hey, maybe that’s too harsh.

I catch myself before it’s too late. It’s probably a talent. I catch myself thinking, “stupid, stupid, stupid” because I forgot to do that one thing I said I would do. Mid self deprecating thought I stop and go, “hey, maybe that’s too harsh.”

I find myself doing this all too often, and it usually is a sign that I’m falling into a pit of depression yet again. If I catch myself soon enough, I can manage to escape that deep, dark pit of emotional turmoil that is a depressive episode and continue on as a normal human. Sometimes, more often than I’d like to admit, I don’t realize it until I’m a month deep, surrounded by isolation and self-destructive tendencies.

I find myself laying on my floor at 1 am, lights off, listening to a playlist of mopey songs singing about how terrible everything in their lives are. It’s usually in a moment like this that I come to the realization of, “oh, right. I’m depressed again.”

I’ve been down so many times, I know how to deal with it. When you’ve been depressed for nearly a decade, coming out of a depressive episode becomes a regular practice. Everyone’s brain works differently, but for me that’s usually taking a day or two for myself. I’ll do whatever it is I want to do that day and not feel guilty for it. Because once you’re that deep in it, you should not feel guilty for taking a day to just watch your favorite feel-good show on Netflix or sit outside with a cup of tea and watch the wind blow through the trees.

Coming out of it isn’t always a pretty sight, either. It takes time, just like it took time to fall into it. I’ll catch myself along the way isolating or overreacting and I just take a step back and rewire my brain into Positivity Mode again.

invincible

There’s something beautiful about a big open field; I used to dream about them. The endless green grass, wild flowers growing arbitrarily, wandering around them aimlessly. It’s a kind of calm bliss only achievable in a big open field, unaccompanied on a sunlit day. Maybe it’s something to do with how I spent my childhood, often around fields of lush grass and the soft sound of people just out of sight. Maybe that’s why I have such an affinity for them, they bring back fond memories from a time I only vaguely remember.

A gentle breeze passes, I feel sempiternal, unbreakable, invincible. Laying in the grass, I listen to the birds sing, the faint sounds of cars and people, just far enough away to not be bothersome, but still close enough so I don’t feel alone. I’m at peace, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

Empty

“What happens now?”

“You can go.”

Where was I supposed to go? We were sitting in his car, in a parking lot miles from my house. I didn’t move. I couldn’t remember how to. I wasn’t sure I had control over my body anymore.

He shifted into drive and brought me home. The drive was just a few miles, but it felt cross-country. We sat in silence the whole way. The radio had been playing quietly, but he shut it off without saying a word.

“Ok.” He said softly, barely audible.

I opened my mouth to speak, but found no words. Nodding, I left.

Summer Nostalgia

I live by the beach, on the little peninsula of eastern Massachusetts known as Cape Cod. I have mixed feelings about living here; it’s expensive, summers are hectic and infested with tourists, winters are slow and dull. I’m not a huge fan of the beach, either, but the other night I was driving home from work, windows down since it’s finally warm enough for that, and I smelled the salt water marsh. It brought back a flood of memories and an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia.

I’ve been dreaming about moving off cape for years now; it’s not exactly plausible, but it’s a dream of mine. But when I smelled the salt water, a part of me hesitated. I vividly remembered sitting on a towel on the crowded beach as a child. I remembered playing in the hot sand, picking up handfuls of it and letting it soothingly, slowly trickle off my hands and back onto the beach. I remembered the smell of the ocean, the salty air, taking that first step on the beach in my flip flops. The sand tough to walk on, so I quickly slip my shoes off and feel the hot sand on my bare feet, my brother and I running to an open spot, perfect for us to put our blankets down on.

I reminisced on the hot beating summer sun, soothed only by the winds that come and go. Laying out in the sun until we were sweating, bored, and needed to cool down in the ocean. Taking that first dip in the water, finally cool. Crouching down in the knee-deep water so as to submerge ourselves in the water as soon as possible, holding our heads just above the water as we crawl deeper into the ocean. Finally, we can stand comfortably in shoulder-deep water, laughing and splashing each other.

