As a mother, there is little option. You drag your depression everywhere. You can’t not show, and it’s not something to leave at home like a fish or cat. Your depression comes to the soccer games the karate match the bowling parties where your eyes well and other mothers squeeze your shoulder with that look of concern more like pity because how obvious. Your depression is a sidecar, a bum leg, a tumor to gawk at because it’s hard to gussy up the sadness though you sure try. You half-ass it. Now it pokes out of your clothes, humps grotesquely off your side in a cranial mass. Like the lab mouse that grew a human ear on its back. Mothers slip you names of surgeons, of dermatologists. Have you tried Chryo? Lipo? Accutane? As if you might suck it or freeze it or laser it like a moustache. Your daughter scores and you clap from the sidelines, but your depression gets in the way. It’s not so simple. Your depression is a part of you, this vital organ, the shared aortic valve of conjoined twins. You’ve read that story. You know how it ends.
When the days shrink and darkness spreads its greedy wing, your depression gets frisky. It cannot be contained. You try. You put it on a leash – like that classic Sesame Street song, Me and my Llama – and sure enough, the llama gets all the attention. Llama bats those eye lashes, woos the dentist. Next to your depression, no one even notices you. It’s all the therapist talks about. You do what you can, dress your depression in a jaunty cap, a watch plaid sweater (you’ve a matching set) and fur lined booties like the yippy dogs at the park. Everything is tied to the weather. You bind your depression with ace bandages so it doesn’t flop around on long runs. It leaves a sweat mark on your heart the size of Greenland. You try popping it like a ready zit, pus leaking down your chin. You wash it, dry it. Dab ointment, rub with Ben Gay, with CBD oil. Any fix is temporary. Like a ganglion cyst smashed by Bible, drained with subcutaneous needle, you extract viscous gunk the color of bad teeth. It keeps growing back. Matter is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes form. Hello, sadness. Everything is connected, after all. Maybe you’d be better marching out your depression like a ventriloquist dummy. Howdy doody. Have we met?
Look, it’s not all depression all the time. Sometimes it slows down, slacks off, grows lazy, not exactly dormant or nocturnal but more like a groundhog, hightailing it to a beach in summer, sunglasses and a cross-weave, it emulsifies in the sun so you feel lighter and tanner as you bike along the water leaving a soft vanishing line of chevron in the sand.
October is a month of mischief. Your depression binge eats, gets into the Mallomars, puts on 10 pounds. Your depression smokes too much weed. Your depression is drunk again. You try to shove it in the closet with the bags of snow melt and umbrellas and shoes. Like, don’t mind me. But your depression does not wear a windbreaker. The more you try to muffle it the more insistent it becomes, like a toddler in the junk aisle. Nobody puts your depression in the corner. There is no Spanx for depression. There are only candy wrappers falling loose from trees.
When the clocks change, forget it.
Your mother calls. How are you and your depression?
Your husband loosens his tie. What did you and your depression do all day?
A friend from college texts. Catch me up on you and your depression!
A group chat chimes in. You and your depression could use a girls’ night out.
At the Thanksgiving potluck you shovel succotash onto your paper plate where it sags, oily in the middle. Lima and corn, what a combo. It’s hard not to overhear. What happened? Once she had everything going for her. I don’t even think she’s working. Your depression swishes its satin cape, bares incisors: huh, huh.
Classroom parents try playing it cool. During the school play, as the children spin like sugar plums and your depression grunts like a neon ghoul gorging on room service, emitting noxious gas, parents grant a wide berth as they would a bad subway smell, pretend your depression isn’t strapped to you like a suicide bomb (very funny) like a squirming toddler in the Bjorn but no one is fooled. You fantasize about excising it like an abnormal mole a growth sprung with hairs a teratoma, lowering an Exact-o to the vein, plowing into oncoming traffic, we all have fantasies but where yours goes wrong is when it starts sputtering out loud.
Your depression has a mind of its own. Your depression is the life of the party. The class clown. The diva. The Gaga. The radio goo goo. All you can do is to make peace with it. You name your depression Delilah. Shake hands. If you’re an introvert, your depression is an extrovert. What a pair. Your depression understands you. It is your best friend. Your only friend. Buckle it in the front seat, drive it to carpool, to Avenue X, take it to dinner for the Daily Special. The special is trumpet mushrooms. They taste like shredded sponges. Feed it to your depression, add salt. On Sunday, cinch a scarf and hand your depression a gardening tool. Rake the lawn, bag leaves. Together you two conquer household chores. Laundry, beds. You scrape the globs of toothpaste with your thumb. Collect dirty glasses. Spray lemon, pine. There’s nothing you can’t do.
