Out of the Pit (Part I)

It’s not easy climbing out of the pit.

I have a couch in my apartment. It’s red, it’s made out of leather or some similar material, and it’s a love-seat. To the untrained eye, or even to the trained eye, there’s nothing exciting about it. It sits there looking inconspicuous, but it’s got quite the history, a history I think about from time to time as it sits roughly five feet from where I write this. This couch is packed with significance and memories, and while it’s rarely useful to think about or dwell on the past, sometimes I can’t help going there.

This couch is from my childhood home, and it’s traveled many places in the time my family has owned it. This couch makes me think of my family home when it was still ours.  This couch reminds me of our den, where we used to sit and watch TV and converse as a family. It later traveled to my stepmother’s apartment in the North End, and my friends would later bring it to their apartment in Medford, where I would live a few years later. When my roommate and me got ready to leave that apartment, everything came full circle when he gave the couch back to me. He told me that he wanted to start me off right.

When he first offered me the couch, I think I almost said no. I’m a minimalist, and I also like the idea of creating your own space and life. I wanted to design my own apartment, but you can’t just get rid of everything each time you move, given how often I do move. It’s cleansing to get rid of it all, but it’s also obnoxious to start from scratch. In the end, I relented and took the couch, knowing that it was almost like an old friend, and that it’s nice to have a comfort of my childhood home sitting in my apartment when so much of it is either gone, or at my sister’s house. I grew up with this couch, but that’s not what’s most significant about it. There’s something more beneath the surface, something else you can’t see when you look at it.

It’s my depression couch.

My first bout of depression may have happened my freshman year of college, but I’m not sure, the way I’m not sure I’ve ever been in love. Both of those moments are so far behind me (a decade to be exact), that it gets harder and harder to tap into that frame of mind, to be able to tell one way or the other. There may be some revisionist history involved, as it gets easier and easier to manipulate the memories to fit the narrative of my life. I know that I felt lonely and isolated, that for the first time in many years I was without a core group of friends, and that I was not doing as well as I wanted to be. Maybe the idea of college had set me up to fail. Maybe real life was never going to be able to measure up to what I thought college would be like, but either way, I wasn’t happy with my situation, and for a few long weeks or maybe even months, I couldn’t shake the unwelcome feeling that had latched onto me.

As I look over at that red couch, I know that I was definitely depressed in my stepmother’s apartment in the North End, even if no one mentioned it, even if it wasn’t plain to see. As people outside our apartment went about their lives lives, I was lying on my side watching TV, substituting real life interactions with fake and scripted ones. There was less risk there, less risk of some stranger engaging me in a long conversation that I wasn’t prepared to handle. I lived in a touristy part of Boston, and yet I wanted to walk the streets without anyone bothering me for anything. I wanted to exist in a bubble, and that just wasn’t realistic.

I look at that couch and can’t shake the memories of those days, and just how devastated I was. Moving from our house in Reading to that apartment in Boston was one of the most exhausting days of my life, and all I did was help to unpack the boxes once they were moved into the apartment. I fell asleep on our other red leather couch that night, and although I remember sleeping well, when I woke up, it’s like I was tired from January until the early summer. Winter seems to encourage depression. You stay inside so much more, and it’s difficult to generate nearly as much energy and enthusiasm as you can during the summer. It’s a challenge to get up and head outside when it’s perfectly warm and comfortable inside, when it’s much easier to stream a movie and sip from a hot mug of coffee.

I was on that couch for months, sprinkling in a few regular events like hanging out with friends and job interviews, but I spent my nights on that couch until my stepmother went to bed. Then I’d work on my writing in secret, and some nights the words would flow out of me like I was a human dam holding back a raging river. Other nights I’d open my laptop, only to close it a few seconds later, as if my ADD had kicked in and I’d realized I wanted to do something else. I didn’t want to do something else, I wanted to write, but some times the ideas or the words just wouldn’t come, and I’d want to be anywhere else but attempting to push forward my idea for a book.

Winter gave way to spring, and I found myself taking the dog for regular walks, which I needed more than the dog. I knew I was helping my stepmother out, saving us some money, but it was also a reason to go out into the world when I’d shut myself in for so long. It was nice to get outside, and I love springtime in Boston. I loved walking along the edge of the water, and seeing all the happy people around me, even if I didn’t feel that happiness myself. I knew that I’d been that way once before, or at the very least I hadn’t felt the way I did now, and it was nice to see people enjoying the warm weather. That’s how things should be. That level of joy and happiness was something to aspire to, even if I didn’t know how to get back there.

Soon enough, tourism was in full swing. I’d get annoyed at the crowded sidewalks I’d have to navigate, but I didn’t have a plan for how to remove myself from the situation. I felt extremely alone. My friends were all working and living, my stepmother had met someone, and so many people were giving me advice for how to move on, for how to pick up the pieces, and each piece of advice didn’t seem to come from a place of caring, it seemed like a personal attack. It was as if people were saying, “You’re not healing fast enough,” or, “Quite bitching and live life.” I didn’t know what to do, and part of me knew that even if people were giving me great advice, I was too tired to act on it. I still wasn’t ready for the world. I still wasn’t ready to get back off of my couch, which had become a refuge from all of the confusion life had to offer.

People were telling me to heal, or offering tips for how to heal, but everyone’s pain is individualized, and ultimately, you need to figure things out for yourself. You need to figure out your own personal reason for wanting to keep living. You need to figure out what’s going to give you hope. I’m glad I didn’t date much during this time because not only was I afraid of dragging people down, I also didn’t want my happiness or meaning to come from someone else. I knew that I was the only one who could drag myself out of this pit, who could get myself off the couch that seemed to be super-glued to my body. I did want to get up. I tried and I tried, but I all I really wanted to do was close the door and try again tomorrow when I felt better, even if I wasn’t sure that a better day was coming. I didn’t know that it was, but I was willing to wait it out. Thanks for reading.

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