In the middle of 2015, I realized I was not okay. I had survived one bad season of depression more than five years back and I recognized the feeling. Unmoderated carbohydrates and hours under the blankets did not help, the fog only lifted when the cause of my despair was resolved. This time I decided to enlist help and at the end of the year, Harley the Dog arrived as my companion and shield.
I have been constantly delighted by this funny weird little creature who decided I was his home. He gets me out of the house, he is always happy to see me, his quiet snoring reminds me I’m not alone when I wake up in the middle of the night. But the addition of a dog doesn’t mean the subtraction of the rest of your life, and Harley couldn’t fix the cause of my sadness. Six months went by and while my joy in Harley in no way diminished, he became less effective at keeping the gray off shore. In 2016, we lost my stepfather to cancer, and when the election results rolled in on November 8th, it was too much.
That winter I fell into a place where anger and grief and disappointment collided. If you could see today’s weather, oh, it is a perfect analogy. It is raining, a wet curtain of gray, the sky is flat metal, and it’s cold. Not so cold that there’s a brightness too it, but cold enough that you do not want to get wet, which is hard to do because — as I’ve mentioned, the rain is so persistent. It’s foggy today, too, so things that should be easy to see on a clear day are all fuzzy around the edges, and there’s no horizon. This is where I have been for most of 2017. In this wet, gray place where everything is hard and nothing works to fix that feeling for more than a few hours.
This is not to say there have been no bright days. Friends came to visit, Harley ran on the beach, I was name-checked in the New York Times Review of Books, a peak writer moment if ever there could be one. But a lot of things I am not telling you about my specific situation and its failure to resolve itself go … here. That lack of resolution means it has been a year of January days, one after another, rainwater washing downhill into a bottomless black lake.
Last year, I took myself to the doctor because I wasn’t coping so well. My creative work began to stall and I found myself out in public in clothes I’d slept in the night before. Insightful friends began asking me me if I was okay. I had the good sense to tell them that no, I was not okay, thank you for asking. I mean, I’m all right, but I’m also… not. You know? I was diagnosed with something called “situational depression.” That shit is supposed to clear up in about three months. It did not happen and yes, I’m going back to the doctor. Over a year later and still the bad weather sits on my porch? That ain’t right.
Once I was on the Washington coast and the fog was so thick, it was a surprise when another person came into view. This confessional place I’m in now is like that, I keep bumping into people who are also trying to find their way out from underneath whatever this is. Sometimes I wander into the occasional bright spot and a friend says, “Oh, yeah, the fog. That shit will get you. We should go see a movie.” We do, and for half a day, I can see a little farther out.
I don’t think 2018 will be easy. So many people I know are also lost in the fog, either from the same existential crisis about America or their own reasons. Or, like me, an abundant combination of personal and political. I just wanted you to know, as the calendar turns over, that gray shape you see in the fog might be me. Most days I can haul myself out of the house to meet for coffee. Most days I’m cooking something and there’s room at the table for you. Most days, I can share my umbrella. I’m tired of the fog too, but maybe we can find our way out together?