Good, Delilah. Like a puppy, your depression wakes you up at three a.m., whimpering to be held, to be taken out of the crate and carried to bed. It’s cold in winter. You coddle. You rock, you soothe. There are accidents. The minute you make it out the door, Delilah pukes or poos so you pull into the parking lot of a big box store for a clean-up, your windshield frosts, you wield the baby wipes, button up pudgy legs, a tailspin of starting over, thanks for nothing, Delilah.
There is a ratcheting up of demands.
Your depression needs a pedicure, has itchy feet. Everything itches your depression. It is high maintenance. Your depression is both kvetch and flirt, sopping the spotlight, a bolus of bread in a mussel broth bath absorbing the flavor of others, your depression – Delilah – can be a chameleon like that. Your depression is a hot dog, racing down the slopes, a ball hog, dribbling straight for the goal. Score! Parents whoop from the bleachers. Delilah! The crowd goes wild. For your depression.
Your depression sends you out for gum, Coke, Bugles. Your depression whispers shoplift into the heat of your neck, but you can’t keep secrets: you drive a Subaru. Your depression needs a blow-out, a chair massage in the salon basement lined with other mothers and their depression. Your wallet is empty but your depression doesn’t care. Your depression insists on the light off the door open your depression needs you to lie beside it before going to sleep. Your depression requests a lullaby, softly. It’s lonely in the dark, you know. Your depression practices retail therapy, shops without leaving the room, which is funny because you are the introvert, after all. Your depression hits click. Your depression has Amazon prime despite your protestations. This is symbiosis. Go to hell with yourself, your depression says. Mouth open, tongue lagging, your depression lacks dental hygiene. Forgoes showers. Forgets its homework. Fills your spam on Christian singles, spends hours scrolling. Delete, delete. Your depression plays the clarinet poorly but louder than anyone else in junior high band. Cover your ears and your depression dives out the window, slams the door, goes to the bar, climbs in a taxi; once again, your depression is rebelling from the back seat. Your depression sleeps it off, takes two. Rehydrates. Gets a pass. Gets a Fitbit. Gets a mood lamp to stare into like the eyes of God.
At some point, your depression finds another depressed person and strikes up a conversation online, but your depression has terrible judgment. Your depression just won’t quit. Like those 80s crank stunts on repeat: Your refrigerator is running. Jenny, I’ve got your number. There are creeps everywhere. If only you weren’t afraid. Here, we’re to think the phone makes us less alone. As if our greatest fears come from the outside and not in. Sad, how fake pizzas and extra anchovies no longer come to the door. That the best you can do? Shut the blinds. Everything is sad. The whole world is
Hush little baby
Your depression kisses your forehead, tucks you in with a prayer.
You don’t need to believe any of this for it to be true.
In the morning, your depression jangles pipes like steel pans, mainlines coffee. Already it’s buzzing, shit talking. Your depression spins a key ring of lovers. Remember the time it charmed that southern pastor, puffed you up in a rust taffeta miniskirt? Your depression talks a big game. Transgression is normal. Some even say: healthy. Who doesn’t want recognition? Your depression butters your toast. Your depression feasts on desire. Your depression squirts when it comes. You thought it was a myth, but your depression has news for you, Cosmo. Meantime, you lie around in a robe watching Mad Men for the zillionth time. It gets darker with each episode but otherwise time stays still. That’s the trick. In the window you sit cheating death fake-smoking cigarettes but your depression has other ideas. Your depression bullies the remote. Calls you no fun. Your depression never says sorry, your depression takes up space, spreads out on the couch, drapes itself in a sheet: like E.T., you can always see your depression’s feet. There’s no risk losing yourself. Your depression has a cold has a migraine has the shits again and what of it. The phone rings and rings. Your depression wants a box of pasta, so you wield the spoon. Sunlight leaps off metal. You don’t want to hurt your depression’s feelings. Honestly? Your depression is no snowflake. It runs laps around you. Clocks 10,000 steps. Goes ten rounds, easy. Flies like a butterfly stings like a. Whatever you throw at it – pills, popcorn, daggers – your depression doesn’t flinch. Like a city cockroach, there’s nothing it can’t take. Scale any bridge. Your depression is a survivor. Face it. Where would you be without it? You’d have long given up.