First, and this is critical, plan ahead.
Like ideally four years ahead, the point in the past at which your country can elect a neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot.
You’d think that wouldn’t be important later, as you’re intimately versed in how awful political losses are, but this one acts slow. First there’s the shock and fear, then the profound disappointment, then the anger. Skip bargaining and acceptance, they’re bullshit. Sometimes dabble in depression but mostly allow each day — with its particular indignity, executive order, general embarrassment, or outright attempt to murder those you love — to return you to anger.
Let the poison seep into your blood and expect every day to be a disaster.
If you can’t go back that far, or abstract yourself that much, try … a year. Maybe 18 months. You have a job you’re scared to love as much as you do, friends and family who are nothing short of angelic beings masquerading as people walking around on this earth. A healthy child, a loving spouse, a solid roof over your head, if not stupid money then enough to eat meat and buy wine. The rest of the country is on absolute fire but you should be doing pretty good.
Now develop, for no particular reason, a muscle spasm in your torso.
See a doctor. See a specialist. Treat it conservatively. Rest, ice, heat, topicals, OTC pain meds. When it’s mostly gone, pretend it never existed.
Now make sure your anti-depressant, your best friend, your lifesaver for the past 17 years, stops working inexplicably, and kind of don’t notice for a while. Figure you’re tired because you’re working hard, and you’re nervy because the stakes are high, and the neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot is, after all, trying to kill all your friends. It’s normal to be a little … off.
Until you can’t stop crying whenever someone so much as looks at you. Until the thought of washing your hair makes you want to die.
Spent 20 minutes every morning sitting on the floor of your bathroom doing breathing exercises. Convince yourself this is meditation. Get really, really, really into expensive skincare.
Decide you should get a new therapist and probably switch up your meds.
Talk every night to your long-suffering spouse about how you probably need a therapist but, since not doing stuff you know you need to do in order to sabotage yourself is ONE HUNDRED PERCENT YOUR DEPRESSION’S JAM, don’t make the call. Convince yourself to tough it out.
Start to get nervous about work. Hit the three-year mark at the job and wonder if you should still be doing it. Pick some fights to see how they feel. Kick a bees’ nest or two. Get stung a lot. Realize that just because your brand of FUCK IT WE’LL DO IT LIVE has worked so far, doesn’t mean it’ll work forever. Have trouble sleeping.
Watch the neon asshead cheeto bigot try to deport your friends. Watch him nominate a rapey fascist alcoholic to the Supreme Court. Be just a little more tense at home than you really should with a sensitive, empathetic child who’s developing caregiver tendencies. Yell at your nice spouse a lot.
Plan a work project no one but a seasoned triathlete with NASA-level multi-tasking skills can possibly execute perfectly. Convince yourself, with utterly no basis in reality, that upon the success of this project rides your continued employment.
Then, have the pain return with a vengeance.
See a specialist. Try several ineffective medications. Have the specialist refer you to a surgeon. Have the surgeon tell you he doesn’t want to do surgery, but he doesn’t have any other ideas either. Look at him in disbelief as he suggests you go home and just … live like this. Have the surgeon suggest another surgeon. Be in excruciating pain that again, you might ONLY wish on Stephen Miller, every time you have to be on your feet for more than 20 minutes, which is all day, three days a week at least. Read several internet forums dedicated only to this problem, which convince you it’s unsolvable.
Go mostly vegetarian. Almost vegan. Drink smoothies. Take supplements. Then take different supplements. Then take more. Do breathing exercises on the bus home. Cook dinner, none of it appetizing to you at all.
Try legal marijuana. Become afraid of food. Transfer your work-related panic disorder to one directed at dinner.
Almost black out on the train. Collapse in your office. Grit your teeth, get back up, and nick some anti-anxiety medication from an absolute saint. Drink maybe a bit much for the situation.
When the anti-anxiety medication — and let’s be honest, the whiskey — kicks in, easing some of all of the above, decide the therapist and new surgeon can wait a couple of weeks, until you’re less busy. This should be around mid-March, if you’re on track with your diet plan.
Have the neon asshead cheeto bigot botch a pandemic response so thoroughly that the entire society shuts down and you can’t see any doctors for anything except dying of COVID for 2 months. Beg for appointments and be told there’s nothing available. Leave messages until your calls stop being returned.
