By Mary Stathos
Depression – it’s a tale as old as time. I’ve tried therapy, medication, talking to my friends, distractions, but what happens when the stress you’re experiencing is greater than just you? My therapist can’t find me a job that pays more money. My friends can’t help me get better insurance. My medication isn’t going to suddenly make members of Congress care about things like committing war crimes or taxing billionaires. And yet, no matter how much I am suffering, no matter how much I am so deeply enveloped in my own thoughts, wondering how on earth any of us are going to survive without being killed by either COVID or a natural disaster worsened by climate change, there are still people out there who manage to just be happy.
For a long time, I attributed this to ignorance – if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention. We see it, we hear it, we know it, but do we live, laugh and love it?
So, I gave it a shot, and here’s what happened to me:
I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m. Rise and grind, am I right, ladies? I was completely exhausted, filled with dread for the week ahead. My work schedule has been completely out of control, I haven’t showered in days and I have been overwhelmed with concerns about my ability to afford rent after my landlord announced increased lease prices. A beautiful day begins with a beautiful mindset, so I just don’t think about any of that and look at a NowThis video of the 100 cutest dog moments of 2020.
I fed my screaming cats and while I heaped a handful of IAMS Healthy Skin and Coat on to the rug that my cats have decided is their bowl, I took in the smells of the trash I have been too depressed to take out. How grateful am I to be able to experience such an array of aromas?
My thoughts were interrupted by a fender bender outside of my window. No damage was done to either car – how lucky, I thought. As they screamed and swore at each other before exchanging insurance information, my cats and I got to spend a moment listening intently. Yelling is a trigger for my PTSD, but this morning, I decided that I was not attracting that energy. I ignored my rapidly increasing heart rate and nausea and made a cup of coffee. As I poured in the oat milk, I realized it was expired. I dumped the curdled milk down the drain and added the empty carton to my overflowing trash bag.
I took the time to get dressed into a dirty, wrinkled dress over a pair of sweatpants and when I looked at my phone, I realized I had exactly 10 seconds before I was going to be late for my first appointment. I had somehow spent 3 hours doing absolutely nothing. I tell myself I was meditating, not dissociating. I consider it a win and decide I will go for a walk later and drink five gallons of water instead of catching up on the work I have been neglecting. Small steps turn into miles.
The work I have been neglecting continues to pile up as my depression is clearly on an upswing right now. I choose to ignore that and instead whisper “good vibes only” to myself under my breath as my internet goes out in the middle of a session with a client. My neighbor informs me that someone crashed into a pole. No update on when service will be restored.
I do my sessions over the phone, instead. There are hidden blessings in every struggle. I can lay in bed in my pajamas instead of staring at a ring light and laptop screen. I am so lucky. With no internet, that means that I am not able to catch up on work. My anxiety tries to skyrocket but I send it away with my daily multivitamin and a moment of gratitude that extends longer than anticipated as I cannot find anything genuine to be grateful for. I settle on being thankful for my cats, as one of them latches on to my leg, piercing my skin like a needle and causing immediate bruising.
Don’t get mad, get glad, I tell myself before remembering that is not a mantra but rather a garbage bag slogan. Am I losing my positivity? I read an article about a girl selling lemonade to be able to afford brain surgery. At first I am horrified. Has she been failed by mega-corporations controlling the government or does she simply respect the hustle? She inspires me to look up money saving tips online so that I can pay off the $1500 bill I owe to my doctor for diagnosing a painful ovarian cyst that I can no longer afford follow up care for.
My internet goes out unannounced again. I call the company and tell them that I have lost 5 hours of work so far due to the outages. They give me a $10 rebate, equal to roughly 27 minutes of work. I remind myself that the man on the phone has bills of his own to pay. He simply cannot afford to give me more. Blissful ignorance of the fact that this money does not come from his paycheck gives me the motivation to do a workout. I inhale positivity and exhale negativity until I work up a sweat. My internet reconnects, so clearly it is working.
When I turn on my shower to rinse off the remnants of my negative energy, nothing comes out but some gargling noises. I learn after calling my management company that a pipe broke in the basement. They tell me it will be fixed in 15 minutes. Four hours later, my water comes out as a slow brown dribble. I can smell my sweat and my greasy hair reflects back in the camera while I am doing a video session with a client. My phone goes off throughout. My funny tweet about my water is getting a lot of engagement on Twitter. I cleanse my spirit in the brief moment of clout.
The negative experiences that are out of my control are weighing on my emotional capacity. I am stressed, depressed – but well dressed I tell myself, ignoring the fact that I have been wearing this exact outfit for roughly one month. The blood stain from my cat piercing my leg is dried enough now that I chip it off, leaving just a small brown stain in its place. It is character. I am creating the life of my dreams.
How, you ask? Don’t.
Mary Stathos is Talk Vomit’s creative editor, as well as a therapist. She takes a lot of photos of her cats and calls her mom every day.