We’d plug our noses and dip our heads under the water for as long as we can, holding a contest for who can stay under longer. My brother shows me how he can do a flip under the water, and I show him I can do a handstand. Our mom tells us to be careful. We laugh and play for a while, until our hands get wrinkly and our stomachs are rumbling for lunch.

Lost in daydreams of my childhood, I came back to real life and realized I had already driven all the way home. I shook my head at the fact that one smell can bring back memories I haven’t thought about in years. Sure, I still want to move off cape, and I think more seriously about it every day, but I’d be lying if I said I won’t miss it. I’ve lived here my whole life, my entire childhood was spent on the beach, baseball fields, the bike path, and my own backyard. When I leave, I’ll be leaving all these memories. Though I don’t have set in stone plans to move any time soon, I’ve been extra nostalgic lately as I drive down the streets I know by heart, worrying someday I might forget them.

Someday, I’ll be coming back to visit my parents, after living somewhere else for years, and I might need directions to go to the grocery store that I currently go to on a weekly basis. I might not remember the name of the street the baseball fields I used to spend summers at. I might be reminiscing with a friend on our childhoods and I won’t be able to remember the name of that park we had so many picnics at, the one that was a dog park for a week a few years ago. We brought our dog Lily there and she made so many friends that week. What if I forget that even happened?

I get that it’s a part of moving on, growing up, I know I’ll make more memories wherever I move, and I’ll know those streets like I know these ones, I just can’t help but feel nostalgic. All these memories made me into the person I am today, part of me worries I’ll lose the childlike wonder I still have if I move away and forget my past.

The Grand Canyon (Part 2)

Our friend came out to us last night,

in an emotional speech surrounded by loved ones.

We were still on the road,

now in Nebraska.

She FaceTimed us and told us she was trans.

She had her friends over,

the moment felt right.

I wished I could’ve hugged her.

You and I talked about gender and sexuality for a while

well after the call ended.

I learned you once contemplated not being cis.

I did too, back in high school.

I told you I loved that we were still learning about each other.

You smiled and agreed.

We were on the road,

on a street we’d never seen,

in a car you only bought a month ago,

but I couldn’t have felt more at home.

Grand Canyon (Part 1) a road trip we’d never forget

I didn’t eat breakfast.

You tell me, climbing into my car.

Don’t worry,

I respond,

We can stop at Dunkin’.

You smile.

It’s still early,

The sun hasn’t yet risen.

We’re early, too,

We could stop at the beach,

And watch the sunrise.

First, you need breakfast.

I pull into the drive-thru,

I order you a sandwich,

You don’t have to tell me what you want,

I know what you always get.

I order us both coffees, too.

We’re going to need it today.

 

We’ve got a long day ahead of us,

First you have the dentist,

Then I have therapy.

Then, we’re driving across the country.

We’ve saved money,

Calculated the hours it’ll take-

37, with no traffic.

We packed our bags,

Got the time off work,

Found a place to stay.

We’re staying with my friend,

He lives a half hour from the Grand Canyon,

And we’ve always wanted to visit.

He moved to Arizona two years ago,

We’ve hardly seen him since,

Never to visit him,

He’s only come back up to the northeast.

He introduced us to each other,

So we owe him this trip.

 

I’ve known him since high school,

You two met through mutual friends.

I was surprised we had never met,

We frequented a lot of the same places.

When he introduced me to you,

I knew right then.

 

We met a week before our friend moved away.

For a while that was all we talked about.

That grew into how we met our friend,

Which grew into discussions of high school and college,

Which turned into stories of high school and college,

Which turned into our hobbies,

Of which we had many in common,

Which turned into me showing you my favorite show,

Then you showed me yours,

And two years later,

We’re on a road trip to celebrate our anniversary.

 

I paid for our breakfast,

And drove us to the beach.

I made sure to go to one that faces the sunrise.

I’ve made that mistake before.

We ate our breakfast

while our favorite songs played through the speakers.

I was reminded of past dates,

Sitting in this exact spot,

Eating take-out and laughing at each other’s jokes.

I smiled blissfully at the thought,

knowing fully there were more of those moments to come.

Emma Carter (Part 2) Surviving is an uphill battle

Missed part one? Check it out here!

