering, he must have thought: “This is my life now because it always has been.”
I live with depression every day of my life. It’s not because anything happened to me; it is me. This is my life now because it always has been. I hope you understand.
P.S. I worry I mis-gendered the fly.
- Maria Yagoda, OZY Author Contact Maria Yagoda