2017 was tough. Even setting aside the obvious travesty of Trump’s presidency, the past twelve months have battered me. My closest friend was killed in a freak sledding accident. My family’s cat of nearly twenty years died of renal failure. My parents, married for 30+ years, separated. My health suffered after months of working 100 hours a week; I developed a crippling viral pneumonia that left me wan and exhausted. The sable talons of depression have sunk into my flesh once again. And yet, I’m here. Bruised, thin, quieter. Wiser, kinder, more empathetic, more spontaneous, more appreciative of life’s precious tenuousness. On net, a more complete person, but the transaction has been hell. 2017, I won’t miss you.
Walking through town today.
Fallen leaves, assorted browns and faded oranges,
Lie scattered along path.
Air is crisp.
Football game at the college.
Some sort of sporting event at the high school.
Dull roar of crowds from both fields.
With families and young people:
Elementary school girls playing tag on the church lawn;
Adolescent boys, effortlessly slender, strolling languidly in their hormonal pack;
Entitled fraternity bros
In designer skinny jeans
Smoking vapes and laughing
With perfect dentition.
I go unnoticed.
Slows my gait to a shuffle as I walk through leaves.
How badly I long
For a friend,
Everyone feels sad at times. It’s not a disease.
Get over it.
Have a beer.
Be a man.
Grow a pair.
You don’t need Prozac,
You need a backbone.
Get off your duff
And get to work.
A healthy and intelligent son
In a supportive, middle-class, two-parent, two-sibling, Protestant household
In rural Oklahoma,
Depression is a made-up condition
For liberal West Coast hippies
Who’ve strayed from God’s path
And who have never earned an honest day’s living.
Then I went away to college,
To grad school,
To med school,
And tried to kill myself
In front of a city bus.
It’s a serotonin imbalance in the brain.
I can trace the neural pathways for you;
I got an A in neuroscience.
But black textbook arrows through the amygdala don’t tell it:
The stasis that permeates one’s being,
Until your muscles feel sodden
And your thoughts struggle against a palpable, impenetrable grey.
Rise from bed every morning, O Sisyphus.
The entropic dissolution of vitality.
Even with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors,
You turn to other remedies:
Coffee, cocaine, mutilation, masturbation,
Writing, reading, running, swimming,
Highway driving at 3 AM, 110 mph, windows down, radio up, headlights off.
For a fleeting instant,
The lassitude, stillness, and weight
Of this disease
That we all know
Is merely an excuse