A week had passed since I saw that Tumblr post. I saw my therapist today. I told her everything that had changed in the last few months. I cried, she listened, then offered advice. I took it. She said to do little things that are productive. I don’t need to get a job, but I can start looking. I don’t need to do the dishes, I can just move them to the sink. I don’t need to hang out with my friends, just text them good morning. If I feel like doing more, I can, but I won’t push myself. It made sense, and I was mad I hadn’t thought of it before. 

I came home and texted my roommate Penny “morning.” Collapsing onto the couch, I sighed. My stomach rumbled, I hadn’t realized it was already noon. I had breakfast earlier, just a bowl of cereal. Food had always been a big stress reliever for me before this big wave of depression, so I opened up my recipe app and began scrolling. I saved a few recipes I thought sounded good and looked for the ingredients. My other roommate stumbled out of his room. I nodded to him, pulling out ingredients from the fridge.

“You’re cooking?” Richie asked, surprised. Normally, I would have been angry he asked. I would have bitterly spat something rude back at him. He would’ve sighed and left me alone.

I wasn’t mad, though. He had good reason to be surprised. I hadn’t cooked in months. The most I had was a peanut butter and pickle sandwich. That was my depression meal.

“I am.” I nodded back to him.

“What are you making?” He asked politely, trying not to anger me.

“Avocado and chicken salad. Where did you guys hide the knives?” I asked, almost laughing at how absurd of a question it was. They hid the knives from me in fear of me hurting myself with them. I understood why, but I hadn’t hurt myself in a year. I was over that. I felt silly to be asking him, and it was even sillier for him to hesitate to answer. I could tell he wanted to just use it himself. “Richie, I haven’t cut in a year.” I assured him.

“I know, Emma, I know. I’m proud of you. I’m just worried because you’ve lied to us before and I don’t want something to happen to you.” Has Richie always been this nice to me? I remember furiously hating him because of how rude he was. Was I seeing him differently now? 

“If you want to do it, you can. I just have to cut the avocado and chicken.”

“What changed, Emma?” Richie asked me.

“What do you mean?”

“You put dishes in the sink last week and actually left the house today, after you hadn’t left your room in almost two weeks. What changed?”

“I don’t know. I guess I realized I should get help. I kept falling into a pit of depression waiting for me to be at my absolute worst when I didn’t need to. I thought it wouldn’t mean as much to come back from a depression wave if I hadn’t destroyed my life beforehand. But I realized I don’t need to be at my worst to get better. It is still progress if I feel better in some way.”

“You don’t think you were at rock bottom?” He asked delicately.

“No, do you? All I was doing was sitting around all day, it’s not like I was actively destroying my life. You guys didn’t kick me out.”

“That’s true, you make good points. We wouldn’t kick you out, anyway, Emma. You’re our friend, no matter how depressed. We love you.” Richie said. I smiled genuinely, feeling valid. 

“You’re a good friend, Richie. So is Penny.” My phone vibrated, it was Penny responding to my text. 

“Hey, sunshine!” Penny’s text read. I was a little bitter about her overly-positive tone. I didn’t respond right away. Anger still stewed in my chest, even if I was beginning to feel better. This was going to be a long process. It terrified me to think how much work I still needed to do to feel better. 

I knew what I needed to do. I had to train my brain not to think so negatively. That could take a while. It was going to be exhausting, I could already tell. I was smarter than my depression, though. I wanted to get better, my depression didn’t. It was just an evil parasite living inside me, feeding me lies about how I feel and how I should react to situations. I was a good person, I wasn’t my depression. I knew that much. 

Derek Westerly (Part 1)

I’ve never been one to care about mundane tasks. I always just hired someone for that. Cleaning my house? Hire a maid. Mowing the lawn? The neighbor’s kid could use an extra $20. I bought two cars in one year just because I wanted to. I was living my best life. But then my job went under. It all happened so quick; one minute we were on top of the world, the next we were bankrupt. 

I suppose I can blame it on the fact that we were a group of stupid 20-somethings who hadn’t run a business before, but no one could be prepared for what we went through. Everything was going so well, then there was the fire. Our whole building went up in flames in the night. Luckily, no one was hurt, but we never recovered. We got insurance money, and we thought for a while it was a blessing in disguise because we found this greatnew building in what seemed like a perfect location. There wasn’t a store like it for miles, and we quickly found out there was a reason for that: no one wanted it.