Consider the ER and realize it’s full of COVID patients, or just people with contagions they think are coronavirus, and they won’t give you any real meds anyway.
Read every day about people’s parents, people’s children, dying alone. Sleep next to your child sleeping in her bed to make sure she is still breathing, which you haven’t done since she was a baby. Look at your parents, with whose mortality you thought you’d come to terms long ago, and realize you are in no way ready for them to die.
Teach kindergarten, ineptly. Work from home, ineptly.
Make jokes on the internet. Write about the neon-colored asshead cheeto bigot, indifferently. Tell your friends you are fine when they check in. Mention you’ve been having some stomach trouble to get out of social obligations. Continue to either not eat, or nibble crackers all day. Order various quack remedies from the internet costing hundreds of dollars. Read medical journals.
Fill pain-free days with fear of pain. On pain-filled days be unable to remember what it felt like not to be in pain.
Buy a ping-pong set. Buy a backyard kiddie pool. Let your child watch entirely too much trash TV. Turn on educational animal shows and find yourself explaining sperm and eggs and how babies are made because of the artificial insemination of a cheetah. Watch an operation to alter the genitalia of a puppy. Listen as the vet says “penis” 47 times.
Watch the extremely graphic and sticky birth of a rhino. Switch to baking shows.
Think, every day, that she deserves a healthy mother, a more patient mother, a better mother who can do more than just keep a roof over her head and cook her hot dogs, what kind of useless mother is that, what kind of idiot.
Think about the dark, cold days after your daughter was born into a polar vortex. Think about being inside all the time. Think about the snow. Think about how you were scared to be with her but how being away from her made you want to scream. Think about how sure you were that she would be better off with anyone but you, anyone at all.
Realize that the quarantine is tweaking memories of your maternity leave. Breathe a little, just a little, easier. Start, if not walking outside, at least sitting out there. Get a work project accomplished and feel a little less useless.
Recall that the singular feature of all depression is that it lies.
This is April. Twenty pounds down now.
You should still be in so much pain, like your entire torso is one huge muscle pull, like you have a charley horse inside you at peak tension at all times, that you think of two things and two things only:
How much pain you are in and
how little you are getting done on any front because of said pain and the attendant exhaustion.
Nap like it’s your job. Continue to beg for doctor’s appointments. In early May, have an emergency root canal and decide that this is the day you are just fucking done with your body and all its bullshit.
Ask a friend for a referral to her doctor. See him. Have him recommend tests that are agony. Have the tests anyway. Be absurdly proud of yourself that you spend only two days in bed afterward. Rule out various disorders and cancer. Be disappointed because if it was a tumor you could get rid of it.
Now, suddenly, somehow, it’s June.
Have the new doctor recommend a new surgeon. Have the new surgeon tell you that your previous surgeon was an illiterate moron. Have the new surgeon ask you to try more medications, which almost work, and then tell you you should go ahead with the surgery. Schedule it, have it done, and feel so instantly and completely better, so miraculously healed, that you dash off a letter to your previous surgeon suggesting several alternative professions for him including nudie booth janitor at the local strip joint.
Ask the surgeon who isn’t an illiterate moron if it’s legal to feel this good.
Begin, slowly, to eat food again. Find yourself, on certain days, now actually hungry for something other than animal crackers washed down with scotch.
Weigh yourself again. You now weigh three pounds more than you did when you got married, back when you were so broke you only ate one meal a day.
Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!
*So that’s what I’ve been up to while everybody was making sourdough.
Thin culture is bullshit, okay, and the above? Not how I would recommend getting down to one’s 19-year-old weight, if that’s even a thing a 44-year-old should want to do.
I would put those 25 pounds back on right now if it would give me back the things I missed out on in the past six months, the work and the time and the money I spent trying to fix my problems, the patience I could have had for my family and friends and loved ones, the help I could have provided those in need had I not been housebound and in agony.
“You look amazing!” “Thanks, it’s a new program I’ve been working called who wants to eat things, eating things is gross and bad, and also my crazy pills stopped working and all my doctors were like GO TO HELL WE’RE CLOSED.”
It’s been a time. I’m on the mend. But if my attention has seemed to be a little … elsewheres, than on the ins and outs of a presidential campaign I just want to be OVER so we can all get back to our lives, it’s because all this was happening.
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