Summer Bummer

28 Jul

I was ready to have a good summer. Or at least, I was as ready as I ever am to feel anything good which is to say: not very, but still cautiously optimistic.

It had been a rough winter, preceded by a rough fall and a rough summer and, if I’m being completely honest, another rough winter. Most of our 2014 had been eaten up by bedbugs who, it turns out, consume not just blood but also time, energy, money and sanity. As our home life turned into a lumpy stack of pesticide-laced garbage bags containing what now seemed like an utterly foolish amount of possessions, the rest of our lives crumbled too. Work suffered – I missed deadlines and bailed on projects. Relationships became strained; some of them buckled under the pressure and collapsed. Our bank account slowly emptied. We got used to the sweet, burning smell of the poison they blasted through our home on a bi-weekly basis. A faint white residue coated everything.

Then, after ten months of living with them, the bugs were gone. But by that point it was nearly Christmas and we faced the Herculean task of emptying the bags and boxes and putting our apartment back together. I wanted to spin it as a chance for a fresh start; now we could finally paint the living room, pare down our wardrobes, and organize our books! It didn’t feel like a beginning, though – it felt like my life was grinding to a juddering halt. I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things that I’d lost in the last year.

But spring hopes eternal, or whatever clever spin you want to put on an old saying, and I kept telling myself that if I could just make it through the winter I would be ok. If I could just limp my way to the season’s finish line, I would be able to slow down, breathe deeply and recover. So I held on with a white-knuckled grip and waited. As the days lengthened I started to watch my mood like an amateur meteorologist watches the skies, waiting for the wind to shift. But nothing happened; everything stayed stubbornly the same.

Here we are, then. It’s the middle of the summer and every day I stare into the black hole of my own internal despair. I mean, I still get up and go to work and come home and eat food and laugh at jokes and hug my kid, but none of that makes me feel like the future is any less bleak. All of the things I do feel like nothing, which is somehow worse than if they felt bad. At least bad would be something; at least ‘bad’ is on a spectrum of sensation which might eventually be scaled until I get back to ‘good.’ But nothing is nothing is nothing.

Sometimes I do things. Other times I lie in bed for hours, with all the attendant anxieties of beautiful days spent doing nothing. I listen to the cicadas and watch the sun moving through the slats in the blinds. It’s monotonous. Everything about depression is monotonous – just the same boring sadness stretching out endlessly in every direction.

Sometimes I feel so intensely awful that I don’t know how I’ll make it to even just the next minute without doing something about it. It feels unbearable, but I guess I must be able to bear it because I always make it to the next minute.

Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and all I can think about is a handful of words someone said, or a gesture, or a look they shot in my direction. My mind imbues these these things with so much meaning that they swell up until they’re huge and menacing. An offhand remark becomes a cutting insult. A casual glance becomes a grimace of disgust. During daylight hours I would be able to think myself out of these holes, but at 4 am feelings become objective realities.

I had to fill out a form the other day, and in one of the fields you were supposed to list any chronic illnesses you might have. I should have listed depression – they even gave depression as one of the examples, so I couldn’t weasel out of it by pretending they didn’t mean mental illnesses. But the thought of some office worker drooping under a sickly fluorescent light in some windowless basement somewhere reading that word and passing judgement on me was too awful, so I left it blank.

The long, hot days of July and August are usually my favourite time of year. These are the dog days of summer, the dies caniculares, when the dog star Sirius begins its conjunction with the sun. I’ve always had a soft spot for Sirius – Orion was the first constellation I learned to recognize, and my birthday is right smack in the middle of Canis Major’s yearly reign.

The Ancient Greeks felt differently, though – they believed Sirius caused plants to wilt, men to weaken and women to become aroused. in the Iliad, Homer calls the star an evil portent, bringing heat / And fevers to suffering humanity. The Romans thought it brought disease and death. In Sanskrit, the star is called Mrgavyadha, which means “deer hunter” and makes me think of the Frida Kahlo’s painting of herself as a deer shot through with arrows. Except that Kahlo had real things to be sad about, whereas I just have a miswired brain.

It turns out that Sirius isn’t even really a star – it’s actually a binary star system made up of a white main-sequence star called Sirius A and a white dwarf companion called Sirius B. Astronomers say that they’re moving closer to our solar system and will increase in brightness over the next 60,000 years, but it’s hard to imagine that anyone will still be here by then to see it. Maybe the cockroaches will feel it reflecting off their burnished carapaces; maybe they’ll signal towards the sky with their antennae. Or maybe nothing will be left to notice.

Everyone is being very kind and patient with me. Friends check in regularly, and make an effort to include me in everything that’s happening. Let me know if there’s ever anything I can do is a phrase that I hear at least once a week, but I can never think of what that anything might be. I feel like I must be boring them, because I’m certainly boring myself. After a while even misery becomes stale. Maybe that’s the worst part.