I try not to dwell on the past, but if I had been there the night of the fire… if I made sure the stove was off… if I moved the paper towels a foot to the left….There had to have been a reason for it. I’ve been racking my brain for a reason but come up empty every time. It’s taking a toll on my mental health. 

I’ve been applying for jobs elsewhere, but no one wants to hire some washed up, used-to-be rich kid whose whole business went under because of a bad location. My wife is still with me, bless her. I can tell it’s getting to her, too. She’s been picking up extra shifts at the hospital. I’m always home alone with the dogs, at least they’re happy. 

My wife tells me to look on the bright side, she’s always so positive. I love her for it, but honey, what could possibly come from this? It’s almost been two months and I haven’t had a single paycheck. I’m done with dead-end jobs, too, I need at least management. I can’t afford to live off minimum wage. The weather is starting to get better. The sun stays out later and it’s been warm enough for just a light jacket. That helps, at least a little. I’ve been taking the two pups for walks daily. Some days, if I’m feeling extra down, we’ll go for two. Or one long one. 

I’ve gotten friendly with the neighbors. We started just waving at each other when I passed them on my walks, but lately I’ve been stopping to chat. Last week, I had a cup of coffee with this nice elderly lady who lives at the end of the street. She has a tiny Chihuahua. He sat on my lap while we chatted. My two chunky, yellow Labrador Retrievers were unsettled at first, but they were given treats and they were satisfied.

She was very sweet. Her name is Nancy and her husband died a year ago, leaving her with a fortune, but she chose to live comfortably in the house they spent most of their lives in. She gave a lot of money away to charities and local businesses, but also invested a lot for herself. I asked her for advice. It wasn’t like me to talk to strangers so openly, but I hadn’t talked to another person besides my wife in two months and I was missing having friendships. All my coworkers from my old job moved back home with their parents, so I was left with nearly no one. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife more than anything, I just was used to having platonic friends, too. 

Nancy told me to apply to every job I find, even if it’s less than what I want. She pointed out that I could probably move up in the career, I was a CEO after all. A CEO that failed, but a CEO nonetheless. Whenever I began talking down on myself, she stopped me. She made me say one good thing about what happened. 

At first, the only positive thing I could say was that the fire was warm. It melted the snow around us. I chuckled sourly. The insurance money was more than enough. If we did our research…. It was a learning experience. Her words, not mine. I agreed resentfully. There’s nowhere to go but up. That one I came up with. She smiled warmly, offering me another cup of coffee. I declined politely, I had to finish up this walk. We parted ways and I’ve stopped to chat with her for a few minutes every day since. Never that in depth, just her asking how the job hunt has gone and our dogs investigating each other. 

I did apply to a few places. Nothing major, just two sales jobs and a manager at the local coffee shop. The last thing I wanted was to work at a coffee shop in any sense, but I thought about what Nancy had said. It was better than no paycheck. 

One of the sales jobs called me in for an interview tomorrow morning. I planned on calling the coffee shop tomorrow after the interview. I didn’t want the coffee shop job, but I’d rather a manager than a sales person. 

I practiced the interview with my dogs. I smiled politely and shook their paws, chuckling slightly at the absurdity of it. I introduced myself and professionally went over my resumé. They tried to lick my face. 

“Sir, this is extremely unprofessional.” I laughed, patting their heads. I guess I could find joy in the little things, so I wasn’t totally hopeless. And now I have potential jobs in the works, even if the crushing weight of my past still hung over me. 

Nancy asked me last week if I wanted to start again with the business, but in a better location. I told her no, and I had thought about it a lot. It was in the past now, and even if I wanted to, all my partners moved away, I’d need a whole new crew. Not to mention, I lost all my money when we went under, I’d have to take out a loan and my credit has been decreasing rapidly. 

As depressed as I was, I’d never been one to dwell for too long. I pick myself back up after a grieving period and I get myself back out there. Yeah, I was bummed about the company dying, but it could’ve happened to anyone. We were young, just out of college, what else could you expect?

