L: Sharon, and you can ask her on your own time. Have you heard of Dr. Patrick Morrow? His office is in Brooklyn, so it’s a bit of a trip, but I think he could be a really good fit for you. He’s written some interesting articles on depression. Impressive theorist. I read some of his work while researching for my book.
M: You wanna know why I couldn’t get better? It wasn’t Dr. Roy’s fault, exactly. He just had this finger growing off his thumb. Like another tiny thumb stuck right on the knuckle. I can’t believe he hasn’t cut it off already. He’s a fucking doctor, he could afford it. God, it was just hanging there, unable to move unless it got flicked around by another finger, or he hits it on the table or something.
M: Kinda, yeah. I spent the entire session trying not to stare at this weird little finger. I was trying to look at the guy in the eyes instead of staring at his hands, but then if I stared in his eyes too long, I felt like he was gonna know I was consciously trying not to look at his hands. Plus, the whole time I’m looking this guy in the eyes, I’m still thinking about the stupid little finger. It’s like when someone tells you not to think about zebras, zebras are the only fucking thing you can think about for the next ten minutes. And while I’m trying to distract myself from staring at his finger, the guy’s still asking me questions, and fucking folding his hands so the thumb is front and center. Of course I can’t hear any of his questions because I have to concentrate, so I had to keep asking him to repeat himself after, like, every sentence, and the poor guy just had to know I was distracted and had to think it was because of his finger.
M: A lot of therapists out there bullshit patients like me and make their money by selling empathy. They’ll say shit like ‘we all feel depressed at times, it’s natural.’ They think I’m some 14-year-old girl on the rag, letting my feelings get out of control. They talk about depression like it’s a hole you can climb out of, like it’s a place you can get away from. Buy a ticket and take the bus out of Depressionville. I swear to God, I had a therapist tell me once that my depression was like being in the deep end of a pool and if I wasn’t strong enough to pull myself out just using the wall, I could think of therapy as the stairs and handlebars along the side. I could get out whenever I was ready, he said.
M: Yeah. It’s a normal emotion most people get over in two to five weeks. But then there are those of us that don’t just get over it, mostly because there’s nothing to get over. We aren’t depressed about something. We’re simply depressed. No cause. No rhyme, no reason. They think of depression as an extended sadness, cause-and-effect. It’s not the effect of anything, except our fucked-up brains.
L: No, it’s just—I went in to urgent care for stomach pains last month. The doctor, he was just a kid really, barely felt my abdomen before telling me it was simply trouble with bowel movements. I keep thinking, if that boy had just taken a x-ray, would he have seen the tumor earlier? Would it have gotten to stage four? Would I still die this year?
L: I starting vomiting and couldn’t stop. My stomach was cramping because it was running out of anything to send up. My wife and I took three different cabs to the hospital because the drivers kept kicking us out. I had bags to catch the vomit and all, but the cabbies could only stand the retching so long.
M: Or, hear me out on this, we could just pretend this whole conversation never happened. Pretend you’re not retiring; pretend you’ve got irritable bowel instead of pancreatic cancer. We’ll let my parents think I’m coming to your office every Monday and Thursday, and in return, they’ll keep sending you those fat monthly checks.
M: I mean, there is absolutely nothing I say aloud here in the sessions, delightful as they have been, Doc, that I don’t already know. I’m not discovering new things about myself. You aren’t telling me truths about the universes and the importance of life that are changing my perspective on the world. So what good is my coming here?
M: Very funny, Doc, but no. You’ll never really understand. It’s not a pool. Pills and therapy and weed and alcohol aren’t stairs getting you out of the dark place. You can’t get out, because the pool’s not your depression, it’s you. You’re every fucking drop of water filling that pool. You’re what the doctor wants you to get out of. It’s not like depression is a part of your mind. It’s your whole fucking psyche. It’s like, like, the depression mates with your mind, with who you used to be, gives birth to a new hybrid you, and you can never go back. You look in the mirror, you don’t see yourself in the reflection anymore. You try to remember what you used to think about, how you used to act around your friends, what you used to be like and you got nothing.
M: Oh no. There’s still a thing in the mirror. It’s just a crusty old shell, a suit the depression has taken on. And all you think about now is trying to go back to the way things used to be. And the worst part is, nothing’s caused this but you. Your cat’s still alive, your girlfriend’s hot as ever and pleasing you nightly, you’re doing fine at work, at least at first. So when the therapist asks what ‘caused’ the depression, it’s just as bad as calling it a fucking pool.
M: Yeah, of course. Don’t get me wrong—the pills help. It’s no candle to light up the dark, but it is comforting. Like a little dose of weed for your morning. Wake and bake and go to work and laugh to yourself about the way no one notices there’s something off about you. The pills help me act like normal, even if the depression’s still there.
M: I’ve tried enough medicine, believe me. Prozac gave me shakes. Citalopram caused the worst headaches. Luvox gave me nosebleeds, like my brain was trying to escape through my nasal cavities. Paxil was what I was on those three months when I kept trying to kill myself. Four times, actually, although my chart only lists two. Zoloft made me puke constantly and Viibryd doesn’t come in a high enough dosage to help. I love my Lexapro, Doc. Only slight insomnia.