Photography Magazine

A Minor Melodrama

By Briennewalsh @BrienneWalsh

 

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There are a lot of things on my mind right now; most of them negative. The Season 3 premiere of Downton Abbey was so horribly boring last night that I turned it off before I even saw Lady Mary’s wedding dress. I just read “Elizabeth Wurtzel Confronts Her One Night Stand Of a Life” in New York, which I could not finish. I loved Elizabeth Wurtzel’s “Prozac Nation”; I read it in Italy, where I was going through my first—and at the time, unidentified—serious depression. The book was an easy read; but the piece in New York is boring and rambling and doesn’t make sense. Still, it made me sick with jealousy.

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I think sometimes that I invent my depressions. When I’m feeling ok, they seem like minor melodramas. Stage acting my own life to make it more interesting. But then, I have a few sleepless nights, and it creeps up out of nowhere. Or maybe it was creeping all along. I know the signs. The obsessive checking of a few choice profiles on Facebook. The inability to focus on any one thing. The loop I get stuck in on my computer, where I can’t stop opening up the Daily Mail and my email, even when there’s nothing new to read; even when I’d be better off leaving the house, doing anything.

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On New Year’s Eve, I felt an incredible sadness; last week, Caleb went to Minneapolis for a night, and I couldn’t sleep. I lay in bed, in a state of half wakefulness. Franke and I, both waiting. I ran out of sleeping pills a few months ago. For a while, I didn’t think I needed them. I was sleeping long; dreaming hard. One night, I sat on the corner in Chinatown where the Manhattan Bridge meets Canal Street, and sat in the midst of a vibrant parade of characters. For an eternity, I watched a flounder jump from one shiny bowl of water to another on a table in front of a food cart. The real world is far less wondrous than the one in my dreams.

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On Christmas Day, I woke up at 5am, and couldn’t fall back asleep. I went to the loft in the carriage house where I was sleeping, at my parent’s home, and tried to read. I sat low in the couch, so my mother, always up at that hour to exercise, wouldn’t see me through the window. For a while, I listened to her footsteps up and down the driveway, patting the snow. She runs on the driveway until daybreak, and then makes her way out to the main road. My father unexpectedly came into the carriage house at 7am to get bagels stored in the freezer in the kitchen there. He caught me descending the stairs, my eyes red from crying. I pretended nothing was wrong. It was a beginning. 

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Saturday night, I was in the Berkshires with friends. In the living room, while they sat and talked, I fell asleep. An hour later, we all went to bed in separate rooms. One by one, the lights turned out in the house, which was built into a hill on separate levels. I could tell when everyone was resigned to bed because the snow on the ground outside of my room went pitch black—the house fell asleep. I lay for four hours, sweating and crying, willing myself to oblivion. Eventually, it came, on my back; but restless. I woke up at intervals, my arms flung over my head, my dreams all shallow, anxiety-ridden. 

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When I was young, I developed a phobia of sleeping; all day long, I would think about how later in the night, I wouldn’t be able to fall asleep. When it got dark, I would have panic attacks. Occasionally, I would get physically sick.

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Last night, I thought I’d sleep better, because I was at home with Caleb. But at 4am, I was up, berating myself, thinking about giving up, tossing and turning. Caleb held me; he told me he’d love me forever. I told him he probably wouldn’t when things get difficult. By which I mean, when it gets difficult for me to live.

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(Don’t read too much melodrama in that—depression is, inherently, for me, about losing interest in life, not about wanting life to end. Don’t write me a note telling me everything will be ok.)

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The next thing I’ll do, after I add photographs to this post, is email my psychiatrist, and ask him for another prescription. Or maybe I’ll put it off for a while. There’s a part of me, whenever depression returns, that feels relieved.


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