Maybe someday I’ll start a new business. I’ll figure out what the town is in need of and I’ll make some new friends who want to be involved, we’ll save up some money, and we’ll start over. This time, we’ll be thorough. We won’t be hasty for the sake of opening sooner. We had the money to hold us over a few months, we could’ve spent more time planning…. I digress. 

Emma Carter (Pt. 1)

My room hasn’t been clean in months. My head is a cloudy mess. My body isolated from society. I haven’t left my bed besides to binge eat in two weeks. I don’t remember the last time I showered. My friends gave up on me. I don’t blame them. Maybe I should get out of bed today. Or maybe today will be the day I finally disintegrate into this bed…. 

Mornings are all the same: alternating between sleeping and scrolling through the internet. I was having an exceptionally bad morning, seeing horrible news on my Twitter feed and angry people in the comments on Facebook. I’d seen everything on YouTube last night in one of my binge-watching late nights. Bored was an understatement. 

In the middle of another suicidal thought, I found a post on Tumblr I’d never seen before. It said, “you don’t need to hit rock bottom to get help” and it resonated with me. Maybe I had been subconsciously looking for a sign, maybe I was open to advice at that moment, or maybe that was just what I needed to hear. Either way, it helped me out of bed that day. 

I hadn’t done it in almost six months, but I texted my therapist for a new appointment. I made myself cereal. I had a whole glass of water. I took a screenshot of the post. I sat at my kitchen table, old newspapers and dirty glasses scattered. Making room for my cereal, I stacked a few glasses in a corner. I might move them to the sink after I eat. 

Eating is tough. Nothing really has a taste anymore unless I’m manic. Today, I could actually taste again. Granted, it was chocolate-y sugar cereal, but I was taking it as a win. There was still a weight on my shoulders, but it was lessened. At least for now.

I wanted to take small steps. I didn’t want to overwork myself with self-care. So, I put the dishes in the sink. All of them from the table. Then I took a nap on the couch. It was a depression nap, but at least I was out of my dark room. The sun shone from the window behind me, warming me up under the blanket. I smiled for the first time in a month. It felt good. 

“Maybe I’ll be okay eventually.” I whispered to myself before drifting off to sleep.

He lied comfortingly.

“I know how you feel.” He lied comfortingly.

“I’m not sure I believe you.” I said, awkwardly fiddling with my hands.

“I know, but you will. You just need time.” He said, and I stupidly believed him. His lies were reoccurring. Comfort grew in his lies. Our relationship crumbled, but I couldn’t bear to live without him. He lied and cheated, and I should know better. But I was too broken to fathom leaving. 

“What if it happens again? What will I do then?” I fought back a little.

“It won’t happen again.” He said. This time it wasn’t a lie because he was referring to me finding out. He’d be more careful next time. He would make sure to close all his tabs and delete his messages. We would live a happy and lie-infested life. 

Months would go on, years passed, and I hadn’t forgotten it. I had nightmares of the night I found out, that Instagram message notification, it’s innocent but brutal ding that defined who we were as a couple. Her message, I memorized. The screenshots she sent, I saw every time I closed my eyes. I told him I got over it, but I could never. I thought about it every time he smiled, every time my phone went off. When I got message requests, I thought, “This is it. Another one. The last straw. I’m finally done.” When it ended up being nothing, I was angry. I was angry that I didn’t have a reason to leave. I was angry that I wanted to. I was angry that it had been years and I still stayed. Why didn’t I leave? What was keeping me here?

I was scared to tell any of my friends about it in fear that they would tell me to leave him. I knew it was abusive, it wasn’t that easy. He was all I knew. We dated since high school, we’d been through everything together. If I left him, I’d be leaving those memories, too. And there weren’t just bad memories, we had a lot of good ones. Watching the football games, hanging out with his friends late at night in the summer. 

I knew it was bad. That wasn’t the problem. The problem was he had me convinced I would never be happy without him, that he was the best I would ever do. I finally left him three months ago, and I’ve never been happier. I’ve been hanging out with my friends again, I moved into my own little apartment. I deleted him from my phone, blocked him on social media, and I haven’t been prouder of myself. I’m still recovering, but I’m doing a lot better already.