The only thing you can do is live through it. That thought is both hopeful and awful. All you can do is keep going and, like a hand groping in the darkness, assume that eventually you’ll find the light switch. And once you do, you’ll know that it was always there, and the light will carry you through until you pass through the doorway into the next dark room.

It’s not a perfect metaphor, but right now it’s all I’ve got.

Sidney_Hall_-_Urania's_Mirror_-_Canis_Major,_Lepus,_Columba_Noachi_&_Cela_Sculptoris

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35 Responses to “Summer Bummer”

  1. aidyl93 July 29, 2015 at 2:11 am #

    I’m really sorry you’re feeling so down and have had so many blows to have to deal with! That’s exhausting, and I completely understand and empathize with you! I hope you can find that light, find it soon, and I hope it stays on for quite some time once you do. {hugs}

  2. AmazingSusan July 29, 2015 at 2:14 am #

    “After a while even misery becomes stale.”

    Yes. It does.

  3. colinandray July 29, 2015 at 2:16 am #

    It is really difficult to know what to say in response this Post. I must however congratulate you on your decision to dedicate the time to write it. Acknowledging depression puts you ahead of the many that are in denial over their continual fight for some sanity in their lives. Putting your personal challenge out on display to the world shows that for all your apparent insecurities, there is a strength within you that (again) puts you ahead of many people. I shall wish you all the best and please keep sharing. Many will understand and draw hope from it.

  4. M.A. July 29, 2015 at 2:30 am #

    It’s been a while, thankfully, since I’ve been in that place where you are, but your words bring it back to me so vividly. I have no pep talks or words of wisdom or cheer. I remember when I first saw the film “The Neverending Story,” when the characters were battling that annihilating force they called The Nothing, and I thought, “Yeah, that’s what it feels like. A great Nothing swallowing everything it encountered.” And it cheered me that the only thing that could stop the nothing was imagination, our ability to conjure in our minds the possibility of something better that might not even exist. But that insight didn’t mean the depression magically went away. So I will only say this, and I will remind you of it unless it grows tiresome for you and you ask me not to: I know it sucks a lot of the time for you, but your words and your writing lift me, and even from this distance, I’m so very grateful and glad that you’re here.

  5. bluerosegirl08 July 29, 2015 at 2:31 am #

    Hugs, been there done that have the tshirt (the depression not thw bedbugs)
    Rachel

  6. Jess July 29, 2015 at 2:37 am #

    Crap, I’m sorry things are sucking for you right now. I’ve been there and will no doubt be there again, as the pendulum swings between anxiety and depression.

    While you ride it out, I hope you’re finding ways to structure your days. That always helps me. When I was underemployed and the kids were in school, I found that if I could just make myself exercise–that might be the only thing I accomplished in a day–then it was something to keep me going. Plus dopamine, endorphins, etc.

    Thanks for sharing. It’s beautiful and resonant.

  7. J.P. July 29, 2015 at 3:20 am #

    Thank you for sharing your feelings. I am grateful for your wonderful yoga classes.

  8. Linda S. July 29, 2015 at 5:45 am #

    Wow. Ouch. I, too, am so sorry that you have had such a rough time of it. I can only say please keep going. The world needs you in it. May your internal light come on soon

  9. itsdamnyo July 29, 2015 at 7:18 am #

    As somebody who spends an inordinate amount of time lost in the dark, I hope the seam of light marking a doorway becomes visible soon and grants you a respite, however brief

  10. sleepydumpling July 29, 2015 at 9:19 am #

    I have SO been there. It sucks. Stale is the perfect word for it, isn’t it? I am sending healing thoughts and hoping that the stale, dreary fug of depression lifts soon.

  11. tendernessontheblock July 29, 2015 at 9:42 am #

    Emotions becoming objective realities. In the midst of it, you can still nail it succinctly. I hope you find that switch soon.

  12. ladyquirky July 29, 2015 at 10:24 am #

    The thing that helps me most… is knowing how I will not even notice when the bad feelings transition into something different.

  13. Cheryl July 29, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I was really seeing the picture you painted with the lumpy bags and the dust and the poison smell. You truly are a brilliant writer. Thank you for your openness. Maybe you need to get out for a while, take a break. And after that, think of a story line, because the way you weave words to make pictures is really good. Maybe you can come up with some ways to find that switch.

  14. AJ July 29, 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    “All of the things I do feel like nothing, which is somehow worse than if they felt bad. At least bad would be something; at least ‘bad’ is on a spectrum of sensation which might eventually be scaled until I get back to ‘good.’ But nothing is nothing is nothing.”

