Yesterday someone asked me how does it feel to be depressed.
– I have never been depressed, – she said.
It struck me that I have never met a person before who hadn’t experienced depression.
– Well… – I said, about to launch a long speech about inner pain. But how do you explain that inner pain to somebody who has no idea? Can you say: ” It hurts as bad as if you stabbed your arm with a dull knife except the pain is not on the skin but deep inside”? Does it even come close describing the pain of depression?
– Have you ever had your heart broken?- I asked.
She looked up at me and smiled ethereally.
– Of course, – she said. – I have had my heart broken.
– So you know that pain.
– I know it quite well. It is recent.
– When one is depressed, one feels exactly that pain but without a reason.
The pain is only one part of being depressed.
There is also a feeling of emptiness, of incompleteness, not unlike something one feels when her partner leaves without a farewell note.
The emptiness sounds pretty abstract and sometimes it is, but quite often it takes a specific form and then I start to feel like a fraud. As if I made other people believe that I am something that in reality I am not.
I am sitting in my studio, from 9 am till 6 pm drawing 60 drawings a day. At 10:30 am an electrician arrives, puts his high ladder up, fusses over the fixtures and asks where I want the next electric outlet. He has a real job, while I have a toy-job, sitting and drawing as if it mattered, as if anyone will want to see my finished film, as if the film would change anything.
Putting up electrics matters. EVERYBODY needs electricity. Who needs an animated film about depression? But here he is, the electrician – real person with real job, he turns around, looks at me – the fraud and asks:
– Do you want 220 or 110 here?
His look makes me uncomfortable. Five more seconds and he’ll see that there is nothing behind my facade.
– Do you want an apple?- I counter-ask. I offer an apple, a material thing that could distract the electrician from finding me immaterial, irrelevant.
Quite often depression announces itself by dread. You are walking happily on a sunny street on your way to see your beloved friends when all of sudden you are hit by a feeling that something dreadful is about to happen.
– What? To whom?- you ask in panic, trying to nail down this nagging but fleeting intuition, the dread.
The problem is, you used to have a pretty good intuition at age 16.
– I’ll get a letter from my uncle today, – you tell your family at breakfast table. Tah-Dah! – by Noon a letter from the uncle arrives with a $5 note included.
– The cat will not come back, – you tell your family at dinner table. The gray stripped cat that drools over your sweater when it falls asleep on your chest does not indeed come back that night. In the morning a neighbor points at a pile of gray stripped fur in the middle of the road further down the street. It was run over by a car at night.
That’s when your intuition gets screwed up.
– Don’t go duck hunting this weekend, – you plead with your Dad.- I have a bad feeling about this.
Dad shrugs his shoulders and goes hunting anyway.
He comes back with three dead ducks.
– Don’t drive that car today, – you tell your sister. – I have a bad vibe about the car today.
Sister laughs at you and gets into the car to return with baskets of red apples she got at her best friend’s orchard.
– Mom, stay awake tonight, don’t fall asleep, – you nag your very tired Mother. – I have an intuition you might not wake up.
To humor you, mother doesn’t go to bed, but falls asleep fully clothed on a broken sofa in the kitchen. You spend the night listening to her breathing. Something terrible can happen any moment, who not now?
Mother wakes up in the morning with terrible back pain and gives up humoring you for good.
Why?! Why this dread? Why this pain? Why feeling like a fraud?
– It is all chemistry, – says my Imaginary Psychiatrist whom I quite often have conversations with. That’s the only psychiatrist I can afford. – You body’s chemistry is off again.
She cracks her knuckles and makes a face.
– I can prescribe you some pills, – she suggests.
– Imaginary subscription? – I ask to remind her about her true position in the world.
– Ah, of course… – she catches her mistake and laughs. – Well, then do without the pills. Your thoughts affect your body’s chemestry, so after a brief thinking of killing yourself think of something else, for example that you can always kill yourself tomorrow.
I like that she never objects to my suicidal thoughts. She lets me have them thus making them less appealing.
My Imaginary Psychiatrist had several incarnations. When I was 22 it was an old, patient man. When I got older, the man got a little younger, but still a wise man with a stubble.
Now it is a middle age woman with a streak of unexpected silliness in her.
I wonder at what stage my Imaginary Psychiatrist will be a 5 year old girl?
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