All the Small Things

During depression the world disappears … because the inner voice is so urgent in its own discourse: How shall I live? How shall I manage the future? Why should I go on?KATE MILLETT, The Loony-Bin Trip

It really is the small things in life that get me.

I can handle major blowaway events like my father’s death (which I can’t seem to get past even though it was almost five years ago) or things like 9/11. I’m good at handling a major crisis — probably because crises don’t occur everyday and if they did, I’d be bad at that too.

My day had been fairly fine for the most part, catching the 7:48 express train to Center City with enough time before its arrival to get a quick breakfast at Starbucks. I sat on the train, reading my Metro then switching to The Devil Wears Prada. As I left the train station, I prayed, hoping that the LUCY Green line bus was still there. It was. I took my time, hoping the driver would see the influx of people and wait one more minute. Cars came at a rapid pace and I waited patiently on the sidewalk. As I crossed the street finally (!), the bus slowly moved to leave. I ran in front of the bus (as I’ve done before) in an attempt to catch it before it drove off without me. With a long honk from the driver (that scared me out of my wits), I hopped on the curb, waiting for the doors to open. No such luck. The driver roared the bus past me and my hopes and prayers of wanting to catch the bus were effectively dashed.

Losing the bus — the long honk, particularly — put me all out of sorts and I trudged to the subway to catch the trolley that involved a longer walk. I contemplated all sorts of things: jumping out in front of a car and killing myself, yelling, screaming and shouting in public, but thankfully took a less dramatic route and simply dumped the last half of my Starbucks sandwich in the garbage – an expression of my digust, more of myself than the bus driver.

On my way to the subway, my face fell from bright and cheery to sullen and dark. I avoided eye contact with passersby and explained to myself, I’m a New Yorker. I’m tougher than this. But then I realized that I was equating my toughness with my "identity" as a New Yorker. I’m not quite sure why I did that, but I’d often considered myself "tough" because I was from New York. For the first time, this equation disturbed me. If my sense of "tough" was really a New Yorker style, like I’d told myself all these years, then I seriously misrepresented my home state.

I put on my iPod to drown out the negative voices in my head and dove into finishing my Devil Wears PradaWhen I read fiction, I have this terrible habit of adapting the "voices in my head" (the talking to yourself kind, not the schizophrenic kind) to sound like I’m listening to an audiobook. I talk to myself in the third person or sound like a first-person character in a book. So I sat on the train thinking, I don’t understand why a stupid honk would get me so upset. Why was catching the bus so important to me? Why has not catching the bus ruined my day? And I carried on a first-person monologue in my head, much like poor Andrea in my novel.

I selected the first song on my iPod, "(I Got That) Boom Boom" with Britney Spears and the ever-annoying Ying-Yang Twins. Thankful that I’d remembered to take out the parentheses from the title on my iTunes last night (s0 the parentheses wouldn’t make that the FIRST song on my playlist), I pressed forward to the next song. I continued going forward until I found an Aimee Mann song, "Goodbye Caroline." That was it! Depressing mood, depressing music! I quickly switched to an all-Aimee Mann song list and replayed "Goodbye Caroline." I got off the bus and realized that maybe Aimee wasn’t the best thing for me at that moment and decided I needed upbeat, pop music. I mused to myself, Too bad I didn’t synch my iPod so I could have that sickeningly annoying Jessica Simpson "Public Affair" on. The melody, reminiscent of Madonna’s "Holiday" had this funny way of cheering me up, despite the stupidity of the lyrics.

But I trudged up the stairs, convinced that the day was already crap and shot to hell, that this had been the first bad week since I’d moved to Pennsylvania and pondered why the idea of Monday coming around would bring a new beginning. I continued to complain in my head, I knew I needed a mental health day, but I don’t have any sick days until August 15 so I have to come to work and I have to move tonight so I’ll leave early, who cares about overtime… and on and on my thoughts went. This week had been absolute crap. My hormones had been on an emotional rollercoaster:

  • I woke up at 4:45 a.m. Monday through Wednesday to set up at 7:00 a.m. for a committee meeting and worked my normal hours;
  • I hadn’t able to sleep early when I got home but tossed around in bed for 5 hours until involuntarily dozing off at my normal time of 11:30 p.m.;
  • I’d forgotten my car keys at work in Philadelphia (an hour’s train ride away) two days in a row and subjected my car to getting towed overnight;
  • and sat in traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway (or as my husband puts it, the Slowway) waiting to go back to Philly after breaking out into hysterics (BOTH days).

By the second day, I was ready to sleep in bed and never get up again.

Professionally, I felt like a first-class doof at work, not knowing what to do, feeling non-self-important and wishing that I hadn’t jumped at the first opportunity of a job that had presented itself my way. For the first time since leaving Kentucky, I missed my job at the newspaper. I missed being around reporters, writers and editors. I missed the news, I missed editing and I’d come to like page designing. I missed the world of publication and hated myself for falling into something semi-unrelated. I was upset at being in Philly nearly four months and not having a single peer as a decent acquaintance. I was upset at my body for keeping to its normal cyclical schedule (after randomly being thrown off wack last month) that would surely ruin my honeymoon next month. I was tired of being bossed around, not having any privacy, not having any work, not doing anything that made me feel I was worth something.

And to top it off, the pants I’d bought on June 16 that had fit my so snugly were now falling off me. Instead of boosting my confidence that I’d been losing weight, I cursed the money I’d lost in just over a month and convinced myself that the cotton was somehow stretching in the wash.

Have you noticed what occured to me over the past week?

  • Lack of sleep
  • Irritability
  • Unhappiness
  • Memory lapses
  • Hormonal imbalances

No surprise that after this week, I’d gotten to a point where I was willing to kill myself over "keys." "It’s just keys," my husband insisted on the second day of my stupidity. "No, it’s not just KEYS," I wanted to shout. It was everything.

  • It was a ruined honeymoon at the end of August,
  • it was being in a job that didn’t allow me to write or edit in any way,
  • it was not sleeping well,
  • it was getting up extremely early,
  • it was feeling sluggish all day,
  • it was the heat,
  • it was the lack of water I drank,
  • it was the cramped space,
  • it was the lack of privacy,
  • it was the lack of social outlets,
  • it was not being in New York,
  • it was not having a church I really, really liked…
  • it was FORGETTING MY KEYS FOR THE SECOND STRAIGHT DAY all the way in Philly when I lived up the Main Line.

I’m still upset. Since walking into work today, all I’ve wanted to do is sit in a corner and cry. All I want to do is go home and sleep my day away. I’m exhausted. Really exhausted. And I can’t help but wonder how much most people can take before they just finally collapse. My tolerance level is low so I play martyr for myself and convince myself that people do more than what I do. Until I can’t take anymore and try to jump out of a car.

So it’s not just the keys that get me depressed. It’s all the small things.

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