L.A. Grapes

My grandmother really loves grapes. It is the only good food the nursing home has to offer. One day during our visit, the room was very crowded with family members gawking at her, unsure of how to interact. They were fighting with each other per usual, shooting spiteful looks at some members and letting the awkward resentfulness brew in the air. It was too loud, and I began shutting down. My grandmother reached over and tapped my leg once she saw me dissociating. She held my hand and told me that she knew I was dealing with things. That I was in pain and going through a lot. She said that she was too.

How am I supposed to look at my grandmother who is spending her Christmas in a nursing home with four gold rods attempting to hold her back up from the inside and agree that I am on the same level of pain as she is? I’m not on that level. Hell, I’m not even in the same game.

Because my pain is in my head. Trying to explain to people that thoughts can essentially ruin your life is not an easy task. You can feel the rods in her spine, but you can’t feel the thoughts in my head unless you wanted to break my skull. And maybe, after reading how ungrateful I am being in wasting my life, you will want to take a pipe to my head. I sure do, sometimes.

I have depression just like every other kid these days amongst other mood disorders. I am not special in my experiences nor have any life-determining traumatic events to point to. I just exist with poor levels of serotonin in my head and also this lack of what a lot of people seem to have, something that appears more often than not in their every day life: hopefulness. How morbidly depressing, you might be thinking to yourself. It’s not a shocking absence of something to me, really. I don’t wake up in the morning and think, Well golly. I sure do wish I had that little thing. No one with depression really does. You do for a while when you see the people around you living a perfectly normal life and not having to worry about their liver shutting down if they take too many medications or when people can eat for enjoyment without it feeling like a chore. Then, you come to the realization that you are what you are. After that, you determine whether you want to live or not.

I want to live, that I know. But I still wake up and have to make the conscious decision on whether or not I want to get out of bed. I always end up getting up, whether it takes three minutes or three hours, but it is not so much hopelessness as it is a lack of energy. The disappointment of being alive sits in the pit of your stomach since you don’t have a care in the world, and not in some pixie dreamer in a field of wildflowers kind of way. You literally could not care less about most things.

That is the scariest part of depression, the whole not caring about things. You don’t notice it at first. You could fail a test and you will convince yourself that you got the ‘jist’ of it. You might crack your favorite coffee mug and think how all things can be replaced. You could trip and fall flat on your face and lie there for a while, not giving a single thought to the rug burn now erupting on your cheeks. While not caring about the things that go on in everyday life, you also feel as though every small mishap is the end of the world.

Depression is a funny thing like that, making the end of the world so accessible yet the ultimate form of it just out of your moral reach. And you’ve got to wonder why you have it sometimes. Or what life would be like if you could just exist without an inner turmoil that is so isolating.

People tell me that my condition is not me, but it is a part of me that has a play in defining who I am and my actions. How hypocritical is that? I am not my illness, okay. But without it, you tell me that I am different. So is it better for me to have it or not? Who am I when I am not consumed by my thoughts or the mental weight of three different anti-depressants?

I remember springtime of 2017. Late March, spring break, I had just turned fifteen. The new year began with me falling steadily underweight and surviving almost exclusively off of half a pack of whole-grain Ritz crackers, a packet of almond butter, and a Coke. Spring break was a chance for me to get away from school and go to California with my family, like we do every spring. I had just come off of Zoloft, one of my least favorite drugs next to Lexapro. I was edging onto Buspirone, one of my current anxiety and depression medications. Titrating off of Zoloft, I slowly started pushing away the clouds my brain had been fogged with for a few months and feeling alive. The California sun warmly greeted me and I remember walking down Hollywood Boulevard for the first time, standing right in between the famous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the Roosevelt Hotel. I smiled at the thought of one of the scene in Pretty In Pink where the theatre showed passing footage of it. The Roosevelt Hotel where Marilyn Monroe practically lived in sat lonely on the opposite side of the street, holding secrets and conspiracies close to its stone.  I spotted a Dr. Franknfurter impersonator and immediately paid to have my picture taken, because if I was going to be a tacky tourist, it’d only be with Dr. Franknfurter. We follow each other on Instagram now. The strip was grimy and full of sleazy guys wearing fake Yeezys and Gucci belts, trying to sell me their mix-tapes. People were packed in tight, the sounds of iPhone cameras clicking and mothers desperately calling to their kids, arranging them for a picture. It was borderline chaos, and I loved it.

I think I loved LA so much because it was nothing like what I thought it would be. It isn’t glamorous or clean or ritzy. The Hollywood sign is dilapidated and discolored, a pristine platinum white now eroding into a rotting egg shell yellow. The Beverly Hills sign is in pretty decent condition, although it’s awkwardly placed and you can rarely get a good picture of unless you pay $20 to park for three minutes and pop out. No one cleans all the stars on the Walk of Fame; you can can see some of the names, so long as the gold etching isn’t covered by cigarette butts and a heavy coat of grime that covers the whole city. The polluted air stings your lungs and you can see heat waves radiating off of cars poorly parked on the sides of roads and back alleys. I saw Michael Steger walking his dog on one of the strips. I saw the dog poop. That was the most exciting event of the day.

I think there is one thing mentally ill people and teens hate more than their own brain: lying. We’ve heard plenty of doctors telling us that this medication will help us and doesn’t have that many side effects. We’ve heard changed diagnoses and everything we have to do to get on and off of medications. We’ve heard that within “just three sessions, and the flip will be switched!”. We’ve heard that we’re alright and we’re just a little stressed out from school. We’ve heard it all. And we’re kind of sick of it. Maybe you’re not and you are comforted by the lies people tell you because it makes you feel hopeful. More power to you. But deep down, you probably hate it.

LA is honest. An honest dump of a city that people live in just for the name and the promise of fame, probably not the overpriced parking and vegan food. It is so overwhelmingly underwhelming that you can’t help but like it. It doesn’t lie.

Depression does lie to you, though. And with every stroke of it’s arm, it convinces you that this is the worst it’s ever going to be. Like right at that very moment, you will die from that feeling. You will never get better and your bed is a grave. Your friends are not really friends because they don’t really care about you. Your parents will be okay if you aren’t here anymore. The world will still go on and you don’t matter. But depression is a cold hearted liar.

And you might wake up the next day, getting out of bed within ten minutes, a new record of yours. You might make something really great and get noticed for it. You might go to a concert of your favorite band and feel something great that night. You might meet someone new at a coffee shop or go have breakfast with your best friend. You might be graduating in a bit. You might be going on a trip or even just a new class. Depression will tell you it is all within your normal routine and there is nothing exciting about the future. It blurs what’s on the horizon with a stinky haze, like the one LA is drowning in. Sometimes it is very difficult to see past that haze and examine what colors might be at the curve of the Earth.

I think I lost my life for a bit. I became so drugged and in so much pain physically and emotionally, I checked out. Like a permanent dissociation or a mental coma. I don’t remember parts of this past year and it is mostly due to the fact that dissociation is now my handiest coping mechanism. Gaps in your memory start to appear when you try and unfold the events of the past few months and realize you weren’t mentally present in at least half of them. I am better now, but I am not good. I am not mentally healthy, but I am trying this time. I am trying to take my life back one day at a time. Depression is not the only devil on my shoulder, it is there with a few other demons. But there are a few angels, too. And I guess they are the ones who get me out of bed in the morning.

If my grandma can stay awake for a cup of grapes and a phone call to me, then I think I can make it through today.

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