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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Fiction #66: Lisa Foley

It’s Not Really Depression

It’s not really depression. It might be depression. Does depression come with panic? I mean, I should know, but I’m not sure about it this time. Depression usually makes you want to sleep. And drink. I’m doing the drinking part.

People will warn you about alcohol especially if you’re depressed. They should really be warning you about music. Pop songs especially. If you’re depressed, pop songs are enough to make you want to slit your wrists, get a knife out of the kitchen drawer and do some serious damage. Possibly just end it all. Because you’re not thinking clearly because you might be depressed. Don’t listen to pop music at this time, it won’t help you through this and it won’t help you sleep.

It’s hard to sleep through the night when you’re afraid of the dark. And when you’re not ten it’s really hard to explain to people that you can’t sleep through the night because you’re afraid of the dark. People who know you say ‘well, you’ve always been a little weird’. They don’t see that as a reasonable explanation for why you, an adult, fall asleep at work.

I don’t even toss and turn anymore. Now I think of sleeping as something I used to do. I’m so desperate I’ve started turning the lights out. And I’m not afraid of the dark these days. Now darkness is afraid of me. I think all that goes on when the world is asleep is afraid of unnatural occurrences and my ‘vigil’ is something to be afraid of. I can’t sleep at all now and I never doze off during the day. When I’m drinking and listening to pop music I wonder if I should try jumping off a building because maybe now I can fly for real (I do it all the time in my dreams) because my ability to go without sleep is not normal. It’s not anything that could save the world, but it’s Marvel-like in every other respect.

So I don’t think you could say its depression.

I just pulled the trigger one night. I was drinking and listening to pop music and I got this crazy idea into my head that I could live without him. I called him on his cell phone and said ‘this isn’t working anymore. I think we should just end it now’. And being the person he is, he said he understood.
I didn’t sleep that night – I passed out. When I woke up in the morning the world had shifted. It wasn’t the same place it was the day before. And that’s when whatever it is set in. I haven’t slept since and it’s been almost two weeks. I don’t fall asleep during boring work meetings, there is nothing that can put me to sleep now. I feel like a gargoyle or an angel or Batman looking over Gotham City. It’s not sadness keeping me awake, its panic. So you see what I mean – it’s not really depression.

Things changed. Life was going on in a beautiful, unexpected direction. It was all too perfect. I woke up in awe every day because I never imagined, never knew, life could be this good. You don’t know until you’ve experienced it. It’s love, but it’s more than that. It’s like that unconditional-throw-yourself-in-front-of-a-train kind of love you feel when you have kids – it’s not something you can know until you experience it. And then it changed. There was a child from someone else – not anyone he loved like he loved me – and the child showed up on his doorstep with a duffel bag and a tilted head. Who can resist the tilted head? And the duffel bag? I would have done the same thing but in a heartbeat it changed my life.

He said it wouldn’t change things. We talked about how to make this all a part of OUR life. But then a kid needs things. I know that, I have kids. But this kid needed things immediately and of course because he had never been around to provide them before he had to provide them all now. On demand.

I wasn’t depressed I didn’t drink or start listening to pop music. I understood. I was the good understanding girlfriend. For about three or four minutes. Maybe. And then one night, about four weeks in, the kid called him when he was me. He was with me on a scheduled ‘date’. The kid was spending the night at a friend’s house so we had what had become a rare whole night together.

And the kid called and needed to go home. There was a disagreement with the friend and he needed to be picked up right away.

‘Yes. Of course. Go. I understand.’

Are you fucking kidding me?

I started drinking. I put the radio on and fucking Rascal Flatts was singing What Hurts the Most and I knew they were talking to me. They were telling me it was over and I just needed to accept that and I picked up the phone and called him while he was still in the car driving to pick up the kid and when he answered I said ‘this isn’t working anymore. I think we should just end it now’.

The next day I woke up to a different world. I woke up to a world in which I no longer needed sleep.

Or food. I no longer needed food. See? Marvel-like reality going on in my life.

I woke up to a world where I no longer needed sleep or food.

I was drinking two bottles of wine a night, not sleeping, not eating and functioning just fine during the day, thank you. A body shouldn’t be able to do that.

So I wouldn’t call it depression.

It’s like I’m a shadow now, observing the event and seeing everything change. I’m living my real life but it can’t possibly be my real life so I feel like I’ve found myself on the outside looking in and that’s why I don’t need sleep or food. Close friends look past me now when his name comes up. They can’t look me in the eye, they don’t want to or can’t deal with whatever it is that’s going on. I don’t blame them.

