I had a hard day on Saturday. I had a difficult student in the morning, which was fine (I love the difficult ones) and then a dog training session, so I was pretty exhausted by early afternoon. The plan was to take a shower, take a nap, and go to San Francisco to have a mellow dinner with a couple of friends who I haven’t seen in a while but really like and don’t get to see often enough. I really liked that plan and was pretty invested in it. It felt like the right amount of alone time vs. work time vs. social plan. So when one of those friends canceled just a few hours before, I was kind of thrown for a loop in a way that I haven’t been in a while. She said that she had dinner plans and was sorry but hoped she’d see me soon.
First I was confused – dinner plans? But the three of us had dinner plans! It was over text message so who knows what details got left out, but I started feeling pretty hurt. She had just confirmed these plans the day before so why was she canceling them now? Then I just started feeling sad, again, in a way that I haven’t in a while. I took a nap but instead of waking up and going somewhere, I woke up and just felt aimless and lost and scared. it felt like that old feeling that I’d get when I’d leave a social gathering or someone would leave my house and I’d realize that I was alone with myself without a purpose and it felt like I was falling into a pit – there was an actual physical feeling of falling (maybe that’s why I didn’t like roller coasters).
When I was a little kid, I would get so upset when I was bored. Kids never like being bored, but I would get really distressed and panicked. I don’t think the adults in my life knew what to do – why would a child be panic-stricken and terrified by boredom, and not just annoyed? Especially a child who learned to read at 3 and had hundreds of books. They would argue with me that I couldn’t possibly be bored – I had all these books! And toys! and a little brother and sister! And art supplies! I understand their confusion now. I’m sure I was bored sometimes, but these times when I was complaining wasn’t because of boredom. It was because of depression.
I think that many people see depression as just sadness and miss the terror underneath it. It’s not just sadness, it’s sadness that is a wild animal trying to kill you or that is a terrorist trying to blow you up. All the time. Only you don’t care because being alive and scared and sad and hopeless is so much worse than the thing just finally getting you. I wasn’t bored; I was falling off a mountain but I never landed. I just kept falling and falling.
This started again on Saturday. It was pretty mild but I think that all the years when it wasn’t so mild have scarred me. I think if I didn’t have my history and I felt like I did on Saturday, I would just say I was a little blue. Or tired. Or unmotivated. Instead, I was almost paralyzed. I kept thinking of it in terms of being bored, just like I had when I was 7 or 8, but I wasn’t bored. I was probably experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder and I was panicking.
Fortunately, a different friend just happened to have time to meet me for a late dinner. she is someone who knows all these things about me (and has had her own periods of depression, although not for decades like I did) but I didn’t tell her what was going on, just that I needed to get out of the house. As soon as I did, I felt better. Not great, but better. And it got better throughout the night. The weekend overall turned out to be an OK one. Again, not great, but OK. Not too long ago, I would have thought about going to the ER because I wasn’t sure I’d be safe at home. Or started thinking about who was going to take my dog because I didn’t deserve to have anything good and I had incredible overwhelming guilt about being in charge of another living creature when I was so undeserving.. This time, I had a mediocre weekend. Definite improvement.