Warm velvet blackness, sleeping, shut off, absence of thoughts, no awareness of pain. Then ‘ping!’ as the internal generator switches on. I feel warmth, I feel, my body is heavy, plump and full of blood, a conscious, unfurling cloud of self from the nest of spongy mattress and duvet around me. A sudden taste of salt and earth, out breath like sea air, but warm and sticky, thick with pollution, choked with sewage. Disgust. Consciousness is pulled back under comforting black waves of restfulness. Darkness again, still and floaty, drifting back into deep sea sleep. I can hear a voice calling me in the distance but I can’t move toward it or reach it. A sudden ‘woosh!’ of blood rush to the face, pulse beating on ear drums. Eyes are stinging, flinching to remain scrunched shut, closed to the world, but suddenly I am awake, alone, in silence. No voice is calling me. A flash of pain across my brow, scowling, head swirling, rapid thoughts, grieving again. Willing my brain silent, controlled breathing, hoping for stillness and speedy healing. The bravest thing I did today was wake up.
I run myself a bath. I don’t run myself. Not anymore. I am too slothful, a heavy heart makes for lead-like legs. I don’t run myself like a tight ship, I’m more of a loose whale, drifting, bloated, my cries unheard by the average human ear. I run myself into the ground sometimes, crash to a standstill after an excess of people, drink, substances, food, overstimulation, creative projects, shopping, cleaning. Where am I again? Ah yes, my mother’s bathroom.
I strip naked and find myself unusually uncaring about the state of my body, unable to critique or care what it looks like; the shape, the size, the lumps and bumps. I don’t inspect it for cuts or bruises, dry patches, stretch marks. I don’t feel its soft sensual roundness or check for evidence of bones beneath the warm abundant flesh. Today I only feel the bag of rocks I carry in my stomach, and the drained empty feeling left over from the exhaustion of herding out the flutter and queasiness of an unrestful army of anxious iron butterflies.
The bath water is pink and bubbly, with nice ‘natural’ products but nothing seems natural about bathing today. The water goes from swirling and burning to still and soothing. I try to hold onto that feeling of relaxation, breathing in the steam, staying present, but the pressing need to stay calm panics me and quickly turns to numbness, and numbness means a loose grasp on everything, and I lose focus and feel myself slipping down a dark spiral like water down a plug hole, until I am certain I have fallen in a grey puddle. I suddenly feel unclean and tarnished, but like the water itself is tainted, perhaps even by me. So here I am, stuck in a dank goo, another dark rut, a sort of beached whale turned island, isolated, alone, as the sides of the bath grow higher and higher like prison walls around me.
Perhaps depression is like a virus that comes and goes, with little entities eating at the parts of your brain that tell you to be appealing, and attractive, or even just acceptable to others. Instead they encourage you to keep others at bay, repelling them by not washing, to isolate you so much that you become so alone and lonely and disconnected that you can’t function anymore, you can neither help others or be helped, rendering you a useless drain on society. Shunned to your hermit cave you begin to give up entirely and rapidly start to rot. Perhaps it is another part of our creators plan to keep the human population down, a scarily chaotic and random stab at natural selection from which no one is safe. I suddenly realise I am in a bath so I take a flannel and begin to scrub.
Half an hour later and I am clean, dry, moisturised and dressed, if only in jogging bottoms and a baggy t-shirt. My hair remains unbrushed as do my teeth but there is only so much I can handle in one afternoon and already I am exerting myself.
I stand by the kitchen sink and pour myself a small glass of full fat, ‘blue top’ milk. I never do this. Milk tends to give me a headache and sore guts, but when I was sickly as a child and it was the most substantial meal I could face it used to give me great comfort. From time to time, as an adult, I have turned to its simple nourishment, perhaps as a way to convince myself that I have fought off sickness before and that I can once more be cured. I rummage through my mother’s freezer to find a silicone tray of ‘x’ shaped ice cubes and I push one out, it plops into the glass and splashes the creamy white milk up the sides of the mottled glass. I lift the heavy glass to take a sip, it feels like a glass of brandy meant to soothe me from shock, and as such it is gone in one large gulp. It is creamier than I expect, sweeter than I remember milk being. I take the ice cube out and hold it between my fingers and suck on it. The diluted milk residue drips onto my chest. I’m wearing a fresh tshirt and this would normally annoy me but in recent days I am more tolerant of imperfection.
I think about how bad stale milk smells, and the smell of baby sick, and how I am bleeding and don’t have a child of my own. Everytime I have a period I mourn a little. I’ve never been aware of actively seeking pregnancy, of starting a family, but having both miscarried and aborted a pregnancy I know my body knows it has lost out, that it has unfinished business to attend to, the tick tock of my little eggs speeding up as I age. The clock ticks louder on the wall behind me.
I wonder what sort of mother I would be. Impatient and inattentive when I got stuck into a project, exciting and fun when my highs took us all to wild and unpredictable places. Soft and gentle and warm at my steadiest, and oh the love someone like me could give. Then I imagine being woken by small sticky hands and grubby faces full of mischief, grouchy for lack of food, as I lie, useless, in a darkened room, head hidden under the covers, when depression takes over. Perhaps He was right, I couldn’t be a mother. I wonder what he’s doing right now.
A surge of unspoken grief rises as I fight back the tears, but I swallow it down again, push away the bad thoughts. “You won’t always feel like this, you won’t always feel like this. Let it pass, let it go, let him go.”
Funny how my mind wanders so freely some days. I can travel through space and time with my feet firmly stuck to the spot, the cogs of my brain spinning and whirring, projecting tales onto the big screen behind my blank looking eyes, while the rest of my body stands limp, unengaged. But always my thoughts come back to Him.
Where am I again? Oh the kitchen. By the sink still. I let the tap run into the empty milk glass, and watch the misshapen ice cube dissolve and disappear. I must make myself a sandwich, I never buy bread when I am at home. I spread the butter on thinly, annoyed at how the tub of butter has been dug into it, I prefer to shave the butter evenly off the top in a sweeping motion, like a groundsman proudly tending a pitch.
Sometimes the emptiness is a blessing, the calm after a storm. This is what I am reduced down to now, my attention drawn from the dramas of the past and the dreams of the future. Instead I am noticing the finer details; the rapid tick of the clock on the wall behind me, the hum of the strip light above me. I slice pale yellow cheddar cheese and some cucumber, and four cherry tomatoes, their seeds spilling onto the plate like guts. I open a tub of mixed olives and take three of each colour, three black, three green, in pleasingly similar shapes and sizes. I slice them vertically and lay them on top of everything else and place the other slice of bread on top of that. As I cut into the sandwich and press the two sides together there is a satisfying squelch as the tomatoes spill the rest of their insides. Life is rich with simple pleasures and it is the highlight of my day.