I really needed today to be a good day.
Trash and recycling pickup in my neighborhood is done on Fridays. They’re two separate pickups, trash in the very early morning and recycling “whenever,” which lately has been in the evenings. For practical purposes this means we all put our bins out by the curb on Thursday nights.
I don’t know if I can articulate what a massive ordeal it is for me just to put my trash out. My depression makes even the most mundane tasks into herculean labors:
- Brushing my hair
- Shaving my legs
- Brushing and flossing my teeth
- Picking up something that I just dropped on the floor
- Washing my clothes and bedsheets
- Heating a can of soup
- Doing dishes
All of the above and more are calmly shuffled into the “why bother?” column whenever my brain decides to fight me like a foreign invader in my own body. Some bouts are worse than others; some periods of wallowing last a weekend and some drag on for months at a time. As of this writing, I’ve been “down” for almost half a year with fits and spurts of healthy days. A week or two here and there of productivity before pitching back down into the valleys.
But I really needed today to be a good day, so last night I forced myself to wade out of the muck and get the trash and recycling together. I hadn’t taken it out for more than a month. (Sidebar: Lest you’re tempted to call Hoarders on me, I despise bugs. I don’t leave food waste sitting around the house. Leftovers get put away and things like banana peels and other bug-attractors go in the bin outside.) Because I live alone, there isn’t that much garbage accumulating. But it does pile up, especially in the form of soda bottles, which I’m actually very conscientious about recycling in spite of all my many other failings thank you very much. I got it all sorted and out by the road around 10:00 PM or so.
I wanted to throw myself a party.
It was an accomplishment to take the trash out of the house in which I live. A fifty-foot walk from my front door to the street. That’s how broken my normal is.
Having achieved this mind-blowing success, I nevertheless had trouble resting when I went to bed. I slept in until almost noon and, still riding on the waves of last night’s victory, took steps to make today a good day.
First, I took a double dose of my antidepressant, WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER DO SO PLEASE DON’T SUE ME BECAUSE YOU SHOULD NEVER. I’d actually been off my pills for a few weeks because see above re: My brain waging counterinsurgency. When I play with fire in this fashion, I sometimes jump-start getting back onto them with an extra pill, WHICH YOU SHOULD NEVER DO, just to get what my faulty logic circuits call a “head start.” It’s not safe, WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD NOT DO IT. But I have found it somewhat effective for me during hard times.
My next step in attempting to make today a good day was to call in a refill of said pills at Walmart. I made a short shopping list for groceries to pick up while I’d be out there. At the same time, I began the day-long process of imbibing just enough caffeine to stave off the inevitable withdrawal headaches, which are extraordinarily painful and are the main reason I have so very many soda bottles to recycle every week. Coke Zero is my nectar of choice, insert obligatory “this is not a paid endorsement and I am not an influencer” statement here.
Finally, I washed a few dishes that had been sitting in the sink in anticipation of hopefully cooking something tasty for dinner. I toasted a couple of slightly-past-freshness bagels for lunch because I hate wasting food. They filled me up a lot more than I was expecting, and since I’ve been fighting off a cold or flu or I don’t know what upper respiratory crap for the past couple of weeks, I decided to lie down for a while to digest and chill.
Unfortunately, my brain had other plans.
For a long time I’ve pictured my cerebrum as that last Japanese World War II soldier, or some guerrilla fighter in the Cambodian jungle: a ragtag warrior believing he’s the lone holdout of some lost-cause jihad against me ever achieving real mental stability. Its various and sundry lobes and cortices leave snares, caltrops, grenades, and oubliettes to deliberately trap me in my past and keep me from my own well-being. My brain hates me, you guys, but it doesn’t know any better. Its private little war against me is just a symptom of disease, like a fever when the body tries to fight off infection.
Today, when I lay in bed with the intention of vegging out in front of a Criminal Minds marathon on Netflix, my brain decided this would be a good time to go all Tokyo Rose on me with a propaganda campaign. I was bombarded for at least two hours with memories of recent failures and disappointments, coupled with leaflet drops about how the same things keep happening in my life and the common denominator is me, which means everything is my fault and I’m never going to break the cycle and by the way nobody wants to spend time with me anymore because I always alienate everyone in my life who cares about me, and so on.
Fighting off this hail of internal harassment takes more energy than I usually have when the depression is going strong, so today I pretty much just curled up and took the abuse. I didn’t shower or groom myself all day, and I was so immobilized by self-loathing that I never went to Walmart for groceries and my refill. Eventually I got back up and wasted the rest of the afternoon lolling around on the Internet.
By chance, just now, I was looking at recent text messages on my phone, punishing myself by recalling the breakdown of my relationship with my former employer as well as others. But there was also a message from earlier in the week from one of my Christian friends, who occasionally sends me spontaneous Bible verses to encourage me here and there. I always thank her and had done so this time, but hadn’t paid too much attention to the verses, so I looked them up again today:
Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165 KJV)
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27 KJV)
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33 KJV)
In the original Hebrew of Psalm 119, “nothing shall offend them” has a more accurate sense of “they shall have no stumbling block.”
When I looked up John 14, I was reminded that the whole chapter consists of Jesus encouraging his disciples. He told them repeatedly that even though he would be leaving soon, to not let their hearts be troubled, that he would come again, and also that another Comforter (the Holy Spirit) would come. Remember to keep his commandments, and his strength will remain with us.
John 16 gets a little darker, with Jesus warning of tribulations to come, but he still firmly encourages us to remember him, to stand firm, for “your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” He reassures us over and over again that even though we’ll struggle in this world, he has triumphed.
At the end of the day, it’s a good day. Suck it, brain.