When the mad year of 2017 flipped into another one, I was pretty sure I knew the names of the afflictions that’d been giving me such a curiously hard time. For those who haven’t read the other stories here, those names are generalised anxiety and major depressive disorder.
Knowing what bothered me helped a lot. Deciding not to kill myself few months back was also rather beneficial for my health. For all I know, I might have been slowly recovering already. But the lone trudging on the crooked, weedy path towards sanity was getting damn tedious. So I decided it was high time to let someone in on my ghastly secret.
My wife was unfortunate enough to become the chosen one for bearing the brunt of my coming out explosion. I didn’t enjoy the idea of doing it to her. But there was no other option, really. She’s a person I let to get closest to me by far (which doesn’t mean all that close the way I look at it now, but that’s another story). Moreover, I owed her big time. She very much deserved to know why my mind had turned into a fermenting vat full of rotten grapes, with the heavy, unseen fumes trickling out to smother our whole family.
Okay, so I had a clear goal and I knew what I decided to do was right. But it was so bloody hard to actually make the first step.
I spent long weeks trying to figure out what would be the best opportunity. I mean, normal conversations don’t offer all that many cues to breaking such news:
- How was your day at work, darling? she says. Oh, I say, thanks for asking, it was all right, only I nearly screamed my way out of a research accounts meeting because I thought I was about to die, blood bursting out of my nose and mouth and eyes all over the printed Excel sheets. … No, that didn’t sound quite right.
- Don’t you wanna put the book down and let me snuggle closer to you? she says. Well, I say, that’d be great, my love, but sorry, no. You see, to me right now, sex would feel like two bloated corpses rubbing on each other, because, frankly speaking, that’s what we all are, give or take few years. … Ahem, no, not that great either.
- Why did you shout at the poor boy while brushing his teeth? she says. I don’t really know, I say, maybe it’s the depression that’s been roasting my brain alive for over a year? … Come to think of it, this one actually wouldn’t have been bad at all. But I didn’t know back then that such outbursts were part of the package more often than not. I just thought I was being plain mean, or worse, lashing out at my family for a good reason. Like I said, the recovery has been a long and crooked path.
Anyway, after a while I concluded there was no such thing like a “good opportunity.” It just had to be done and the context didn’t matter all that much.
So far so good. I knew I was going to do it soon. But I still feared I won’t manage to say it the right way. So I spent many nights rolling in our bed and preparing torturous lines for the person who was peacefully puffing away in her sleep next to me.
It made me feel pretty awesome, strange as it may sound. I mean, thinking about ingenious ways to describe depression is perhaps not exactly enjoyable, but it’s a way better pastime than the actual depression itself.
The only problem was that I didn’t get any closer to my goal. Not until I decided to write up the results of my nightly ruminations so that I could rehearse a bit.
That turned out to be one of the best ideas I ever had, and also one of the worst. I managed to concisely sum up the key points, but the very act of having them written made me do a shameful thing. Still afraid to speak up, I gave the sore tangle of words to my wife. For her birthday.
Now, if awful birthday presents were a sport, you might say I was a strong contender for the world cup. I would sure agree. So would my wife.
I tend to approach things in a pretty distant analytical manner that often sounds like lousy attempts at rather absurd, morbid humour. And I don’t seem to able to appreciate that people typically consider topics like potential suicide in the family too serious to be approached that way. Sure, it was completely fine to dissect and ridicule things in my own head as objectively as I could. In some sense, that’s precisely what saved me. But expecting it would work the same way in someone else’s head was pretty naive and more than a little inconsiderate.
Then there was the other thing. I had loads of time to get used to the maelstrom of death and disaster that had been whirling in my head, but I’d apparently done a truly superb job at not letting anyone know what might have been wrong with me.
My wife hadn’t had a clue until she read my confessions, and only when I dared to look in her raw, glistening eyes I realised what kind of burden I’d just put on her. She stared at me as if waking up from a terrible nightmare. And while she desperately groped in the blurry room for someone to embrace and console her, the only person who could do that had turned into a barely recognisable shade of a zombie, ready to chew her face off.
I wasn’t about to do anything like that, of course, but I knew I’d earned such a look a hundred times over. I should have told her long ago. And I also should have had the balls to really tell her, one tough bit after another, instead of writing a bloody misery memoir.
Luckily she didn’t ditch me after what must have been a thorough and perfectly understandable deliberation. And what’s perhaps even more important, she let me learn how to talk, atrocious as my entrée into that process was. Not that I expect to ever get any good at it, but it’s already infinitely better than the zero I started with.
And that’s about it. I fucked up big time by keeping things well hidden, and then I beefed it up with my badly conceived take at self-administered couples therapy. Our relationship survived, though. Maybe it even got a little tempered in all the grime that bubbled up so suddenly.
Mind you, I sure wouldn’t set up a counselling business based on my haphazard method. I got lucky, not the least because of who let me become her partner, for better or worse. So if you know anyone who might struggle the way I did, just tell them to play it safe and talk. Plain, sincere words to both them and their loved ones, or anyone who truly cares. The sooner the better. It’s really that simple, no matter how impossible the first step may seem.
The feature image is a reproduction of The Weeping Woman painting by Pablo Picasso, originally hosted at TATE. The copyright holder appears to be Succession Picasso/DACS, and the reproduction’s use has to follow the TATE’s policies (namely Section 5, with which this particular personal, non-commercial and low-res “fair use” presumably complies).