I really thought I was done with these. I’d had some “up” moments with TMS. And Day 20 is supposed to be the day you experience “the lift”.
Day 20 is my worst day in the whole process.
I’m giving a heads up here: this is going to be a long post. Not only does it involve talking about what happened, but for once, I divulge the details of just how I got there.
It doesn’t start off well. I am flatlining and in a daze from bad sleep, not unusual. I tell myself that maybe I’m just going to have to take the K-pins to knock me out. I hate that. I head out to a cold, cloudy day. Angela cannot believe I’m wearing heels instead of winter boots. I say that today I’m doing everything I can to boost my mood. Between looking less cute and taking the chill, the latter was the lesser of the two evils.
A blizzard is coming. When there’s a blizzard, it’s nice to have company. But no friends really live all that close, and with the cat’s insulin necessities I really don’t want to be outside of walking distance so, it looks like I will be spending it quite alone. This does not help my mood.
This sense of loneliness and isolation sets the stage for what happens later. I want to clarify that normally, I am not someone who minds being alone. Normally, I enjoy it. But there are circumstances here. And though they’ve been something of a running theme since TMS started, I haven’t elaborated on them.
I haven’t, because these are real events, and I have been trying to protect real people. I haven’t, because I didn’t want to come off as vindictive or “calling out” anybody. I haven’t, because I was apprehensive about real people becoming defensive and assuming that how I felt then is how I feel now…and that’s not necessarily true. The last time I came up against this was when I wrote “the New Year’s Eve post”. It was cryptic, and it skirted details, all in attempts to protect the not-entirely-innocent, but protecting them all the same. Result: one hell of a convoluted post. A bit of feedback I got on that was that it was so vague as to what exactly led to a bad night, it really brought up more questions than answers. Another response, “You’re talking in circles. Just tell the fucking story”, was less charitable. But essentially the message was, if you’re going to talk about an incident that set off a depressive episode- which is the whole reason for getting treatment in the first place (in order to lessen the severity/recurrence of, if not eliminate, episodes), you can’t speak in code in terms of the backstory, or your audience is lost. That’s not good. Besides the fact that the reader disengages, maybe the shot is lost in relaying circumstances someone else can relate to in terms of how they got to a bad spot, which can be helpful. Basically, they need to know how I got there.
So I’m telling the story this time. I’m going to try to keep it to what happened, how it felt, how I handled it, and what I learned.
A blizzard is coming. It’s the night before it’s supposed to hit. Spice invites me out. I’m on the way there and…I check Facebook. Bad idea. I’ve found that one of my worst fears was finally being realized: my soon-to-be-ex-husband’s new relationship was worming its way on to social media.
Let me back up here. I’m separated at this time. To be clear, I didn’t want to separate. And I take my share of the responsibility for the relationship falling apart. My depression had everything to do with that. It’s not an excuse- it’s a reality. The more I read about how the illness influences thoughts/behavior and vice versa and round and round we go, the more I know this to be true. I didn’t love myself. My biggest mistakes were buying into stigma (I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so being viewed as “defective” made me feel ashamed), not recognizing the self-loathing MDD brought on as not my own, and not being honest with myself about how depressed I was- thus not treating it…well, at all. That was hard for him. I wasn’t acknowledging and monitoring it, much less getting any help. It took a real smash to the teeth for me to get it- that my depressive behavior functioned like a wrecking ball.
But I did not see the signs. There hadn’t been any serious talk of splitting up. It was in the span of one night, one argument, that it just suddenly became this real topic. And when this became clear to me, I got it– like a stubborn old man with a heart condition goes into cardiac finally gets it. I was 100% committed to finally addressing and treating MDD. And I was making progress. But that didn’t matter. No dice. It was over. He let me know as much. I felt totally destroyed. I mean, of course. That’s generally how it feels when you aren’t interested in your marriage ending. Foolish for not seeing it coming. Anger for- a dozen different reasons. Guilt for my share of culpability.
But the part that gutted me the most was the idea of having to someday see him with someone else. That someone else would be swapped in to the life I thought would be mine. I feared being swiftly replaced once I was discarded, before the dust had settled. And here’s where it gets sticky: I already had suspicions about one specific person before things were even officially over…though he assured me repeatedly those suspicions were unfounded.
And I believed him. After all, no. I knew her. I’d socialized with her. He wouldn’t do that. She wouldn’t do that. At the very worst, I thought, he will impulsively take up with someone a couple months after the split, but it would be someone I don’t know. Still, the thought still made me feel sick to my stomach. It was still going to be immensely painful.
He assured me he wasn’t thinking about getting involved with anyone any time soon.
I believed him. He would need time on his own, to heal. He had to be hurting too. He couldn’t just jump into someone else’s arms right away. He couldn’t just- get over it like that, by getting under someone else.
