The Worst Game of Tag Ever

by Lisa Lombardi in

You may (I doubt it) have noticed that things have been decidedly quiet the past six (!) weeks around here. It's not because I've run out of things to fix around my apartment, or because I spontaneously won a trip to Australia (I wish). It's more just that I haven't had anything to talk about.

Or, more accurately, that I haven't had anything that I thought I could talk about.

This web site, and this blog, was created so I'd have some outlet to show my abilities for future career opportunities. And as a result, I felt like I could really only write about things that were professional (-ish); things that highlighted my strengths and interests. But the truth is that I've been dealing with one of my biggest weaknesses for the past couple months or so, and it's really tripping me up.

I've been playing tag with depression for more than half of my life at this point. I know the convention is to say that one "fights" depression or "struggles with" it, but I'm not really satisfied with either of those phrases. To fight suggests a level of courage and strength that I'm not worthy of. But to simply struggle makes me feel like a B-list horror movie actress, flailing to escape the grasp of her attacker.

No, depression is more like the most annoying, never-ending game of tag you've ever played. I never defeat depression. It is always with me, whether somewhere off in the distance or tapping me on the shoulder. It never really goes away; I just get better at outrunning and evading it.

I have no expectations that I could accurately convey to the inexperienced masses what this feels like (see Hyperbole and a Half's "Adventures in Depression" and "Depression Part Two" for the best examples I've ever come across). I keep going over it in my brain, and the best I can come up with to describe the experience is this:

Your life consists of you walking along an endless, floating dock. It rocks and moves, but it's fairly wide and a stable enough surface to stick to. When you add depression to the mix, whether because of a chemical imbalance or unfortunate life circumstances, that dock gets more and more narrow. And the water gets rougher. And it becomes more and more easy to fall off the edge.

No matter how good your balance is, it's only a matter of time before a swell knocks you overboard. And you can swim, but it takes everything from you — all of your concentration and energy. Meanwhile, life continues lobbing you with its expectations; there are responsibilities to juggle and people you don't want to let down. Everyone you talk to thinks they have the magical solution — oh, just do these five things, meet with these three complete strangers, relax and don't work so hard, work harder so things will change, go to the gym, go to church, fill out these forms A, D, and G. 

And all you can think is, "Can I stop drowning first?"

The day will come that you make it back to the dock, and that's when you realize that you're expected to pull yourself out, too. 

Anyone who's ever dove off the floating docks on the Charles River and has as terrible upper body strength as I do will understand the magnitude of this obstacle I'm talking about. It's really fucking hard to pull yourself back onto that dock, especially with the waves crashing over you, especially after you've been treading water for what feels like forever. So you just cling to the edge for a while, waiting to get back some of what you've lost. Waiting for the chance to pull yourself back up again.

That's kind of what this stage of depression feels like to me. You're not drowning, but you're not really living, either. It stops you from moving forward, and I've definitely felt stuck for the past few months.

For someone who thrives on taking action, accomplishing tasks, dreaming up projects, and just straight-up trying things, it's really jarring to lose any and all of my motivation. I've always had things that I didn't relish doing hukking my laundry two blocks to the laundromat, cleaning the bathroom, writing networking emails but they never felt both insurmountable and pointless at the same time. They were simply lines on my to-do list that I would inevitably check off and move past, nothing more. When depression tags me, everything feels impossible. I can barely function as a pleasant 28-year-old adult, much less tackle anything that's more than an absolute necessity.

So there have been no projects. Meals have gone from trying new recipes to heating up frozen trays of whatever in the microwave. I drag myself to the gym not for any sort of enjoyment, but with the hope that it will help me sleep better at night and maybe dissipate some of the frustration I feel about everything right now.

I don't want to end this on a downer note. Let me make one thing very clear: clinging to the edge of the dock is a lot better than just trying to keep your head above the water. And I make no guarantees, but I get the feeling that I will soon be able to haul myself up onto that dock without an ounce of grace, I'm sure. Expect a lot of flopping.

See you soon.