this post was begun at four a.m. and finished at six a.m. this morning. i just now woke up in a delirious stupor in order to post it. i will now go back to sleep.
it’s four a.m. in my household, so naturally, all three members of my hippie artist family, and that’s includes me, are awake and prowling around the house and doing random shit. my mom is probably plowing through her fifth library book of the week, and my dad is most likely falling asleep perusing a passage in silas marner or the great gatsby that he’s already read two dozen times. i haven’t shaken my vegas routine, which is go-to-bed-at-six-and-wake-up-at-two-in-the-afternoon, and to have gone from stumbling out into the sunlight from a strip club this past monday morning at a time when my friends on the east coast were commuting to work to, screech, having shopping-cart battles with suburban milfs in trader joe’s this afternoon was some sort of jedi mind fuck, and i wish i could say that this weird restless before-dawn itch were a rare occurrence, but it’s not. i also wish i hadn’t just eaten three bowls of corn chex, a cereal i don’t even like.
the other day, when i told someone i was a writer, this person, a stranger, asked, “so, do you have some crazy weird schedule where you’re up all night and shit?” (the prose wasn’t so eloquent, but i’m fine to let the lack of articulateness go because the conversation took place in a crowded club at two a.m., and big, complicated words are hard to shout over edm. even schedule was a bit of a stretch.)
i answered, “yeah. pretty much.” sometimes we creative folk are predictable. dr. alice weaver flaherty calls my current affliction “the midnight disease,” aka hypergraphia, an intense desire to write, when a person becomes almost manic, compelled to express him- or herself on anything available, even a slip of toilet paper. i simply got out of bed and retrieved my laptop from the kitchen; nonetheless, the compulsion steamrolled all else.
which brings me to the actual purpose of this blog. i’ve wanted to write this post for a few days now, but i didn’t know how to start it. apparently, all i needed to do was drink coffee at eight p.m., sleep-deprive myself, copyedit 150 pages of a middle-grade novel, have a sort of weepy i-miss-you skype chat with my boyfriend (who’s in australia), and eat breakfast cereal that resembles and tastes like miniature cardboard potholders. oh, and research something for a family friend in exchange for her having altered several articles of my clothing (because when you’re an artist, you often pay people like your seamstress and accountant in favors instead of cash—it’s simple: you have none).
anyway, a friend of mine, who, come to think of it, i haven’t talked to in a while (hallo!, as they say in the uk), posted a few words on facebook re: robin williams the other day, and i thought they were spot-on (i hope he doesn’t mind i’ve retyped a snippet of them here):
depression is often part of what makes comedians comedians (most of them, anyway). many artists are ticking time bombs. any of them could go at any moment. that’s the other shoe. the art is what keeps the demons away, but sometimes it’s not enough.
tons of people suffer from depression, but artists in particular, whether they be musicians or painters or comics, tend to lean toward the melancholy side of things. it’s been said that low self-esteem and pessimism often fuel success because sufferers of depression work extra, unearthly hard to put themselves in positions in which they are surrounded by so much good and bounty that the sadness melts enough as to be ignored. the mask of laughter or creative self-deprecation through art has helped many a performer battle, but never conquer, depression. i’ve had friends remark to me that they could never imagine that deep down i’m sad, because my exterior is making jokes and smiling and telling stories or running miles and miles. only someone who has the disease truly understands that these actions are vital shields against, instead, staring into the mirror and whispering to your reflection that you’re worthless. or worse.
so i’m pretty open about the fact that i suffer from depression, and it’s not because hollywood has made it “cool” to see a therapist, the image of a person lying on a chaise longue (not lounge) with hands folded on his or her abdomen immortalized as being hip. never once, each time i had to explain to a new manager at a new job that every other wednesday i’d be gone for an hour for a “doctor’s appointment,” did i feel remotely cool or hip. i actually felt more like a special brand of loser, one who needed someone else’s aid to keep her emotions in repose. my brief surrender to the serotonin-specific reuptake inhibitor (ssri) celexa felt like a failure, and deciding to forgo the meds was a feat. discovering that running a long distance could fix my negatively charged brain for a day (just one fucking day!) was akin to winning a pulitzer prize.
i hope someday to know what that feels like in actuality, and i beseech whomever or whatever that my stupid fuzzy imbalanced headspace is plagued with ample midnight-disease nights as to fill an award-winning book.
but with regards to robin williams . . . to depression and to suicide . . . i have friends with whom i’ve argued about depression as a disease. people who love me, who know me so well, yet still say things like, i don’t understand why you can’t just be happy. you have so much going for you. you should be able to get over it. some people have real problems. or: suicide is the most selfish act. don’t people think about those they’d leave behind?
when caught in the throes of a depressive episode, the outside world can cease to exist. there is you, and there is pain. you’ve forgotten your defense mechanisms. you can’t bring yourself to sit down and write or go for a run or call a friend and tell funny stories. you’re nearly crippled, clawing at the carpet as if you have the strength to tear up the entire square footage of your room but not the energy to get up and get a glass of water to calm down. the past words from your friends and family, the “call me anytime” offers, seem empty; you don’t want to bother anyone. then, somehow, the gears can begin to move. you get up. you write three pages and feel better. you recite your favorite poem ten times. you eek out a hi text message to a friend. you think about someone you love finding you like that, and the image makes you shudder, nauseates you. an episode has passed. these are the lucky, triumphant moments. sometimes, though, they don’t come. nothing clicks, the hole widens and deepens, and some people slip.
i wish one of the funniest men to have ever lived weren’t dead. his jokes and impressions were markers of my childhood and the childhoods of most of my friends. (side note: two years ago i wrote a blog in which the headline was from hook, and it was another gem written at four a.m.) but i both understand and, more important, empathize with him, he who fought a monster and lost. all i ask is for those who can’t empathize, to sympathize, and accept depression as the disease it is. only acceptance will give us the power to destroy it.
*who else? slyvia plath in the bell jar.