    That’s pretty much how I feel every day of my life. I guess it’s just good to know that I’m not the only one who feels that way! I frequently wonder if the severe apathy / delrealization is due to my antidepressants, but if I stop taking those, then a whole host of other consequences arise. It’s like lose-lose no matter what. 😦 Here’s hoping it gets better…

  15. njacacia July 29, 2015 at 2:17 pm #

    You need more than kind words right now. A good behavioral health program where you can attend regular 3-5 day a week sessions on either a half or full day basis until this blackness recedes can save your life. Telling your story and hearing those of others will be part of the program. Taking classes such as art therapy, yoga, meditation, etc will be another part and will hold you until you can become stabilized on medication and begin to come back to the world. Perhaps you know this already. Perhaps you don’t, and I am hoping you will talk to a doctor or even do a google search and find a program. Anything is better than being by yourself suffering all day. My heart and hopes go out to you…

  16. Ruth July 29, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

    Sending virtual hugs your way, and hoping this depressive episode passes soon…

  17. hrhdana July 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    I am here right now. Man it sucks. Thank you for describing it so beautifully.

  18. zacharykmiller July 29, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to deal with the bed bugs fiasco…I’m so sorry you had to go through that. And you are very brave person, putting all this out there. It is admirable! 🙂

  19. MrsF July 29, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on mysectionedhusband.

  20. MrsF July 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm #

    HI, I’ve reblogged this to my blog, I hope that’s okay. My husband is bipolar and the snippet I saw on Mumsnet blog of the day really struck I cord. I can’t speak for him of course.

  21. justme3362 July 29, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    I’m very glad for your honesty. I’ve had similar periods, and it all just felt so strange to acknowledge. Thank you for your words and the update 🙂

  22. silentsister9 July 29, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    I feel attuned to this post so intensely it’s almost like you are writing just for me.

  23. janetisserlis July 29, 2015 at 7:50 pm #

    yes

  24. Elle July 29, 2015 at 10:34 pm #

    If I could write you a letter, it would say this:

    Dear Anne: You write beautifully. You inspire people you’ve never met. It will be all right.

  25. izzy82 July 30, 2015 at 1:07 am #

    This is the 10th anniversary of the year when summer became “blah” to me. It was an awful period of my life and summer hasn’t been the same. I find myself feeling sad and bored as the sun shines and flowers bloom. But. This year, I have only passing moments of sadness and overall, been able to enjoy the season. I guess I just needed to heal and find some comfort. I hope you can too.

  26. gigoid July 31, 2015 at 2:20 am #

    As you can see by now, there is a lot of empathy for your sorrow and pain; it’s good to remember, later, you aren’t alone, unless you want to be…

    I, too, have spent my time in deep depression, so, I know nothing I can say will be a magic bullet; each of us has to find our own path out of the dark, back into the light, and it can only happen when we find our own inner balance…. Though the darkness rises up from the depths of our souls, the answers we seek to find our way out are also within us, in a different place in our mind…

    Be well, little sister; this, too, shall pass…. and, if my own experience is any indication, writing your feelings like this can only help you find the path….

    Blessed Be….

    gigoid

  27. theflyingcashew August 1, 2015 at 6:23 am #

    I have had summers like this before and there’s not much you can do except move forward until the weight of depression lifts for a little while. For the longest I wouldn’t admit to anyone that I had depression because I couldn’t bear the thought of judgment especially from people who didn’t even know me. I hope this time passes quickly and you enjoy the remainder of your summer.

  28. countingsheepstudio August 1, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    Summer can be a bummer for me too, as I find myself spending more time indoors to avoid the extreme heat. I have been down that road many times, and I agree that knowing you will find that light switch again is something to hold onto. For me, making myself do things outside the house helps get me to get out of my head. I’ve been trying to spend more moments ‘in the moment’ with my kids. To let the housework go, and do projects that I want to do. Small things, tiny steps. I hope it passes soon for you!

  29. Mike August 4, 2015 at 8:02 pm #

    A friend of mine gave me some good advice with regards to “let me know if there’s ever anything I can do” – specifically, that it doesn’t work. You can’t wait for a depressed person to set the course, because depression prevents the belief that anything can be done in the first place. Unless the non-depressed party comes up with the “anything I can do” part on their own, nobody’s going to.

    She had two “anything I can do” suggestions prepared beforehand for when she or her friends, subjectively, didn’t believe anything could be done:

    1. Bake something. Bring it. Don’t force anybody to eat anything, don’t expect it to fix anything, but show up and be open to participate in the ritual of eating together.

    2. Go on a walk together. Physical exercise is one of the few things that reliably helps depression, but depression kills people’s motivation to exercise on their own.

  30. Ben August 14, 2015 at 3:25 am #

    Been going through a little of this lately myself; I really appreciate how candidly you’re writing about this.

  31. Emma August 15, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    Thank you for your words.

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