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Falling in Love (in Small Quantities) | 2015 | Non-Player Characters


Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression.  

-Dodie Smith

A Balloon Made of Skin

Depression isn't only in my head. I feel it in my wrists, in my shoulders, in the soles of my feel, a tension I cannot relax. I feel it behind my eyelids, which want to be glued shut. My strength pours out of my muscle, a fatigue that overrules my motivation to do anything but lie on my back in a dark room. If I am very lucky, I can still convince myself to write on my Kindle so I have something to use to redirect the emotion. (If I am typing this out, I am not entirely useless and wasteful. If for a prolonged period I could not find purging in my writing, I think I might suffocate.)

I am a depressed person. This may come as a surprise to most people around me because I have decades of experience masking it. I know my depression doesn't forgive me from participating in the world. I have to self-talk to keep myself from succumbing to its edicts. This has occasionally involved me punching my thigh to push myself up the stairs. Otherwise, I would stand at the bottom, toothbrush in hand, paralyzed in thought.

It is as though my emotional filter clogs up. All the sadness, all the angst, builds up because I am not able to process any emotion. I need a desperate cry to purge, which is not always possible or feasible. The depression will make reasons for my malaise until one is too much and I break down (occasionally on Amber). This no longer happens often, but it still happens when I feel I no longer have something to look forward to, when I feel I am going to disappoint someone I love and my only other option is compromising my own wants and needs. I can deal with today and its troubles but lose myself on the sea of connected days, each containing something that isn't what I wanted for my life.

When plays would end in high school, I would undergo similar fits of despair because I had given my devotion to something finite. All at once, cast mates resumed being strangers in the hall, unable to humor a freshman boy who took them for friends.

One of the worst aspects of the build-up of depression is how irritable I get. I want badly to be left alone, feeling I do not deserve kindly companionship, that being seen in this state is the height of embarrassment. When I lived by myself, this was a much easier proposition. I could cloister myself in my apartment.

For years, I have lived with Amber, who is the last person at whom I would ever want to grumble, but to whom I have to explain these things whenever I feel a spell of it coming on. None of it is her fault and she should not have to suffer my neurochemicals, which only makes me feel guilty on top of everything else. She isn't a depressive. This parallel dimensional hell I am experiencing is an alien terrain whose topography she cannot imagine. It is nothing I would want for her to understand. She can sit placidly at my side as I feel my life is crumbling, while I hate every aspect of my life one at a time. I can see her and, if I could only find motivation, I might be able to reach out to her.

(Prior to Amber, I never had nightmares. Demons or zombies might show up, but I controlled the situation and would best them. Now, depending on how daylight treats me, I have dreams involving the two of us fighting. My greatest fear is that my marriage will becoming like my perception of my parents as a child: sniping and loveless.)

That's a horrible part. I'm not sad or angry. I am just depressed and unable to explain to anyone around me what the inside of my head feels like, so I try to keep them at an arm's length until I can return to being myself. No amount of positive affirmations or assurances that they are there for me obviates my need to hide until I am restored. The aftershocks of a particularly bad spell resonate for days.

Depression doesn't make me deep or sensitive. It scoops me out, leaving me hollow and echoing. It translates me into a balloon made of skin and bones. It saps from me my ability to be me, leaving me behind my eyes, urging myself to behave like a rational creature instead of a marionette with tangled strings.

Soon in Xenology: Danielle

last watched: Hannibal
reading: Hyperspace
listening: Jill Sobule

Falling in Love (in Small Quantities) | 2015 | Non-Player Characters

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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