On Heartbreak and Soul Loss


Albrecht Dürer’s “Melancholia”

Perhaps, if you had been following along from the beginning, in the little house with the two cuddly cats (I still miss them terribly) in that quiet shaded neighborhood, you may already have predicted–or at the very least, not be surprised to learn–that I would be back again in my parents’ house, sitting at home with our beloved 15-year-old dog, broken again after more debacled essays at living; unemployed, single, hungry as a wild thing (At present, I can’t get the desire for all things chocolate out of my mind); and also hyperventilating mildly because of my antidepressant, which affects my breathing so that inhaling and exhaling and inhaling…etc. becomes a constant, conscious effort that I always balance in the background along with whatever else I try to do, however small it may be, throughout the day.  It’s uncomfortable when you always feel stifled of your breath, but grief-induced vegetative paralysis is much, much more difficult to manage, and this pill is the only one that keeps the ever present, insidious grief free-floating stealthily inside me from spreading all through my being and soul like an amoeba and swallowing my ability to thrive until I rot slowly, and then rapidly, from the inside out.    

That, at least, is my account of the etiology of my depression, and of an antidepressant’s mechanism of action, regardless of what the neuroscientists say.  At one point I came to understand my pervasive depression, and the recurring depressions that grow out of it, to be like cancer.  A malignant cancer of the soul, that when left alone, untreated, will grow and spread and spread all over me, crawling through my soul into my body, eating through my flesh and all through my organs, into my arteries and veins, eating away all the tissue and sucking the life out of the blood cells, the erythrocytes and leukocytes, until I’m wasted away, the better of me damaged, or just destroyed.  At that point my soul is nearly totally deteriorated, and consequently there’s nothing detectable left of my being, my mind, my sensory perception, ability to feel….anything.

I have had an ongoing, complicated relationship with the treatments for this cancer.  I’ve wavered drastically over the years in my determination to seek out all the options, the first line of therapy, and when that didn’t work, then the second, the third, etc.  And I actually, finally, eventually, did respond to something–or rather, a combination of small ingestible synthetic chemical somethings that cost a shitload of money without proper health insurance, even their generic form.  But the sobering part of this miracle in itself is the fact that the most this cocktail can do is stop the tumorous growth for the time being, and the most I can hope for is that the malignancy doesn’t overpower the drugs and therapies and sprout again like bamboo, taking over once more.  Even if the miasma is contained to a corner of my soul, it is still always there, latent but alive; I can’t–nothing can–cure it or kill it.  This is how I’ve come to understand the deleterious mutation inside my soul.  I’ve come to fear my depression more than I do life itself when I’m in remission, and when I’m depressed, there’s nothing more terrifying than living.

It was in the clutches of my last bout of depression (and I promise I’m getting to my point soon, maybe), my last Big One, my last spell of Living Death, my last encounter with the Noonday Demon–or whatever other flowery and dramatic name I can think of to describe a Really, Really bad and prolonged episode “major depression”–that I had come back to my parents’ home (once again) in late 2012, because I had let my dysthymic soul go untreated for too many years.  I had let it go out of resignation, convinced that there was no line of treatment that could ever reach into the diseased core of me and that even if there was, the field of psychiatry is full of too many incompetent SOBs who wouldn’t be able to find the appropriate treatment for me anyway, much less figure out exactly where I lie on the axes of their elaborate grid of madness in order to decide on a halfway intelligent “diagnosis.”  But by late 2012, when I was 29, I had deteriorated to a level of ruin that gave me no choice but to try once more to salvage my soul, and after finding the strength to put up with a few more incompetent SOBs, I finally found both a shrink and cocktail of drugs that worked.  I began to revive, very slowly, one cell at a time.

It took months for enough of my senses and and faculties and reflexes to return for me to feel somewhat as human as I could be; and by these things I’m talking about the very basic components of everyone’s subjective consciousness, the fundamental conviction that you are alive and an agentic creature in world.  Months to reach a level beyond the level that is just beyond a persistent vegetative state.  It’s hard to explain just what I mean because someone with an unencumbered soul takes for granted having these necessities for thriving, doesn’t understand that these necessities are mutable, and can’t truly imagine what it must be like to simply have no life force whatsoever, no ability to thrive–not physically, but to thrive as a person, in spirit.  My life force returned to my soul and my body a little bit at a time.  First, I was able to get dressed; leaving the house for whatever reason slowly became less taxing of an ordeal.  My appetite gradually returned. (This is the only aspect of recovery that I truly wish I could reverse…)  The things that had become genuinely, utterly impossible were the things that took the longest to overcome: literally, just thinking.  Thinking in any kind of productive manner; pointedly focusing on a single concept or problem to its logical end.  Rumination was the only kind of thought that I could produce, and it had come to completely smother any and all deliberate reason and awareness of the world around me while I went untreated.  It branched out and then branched out more and took over all circuitry, all energy, all synaptic waves so that no other ideas except the tortuous and tormenting ones had any opportunity to develop.  It felt as though any activity that required what used to be simple reasoning or forethought, to say nothing of all complicated intellectual tasks, became impossible, because everything in me was dead except for everything that haunted me.

