I was re-reading old journals again, this time from when I was in grad school the first time, chronicling my first move to Chicago, my struggle to find a bookstore or coffee slinging job (I wound up in a brief stint at Starbucks, then pretty much lived of my loans for two years anyway.) It was typical suburban/semi-rural girl moves to big city, the wonder , the excitement, the ohmygod there so much to do and look at. The fall of 97’ I was at a certain height, despite being poor, despite writing still pretty bad poetry and getting endlessly rejected. In December of that year, before returning for my second quarter, at home at my parents, I wrote something about living my life exactly how I wanted to be living it, actually wrote down the sentence “I am excruciatingly happy. Knock on proverbial wood.” What followed in the next couple of months was the worst bout of depression I ever suffered.
Now granted, I know quite a few people around me who are chronically depressed, seriously medicated, some of them dangerously sad. It wasn’t quite like that. Ever to the point of harming myself or being this horrible long term crippling thing. And what’s worse is I’m not sure WHY it happened. Why I found myself sleeping until 5pm everyday, when winter had circled back around toward sundown, getting up and sitting in the dark and crying, pretty much every day for weeks. Wondering if there was, for some reason, something seriously wrong with me. Feeling hopeless, not even inclined to care if I got up at all, put on clothes, left the apartment. Even took a shower or took out the garbage. Part of it may have been a little bit of loneliness, as crash after being with my family the month before Christmas and then suddenly alone again. Part of it might have been a more serious case of my tendency toward winter blues. I was also questioning why I was in grad school and what I wanted to do afterwards. But those are all things I’ve dealt with many times without the badness, so I’m thinking it was some weird biochemical thing. I was still going to classes, but I wrote nothing during this time, not even in my journal, which doesn’t pick up again til the end of February, except for a brief impersonal note on a class project on Feb 3rd. It’s like this black hole into which everything collapsed. By the end of February, it was gone and I was my chatty self again in the journals, going on and on about coursework, writing again, talking things I was reading, seeing, working on.
Not to say there haven’t been slight reoccurances of that same feeling, but usually there’s a REASON---unemployment, romantic trouble, health worries, 9/11. In these cases, it’s mild, just this frenzied feeling of spiraling out of control, being down most of the time, weird crying jags. Panic laced with sadness. Just periods that feel like this slight blackness creeping in at the edges. The rest of the time, I have down moods, but their usually broken by very good highs, sometimes in the course of a day (or hour), nothing long term. I keep a pretty even keel these days, thankfully.