Depression for Beginners

Tuesday, February 1, 2011 | 0 Comment(s)

I write to you on the eve of the death of one of my two magazine subscriptions.  Sports Illustrated made the cut, but (not so sadly) Newsweek is about to bite the dust.  And its that that its necessary because i've been reading it forever.  And while that is a bit of hyperbole, for me, its not that great.  An embarrassingly short time ago i went back to the house i grew up in and took all of my stuff off the walls (you can search the archives for some juicy morsels from my walls).  On one wall were two "My Turn" articles from what was either the late 80's or, more likely, the early 90's.  "My Turn" has always been my favorite page of the magazine.  This particular article features a story by what we would call "normal everyday people."  But these are their not everyday stories.  It was, in my literary opinion, the closest thing we've had to simply passing down life lessons.  I found the pieces regularly moving because they touched those secret voices inside us that experience pure joy, loss, love, respect, sadness, and humor. 

In the latest restructuring of the magazine they did away with My Turn.  Well, they didn't do away with it, but they gave it to essayist whose names we already know.  Politicians, humanitarians, leaders.  And while i have no problem with these figures, per say, they have their own voices.  My Turn gave a voice to one of the many millions who have heartbreaking stories of greatness and no possible way of sharing it with the masses. 

And so, i will not renew my subscription.  A few fun political cartoons is not a good enough reason to renew a subscription.  For the record, it wasn't the internet or Kindle or any technically related instrument that influenced this decision.  Newsweek, you have no one to blame but yourself.

In honor of this occasion, i am going to share my own "My Turn."  I wrote this piece a few years ago (ish? I really have no idea) and, in my endless effort to try everything, i even submitted it to the magazine.  No response.  Their loss is your gain. 


It is my opinion that there is a small but potentially growing subsection of the population that knows what it means to truly cry for no reason consistently.  I’m not talking about finding yourself bawling as the people on the television build a new home for a family of eight cancer victims either.  I’m talking about being in the middle of a spider-man comic, or something equally inane, and feeling the tears welling up, pinching at your nasal passageway, before releasing in a deluge only precipitated by one’s understanding that they still are.

I, being one of these people, was recently confronted with the situation of being found in the midst of one such optical evacuation by a close friend.  “What’s wrong” seemed the obvious question, and it was posed to me.  I threw out something about a conflict with a co-worker.  This friend, as I noted being a “good” one, replied, “But what’s really the matter.”  It was a fair and appropriate response.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have the answer. I told him, “I don’t know.  I’m crying for no reason.  Really, I’m fine.  I just do this sometimes.”  And I’m pretty sure I was being honest.  Perhaps I should have said something more in this vain, “I’m crying because I think the world is sad and is trying to let me know that.  I’m crying because of the report that another species became extinct and our heroes are athletes and actors.  I’m crying because I’ve been convinced that how fast I get my Ph.D. determines my worth and that when I’m not doing something to progress forward I am losing ground.  I’m crying because somewhere along the line of accomplishments and successes, I lost the ability to successfully accomplish relaxing.  And in ALL honesty, I can’t remember where I left it.  I’m crying because support systems are ever changing and priorities send those you love globetrotting so often I’ve had to learn geography.”

“I’m crying because I know so many kinds of love.  I’m crying because I know what it means to care about a friend, lover, parent, brother, and stranger more than myself . . . if only for small periods of time.  I’m crying because I’m pretty sure someone put a quarter in my meter so I wouldn’t get a ticket.  I’m crying for the girl who I just met giving me a totally platonic hug at the end of the night before going off into the night with my friend.  I’m crying because of the report that we just saved another endangered species and hybrid cars are increasing in popularity.  I’m crying for those moments when I feel safe or the world seems savable.”

And this is not a comprehensive list.  This is a ten-minute version of a list that I think about constantly.  A list that complies items over the hours of everyday which grows in me like an internal emotional Tetris, stacking up and up and up until there are no more rows I can complete and there is no recourse but to bleed tears from the top of my stack.  And for years now I thought I was the only one who downloaded this tumultuous game. 

But I’m not.  There are a bunch of us.  And I’m not telling you this because I’m proud to finally be part of something underground, or because I feel in anyway morally or emotionally superior, but because I’m sure there is at least someone out there whose playing their own internal game, whether its Tetris or Sudoku or depression, and they’re feeling helplessly unique.  But they’re not.

Not coincidentally, I have also recently begun experimenting with anti-anxiety/anti-depressives.  Not experimenting with them in the “borrowing my friends pills” sense, but in the medically prescribed sense.  I still think of it as experimenting though because of the fear that these little pills might irreversibly invert something that I believe is inarguably part of my uniqueness.  So I forge forward cautiously but optimistically.  And I’m convinced that there is a chemical component.  But I’m not depressed, and I don’t feel the need to be cured, so there has to be something more.  The pills have suppressed the need to cry, mercifully I might add, but the reasons remain, thankfully. 

In all of this I still remain unconvinced that the items I pore over are a chemical challenge to be stamped out.  Those items, quite to the contrary, I believe are the very “parts of my uniqueness” that I am so afraid will be eradicated.  It’s the pouring that’s my problem.  Like anything, moderation is the key.  And if these drugs can provide me with a clue as to where I lost my relaxation, where the desperately needed “off”-switch to my psyche is, then I have to admit, I’m all for it.

I’ve given up having all the answers.  And I can’t tell you whether these “no reason tears” are good or bad.  Most likely they don’t fall from my eyes onto any black and white scale of right and wrong.  All I can say is that these tears flow from many of us. Probably from those you would categorize as “least likely to cry alone for no reason”.  And if reading this convinces you that others share some of those feelings you’ve been hiding in embarrassment, well then that’s an item that I will happily add to my list.

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