You Think You Know Me
By Karen Handyside Ely
You think you know me, but you don’t know…
that I am struggling with a powerful bout of depression. I’ve battled it before. I’ve been in deeper, darker, more dangerous pits. This current episode has rolled over me slowly. Not a storm, but more a dense, thick, cloud cover, wrapping me in the heavy humidity of numbness and ennui, pinning me to the ground with a listless, languid, low-grade despair that makes me want to sleep all day.
I’m suffocating one breath at a time… in slow motion. This time around, my depression isn’t a raging sea, which has been my usual experience, but an ebbing tide that creeps back over the sand as the fog rolls in to smother the beach.
I could cry, just writing this, but I don’t. I continue to function, smile, interact. And I try to fight back. I fight with prescribed medication. I fight by restricting alcohol and chocolate – alcohol because it provides temporary, false relief that will ultimately kill me, and chocolate because of my natural proclivity to drown myself in calories, which will also kill me.
I work with a counselor. It doesn’t feel like it helps, but I know it will. I know I WILL get better. I always have before. My hope has not completely flickered out. I think this is partially a delayed reaction to the covid years, a sort of PTSD, now that the crisis is over (as “over” as it can ever be.) I lived in fight mode for 2 ½ years and managed to keep my head above water, legs propelling me forward. Now my strength and discipline are gone. I’m left with a sorrowful emptiness that I cannot shake.
For now, I am trying to be gentle with myself. I’m clearing away the unrequired obligations in my life that do not bring me joy. I am de-cluttering the way I live, ala Marie Kondo. I am reintroducing the activities that used to motivate me. I am withholding self-judgement, the hardest exercise of all, and learning to love who I am, not what I do or how I look.
I don’t think that I am alone. Yes, I have a medical diagnosis of depression, but I can sense the sad fatigue that clings to people around me wherever I go… in grocery lines, or shopping at TJMaxx, in airports and zoom meetings. I think so many are coping, on some level, with this feeling. It hides behind frantic busyness and red-hot anger. It lurks beneath everyday smiles and societal pleasantries. Most of us aren’t incapacitated by it, but the weight of what we carry has become a constant. You think you know me, but you don’t. Right now, I grapple with knowing myself.
Karen Handyside Ely was born and raised in Petaluma, California. She delights in difficult crossword puzzles, the Santa Rosa Symphony, and traveling with her husband, James.
Karen has been published in several Write Spot Books: The Write Spot to Jumpstart Your Writing: Discoveries, The Write Spot: Reflections, The Write Spot: Possibilities, The Write Spot: Writing as a Path to Healing, and The Write Spot: Musings and Ravings From a Pandemic Year. All available at Amazon and your local bookseller.