My mind tries to ignore the knowledge but my body seems to know intuitively where I was one year ago at this time, and though I've been trying so hard not to focus on the memory - am instead looking forward to a better anniversary, maybe - my body has been doing its very best to remind me exactly how it was by feeling the same currents again, by falling into the same patterns, by catching me up in a great black sack and dragging me down broken alleys until I remember the way.
I met my psychiatrist for the first time on Lena's birthday last year, in early October, and he gave me my first antidepressant prescription on November 11th, Veteran's Day. The intervening weeks were spent, in a practical sense, dealing with bloodwork and ordering vitamin supplements and paying some analytical attention to energy, diet, mood. Underneath that, though, I remember the distinct feeling that I was only surviving the knot of purgatorial days by holding my breath and shutting my eyes against them, against the suffocating void, refusing to focus on anything other than the belief that rescue was coming soon.
The days are so much better now, but not in ways that I can rationally describe. In perfect honesty it can be terrifying to look at any decent day and call it "good" because it still feels as though the bottom could fall out at any moment. And maybe it feels that way because there are still days that aren't so much bad as they are just regular days which begin in anonymity but slowly grow to drag and pull and suck me down for no apparent reason whatsoever until I look around and see that there is nothing supporting me because the bottom has indeed fallen out. And so I go on through most days without ever checking my surroundings at all, because maybe everything is fine and maybe nothing is fine, either way it wouldn't matter because I still have to keep going, right? So I keep going and surely if I keep going the bottom - if it is really gone at all - will eventually reappear and all will be well.
Most days are fine. Weeks, even, seem normal. And the odd day out where I feel like I'm underneath it all is not so bad. I try to focus on the familiar comfort those days pretend to offer and not worry about how long they will last. And I remind myself that we all have bad days, they just happen to be something more along the lines of depressed days for me, and instead of thinking about any of it too much I just keep going until the day is over and a better one appears.
I had one of those days last week, though, and then the next day was the same, and the next. The day after that might have been worse, but I'm not sure, because I continued to ignore it, as I do - ignore the slow and inexplicable dissolution of my ground, my walls, my ceiling, until I know that I am floating in the void but my eyes are shut against it and my feet keep moving stubbornly forward in the open air, nevermind futility. And this slow descent goes on even a day or two more until I somehow find that I am sitting numbly in my car after dark on a Thursday evening in the fluorescent-lit parking lot of a Target, plastic bags filled with Halloween candy, new insoles for my boots, and boxes of tissues are stacked neatly in the trunk. How they got in there I almost couldn't tell you, any more than I could tell you why I do not go home to help with putting the kids to bed, but persist in sitting in the car with the radio on, the windows down just enough to feel the warm, strange Santa Ana winds brushing across my lips, tangling my hair, stinging my eyes. I do not know why I cannot connect enough synapses in my brain to put the car in gear and go, so instead I sit and watch the tops of the smallish parking lot trees roll and rustle with more full, vibrant body and soul than they've really any right to have, but they have tonight, and they do not stop their push and pull rhythm communion against the wind for even a moment. Under the white fluorescent lamps they are bright green against the black sky, and I cannot put the car in gear to drive away. Because I do not understand what it is I need to drive to. Because I do not understand how my life is Halloween candy and boot insoles and tissues, toilet paper and laundry detergent, how no amount of driving off and leaving everything behind could give me escape from needing the mundane for survival, that there is no escape from fluorescent lights and needing money for things like toothpaste and allergy medicine and lip balm, and it is the mundane that I seem to have a problem with tonight. It doesn't make sense at all, the great wide longing of the soul against the days spent paying bills and folding laundry, and I don't know how to teach my girls that it's okay - it's okay if they dream of castles and fairies now, of love and adventure later, of seeing worlds and being everything there is to be - it's okay to dream a little more each day, every day, over and over until the day that you look in the mirror and all the accumulation of your dreams slam together hard in that halted instant of noticing the hair at your temples is growing white, and your seventeen-year-old heart is soon to turn thirty-five, and you have spent so many of your limited days washing dishes and paying bills because those are the things which demand to be done now in order to continue to survive while you carelessly daydream about future plans for a future that has somehow slipped away.
And now here you sit, in a strip-mall parking lot, not knowing how to realign your personal identity with your physical existence, how did they become so unattached, so far removed. How do I teach my girls that that's okay, and natural, that we continue to dream even as we grow old, even as the days we dream about fall behind us, even as our odds for new adventures and change grow ever smaller. How do I prepare them, convince them that this is natural and right when nothing in the world feels natural or right in this moment but the sound and sight of the tops of a few green trees rolling without end in the Santa Ana breeze over an emptying strip-mall parking lot.
The other cars in the lot have all one-by-one flicked on their lights and begun to hum in resonance with the leaves in what look like desperate efforts to get home. Mothers drag over-tired children against the swirling winds to backseat carseats and overworked couples tiredly and hurriedly pile full plastic shopping bags into their trunks while ducking their heads from the strangeness of the weather as vehicles slip through the aisles and slide magnetically toward the exit, toward home. I close my eyes against it all and try to make the universe stop a moment so I may evaluate, assess, so I may do what I hate to do and check out my surroundings. The results come in: I am adrift. Again. So far adrift that I could not even tell you the substance in which I am drifting - adrift at sea, under the water's surface, above the planet's atmosphere, in a pitch black void - you may take your pick. The essence of the thing is drift. The feeling is, I'm sorry to say, petrifying. Soul-petrifying. But this time I have with me the confidence that if I wait, I will surely soon drift back to civilization. Soon, and much quicker than the last time. Because I feel that this drift today, though real and penetrating, is only visiting as an echo of memory. So I will wait. I will ride the drift. And with this knowledge I turn the ignition, I throw the car into gear, and I let it pull me home, again, where I belong.