A little over a month later after we were done, we spoke again. He had moved out about two weeks prior. He tells me he’s being encouraged to date (Jesus Christ, by who? What is this? The Young and the Restless?) already, but isn’t ready.
I believed him then too. The problem was, it wasn’t true, and he told me as much weeks later that he only said it so I “wouldn’t feel hurt”. The truth was, he had every intention to start as soon as we weren’t under the same roof.
And with who? With exactly who I feared- her. The one I suspected, who I tried to dismiss by telling myself I was being paranoid. But I never did entirely shake those misgivings. At the time I didn’t know about the one-on-one hangs pre-split (because he didn’t think I “would be comfortable with it”) where at least once, our marriage issues were discussed. Or that when my husband-at-the-time claimed he had no idea why she and her husband-at-the-time seemed so unhappy, it wasn’t true. He knew, because he later admitted she had told him. All I knew was I felt a little uneasy when the two of them were around each other, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. So I tried to ignore my gut and convince myself I was being ridiculous.
Only a week or two after moving out, he pursued her. He said the feelings didn’t start until he moved out, they just appeared out of the blue right then. The whole thing horrified me. This wasn’t someone random I’d never seen in my life. This was someone who had befriended me that past summer. Whose birthday party I attended only a few months prior- where, when I lost track of my then-husband, finally found him listening attentively while she sang prettily at the piano. Who I went on a double date with, with her and her husband at the time. Who saw, who knew what he meant to me when I did all I could to make his birthday special.
New Year’s Eve had everything to do with this. But I’m not going to rehash an old post. It’s written, it’s done. However, what the two nights had in common was how I had to face facts that this nightmare was actually, truly happening. It was really happening. I couldn’t just stick my head in the sand anymore as I had been for months. I had to deal with the truth of the matter that he was linked up with the one I dreaded he would, and fuck was I gonna do ’bout it.
Nothing quite makes you face the music like a broadcast on social media. And there it is, her post. Bright as day in the darkness of the cab, clear as her bell-like singing voice… they were clearly on a nice date at the theater.
“And now everyone knows”.
And now everyone knows I have been supplanted, just a few months post-separation, nowhere close to divorce. And it is humiliating. I feel my stomach drop and drop and drop and my face tingles and I can’t breathe. Tears spring to my eyes. They’ve actually already put it out there. I can’t imagine how she could not know it was humiliating. I wanted to believe she’s just missing a sensitivity chip, and truly had no clue how unkind it really was. It’s hard to say the same about those who had been held more closely in my life, who “liked” that status, who knew me. But maybe- and this is one thing I thought about on New Year’s Eve- to some folks, social interaction with me had little to do with me as a person. Maybe it solely had to do with my ties to my soon-to-be-ex. Now that those ties didn’t exist, it was like I didn’t exist. Isn’t that strange?, I thought. How you come to find out, it isn’t necessarily about who you just independently are at all? Depression tried to push in dichotomous thinking for quite some time after, demanding to know whether I’m really a naive, hopeless schmuck lacking value- or if they’re all just heartless.
Of course, my rational mind knows it’s not that black and white. It also knows that this situation isn’t uncommon. What did I say in the New Year’s Eve post?
We have our groups. And as a less significant part of these particular important fragile bonds, even if I was ever appreciated solely for who I was, if my STBX and his girlfriend were going to disregard my humiliation, “their people”-who I had known to be good people- had to as well, if they wanted to avoid social friction and get on with life as usual. Smooth waters being so considerably valuable, inconvenient truths- like my feelings- get pushed to the floor of the ocean. I’m going to be gracious and call this a rather…clumsy state of affairs, so in order for everyone to get comfortable, being the outsider, how I felt had to be the sacrificial lamb (I hate that term because it’s a bit dramatic, but my therapist used it, and I had to admit it’s kind of accurate). As long as any feelings I had about it were swept under the carpet, there was no problem. Now, I am not a perfect person. It’s certainly possible that, at some point in my past, I have done the same (though with a new understanding, I am sure to be far more conscious of it in the future)…or something like it. So I don’t pity myself, and don’t expect it. But on the flip side, any expectation of me being cool and breezy (or to just pretend it wasn’t happening) at that time, for the sake of harmony for a “greater good” I’d been ousted from anyway…was laughable.
Yet in the back of that cab, this does not bring on laughter. I am not laughing. I feel disappointment, heartache, rage over the fact that the discretion I intended to show towards him- putting his feelings first when it came to anything I didn’t need to do, like slap up goo on social media before the papers were even signed- would not be returned. And I have to accept that her friendship had been false, or at best, simply one of convenience…and that maybe many more friendships I bought into, people I met through him, were not what I thought.