They look sad and shake their heads and I start to feel warm, flushed. That feeling you get when you realize you’ve done something really really bad whether on purpose or by accident. That feeling you get when you wish you could set the clock back a few minutes or just stop time altogether and end the world now.

I wonder if he’s feeling the same way. I wonder if he’s thinking about that call – not mine, the one from the kid – and getting that warm feeling and thinking, wishing he had not said ‘I can be there in twenty minutes’ and left. I wonder if he’s having his own vigil thinking he will never see me again and wondering what he’s done.

I’m thinking no. In every relationship there is one person who does the apologizing and one person who never thinks they’ve done anything wrong. Even in the best relationships there’s always hierarchy and anyone who tells you different has never been in a relationship or is lying to themselves.

I wonder what music he’s listening to and what effect it’s having on him. I wonder if he’s listening to one of the CDs I made him. The first time I gave him a CD I said ‘you know what this means? It means we’re going steady now’ and he liked that because I’m pretty sure at one point I was the center of his universe. I wonder if he’s thinking about a knife in a drawer. Of course he’s not – he’s a guy.
I haven’t spoken to my kids since it happened. I’m clearly lacking the courage all Marvel characters have so maybe I shouldn’t try flying. They’ll ask about him, I know they will, and I’m not ready to tell them about the horrible mistake I’ve made. I’m afraid the tears will start to flow when I talk to my kids and so far none have and I want to keep it that way. The lack of tears makes me feel a bit invincible. Makes me feel like I can shut my feelings off and not be hurt. But I can’t put if off much longer. I’m a bit surprised they haven’t called me lately but then they have their own busy lives. But soon I’ll have to see them. I’ll have to look at them and be ready to see their disappointment because they liked him and they knew how happy he made me. I was never the single mom who had a series of bad boyfriends, I never had any until he came along and he was perfect and the timing was perfect and it was all perfect.

They’ll know something’s wrong as soon as they see me because I’m wearing jeans I haven’t been able to fit into in years. That’s another reason why it’s not really depression. When my mom died and I was paralyzed with grief there wasn’t enough chocolate in the world for me. My doctor said it was because there was some brain chemical I wasn’t producing because I was depressed and chocolate made a body produce it. Still, it seemed wrong to be stuffing my face with chocolate when I couldn’t even clean the house because most of the time I couldn’t stop crying and a lot of the time I didn’t know if I would be able to continue breathing. That kind of grief passes and eventually I stopped eating chocolate.

It doesn’t feel like this – whatever it is – will end.

So my kids will see me thin and pale because not surprisingly that’s what happens when you give up sleep and food – you look like crap, like something is definitely wrong with you. And they’ll know that I’ve made a terrible mistake. Not a first for me.

When I woke up the morning after I checked my phone to make sure I hadn’t done any drunk texting. I hadn’t but instead had done something to make sure I didn’t do any drunk texting. I had deleted him from my contacts and deleted all his text messages. I could look up his home number but I haven’t. I could. I still have a bunch of stuff at his house and I could call to say…to say what, I’m not sure. It’s not anything I need. Some shampoo, a toothbrush, a nightie and some make-up. Nothing I need to go get. To be honest, I check outside my back door every day to see if he’s dropped them off but he hasn’t. I thought he might because I’ve seen him hurt before and he doesn’t like reminders. He once had a beautiful piece of art given to him by a close friend and when he and his friend had a falling out the art when into the garbage. That’s probably where my stuff is.

I think my boss must know something’s up. She doesn’t normally display any kind of warmth but since it happened she hasn’t sent any work my way. My inbox is usually filled with requests from her with impossible deadlines, but not these days so I spend my time reading the stack of articles every analyst has beside their computer.

Maybe one of my friends has said something to her. They keep tiptoeing around me, not wanting to stop by my office or even look in. One day the admin assistant stopped my office and it looked like he was going to come in but he didn’t. He stood outside my office looking at the floor, looking around as if waiting for an invitation or permission or something. I waited for him to say something but he didn’t and eventually he walked away.

Tonight I have to do something. Maybe I’ll send him an email - I still have his email address. Maybe I’ll take a sleeping pill and see if by tomorrow the world seems right again. Maybe I’ll try flying.


Lisa Foley lives and works in Ottawa. She has been published in Storyteller, Pottersfield Portfolio, Front & Centre, The Loose Canon, and Pictures & Portraits.

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