You communicate what you can and hope

The self-consciousness gets in the way of offering much depth of personality to people — as a result, most friends I’ve made in the past eight or nine years are fairly casual. This grows lonely, and leaves me feeling idiotic. I just called, for example, a very dear (and demanding) friend in West Virginia, who wants an explanation for my not coming to visit her and her new baby. What to say? That I would have loved to make the trip but was busy staying out of the mental hospital? It’s so humiliating — so degrading. If I knew I wouldn’t get caught, I’d love to lie about it — invent an acceptable cancer, that recurs and vanishes, that people could understand — that wouldn’t make them frightened and uncomfortable.

. . . Who wants to hear about your hopes for your new medication? How can you ask that anyone understand? Before I’d ever had this illness myself, I had a dear friend who was depressive. I listened to everything he said as if we understood the same language, when what I’ve realized since is that depression speaks, or teaches you, an entirely different one.

. . . Giving attention to others is the simplest way to get attention from others. It is also the simplest way to keep a sense of perspective about yourself. I have a need to share my self-obsession. I am so aware of it in my life right now I wince every time I hit the ‘I’ key. (Ouch. Ouch.) The whole day thus far has been an exercise in FORCING myself to do the tiniest things and trying to evaluate how serious my situation is — Am I really depressed? Am I just lazy? Is this anxiety from too much coffee or from too much antidepressant? The self-assessment process itself made me start to weep. What bothers everyone is that they can’t DO anything to help other than be present. I rely on E-mail to keep me sane! Exclamation points are little lies.

. . . It is ten o’clock in the morning and I am already overwhelmed by the idea of today. I’m trying, I’m trying. I keep walking around on the verge of tears chanting, ‘It’s okay. It’s okay,’ and taking big breaths. My goal is to stay safely in between self-analysis and self-destruction. I just feel like I’m draining people right now, yourself included. There is only so much I can ask for while giving nothing back. I think if I wear something I like and pull my hair back and take the dogs with me, though, I will feel confident enough to go to the store and buy some orange juice.

. . . I miss the Laura who would have loved to put on her bathing suit and lie in the sun today and look at the blue, blue sky! She has been plucked out of me by an evil witch and replaced by a horrid girl! Depression takes away whatever I really, really like about myself (which is not so much in the first place). Feeling hopeless and full of despair is just a slower way of being dead. I try to work through these large blocks of horror in the meantime. I can see why they call it ‘mean.’

— Laura Anderson, excerpts from emails to Andrew Solomon
The Noonday Demon

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