And that, yeah. It could happen in life again. And again and again and it will hurt every single time. You just can’t know what’s going on in people’s heads, but you can’t just stop trusting everyone either. At some point you just take a breath, plunge in, hope for the best. But in a state of depression, not being able to control this in life terrifies me. Getting It Wrong when it comes to judging character means I’m flawed.
And though I never expected things to be the same, now that he’s hooked up with someone “in the inner circle” of his social group, it hits me like a ton of bricks that it was quite possible I had been cut off in the minds of quite a few people, and in my heart, I have to say goodbye to all of them. Faces and memories flash in my mind as I’m getting out of the cab. I hold back tears. It was a lot of people. What a gullible sucker you are, I think. Of course this would happen. Of course her, she was right there and deep down, you knew…of course you lose them too. Not that I could face them anyway- I am mortified. I am the loser now who at worst they pity, a ghost of the past at best whom they ignore. Depression grips tighter and I am unable to grasp the fact that this too-soon announcement probably wasn’t a cruel joke on her part- that more likely she never gave me a second thought at all; just did a thing she wanted to do, and that was it. On the other hand, I cant see my STBX as malicious at all. But I can see him as flighty and impulsive- and get to thinking that his feelings were never real if they can disappear so fast…that our history was all fake. And that’s highly unlikely. But I can’t see it just then, and it rips me up more than him straight up hating me. At least that’s a feeling. At least it means you’re not forgotten.
I still feel like I flunked at being a TMS patient, and try to reconcile this to avoid losing my shit. As in, maybe I wouldn’t be spiraling down so hard, if there hadn’t been a tipping point.
And so maybe if it was just after a breakup, where I hadn’t promised forever, it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if it had been 6 months down the road, or after the papers were signed- not less than a few months after he moved out, it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if it had been a total stranger, and not someone I knew and had hung out with, it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if I hadn’t been told before that dating wasn’t happening anytime soon, and that there was 0 attraction to this woman until it magically appeared upon living apart- it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if she hadn’t tossed that post up, it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if he- a champion of mental health awareness- had asked her to pull it after I told him how how I found it callously premature, how painful it was, it wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe if dozens of people- some of whom actually witnessed my vows, and who knew I was devastated and in a severe depression- hadn’t approved that status by “liking” it- it wouldn’t have happened.
That tipping point theory: that was how I first rationalized this backslide. There had to be something in there that did it, or else I would have taken it in stride. But as it was pointed out to me later, it didn’t really matter what the particular breaking point was. The fact of the matter was that all of those things happened. All of them. And that’s what I had to work with now to claw out. All I knew is that while it could’ve been worse-it could’ve involved a relative or close friend, for example- it was still a pretty bad hand to be dealt and expected to handle like a champ on the heels of our split. Bad, even for someone who is healthy enough to not necessitate the kind of treatment I was getting.
Back to what happened. I can’t go in the bar. Spice comes out. He wants to hook me up with someone who was on a hit TV show once. I can’t even think like that. I am a mess. My whole network knows I am easily discarded and have little value. And since I am still putting so much stock in how my STBX views me- or how it’s coming across- now I think that is what everyone will do. Disregard me.
“It’s not working. The treatment is not working. I’m wasting my time with this. I should not feel this way. I should not be breaking down. I should not I should not…”
I can’t speak properly. My mind has gone dark. Maj doesn’t have the loud band in tow tonight- it’s just her. But she has grabbed a hold of me and has me at the entrance of the darkest hallway again. She tells me the old lies- someone you loved is so ambivalent about you, they probably don’t even care if you live or die. You are getting TMS and you still failed. You aren’t strong enough. You don’t want to see this through.
I don’t believe her, but I can’t get the lies out of my head.
Thank God for Spice. I don’t remember what he said to calm me. I was too focused on his eyes. They were full of earnestness and compassion and concern. I remember him hugging me. Sometimes our expressions and our gestures can say so much more than our words can. Somehow, these actions allow me to wrench my hand out of Maj’s and walk away from that hall. Someone cares about my existence right now, in this moment. Did I still feel sick inside? Did I still see a smug expression on her face in my mind? Was I still angry and fantasizing about calling her out in a dozen different ways and watching that face fall, using things she probably didn’t know I knew to hurt her right back? Did I want to rip up every letter he ever wrote me and throw the pieces at his feet? Was I enraged by Maj and her shitty persuasions to pact break? Yes, to all of that.
