In a drought, there’s a kind of bacteria that leaches into the drinking water and makes everything taste like earth. Your coffee: mud. Your cooking: sand. Depression is like that: Ash and silt. You can taste it in everything, but the first thing you’ll notice is the nothingness. Everything will be flat and dead—not dead enough to be tolerable. Just dead enough to remind you that there used to be something vital in you.
Your friends will keep showing up at the door. You’ll answer because you feel you owe them. Isolation and numbness go together like blackness and midnight, so you’ll ask them to leave early because there’s dinner to cook and a presentation to prepare for tomorrow’s meeting. Then you’ll go to bed without eating instead.
One week, two weeks, three weeks will pass. You’ll start drinking. You’ll start chain smoking. You’ll stop reading your emails. You’ll blame your stressful job. You’ll blame your mother. You’ll blame your heart medication and your crappy diet. You’ll blame life and the U.S. government. You’ll blame a god you don’t believe in.
Your friends will show up at the fucking door again, but this time you’ll nod off before they stop ringing the bell. Thank god, because this is the first hour of sleep you’ve had all week. You’ll try to believe it doesn’t matter, but the truth of it is you’re obsessed with your insomnia. You think about it every second of the day. You’ll try benzos. You’ll try tequila. You’ll try therapy.
Your friends still won’t leave you the hell alone so you’ll begin to hate them.
You’ll decide you’re an alcoholic, but not for long enough to do anything about it. You’ll have anonymous sex with the grey woman who works at the supermarket because it’s the only thing that takes your attention away from the numbness and the ash and the longing for death.
You’ll call a depression hotline. Afterwards, you’ll go online to research painless suicide methods. You’ll find half a dozen letters written by keyboard warriors who think they can convince you to keep on living. They won’t, but you’ll feel dread anyway.
You’ll fire your therapist and find a psychiatrist who’s a little too free with his prescription pad. You’ll start antidepressants, but you’ll be more interested in the sleeping pills. You’ll be fine for a few days, but then you’ll stop showering.
You’ll try religion for 10 minutes a day. You’ll take it personally that your friends have stopped calling even though you haven’t answered your phone for a month. They never liked you. Nobody did, not even you.
One month, two months, and then a familiar wave will wash over you. You’ll remember this feeling. It’s the opposite of numbness. Three months, four months. You’ll stop drinking. Five months. You have a dinner party and remember how amazing it feels to stand at the top of Signal Hill at dusk.
Two years later, you’ll run into that therapist you fired.
“You look so well.”
“It must be my new gym routine,” you’ll say, but it won’t be—it’ll be the hope and the new marriage and the calmness inside you that goes on forever and never stops.
Variation of The Cheater’s Guide to Love