Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Just after noon, just last Thursday, I walked out of the back of a Westwood office building and out to my sun-warmed car hoping, more than usual, to keep my pace smooth, regular, unnoticeable. The small, folded, white square of paper tucked into my muted bronze-colored tote bag, shuffling around inside with a mess of other, larger papers - glowing lab reports and boring insurance receipts - felt like it would float up and out of the bag all on its own, glowing, growing, spreading out and calling to the strange group of international tourists bunched up outside by the parking lot, waiting for nothing I could discern except maybe to gawk at me and my new prescription.

My bag had felt so silly and light when I walked into the building. No diapers, no baby wipes, no bottles or sippies. I wondered if I would ever get used to traveling so light, when that becomes a regular routine. But of course when I left the building, my mostly empty bag felt so very, obviously, full. To capacity.

I climbed into the car and texted Jimmy, needing to coordinate picking up Lena, relieving Evie's babysitter, swinging by the pharmacy. Before I hit the 405 South I was giving him a quick recap of my visit. By the time I made it to the 10 East it was just me, my playlist, and an unbelievably clear path all the way to downtown. Nothing in my way, now, and nothing to slow me down. I turned up the volume. I cracked the windows. I wondered at the feeling.

Believe me, I know, I am SO aware, that I am not the first person on the planet to begin antidepressants. In fact, since I've been blogging about my experience here, it's been made painfully clear to me just how many people have done this. Have had to do this.

But I am not anyone else. I'm only me, and this is new for me. This is something I've known could be a possibility for me for, goodness, seventeen years? But I put it off, I tried to fix my problems any other way. And clearly, no matter where I've lived, what I've weighed, what I've eaten or given up, how much I've exercised, prayed, meditated, organized, gone to church, avoided church, worked, not worked, been single, been happily married, had beautiful children, vacationed, stayed at home, spent money, saved money, gone to yoga, had acupuncture, laughed, cried, yelled, or thought - thought and thought and thought about what it was and how to make it go away until I began to think my skull was made of thick brick walls on the inside. None of it has worked.

As I sped freely toward the tall glinting buildings downtown, I tried to pinpoint how I was feeling. And I think I got it. I felt like I'd been living on a cold, wet, black and craggy outcropping of rock, somewhere far from shore in an icy steel-colored sea, but not so far that I hadn't been able to watch the sun sparkling on the tops of green trees blowing gently on the mainland. And I felt like, after all these years, someone had finally floated by me on a little wooden rowboat, and said, "Hop in."

It didn't look one-hundred percent trustworthy, that boat. But I was sure as hell tired of trying to swim. Tired of being cold. Tired of being alone, and primarily, tired of being so completely and utterly stuck.

I made it to the snarl of intersecting freeways downtown and headed south on the 110, needing to navigate more traffic, now, and no longer able to see the neverending Los Angeles sprawl now that I was in the literal gray concrete canyon that is that stretch of 110. I held my breath, and thought about jumping into the rowboat. I hoped it could carry my weight.

By the time I'd picked up Lena from the old factory building where she had been working, (that story will come later. maybe.) and continued down the 110, circling across the 105 West and back to the 405 North, heading home now, I was feeling a bit less melodramatic. Less melodramatic, but equally as tentative.

So, on Friday morning, I marked 11/11/11 by taking my first antidepressant. Just a quarter of a tiny tablet, sticking to a slow scheduled building pace, just to be sure that all stays well. I think the crumb of white powder I swallowed must have been the tiniest portion possible - about the size of a grain of sea salt. Unbelievable that we could break a tiny pill into such tiny portions. I wasn't even positive that I had swallowed it - it could have dropped to the floor and I would not have been able to hear it, and I certainly couldn't even feel it going down.

I felt it later.

I felt it later when Lena asked me to get her a chocolate milk, for the hundredth time, after I had just settled onto the sofa to do something or other - maybe to check my email. She asked, and before I could think to chide her, to put her off, to let out the usual exasperated sigh, I found that I was up and moving to the kitchen to fix my four-year-old a chocolate milk.

I felt it later when Jimmy said he might have to work the weekend, and I didn't feel like my planet had been hit by a meteor, exploding it on impact into thousands of unmanageable, uncontainable, hurtling shards. My planet stayed intact, and kept on spinning.

And I felt it later when I caught myself in the mirror, and did a double-take. With all honesty, I did not recognize my reflection. And with total, completely unsophisticated sincerity, I sent this text to Jimmy:

I cannot tell you what a monumental relief it is to look in the mirror and not hate myself. I think the drug might be working.

To which he responded, Oh honey!

I hope he doesn't feel too bad. I didn't realize it had been so awful, either.



This is where I am.

To use my analogy, again, I would say that I'm in the rowboat, being rowed to shore. And maybe I'm laying flat in the rowboat, or close to it. Maybe I'm hiding under a thick scratchy wool blanket, hoping the icy waves don't lap over the side and find me there, not on my rock where I should be. Maybe I am occasionally peeking over the side, unable to stop myself from calculating just how much distance we've gained toward the shore, just how much clearer I can see the sun breaking through there. And then I promptly tuck back in under the blanket, rocking gently in the boat. Sometimes I close my eyes and try to sleep; be patient. I'm not entirely sure when we will get there, or what we will find, or how I will look or be or feel when we do. But I do think we're making progress.



donna said...

crying. tears of empathy and tears of joy for your new journy.
this makes me love you more.

ortrudes said...

That's beautiful, Melanie. xo

Johanna said...

Tears in my eyes, I say thank you for this. xo

devon said...

You are one of the bravest people I know. Thank you for sharing - your honesty, your gift of writing and your gift of love. It has and will touch so many people. I am sure you have saved if not lives then for sure days or families or career or marriages. I love you so much and am so thankful to learn from and that jimmy lena and eve have such an inspiration! Xoxo d

Autumn said...

lovely... just lovely melanie- your words depict such feeling - you bring us right into that row boat with you! I'm so so very proud of you my brave, strong friend! Keep fighting the fight - you are so worth it!!! LOVE YOU!

Stacy said...

Melanie, how can we not have had this conversation ourselves yet? I spin through the darkness daily, even though I am oriented toward light. I accept that confusing juxtaposition. And right now I am actually being aided by TWO pills, and it took me a year to get them right after all that unfolded in the last two. And I am so, so grateful. As I know you are, too. Sending love, hugs, and that mysterious little wink of sisterhood that depression creates. xoxo