I really don’t know how I ended up regaining that faculty, but my mind somehow regenerated itself after the drugs kicked in.  Very gradually.  I was able to harness one ruminative stream of thought, and then another.  Or maybe the thoughts courteously receded to make room for thoughts more conducive to thriving.  At any rate, by the time I had that under control, I had already begun attempting to live.  I was turning 30 and I was desperate to live before I died.  I began taking risks for the first time in my life, to let myself be vulnerable to things about the human experience that make life worth living–or, so I had heard.  Among those thing, I wanted to have a meaningful connection with someone before I died, to know what it’s like to love and be loved.  You know, all that.  My entire life had been spent in isolation, in my bedroom, my dorm room, the quietest nook in the deepest and mustiest part of the library, the lowest-traffic and most thickly wooded walking trail I could find.  I had never been truly close with anyone.  I mean Anyone.  So I started dating, artlessly and clumsily, not knowing what to expect.  I was a bumbling 29-year-old little girl with no wisdom acquired over the years whatsoever.

It seemed almost too serendipitous when shortly after I decided to start living again, and in my fragile and infantile state, I met someone.  I mean I met Someone, a someone whose company I enjoyed and who enjoyed my company, a someone with whom I bonded and shared mutual admiration.  I was incredulous.  So was my family and my only friend.  How could this be?  I’m a tubercular-looking basket case: I’m not supposed to fall in love, certainly not when I don’t know anything about love whatsoever.  But we kept on liking each other more and more, he kept swooning ever more intensely over me with affection, and more affection, all delivered with the most wide-eyed, guileless gaze, and with the most intense conviction.  What more could a single turning-30-year-old woman with a whole life of loneliness and tons of failures trailing behind her ask for?

My state of my recovering mind changed from incredulous to intoxicated, and an unfamiliar kind of euphoria followed.  I had until then known two kinds of euphoria: the runner’s high euphoria and the Xanax euphoria.  The former is an invigorating kind of floating serenity, while the latter is a beguiling, sinister state of lightness and ecstasy that rushes out of you as suddenly as it hits you, and leaves you feeling even more desperate and despairing than when you popped the Xanax in your mouth in the first place.  This new romantic euphoria made me both giddy and dumb, a complete flake, oblivious to everyone and everything around me except the developing relationship with this man who seemed both perfect and smitten with me.  Nothing presently existed, or ever did exist, except the “we” in which we were both tangled and lost and happily isolated from time, space, onerous responsibilities, sorrow, pain, and the world’s cruelty.  Nothing seemed real in this euphoria.  It was like being in a perpetual daydream or a Salvador Dali painting.  Unlike the other fleeting states of consciousness that characterized the other two euphorias that I had experienced, this dumbstruck blissfulness kept lasting for months and months and months.  The trippy sensation I had ever since I met him that everything in my life was unreal followed me for a very long time.  Even–or especially–when he asked me to marry him, and then after we were married, I still was drunk on a bewildering and novel sensation of bliss.

At first I was afraid to embrace this euphoria and experience the rapture of love and commitment for what it’s worth: it was simply too perfect, I kept thinking.  I know I have a blind spot somewhere, something must be amiss, and what if that something comes out and bites me in the ass if I drop all my inborn vigilance, my natural hyper-cautiousness that has allowed my life to be generally free of disaster and heartache and broken bones, but also free of joy and excitement and yes, of course, love of any kind?  This is all too perfect I kept saying to myself, month after month, right up until later in the summer, not long before now, when something did in fact begin to feel somewhat amiss in our perfect togetherness.  Possibly.  It was very subtle.  Somewhere in the intricate embroidery attaching our lives to one another’s a thread became loose, a weakness in the stitches developed.  It was hard to know if it was a true problem unraveling, or if we were merely encountering a snag, a jagged thread that could be mended, stretched back into the weave, reinforced with back stitches–a snag that leaves the kind of imperfections that make the garment more intimately yours, more beloved, more familiar.  Unsure of myself, I watched the tiny flaw attentively, but also passively.  The inexplicable feeling of fragility was there, but not there, and our lives, as it appeared at least, remained idyllic.  So that’s why it was nevertheless traumatic when everything ripped apart all at once the next time the lurking weakness ran up against a surge of pressure.

And that’s why I’m back at my poor parents’ house at the moment, waging against the incessant urge to hyperventilate, trying very hard not to let myself drown in my own soul, reminding myself not to ruminate even though fresh and vivid memories of the events and florid emotions and gripping bonds and destructive fallout since last summer all swirl around my mind, looking for a cozy corner to settle and take root and then take over:  I’m working as much as I can not to succumb to the tumor in my soul once again.

I’ll get to the details of what happened and how, and about him, the Someone, a little later.  But for now I thought I would just drop a line, or several hundred, to reacquaint myself, reestablish my loathsome melancholy aura, and to give a preface for trying to begin to fill in the gap of where I went over the course of the last year or so and where I will go now, now that I’m back at ground zero, square one, whatever the hell you’d like to call it.  I’m doing this for my sake more so than for yours, because I know nobody particularly seeks out the enjoyment of reading rambling, circumlocutory, untranslated transcripts of a depressive’s stream-of-consciousness monologue.


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