But in walking away from the dark hall with the help of another person, I can think for myself instead of letting depression do it for me. I reiterate: human connection is so important in the midst of an episode. I could begin the process of rejecting that I was worthless and forgettable just because their actions would make it seem so. I have to remind myself that even when I knew he was done, checked out, fin- I continued to fight depression. Not for the sake of the relationship anymore, but for me. Even though at one point, the STBX claimed that while he was proud of what I was trying to accomplish, he did not believe I could sustain it. Even then. And though I couldn’t say why- when I was in TMS, taking meds and in therapy- I could still be set off to such an unsettling place, what I did know was I was still trying. Giving it my all to fight something that takes an enormous amount of energy, when the truth is, I have less to work with than the average person. No one’s indifference towards me defined me. Even Spice and any other loved one’s compassion and love does not define me.
I alone define me.
And who am I now, outside the context of being linked to the STBX? I don’t know, but I know you can transition from one way of life to another, and become someone with new purpose.
I don’t stay outside that bar long. Let’s get real. No one wants a crier at the bar. Buzzkill. No, I didn’t suddenly completely stop caring about what other people think that night. So I go home. And alone, I feel unsteady again. I am shaking. I reach out to Spice but be it drunkenness or somnolence, there’s no answer.
“I alone define me.”
Inner pillar. All I have. I breathe. I close my eyes. I sit with pain that feels red-hot inside. I access the pool. I see the pillar. I feel it. I feel it flow up and over and it floods me Bellagio fountain style. It doesn’t warm me tonight. It feels cool and Blue. But it’s my life force and this is as good as it will get. Maybe that’s what I need to alleviate the burn inside. The wind whips outside. 2:49 AM. The storm is coming. At some point, the cat jumps on my legs. He needs me.
Someone needs me. The shaking stops. The sobs stop. It’s just tears now…
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure that were I not undergoing treatment and making it priority #1, I would not have done any of that. I would have been coming up with a concrete plan to show myself out- wouldn’t I.
I will not pact break. I’m pretty scared, but I’m pretty sure. Instead, I am looking at it this from a more rational angle. I bring myself to a safer place this night. I know I will be busted up for a while. But I believe that happy moments could come again. Not #blessed, #thatnyclife moments. Not a false persona I create online to feel loved. Genuine, happy moments offline, where I am strong. Secure. Things a status update or a photo can’t really capture.
“Oooh-Kaaay. Did you really need to share all of these details in this post? It makes it so incredibly awkward.“
Well. I’m sorry if I made it awkward. I promise I won’t make a career out of it like our friend up there on the left. But carefully dodging the facts, when there are more people reading who care about the subject matter (treatment for depression) and who need context, than there are people who aren’t interested in the actual blog at all and just need their feelings spared, is not a principled approach. There are readers who may be going through it, and need to know that yes, one can experience specifically what I have, be getting TMS, and there are could still be some triggers (this being a rather common one) that are enough to break you down. And that’s confusing because “Where’s My Miracle Cure?” Because where’s the one thing that makes me adept at handling anything? That makes me not a failure? The point is, it doesn’t exist- not quickly anyway- unless you shoot up an 8-ball and don’t give a flying fuck about anything.
It’s a process.
But you can use other tools in your kit to get through. And I believe TMS has balanced my brain enough to where I can actually recognize and access them. Given the depressive state I was in, I was damn proud of myself that the worst thing that happened at the time was a temporarily crippling episode that I did pull out of in a matter of a couple of days.
Closing out, I’m aware of the real potential of my post’s intentions being twisted here. So again, the point of the post is not to hurt or embarrass anyone, or lash out. But keeping it all safely on the ocean floor in order to not rock boats is not the point either. This isn’t a place for superficiality, of only portraying the most pleasing of pictures and singing you the prettiest of songs. I had a story to tell, and these are the things that happened, and how I felt about them at that time.
And if you don’t give a good goddamn what happened to me personally because it doesn’t affect you as long as I keep my trap shut about what happened? And still consider the worst part of it all to be that I’m not? Well, the purpose of the blog supersedes that, just as there were social bonds and priorities that ended up superseding how I felt at the time. I deliberated. And deliberated. And eventually, I just had to say:
And start writing.
Last thing: this post is written with those of you who don’t have your mental health figured out in mind. It’s not for the Golden Boys and the Golden Girls (unless they’re looking for ways to understand/help out those who are struggling). It’s for those of you who know damn well you’re not Shiny and Golden, you may never be, there’s nothing wrong with that, and you don’t have to be afraid to say as much. Because just as we can be inspired and learn from the Shiny and Golden, we also can be inspired and learn from the Rusty and Broken.
And if anything has kept me going, it’s this thing in my head that says “tell your story”. No matter how inconvenient or inopportune or how it makes me look or you look or the mental health field look or America look or the whole damn world look. It’s this thing that says just keep writing, keep being heard. There is space in the world for my words, even when I’m Rusty and Broken. One more time, Tupac: